Riverwoods Counselors Pitch God to Their Campers
Sarkauskas, Susan, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
It is 7:15 on a cool summer morning. You are a second-year college student. Going by stereotypes, you're supposed to be sleeping, refusing to get out of bed for at least another hour.
Instead, you are marshaling a half-dozen sleepy kids out of bed and into their clothes, ready to face another day of fun and games.
And you won't have much time to call your own until about 9 p.m., when your charges are tucked back into their beds. That is, if they fall asleep right away, like they are supposed to.
Instead of partying late into the night, its a mandatory "lights out" by 11:30 p.m. for you. And don't even think about dating one of your co-workers; it is against the rules.
That was life at Riverwoods Christian Center in St. Charles this summer for about 40 college kids who work as counselors and directors. For this privilege, they received room, board and a $2,000 stipend - all of which they are asked to help raise from friends, relatives, churches.
But that's just it. The counselors really do see their work as a privilege - an opportunity given to them by God.
"Hands up!" says the chapel director, in an authoritative not- shouting-but-make-no-mistake-it's-time-to-listen-up voice. The gaggle of children ages 6 to 12 sitting in the small chapel each raise one of their hands; its the universal camp signal for "be quiet."
"I need a volunteer to pray for us," the director says. "Everybody else needs to bow your heads. We are going to talk to God now."
Riverwoods Christian Center is nondenominational. Campers, who come from low-income areas in Elgin, Aurora and Carpentersville, attend the one-week sessions for free.
Besides the usual camp activities of canoeing, archery, sports, games, music and crafts, the kids are taught Bible verses and lessons about tolerance and getting along with each other. Almost 600 children attend the camp each summer.
Counselors shepherd the kids through the day, from meals to activities to free time to Bible study to bed time at 9 p.m.
Their day isn't over until all the kids are asleep.
Directors are responsible for organizing the activities. Several also lead teen programs that develop future counselors. Other directors go out into the communities from which the kids come, conducting programs that introduce the children and their parents to Riverwoods and recruiting campers.
The helpers do this out of a deep conviction that God has placed them here to help these kids.
"We come here because we feel called to," says Lisa Robinson, the media director, who is from Grand Rapids, Mich.
That calling is not to be underestimated. These counselors are in college, and they could probably earn more money for it if they stayed at home and worked a regular job. …