It’s been quite a few years since I’ve done any sort of men’s retreat, and I can honestly say I’ve never done one quite like Man Camp. Our church just wrapped up a message series called Wolf Pack, stressing that men need a group of guys to help them grow in Christ. Man Camp was a natural next step in the Wolf Pack mentality. Imagine camping with… well… I’m getting ahead of myself.
They advertised Man Camp as a camping trip with 500 men from our church. I don’t think anyone anticipated those 500 slots filling up in 70 seconds. Yes, you read that right. They opened up the reservation web site at 6:00 one Thursday morning. My friend Matt was going to get my ticket, but we wound up on the waiting list. The slacker wasn’t on in the first 70 seconds. Matt wound up getting in on the first Man Camp, and I can honestly say I’m glad I missed it. Single digit temps and 12 inches of snow greeted them. I like camping and I like snow, but that’s crazy!
Fortunately, they had 700 guys on the waiting list, so they opted to have Man Camp 2 this past weekend, and I easily got into that round of camping. The weather was considerably happier, though I did have a chilly night Saturday night. We could see the ground, though.
I’m not hung up on the size of our church or anything like that, but I also think it’s important to realize the magnitude of our church for some of this to make sense. We attend Crossroads Community Church, which has 5 campuses all around the Cincinnati area and over 20,000 people attending regularly. That’s kinda big, so it’s no surprise that we had 1200 guys who wanted to go to camp. It’s also no surprise that I didn’t know anyone from the small group of 8 they put me in. In fact, I could probably count on both hands the number of guys at my camp I recognized. Still, it was a great weekend!
We were told from the beginning that what happens at Man Camp stays at Man Camp, so I will leave some things out. Sorry. You’ll have to go next year if you want to know what really happens at Man Camp. Here is what I can tell you.
We were told to only bring the gear we could carry on our laps. We loaded on a school bus (well, 15 of them to tell the truth) and were packed in like sardines. After a half hour of driving, we arrived at our undisclosed location in Indiana and hiked with our gear a half mile to our camp area. The campground was some guy’s private land he donated for the weekend. Our group set up camp and got to know each other.
We were then given time to sit in personal reflection and given some things to think and pray about. I immediately thought about how I can be a better and more understanding husband and father. In this busy and digitally invasive world we live in, it was a relief to sit in the woods (literally on the ground) with only paper and pen to reflect on how I need to bring out the best in my girls and love them better.
Later in the day, we cleared fallen branches and other brush from a section of forest starting numerous massive burn piles. I like fire. That was fun! Not a single guy complained. We all chipped in shoulder by shoulder as we worked on some other guy’s land.
I did something I don’t know I would have considered doing a year ago. They had a group of guys there called the M*A*S*H unit. They were available to pray for anything we wanted prayer for. I went to two M*A*S*H guys and asked for prayer for my GBS. It was definitely outside my comfort zone, but I’m glad I did it. My shoulder blade was sore from all the activity, and the pain disappeared within hours of the prayer and I was fine in the morning (on the cold, hard ground). (Side Note: Two days of Man Camp and four days of hard labor at the Dunlap House during Spring Break, and I am doing better than I should be doing. Miracle? I think so.)
My group spent lots of time sitting around our campfire telling stories and getting to know each other. Our stories were everything from funny to dead serious as we went from being complete strangers to good friends. When I think of that bond, it is best demonstrated by how we hung together. We had large group meetings in standing room only barn. The first meeting, our group was interspersed around the barn. The second, we were in a couple small groups. The final meeting, we were all together in one gang.
Speaking of the meetings, not much is more exciting than standing among 499 other men, packed into a barn, all belting out praises to God. On a normal Sunday morning, the music is so loud that it’s hard to hear yourself singing, much less anyone else. However, with minimal music, the praise reverberated around that barn. It was beautiful!
In fact, the beauty didn’t stop at the singing. We concluded our last meeting with a baptism service in the lake. Keep in mind that the temps couldn’t have been out of the early 40s and the water had to be frigid. Guys didn’t have a ton of extra clothes. So, they stripped to their skivvies and got in the water to proclaim their desire to follow Christ and serve Him… then get dunked. Two of my group members were the first ones in. How awesome!
I extended my wolf pack that weekend at Man Camp. It was definitely outside my comfort zone to do this. No friends to help ease the social discomfort. No plumbing. No air mattress. But it was a great time to meet new guys, make new friends, and learn more about myself.
Really. You should go next year (if you’re a guy, that is).
(Sorry. I have no pictures. They wouldn’t let us take phones, and I didn’t want to risk bringing the camera.)