Growing up and trying to find out who you are is a serious living nightmare. As a moody teenager, my only refuge from society’s pressures, minimum wage part-time jobs, and boring homework was Camp Spectacular. Every single year it was all I talked about. My countdown began about ten months in advance and my non-camp friends would get tired of me describing how amazing it was over and over (and over and over) again. If only there were an escape I didn’t have to wait as long for, I wouldn’t have been so annoyingly sad about the far away Spec dates. Low and behold Winter Retreat!
I never participated as a camper because I didn't think it would give me the same feeling as other camps did, but as a counselor this year I can say that I was very, very wrong to think that. Three nights doesn't seem like very long, but spending it with camp family makes every moment feel like forever and that it's going by too fast all at the same time. It's funny how when we get back together, it feels that no time has passed at all. It's almost like the "real" world we experience back home isn't real at all; that it's just a place to pass moments until we are reunited with camp again – the actual real world where our hearts and spirits are fully alive.
This year brought all 24 kids and 7 staff together with the theme Love Your #Selfie – a modern take on the importance of loving yourself, breaking societal molds, and every wonderful thing your unique self brings to the universe. Through exploring ideas from multiple religions and cultures, dance parties, deep small group conversations, and even calling the staff out on our own vain selfies, campers got to lift themselves up with positivity and love.
Inspired by Edmonton YouTube star Stephen Robinson of 52Skillz, we even got to combine all our awesome and unique abilities into building a Rube Goldberg Machine –described on Google as: "… a contraption, invention, device, or apparatus that is deliberately over-engineered to perform a simple task in a complicated fashion, generally including a chain reaction." After many hours of hard work, multiple tries to connect all the parts, and tons of cardboard and tape later; we finally got our Rube Goldberg machine to make toast. TOAST! How cool is that!? The success of our machine proved the 52Skillz motivation that anyone really can learn anything, and we are all capable of greatness. As our camp theme song (Live Like You're Loved by Hawk Nelson) put it:
His love has made you more than enough
So go ahead and be who He made you to be
And live like you're loved!
As a Community of Christ member, I believe that we are all called, compelled even, to approach our lives in a critical way. We are urged to look at the world around us and see opportunities for growth, change, betterment and empowerment. We are then driven to think outside the four walls of our church, and be innovators to help our communities.
As a nurse in one of the busiest Newborn Intensive Care Units (NICU) in Canada, I see families from all walks of life facing their worst nightmare: a sick newborn baby. One day I was working with a particularly small baby who had never gotten any breastmilk, even though her mother said she was pumping regularly. I asked this mother about the pump she was using. It turned out she couldn’t afford a hospital grade pump rental, which is essential to the milk supply of a NICU mom.
I called every resource in the city looking for an affordable option for this mother. I was startled to learn that most mothers without employer benefits do not qualify for any sort of cost relief. The most vulnerable mothers in our province are denied the opportunity to give their babies breast milk because of finances.
This situation plagued me for months, until I realised that I was being called to invent a solution. My congregation could initiate the kind of service these women needed. After several weeks of work with my pastor and other supporters, The Mother’s Own Milk (MOM) Project was born. The Calgary congregation purchased six hospital grade breast pumps to be rented to mothers at a low monthly cost. We can abolish poverty and end suffering by simply allowing mothers to feed their children the way nature intended.
This was my calling.
Jamie Varvaro, SPEC Director
Leader – noun; one that leads or guides. Leadership – noun; the capacity or ability to lead. Our world today calls for leaders—good leaders with strength of character and integrity. For almost 50 years SPECTACULAR has guided youth, developing their leadership potential and encouraging them as they are called to serve with character and integrity.
The mission of SPECTACULAR is to create a safe, Christ-centered community that encourages young women and men to discover God, their inherent worth, and cultivate and express their giftedness. SPECTACULAR has grown from that first relatively small gathering in the late 1960s on The Campus in Independence, Missouri to over 1,200 campers and leaders at Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa, every summer. It is the largest annual gathering of youth in the Community of Christ. SPECTACULAR affords opportunities for campers to develop skills of leadership and discipleship, and ways to express themselves artistically, musically, and athletically.
A star high school athlete and friend of the church expressed that before attending SPECTACULAR she had never played on a team or been involved in a tournament where you felt good about yourself and truly enjoyed the competition of the game regardless of whether you won or lost. She also said that even though she did not belong to this church, she felt at home and was comfortable with the ideals and principles shared.
Through gathering informal demographic information, it is estimated that nearly forty percent of campers are friends of the Community of Christ. Many delegation and program staff are also friends of the church. SPEC strives to follow its mission to create a safe, Christ-centered community where exploration of many ideas are encouraged to happen and in that, campers are comfortable inviting their friends to join them in this week of learning, fellowship and fun.
The theme for this year’s SPECTACULAR, July 23-30, is “Connect.” It offers a challenge to SPECTACULAR participants to explore ways within ourselves to better connect with each other and the world around us; keeping in mind that in doing so, we better connect with God. “…God is revealing divine nature through sacred communities of love, oneness and equality…” (2013 Words of Counsel).
Leadership (SPEC TODAY) classes at SPECTACULAR will provide an overview and exploration of our theme. Discipleship, music, and art classes will allow for in-depth exploration of specific sub-topics. For example, there might be a leadership session exploring the idea of authenticity. More in-depth exploration might occur through classes regarding meditation, scripture study, personal spirituality, individual arts, or music.
“Connect” will be a prominent part of every aspect of SPECTACULAR: the volleyball courts, the Extravaganza stage production, soccer fields, delegation devotions, afternoon activities on the Quad, individual and group discussions, as well as personal meditation and community worship. The athletic tournaments uphold the following statement, “Willful Christian interaction is the norm for all facets of SPECTACULAR. The sports program will function with that objective as the guiding principle for the actions of all participants, officials, coaches, and spectators. While we may not always agree with one another we will always appreciate and honor each other.”
We know lives are challenged and changed by this unique week, whether the change is apparent immediately or twenty years from now, we know SPEC is influencing thousands and thousands of lives. Through the diversity of individuals and cultures from across North America, SPECTACULAR finds the common denominator of connection through Jesus Christ. Youth finishing 9th through 12th grades are invited to enjoy SPECTACULAR as part of a delegation. SPECTACULAR 2016 is July 23-30.
More information and registration forms are available through your delegation or at www.CofChrist.org/spec or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. You can join us on Facebook too! www.facebook.com/SPEC.CofChrist/
Calgary Spark is a collection of stories told by members and friends of the church alike. Each person's story is helping to shape our community in new ways.