|Winter Camp 2013|
Prior to President’s Day weekend in February, I was counting the days and hours until we boarded the plane for Wagoner, Oklahoma: the small town in the middle of America, where everyone at Camp St Raphael can call home. Winter Camp is the ideal getaway from this hectic life, to retreat into the woods and find friendship, faith, and love.
I’m so glad to have gone to Winter Camp because I got the chance to make and strengthen friendships with people from Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. These are the friendships that last, for these friendships are connected by a bond stronger than we can measure. Fr James Shadid made our lessons fun and an interactive way to learn the Gospel. Where else could you find the Prodigal Son being portrayed by a guy from Houston, Sawageds acting out Adam and Eve, and an analogy relating Christ’s love to Lady Gaga’s 'Bad Romance?' Now I’m restless to return this summer!" -Written by Pilar Z.
|Photo bomb by Fr James (look closely!)|
|Teens visiting the Outdoor Chapel|
|Epistle Reading during Divine Liturgy|
"'Friendship is like standing on wet cement. The longer you stay, the harder it is to leave, and you can never go without leaving your footprints behind.' Winter Camp 2013 was filled with some of the best memories of my life. As a 4 year camper, I have been to many retreats, but of all the retreats, this one was by far the best.
Winter Camp St Raphael is a retreat that DOWAMA annually plans located at Camp Takatoka in Wagoner, Oklahoma. Many people from various cities in our diocese, such as Wichita, Oklahoma City, Houston, Dallas, and Denver joined together to be surrounded by fellow Orthodox Christians who share the same beliefs. It gives us Orthodox Christians a chance to escape the real world and be surrounded by our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Each participant is very welcoming, introducing themselves to people they don't know and making everyone feel at home. Everyone met new people and enjoyed the time spent with each other. Music would be playing in the dining hall as someone played the tubleh and everyone would clap, sing, or dance along. Hiking with your friends, laughing and learning during discussions, and showing people a good time at the hafleh made this weekend one of the best yet. Having a 'Riff-off' around the campfire just brought everyone closer than ever. Although I enjoyed every part of WAMP, my all-time favorite part was cabin time. Cabin time was filled with laughter, from jokes about being Arab to the struggles of hiking. That time was a strong bonding time for me, where strangers and old friends really became sisters. The memories in cabin time, sharing secrets and 'eating our feelings away,' were memories that I will never forget.
|Neon Hafli (such bright colors!)|
|St George Houston group picture|
We were lucky enough to have Fr James Shadid of St George Houston as our speaker for Winter Camp. Although he claims to 'not be prepared,' he did a fantastic job getting all the teenagers involved in the discussion. Fr James focused on 3 words: Sin, Exile, and Redemption. On the first day of WAMP, he asked one simple question to the campers, 'what are we NOT going to talk about at this retreat?' Answers varied from 'door handles' to 'Ke$ha' to '2 Chainz' to even 'Yo Mamma!' He made a promise that if he didn't talk about each topic that we weren't supposed to talk about, he would pay each parish $100. Of course, he kept his promise and made sure to talk about every single topic!
Not only did Fr James made everyone feel welcomed, he made sure everyone had a chance to participate. He passed out 'Pick Me' signs to people who wanted to participate. There was only one rule: if you wanted to participate, you had to do exactly what Fr James told you to do! One girl received a piece of chocolate while another got water splashed on her face! Some had to do push-ups while others were forced to actually throw water on Fr James's face! He had many volunteers to reenact lessons from the Bible, which gave everyone a hilarious visualization of the stories. Fr James taught everyone that 'God is a stalker' and we will always receive His grace no matter what.
The last day of Winter Camp was bittersweet. Best friends were forced to go back to their home town and face reality on their own. Getting teary-eyed as each bus left Camp St Raphael (YaBoy!) was probably the worst part of the retreat, but I know that the memories from this retreat will be kept with me for the rest of my life. 'It's fine by me, if you never leave, we could live like this forever, it's fine by me!'" -Written by Julianna Z.
|Advisors doing what we do - advise!|
|Neon Hafli group picture|
|The fellas of St George Houston!|
In addition to the friendships that you form at camp, you also learn teachings that stay with you for the rest of your life. With great speakers giving the talks each day at wamp, you learn lessons that add meaning to the term 'Orthodox.' Whether Fr James has to throw water in your face, or jump on you to get you to learn these lessons, he will, and has shown that he will. That’s because the teachings are important, and it helps us grow as Christians. Camp has a magical feel to it. When you are there, you feel an incredible sensation throughout your whole being that makes you smile." -Written by Alexander Z.
- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director