“Sharing Camp Mack,” New Era, July 2004, 34
It could have been a disaster, but instead it turned out to be one of the best girls’ camps we had ever held in the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Stake.
The campsite we usually used had mistakenly been double-booked that year, so we were forced, at the last minute, to share Camp Mack with another large group.
The other group could not have been more different from us. It was a police academy camp for troubled youth, ages 11 to 15. The camp had been set up to teach them discipline and coping skills through rigorous activities led by police officers.
At first, neither group was too excited about sharing Camp Mack. So, with the help of our priesthood leaders, we worked out a schedule with the other camp to try to stay out of each other’s way.
The first day, we watched the police academy group drilling, marching, and doing calisthenics. We heard their noise and yelling all day long no matter where we were. They, in turn, kept a watchful eye on us as we did crafts and rotated to different classes.
That first evening our young women were ending the day’s activities by singing “I Am a Child of God” (Hymns, no. 301). The police academy youth were walking to their sleeping area. They stopped and listened to the music floating through Camp Mack. When the song was finished, the campers walked slowly and quietly to their lodge. What a difference from the yelling we had heard throughout the day.
The second day we tried to keep out of the way of the police academy activities. Both groups continued to watch each other. At the end of the day two, police officers approached some of the Young Women leaders. They wanted to know what we were doing with the girls at camp and why they were so well behaved and friendly. What were our camp goals and philosophies, and what did Latter-day Saints believe? We were thrilled to have them ask these questions and grateful for the opportunity to share the gospel.
The following day the Young Women leaders told the girls that they had been standing as witnesses without even knowing it. They had made a deep impression on the police officers running the other camp.
Immediately, our girls wanted to give them a Book of Mormon. We presented an officer with a copy of the Book of Mormon the following night. We assured him that if he would read it and pray for an answer of its truthfulness, it would change his life. The Spirit was so powerful during this conversation that the officer got tears in his eyes and said he had never felt the peace he was feeling then.
By the last day of camp, there was a feeling of friendship between both camps. Their cooks stood side by side with our cooks as they helped each other make breakfast for both groups. The Spirit of God filled Camp Mack that week. What could have been a disaster turned into a wonderful experience for all of us. We learned that when we stand as witnesses of God at all times, in all things, and in all places, the Lord can use us to help Him perform miracles every day.
Girls’ camp isn’t just for learning to get along in the outdoors. Camp is a great place to:
Feel and recognize the Spirit.
Understand that each girl is a daughter of God.
Prepare for future roles.
Live baptismal covenants.