I arrived at the YMCA camp both enthused and apprehensive. Enthused about developing new friendships, renewing old ones, and enjoying the fellowship often found at conventions. Apprehensive about what the conventioneers would act like. Would they be willing to attend meetings, willing to discuss the subjects presented, courteous and respectful, willing to follow the dress codes presented, or not?
Chaperone meetings were held each morning after our morning devotions. At the first meeting we were told the camp had very specific nighttime rules and whether we agreed or not we had to follow the rules set forth. I later found out we had several other families in our dorm that were not part of the convention or the PR churches. One had a baby and young daughter with them. It was imperative that we follow the camp rules and respect the others around us not only during the day but especially at night.
In our dorm, there were chaperones in the rooms at each end of the hallways on each floor. Rev. Eriks, Leon Griess, Shon Griess and I roomed together. Even though there seemed to be a snoring contest each evening, I hope they enjoyed the company and fellowship as much as I did.
Each chaperone was given a list of the people in the two or three rooms they were responsible for. We had devotions together at 6:45am and 10:30pm. The guys I had were on a different floor than I was, another unusual aspect that worked out well thanks to the responsible attitudes of the young people. Also the chaperones were not allowed to have master keys for the dorms due to the other guests in our building, but thankfully we didn’t need them. We really didn’t have to check rooms and search for kids skipping meetings. The conventioneers were told they had to check in with their chaps at the auditorium before each of the speeches and discussion groups. Their names were checked off the chaps list, and only those too ill to attend were excused.
The cafeteria at the YMCA was outstanding. Prime rib, fried chicken, shrimp and ham were some of the dinner meals provided, along with salad bar, fruit bar, and desserts at each meal. Chaperones and pastors often dined together but it also wasn’t uncommon to see the young people sitting with the adults in the dining room. The other heart-warming experience was hearing others at the camp approach our table asking who we were and where we were from and then commenting on the dress and attitude of our young people. One older fellow commented specifically on the fact that the girls didn’t represent the “Britney Spears” look. The dress code was clearly noticed by others at the camp.
I was also very impressed with the behavior and attitudes of our young people. We had a number of special needs young people at the convention, and they were very well received and accepted. The fact that many of our special children are mainstreamed at our schools made a huge difference in how they were received and treated at the convention. During the games and mixers, there was much encouragement given to those who were not as physical and athletic as others. It was also very heart-warming to see these young people be a part of the discussion groups, Bible trivia, and speeches.
Some of the young people did struggle with altitude sickness and there seemed to be a flu bug at camp. There were a few of the chaps that were nurses and did double duty at camp. I think they suffered with sleep deprivation more than most of the kids; they were extremely busy all week with both sicknesses and a few injuries.
The Loveland steering committee had a 25-year age minimum for chaperones, a decision that seemed to help with discipline. I did hear of a couple of occasions where the conventioneers didn’t respect the younger women chaps and actually ignored them when they tried to talk to the kids. We also had a few kids that chose to go home early. My impression was that most of the young people that did leave early were a bit older. Hopefully the older young people will prove to be better examples to the younger conventioneers in the future.
My experience at the Loveland Convention was far more than I expected. I know that many of the young people build and renew friendships at our Conventions that last for years. I have found that the same holds true for the chaperones at conventions. This year was no different; I enjoyed the new friendships and also the fellowship with pastors and others who have chaperoned before. I often wonder if the chaperones get more out of the conventions than the young people.
I would encourage those who have never spent a week at a young people’s convention to take the opportunity to spend a week working with the young people and experiencing the fellowship and spiritual growth. I remember a convention a few years back when one of the couples chaperoning was pushing 70 years old. They not only enjoyed the week, but commented later on what an uplifting and enjoyable week they had had.