What I Learned at Bear Camp

My oldest son, Andy, and I attended Bear Camp last weekend. For a Cub Scout, Bear Camp is an important milestone. It’s the first camp event that resembles more of what the boys will see in the future camping events of Boy Scouts. They spend the night overnight in a tent that is not their own, in a camp site that is filled with boys and parents from packs other than their own, and they work in teams put together with scouts they may not have met before.

Our Bear Camp experience was on a very hot weekend. We were blessed with a cooling breeze at night, but during the day we were very warm. The camp leaders eased us into the routine on the first day. The parents had a brief orientation while the scouts sang some songs and learned a little of what to expect on their weekend. Afterwards, we had our lunch.

Now that everyone was acclimated to the camp and knew what was coming up next, we proceeded to break into groups and start out activities of the day. For our first activity, our campsite worked on making a simple wood toolbox. Each scout and parent worked together on it. The goal, of course, is for the scout to do most of the work, while the parent offers advice and just helps guide. Andy was out of his element in this one: the room we were in was hot, dimly lit, and about 15 other boys were banging hammers. Neither Andy nor I particularly like lots of noise and crowds, so I sensed this activity might be a challenge when we walked into the noise-filled room.

I held the pieces of wood in place and let him start to drive the nails. The first nail immediately went crooked. Actually, it went crooked several times. Okay, truthfully, every nail went crooked every time, requiring me to help him straighten it up for him and let him try again. Andy was very frustrated. He was in an environment that was stressful and uncomfortable, and his tasks were not going as well as he wanted.

When his toolbox was completed, he didn’t want to carry it, he did not want to even really look at it. It was not until a few hours later that I asked him if he would carry it for me as we went between activities that he looked at it objectively and said “I made this” with a small sense of pride in his voice. Yes he did. It wasn’t perfect, it had lots of hammer dents in it where he missed the nail heads, but he did make it, and it is a fine piece of work that any 8 year old should be proud of.

That night I lay on my cot, enjoying the breeze flowing through the tent, thinking about the events of the day. I realized that Andy’s experience is not unlike my own. With some coaching he persevered through a task that he kept telling me he couldn’t finish, that he was sure it was not possible. After he completed it and had time to reflect, he was proud of what he did, and hopefully learned some lesson about tasks that seem insurmountable, about fears that can be overcome through perseverance.

I thought about my own life, and the mountains I have before me. I’m not unlike Andy. I sometimes get lost staring at the mountain in front of me, not focusing on the steps I’ve already taken on the climb, or the next step immediately in front of me. When I feel led by God to take a certain road, why do I sometimes want to cower in fear that I don’t have the strength or the abilities needed to do it? I knew, based on my own experiences and my knowledge of Andy’s capabilities, that he could finish making the tool box. My heavenly father knows far better what tasks lie ahead of me, and knows what I am capable of accomplishing much better than I do. Given that, why do I still doubt sometimes?

That was what I learned at Bear Camp.

… “I believe; help my unbelief.” – Mark 9:24 NRSV

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. – Jeremiah 29:11 NRSV

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1 Response to “What I Learned at Bear Camp”


  1. 1 Vicki Hiebert Santee June 23, 2012 at 12:04 PM

    Beautifully written!! Remember too, that our Father will always carry us if we stumble while climbing that mountain!! Thank you for sharing John!


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