By Ben Herr |

Summer Camp Countdown: 2005 (with Sherry Lewis)

It was a big year for Black Rock Retreat in 2005. There was a “changing of the guard” with the hiring of Dave Bouffard as Summer Camp Coordinator (a position he held until the end of 2009, when he and his family headed to Uganda to work with Musana Camps). On a personal note, it was my first summer not at BRR, after four years on staff (and four years as a camper prior to that). I always wondered what that summer was like. Now’s a good chance to look into the past and see how it went!

The theme that year? “Love God, Love People!” Based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:36-40, which are as follows (NLT):

“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

To discuss this theme, from Summer Camp 2005, as well as some poignant events from that summer, we have Sherry (Rineer) Lewis. Sherry currently serves as Office Assistant and Summer Camp Registrar. But from 2003 to 2006, she worked each summer in a different capacity. In 2005, she was the Senior Counselor of Oriole B. She recounts her experiences, including those relevant to the summer theme, in the following interview. Those of you who know Sherry will not be surprised by the bubbly spirit that shines through her testimony here. The rest of you are in for a treat.

Patrick: What do you remember about that summer, and the 2005 theme?

Sherry: The first thing that comes to mind … One particularly powerful and honest memory I have came from a counselor meeting. Another counselor spoke out about how challenging it was for him to love God and love other people. It was a real moment of vulnerability for him, but I was so proud and so blessed to see another young adult like me talking about the struggle.

Patrick: And did you, or do you, ever share in that struggle?

Sherry: Not to that extent. But I will say this; I’d never broken down the complexities of life to that simple command: Love God. Love people. Period. And it was like, ‘oh, well I can do that!’ Every time I read that verse, the feeling that with God, I know it’s a command that I can live by. But there are days since that time where I’ve had to deal with disappointments and broken relationships. I am also reminded of 1 John Ch.4, which is all about love. I want that to be my whole life. I learned a lot about love that summer.

Patrick: What else comes to mind about that summer?

Sherry: That was Dave Bouffard’s first summer as Summer Camp Coordinator. And it was a very different year. It was a difficult year, and a year of transition.

Summer camp is probably the best job ever will have had. I love my current job and other jobs I’ve had, sure, but that was the best. My whole job was caring for the needs of the campers: their physical needs, emotional needs, and their spiritual needs; and I got to see them encounter Jesus.

These days, when I think about that responsibility, I’m thankful that I am still working for Black Rock Retreat. I went to school for Bible and Youth Ministry. I didn’t imagine myself doing what I’m doing now with the degree I earned. As the registrar for summer camp, though, I see myself as the direct interface for the campers’ parents; that has been huge for me. Seeing the sacrifice parents make to provide these experiences for campers, and talk to them is absolutely amazing. I have been especially blessed by those that we’re able to help with our summer camp sponsorship program. I get to be the one to share the gift of that news, that their child can come to camp without cost. I’ve seen it change lives and have had the opportunity to build some very special relationships because of it.

Patrick: Such as…?

Sherry: There’s one woman, a grandmother, whom I speak with and pray with on a regular basis. There’s no question, this lady and I have truly impacted each other’s lives because of our bond in Christ and Black Rock.

Patrick: So you’re still carrying that commandment from Matthew 22 into your present-day existence.

Sherry: It definitely is my daily goal! But the best part is, when you try to be obedient to God and bless others, God starts blessing you. It’s so cool! Similarly, if you try to teach others, you find that God ends up using students to teach you, and it’s such a blessing. So while my job now at Black Rock is very different, and a lot more responsibility, there’s no question that the same rules apply. Love God. Love people.

Patrick: Any parting thoughts you’d like to share?

Sherry: I caught myself on fire that year.

Patrick: WHAT?!

Sherry: It was a camp-out accident involving cooking oil being on the handle of the pan. I couldn’t do anything by myself for 24 hours because of the severe burns on my right hand. I had a hard time accepting help from others, but my Junior Counselor was extremely gracious. Since then, I’ve had to learn that accepting help from others isn’t a weakness; it’s part of living in community. If I love God and other people, God puts other people in my life that are there to love and help me, just as I want to do for them.

Many thanks to Sherry for speaking openly with us about her life experiences.

Were you a summer camper (or on staff) in 2005? Maybe you were one of Sherry’s campers that summer? Feel free to share any memories about that summer, related to the theme or not, in the comments below!

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