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It’s October!

Hello again, friends! Welcome back to the blog! This week, I actually have a special message from Mr. Sonny, see below!

Hello my friend, this is Mr. Sonny giving you an update on me and Mrs. Carolyn. We are retired and living in Alpharetta close to Neal and Wilson and their girls.

We are in pretty good health and grateful for the years spent at camp with you.  I am WRITING A BOOK ABOUT CAMP and need YOUR HELP. My plan is to talk about all the lessons I learned at camp. I thought that I am not the only person who learned some lessons. There had to be others who learned some as well.

I  am sending you one of the chapters in the book.  Perhaps you can pick one of the pillars and write a paragraph about a lesson you learned. I will be choosing  several of your responses to put in the book. When you send me the paragraph I will assume you are giving me permission to put it in the book,

Could you please send these to some of your Swamp buddies and ask them to participate.

SO MANY fun, silly, muddy, sweaty, tearful, happy and faith building memories flood my mind when I think about our time together at the Swamp. Thank you in advance for sharing some lessons you learned.


I have  been asked through the years why I thought camp has been so successful. My most honest answer is I think God has willed for camp to exist and has protected the Swamp on so many levels over the years. Jeff and Jennifer Rorabaugh and Carolyn and I compiled this list when we were asked what makes the Swamp work.

Here are the PILLARS that the Swamp has been built on. They are in no particular order of importance. Each one is necessary for the success of camp

SAFETY. At first, we think of physical safety.  Of course physical safety is of paramount importance, but that is not the only safety that we think is needed. We live in an unsafe world and our children need to have a place that when they are there a feeling of safety and freedom to be themselves. We have tried to give every kid a place to  belong and have the freedom to be themselves.  We do not tolerate bullying in any form. The kids are welcome to travel around camp in threes, not just in pairs. We do that because we think that is safest. We work at this very hard. Perhaps you have heard our motto. “We want camp to be the safest place on earth besides your home for your child.”

EVERYONE IS IMPORTANT. The culture of camp is to make everyone feel that they have value and have something to contribute to camp to make it great. From the youngest camper, the camp director, to the kid washing dishes; we all bring value and are important.

ROLES. Everyone has a role to play at camp. As discussed in the “stay in your own lane” chapter we try to convince everyone to embrace their particular role and do it well.

FOOD. Everyone at camp is hungry at mealtime.  The kids and counselors play hard. We decided early on that we wanted the food to be nutritious, tasty and plenty of it. Forget about a 15 year old growing boy, an eleven year old girl can eat a lot as well. I love that when we blow the whistle for seconds there are boys and girls in line.  I figured that if a camper did not have anything good to say about their stay at camp that we could win them over with the food. When the Swamp was built Barb Rose was instrumental in setting up an extensive kitchen manual. Charissa Bright and Debbie Clark kept experimenting with the menu to improve it each year. Dawn Fellows is our new kitchen manager. She has spent years volunteering in the kitchen and will bring her own personal touch to the food.

FUN. Everyone wants to have fun.  If camp is not fun the kids, counselors, workers, and kitchen staff AIN’T COMING BACK.

If you want to know how much fun everyone is having then listen to the noise level in the dining hall during dinner. We do everything we can to make the week enjoyable for everyone there. Now a 45 year old kitchen worker and a 9 year old boy have very different definitions of fun. Whatever the definition we try to have things, new games and activities every year, for everyone to enjoy.


The Swamp is a training ground for young leaders.  Every organization needs a clear line of leadership to be successful.  Whether you are a worker, cabin counselor, or head counselor you have very clear and specific responsibilities. We tried to give each person the authority equal to their role. Our staff learned to work when they were exhausted. The counselors we taught that all kids cannot be treated the same. These lessons along with others are ones they will carry with them to adulthood.

There was always a chain of command when infractions of the rules happened. If the counselors could not handle the situation it fell to Carolyn and me. Learning to have rules and abide by them impartially, with compassion, is an important lesson to learn.

