Just for Dads ~ March 2020

by Ward Williams

One of my favorite places on earth is the HEB Foundation Camp near Leakey, Texas (population 399), in the Texas hill country. In 1994, I was hired as a counselor to live in a cabin with 17 eight- and nine-year-old boys for two weeks. Admittedly, I had a lot of excitement and anxiety about this. I liked being around kids but hardly had any knowledge of how to manage children. I experienced an enlightening moment during preview week, when one of the leaders’ children injured himself within a couple yards of me. Completely perplexed about what to do, I heard an adult staff member yell to “pick the child up.” I yelled back, asking how I should do that. Meanwhile, the leader came and picked the child up, dusted the soil from his face, and effectively comforted him. I had to learn a lot in a short time, in part, because it was vital to helping those entrusted to my care.

My two sons were born 18 months apart. There were fun, adventurous, and chaotic moments in those early years. Back then, my wife marveled that being a father seemed to come naturally for someone who did not have a father at home growing up. I don’t think it was natural. Working at summer camp taught me patience and how to strive to do what is best for kids.

The other thing my experience at summer camp taught me was to love the outdoors, to love the loud chaos of relationships, and to love solitude. I learned skills in repelling, horseback riding, fishing, pitching a tent, the care of nature and many others. Along the way, I grew close to God in profound ways. The relationships formed at camp have been life-long—it’s even how I met my wife. While camps and camping might not be for everybody, I believe everybody should at least try camping. You might be amazed by what you learn or even who you meet.

Ward Williams is the founder and executive director of Vineyard Family Services. Contact him at ward@vfsdads.com.

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