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 | Mitchell Palmquist

Middle School Camp Takes Kids to the Heights

On Aug. 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption of our Lady, 90 middle schoolers from around the diocese were heading to the mountains. Settling into cabins at Shoshone Mountain Retreat, the youth were ready for five days of camp. Precautionary evacuations of the camp due to a nearby wildfire, however, would send them back down the mountain to another camp facility run by Lutherhaven Camps.

On the first full day of camp at Shoshone, the power was cut due to the fire in the area. Camp director and Diocese-an Director of Evangelization Brian Kraut said he knew it was a question of how long they could continue at camp without power. What came next was a notice to evacuate and the roads in and out of camp needing to be closed due to fire danger. Lutherhaven and diocesan officials coordinated the evacuation before informing campers of the plan. “Good thing we are Catholic,” Kraut told the campers, “because we get to do a pilgrimage.”

Down the mountain, the middle schoolers, staff, and volunteers arrived at Lutherhaven at Lake Coeur d’Alene. That Lutherhaven was able to accommodate the campers on short notice at their main camp was providential.

“God provided a way for camp to continue,” Kraut said. While the evacuation was necessary, all evacuations were precautionary and done to avoid any risk to the campers.

Throughout the evacuation, “the kids showed incredible resilience. They were gracious, supportive, and cooperative,” Kraut said.

Once settled into the new campground, the middle schoolers continued with a normal day of programming the next morning. A Mass of thanksgiving was offered. The youth were involved in both specifically religious programming and typical summer camp fare. In small groups, the youth worked through an Alpha for teens program, learning, discussing and vulnerably sharing about their experiences and understanding of Christ. Out of these small groups, many of the youth have asked to continue meeting, which has helped to start more middle school youth gatherings at parishes this fall.

Outside of small group discussions, the middle schoolers played gaga ball, swam, paddle boarded, and in general enjoyed the lake and woods. Kraut noted how, over the course of a week, the youth became a community, leaving behind the posturing of middle school culture to be present and vulnerable with one another. “It was evident in how they acted, prayed, and played,” Kraut said.