Rooted in Prayer Virtual Church Camp was an absolute delight. I have five children, ages 12, 10, 8, 5, & 2, and two nephews ages 10 & 7. I gathered all the children every afternoon for five days for church camp. We started with prayer and then watched the twenty-minute lesson. Elissa Bjeletich and Kristina Wenger were engaging, and they presented the material in easy-to-understand language aimed at early elementary ages. The three-minute stillness challenge was awesome! I gave each child an assigned spot on the living room floor for watching the lessons, so that transitioned well to the challenge. It was a bit difficult having my two-year-old dancing around while the rest were trying to be still, but I told them she just helped increase their efforts. The three minutes really showed me how little time I spend each day in stillness. And it also showed me that I don’t have to wait for the children to be in bed before I can expect any stillness. Even with a two-year-old, it is possible to gather the family and just sit still.
After the main lesson, we left the living room and headed for the table where I had laid out the craft(s) for the day. There we also met and talked and had our discussion. I loved the variety of crafting options. I am not crafty at all, so I gravitated toward the simpler crafts, but my mother, who is very crafty, was able to work with my older children to do some more complicated and fun crafts. One example was the icon cloth. I had my four-year-old use fabric markers to design his, while my mother worked with my older children to use the sewing machine and hand stitch their own designs. Both ways came out beautifully. My younger ones typically finished with their crafts before the older ones, so the handouts were an excellent way to keep them occupied while the others finished up. We would then head back to the living room to watch the saint of the day and listen to music with Miss CeCe.
The stories about the saints were amazing. My children did know most of the saints stories already but still found them well told and interesting. The music with Miss CeCe was the unexpected highlight of the afternoon. Her songs were so catchy and beautiful. We’ve all been singing Welcome to the Temple for days now.
The most surprising result of the week of church camp was this deepening sense of prayer. My children have all grown up in the church and have been saying family prayers since they were born and attend church on a regular basis, etc., so you would think they would have a very firm grasp of what prayer is and its importance. And yet, somehow, despite being actively lived, this week of church camp still seemed to open up a huge appreciation for and understanding of prayer that just wasn’t there prior. I can only reason that it came from being “taught” by Elissa Bjeletich and Kristina Wenger. I am so grateful for this week to totally immerse ourselves in prayer. It gave the whole week a focus. The excellent crafts and yummy snack ideas were icing on the cake.
For those wondering who would most benefit from this church camp…I think the answer is wide open! I went into the week thinking my 4, 7, & 8 year olds would get the most out of it, but really, the older ones (10 & 12) were also fully engaged and enjoyed the crafts and lessons as well. The biggest hits were the watercolor prayer journals, the embroidered icon cloths, and the modge podge mint tin icon diptychs. Which, by the way, were the perfect use for all the tiny handout icons I have that keep on piling up in our house! And, myself, a 40-year-old mother of five, got a lot out of the week. I highly recommend using the virtual church camp in your own family and if your parish offers it, don’t hesitate to sign up your kiddos. It is totally worth it!
Max (age 8): I did like the crafts that we made. My favorite was the squishy balloons. Sometimes if you want to keep silent and pray we need something squishy in our hands.
Ben (age 4): My favorite craft was the squishy balloons and making the jars (the glycerine/sequin jar). I liked all of the crafts we made. There are other ways to pray. We could just light a candle and be quiet together. I liked the story about St. Paraskevi. She shared all of her money and all of the things that she had. She sold all of it because she was gonna grow up to be a Christian.
Giovanni (age 7): I liked the crafts. The story about St. John. I liked how he visited the orphans. St. John is special to me because he’s my patron saint. I can sit still, make the sign of the cross, stand.
Enrique (age 10): I liked the story of St. John because he never wore shoes. I liked how he visited people. I liked the hard and soft hearts. We made hard sugar cookie hearts and jello hearts. Sitting in silence was a new way I learned how to pray.
Sofia (age 12): All of the crafts were really fun. The lessons of the saints were really cool. St. John, his body is still incorrupt and you can write a letter to him and he answers them.
Tess (age 10): I liked the activities and I definitely enjoyed the lives of the saints. I liked the music too. I really liked how the teachers set it up. I thought it would be pretty much work, but they made work and learning, which is normally not a very desirable thing for a kid; they made learning fun.
Esther (age 2): I like Miss CeCe.