Looking forward to camp

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Personal Reflection

by Stephanie Porcella –

New Frontier received this article from the Sierra del Mar Division in September 2007, at the end of the summer camp season. We are printing it now, hoping that it may inspire others to become involved in a rewarding summer tradition.

Stephanie is the camp nurse at Wildwood Ranch and her husband Gordon volunteers there. Originally from Washington, they travel to Ramona every summer to be part of the camp staff.

When Lt. Colonel Diane O’Brien, divisional secretary for program and director of women’s ministries, asked me to write about Sierra del Mar’s Wildwood Ranch camp, I jumped at the opportunity.

Let me begin with some background: About six years ago, my husband, Gordon, and I launched a new stage of life. I was working as a school nurse and he was traveling to San Diego for his employer, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Our empty nest made this possible. We both thought how good God’s timing is. Retirement was just around the corner.

Although we had had little contact with The Salvation Army, Gordie remembered attending a boys’ club run by the Anchorage, Alaska Salvation Army corps. He had experienced their fun program and felt accepted at a time when he knew nothing about God. On one of his trips to San Diego, he visited Captain Thom and Trish Poochigian’s church downtown, the Centre City Corps. Together, during spring break in 2004, we attended the San Diego Citadel Corps. Lt. Colonel O’Brien welcomed us and as we visited, she told me about the camp’s need for a nurse to join the summer staff. A door opened for me to the then Sierra del Mar Camp. Since the acquisition of adjacent land called Wildwood—a generous gift to The Salvation Army—Wildwood Ranch is its new name.

Sit back and visualize 24 hours at the ranch. It’s a beautiful, clear morning. Following reveille, the counselors are leading their campers to the flagpole for flag raising and then on to breakfast. One morning per week we hike a challenging half-mile to the cross that rules the hill overlooking camp. But today there is a time of singing and of learning how awesome God is. Activities fill the middle of the day—swimming, Bible stories, crafts, hayrides, and biking together in small groups—followed by free time. Any of the previous activities are available, plus getting soaked in the slip ‘n slide, hiking to Finger Rock or visiting Animal Farm with Tank, the turtle. After dinner and a group activity, everyone gathers at the pavilion for more songs and skits put on by staff and featuring the campers’ talent. Each evening campers learn more about God’s plans to give us peace and abundant life.

This is our third year and it just doesn’t get any better. Gordon is now a full-time volunteer and loves this kind of retirement! About 1,000 youth come to the camps each summer.

Please join us, there’s always room for more dynamic staff and campers.

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