Written by: Wes Groff, Gary Barnhart, & Vince Kauffman
As I reflect over the last 15 years to those beginning days of Bald Eagle Boys Camp, I am filled with a deep sense of satisfaction and gratitude for the ways that God worked in my life. He led me to camp, and He was guiding and guarding me every day at camp. The intense struggles of those early days, beginning the Mountaineers with just a few boys, and later the Highlanders, have seemed to fade with time. But the joys and rewards shine forth!!! The Lord took me, a small, quiet, young man, barely out of my teens used me to help start the first two groups at Camp, and taught me many lessons which better equipped me for the rest of my life.
I have fond memories of developing close relationships with my co-chiefs. Also, I had the privilege of building relationships with my boys and being their friend when they had no other positive friendships. We had so much fun working together, playing together, solving problems together (not always fun!) – just living and learning together. Most of our time was spent building tents, but we went on a few trips, worked on a few crafts, played “Trees” whenever we had a spare 5 minutes and went on many a ramble to find another hidden bloom.
God was the Rock in Whom I put my trust. Chief Brian was God’s messenger to me. He supported me on many occasions, from encouraging me to run my mouth (dominate the conversation) while walking trails, to bringing hot chocolate and a listening ear after the boys were in bed. Chief Mark and Chief Kevin became my best friends and were the groomsmen in my wedding. The Lord has blessed me with a new group – “MissChief” Judy and 5 special children whom I also live and learn with! I wouldn’t trade my “training” at camp for anything in the world!
– Wes Groff
One of the most common questions facing young individuals today is “What are you going to do with your life?” This question is usually expressed with all sincerity and good intentions, and rightly so. The underlying message is intended to spur young potential into action; spur them to embrace the challenge of the unknown.
In the fall of 2001, this was the question I was facing as I made my decision to be a Chief at Bald Eagle Boys Camp. I truly did not know what I wanted to do with my life at that point but somehow I knew the typical nine to five job schedule was not where I was going to find fulfillment. I was not exactly sure whether this innate sense was due in part to my personal experiences with such occupations or if it was God guiding me to a different story. Looking back on my experiences at camp I would say the latter definitely carried more significance.
Nine years later, I can think of no better place where a young individual can become involved that has the potential to change his or her world view in such radical ways. In two short years I received first-hand experience about the true nature of Christian community. I had an incredible group of dedicated men who mentored me as a Chief on a daily basis. Through example and mistakes I began to understand the true meaning of unconditional love and the power of discovering the hidden potential in every boy and his family.
During my adventures as a Chief a strange transformation began to take place. The ever present question switched emphasis from “What are you going to do with your life” to “Who are you going to be?” Even though this may seem like trivial wording, for me it represented a distinct paradigm shift in my life’s mission and goals. Doing will always flow from my being; meaning, who I decide to be will ultimately determine what I want to do. With the realization of who I want to be now in the forefront, I plan to graduate in May 2010 with a Master of Social Work from the University of Georgia. In spite of my degree and the overall push to get a “typical” job I have to remind myself that life is not just about doing, it is about being. Through this perspective God can begin to work on the inside to create what He wants on the outside.
– Gary Barnhart
I chose to come to Bald Eagle as a chief in the spring of 1998. At that time it felt like I was committing myself for the entirety of my foreseeable future. Two years looked like a very long time and I knew a lot would change in my family and community during that time. I enjoyed my job and realized that if I left I’d probably be looking for a new job when I came back. I didn’t like the idea of my comfortable little world going on without me while I went and got involved in this camp 1000 miles away that I knew almost nothing about. Furthermore, it seemed ludicrous to think that the lady I (secretly) admired would still be around two years later. By the time I left camp I’d be twenty-three and as everyone knows, that’s pretty old.
Looking back on that time now, twelve years later, camp is obviously only one folder in the filing cabinet of my life. The “many” years that the folder represents don’t even look that significant anymore. I left camp, moved back home, found a job that I enjoyed, went to Bible school for several years and eventually, at the “young” age of 26, married the lady I had liked for so long. However, I think the folder called camp shows the most use. The life lessons I learned there impacted me in a big way and helped to solidify many things that I had already known or that others had attempted to teach me.
Camp taught me a lot about myself and human nature. I got a sobering picture of life outside of my sheltered world, a world I have learned to appreciate even more. Many of the things my Dad taught me made more sense as I tried to live and teach them in my role as “dad” for a group of boys. I was able to anticipate and not fear the prospect of becoming a father myself someday. I have my own family now and have discovered that the simple truths taught at camp work quite well as I attempt to structure my home and teach my own children.
I believe the reason that camp is successful in causing lasting change is that its structures are based solidly on the simple truths of scripture, truths that even the ungodly and unchurched can begin to understand. And those simple truths continue to impact my life as well.
– Vince Kauffman