When 14 I worked for a month as a dishwasher (3 tank sink) and potato peeler (by hand for 150 people) at Young Life’s Silver Cliff Ranch. The male support staff lived above the stable in a simple but nice bunk house. Those four weeks were an incredible experience. The older staff treated me like their younger brother – they really looked after me!
Three years later I worked in another camp where the male support staff lived in large, windowless army wall tents – no natural light, no breeze, and no good place to put clothes and other “stuff”! The contrast was incredible. Staff housing reflected the over-all attitude towards those on the support staff.
When I arrived at DL for staff training I was really frustrated, perhaps angry, when I saw where DL’s support staff stayed: un-used Woodsmen cabins – sometimes with more people in the cabin than NYS regulations allowed. The housing was bad and the location of the cabins was bad. Woodsmen (8-11) campers had lights out between 9 – 10 PM. Try to keep 15 single guys quiet at 9:30! There was also the reality that the support staff had almost no place to go and very little to do when not on the job.
While a pastor, I came to realize the wisdom and the challenge of living as equals within the body of Christ. In I Corinthians 12 the Apostle Paul explained how the Body of Christ, His Church, was a unit of people equipped by God to function together. The gifts/functions were different – but each person was needed. Paul was inclusive when speaking of the believers that made up the body: it did not matter if a person was a Jew or Greek, slave or free. Later in the chapter Paul wrote: “those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable. Each part should have equal concern for the others.” As the Director of DL, I worked at hiring a healthy body of believers…all the parts…who would work together…under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Based on the previous summer and camper registrations to date, I projected that in Sessions I and IV there would be about twice as many staff (47) as campers (24). For Sessions II and III there would be 47 staff and 74 campers. When hiring I had to tell this reality to everyone, because it meant that almost every counselor would be working Session I or IV in the kitchen or on maintenance.
It was difficult to decide who should begin the summer as a counselor and who should begin the summer working in the kitchen or on maintenance. I knew we had to get the camper part of camp off to a good start and this required experienced counselors. I also knew the counselors assigned to work in the kitchen or on maintenance needed to be able to work comfortably with those hired for the summer in these areas – plus bring some additional strength. Placing the right people in the right places is a major challenge in every organization. In the Christian organization, people not only need to be able to work together but also to “love one another” – for this is the mark of Christ’s disciples. John 13:35
Through working in a different area of camp, the staff learned how tough every job was – if done properly. The position shifts worked so well that future summer counselors could ask to work on maintenance or in the kitchen for one session, and those hired for the kitchen or on maintenance, if properly trained, could ask for a session as a camp counselor.
Whereas we could not change the support staff housing location for six long summers, every effort was made to have the DL staff see themselves as the Body of Christ – each member a unique creation of God, each equipped to do God’s work in a different way, and each a necessary part of the Body of Christ lived out at Deerfoot Lodge.