It’s been several years since either one of us attended a summer kids camp, and the majority of those camps were held in the heavy heat of either Texas or Oklahoma. Our reintroduction into kids camp was, this time, surrounded by the greenness of the Austrian Alps with cool temperatures, full sunshine, and one incredible view of God’s creation.
Kinderlager – German for “kids camp” – has been around for years and years. It’s held every year at Schwarzwaldeckhaus which subsequently is the same house both Will and I had the privilege of staying at as part of our Fall Euro Study Abroad experiences – Will in 2004, myself in 2008. This year the group was relatively small with just 15 kids, half of them from Vienna and the other half from Graz, plus 11 adults. The majority of us arrived last Sunday afternoon and together hiked up the mountain through fields and herds of especially hungry cows. After we made the 45 minute hike to SWEH, the kids didn’t even leave time to get themselves settled in before they were outside again playing on the terrace. That night we had Leberkäse, a popular Austrian dish. Just imagine eating a loaf of hotdog and you’ve pretty much got yourself a Leberkäse. The kids were able to fit in another round of play time before the Andacht (devotional) where the week’s theme Selbstlosigkeit (Selflessness) was introduced. The kids were in bed by 9pm that night, and the adults stayed up by the fire playing cards until we were ready to turn in and take on the week ahead of us.
Each morning started with a loud clanging of a bell, followed shortly by singing and breakfast. Whichever group had clean up duty helped in the kitchen while the others cleaned their rooms and played outside until Bibelstunde (bible study). We spent about 30 minutes singing new and old songs together then split into two groups for class. Will, Tamika, Florian, and I taught the younger kids bible class every day for about 45 minutes. We talked about idols in our lives (Es gibt nur einen Gott!), love (Gott liebt dich), trust (Gott ist treu – du kannst ihm vertrauen!), and leadership (Führung – Gebote). The kids memorized verses on each subject, drew pictures, had discussions, and played games. We loved hearing their thoughts and experiences on these topics.
Everyone came back together for lunch, then the kids were all sent to their rooms for 2 hours of Ruhezeit (quiet time). Of course if you’ve been to camp before where there’s a required quiet time, you know there’s no such thing as actual quiet time. I think Will and I tried to take a nap every day during this time and always gave up in the end because it was party central in the girls’ room next door. After quiet time came Kantine (canteen) then a few hours of Sportzeit (sport time). Jake and Bobby kept the kids very busy with games of Capture the Flag, 4Square, Water Balloon Volleyball, and other activities such as zip-lining and a surprise water balloon war. We ended each night the same way as we did the first night there with dinner, a devotional, and sleep, though on our last night at SWEH we ended the night with a talent show. We saw skits, songs, and even a little twirl dance to conclude our last evening together.
Kinderlager came to a close this last Saturday morning and let me tell you, we crashed hard when we got home as I’m sure most everyone else did as well. We had an awesome time at camp and already miss our Graz kids as well as the kids we don’t see that often here in Vienna. We saw so many wonderful examples of Selbstlosigkeit during the week and were immensely blessed by their smiles and hugs. We’re praying over these little ones – that they have an amazing rest of the summer and a great school year; that they stick close to the Lord and remember what they learned at Kinderlager. Amen.
Markus 10:14 – “Lasst die Kinder zu mir kommen. Hindert sie nicht daran! Denn das Reich Gottes gehört Menschen wie ihnen.”
Mark 10:14 – “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”