Some rules were an automatic trip home. Jim Nelson was a fantastic counselor that decided to climb the swimming pool fence. THAT IS A BIG NO-NO. The rule is made to keep kids from sneaking into the pool without a lifeguard. I sent Jim home. I do not remember but I hope he came back and counseled again, he was certainly welcome to do it.

If you knew Stephen Vanbeuren and John Byers when they were younger you will not be surprised by this story.  They decided in their great wisdom to go to the girl's side and mess up some cabins, and they were counselors.  That landed them in the kitchen for the rest of the week, giving up the role as counselor.

Here are the rules that if broken,  were serious infractions and got my attention.

  • No picking on or bullying, or saying suggestive things to anyone.
  • No going to the lake without a lifeguard on duty.
  • No being in the pool without a lifeguard.
  • No leaving the designated confines of camp.
  • No arguing with the counselor. If the counselor is unfair or unkind then come to me or Mrs. Carolyn and we will fix it.
  • No love-bug. We never wanted to be a dating service for the campers.  If we felt like a girl and boy were dominating each other's time we would speak to them and help them make other friends. One of the best things concerning rule breaking and punishments was to ask the kitchen workers who were there what kind of punishment should be given. They gave wonderful advice and I followed it.

SPIRITUALITY.  Religion is a double edged sword.  I have lived long enough to see terrible things said and done in the name of religion.  We wanted camp to be a spiritual place  rather than a religious one.  We are a church camp so yes we had a religious aspect, but we wanted to get away from the pressures and rules that some of our campers and counselors found oppressive.

We never required kids to read their bibles or have their own quiet times. Our thoughts were that it needed to be strictly left up to them.  We had one  bible class daily that we required every camper to attend.  Those classes lasted 45 minutes.  That was the goal but if you have ever spent 45 minutes with nine and ten year old boys full of sugar and caffeine then you understand that I am being generous when I say we had a 45 minute class everyday for them.

Our devotionals were relationship centered.  Singing devotional, starlight, ring of honor, thank you devotional on friday morning were to help all of us to know that a RELATIONSHIP with God and others was what we were going for. We felt like they got enough teaching on the rules of discipleship at their churches and youth groups  that we did not need to cover it.

Some of my fondest memories were coming to the dining hall before breakfast and watching kids reading their bibles.  Especially heartwarming was when I saw the older kids helping the younger ones study God’s word.

GOD. .  We have such an inadequate view of the eternal nature of things.. In our limited imperfect way we tried to honor God and bring his nature and characteristics to life for the kids. We wanted all of us to feel the OVERWHELMING, ALMIGHTY, PERFECT, FIERCE, AMAZING LOVE OF THE ETERNAL ALL ENVELOPING PRESENCE OF THE EVERLASTING GOD. Our aim was to teach them to bow their hearts and knees in reverence to Him.

Below are some examples that you can reference as you’re thinking about what you want to write:


I’ve been coming to Camp since I was just a little girl, and to say that I learned about 90% of my leadership skills from Camp wouldn’t be an understatement at all. Growing up, I was always more on the timid side, and I struggled with voicing my opinions even if I knew I could help people by doing so.

Camp provided a safe place for me to make mistakes as I learned how to be an effective leader and grow into the woman that I am today. I learned at Camp that leadership is a healthy and necessary thing that helps make sure that everyone has a good time, and that it’s not just about someone “being in charge”.


Working in the kitchen throughout the years has taught me how to have fun. Watching the kids run around, doing things that I can’t even begin to fathom is just a joy to see. Whether it’s playing card games with other kitchen workers, or watching a 9 year-old celebrating getting their counselor out in dodgeball, Camp is just fun. It’s a much needed change of pace- it’s taught me to be still, quit worrying so much, and just go and play.

Please send your responses to Bri, at

Thank you so much!

That's all for me this week, my friends! Thanks so much for taking the time read the blog. As usual, I'll be praying for each of you to have a safe and encouraging week!

Much Love,

Bri <3

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