The night is still young in the forests of Black Mountain. An evening rainstorm has hit and the boys have made it safely back to their cabins for showers and devotions. The upper cabins have a few more fun things in store for the evening, and the lower cabins will soon be sleeping after a long but inspiring day of paddling on a Tennessee river, battle strategizing for an air soft tournament, celebrating cabin clean-up victories, and much, much more.

Before we celebrate the accomplishments of the day, however, it would be most appropriate to dwell on an event that quite literally just occurred, ending just an hour ago: today’s evening activity, the final Little Chief ceremony of the first session for 2013. Most of our time at Camp Timberlake is spent dwelling on the individual trees (boys) we are pruning here in this place, but today’s ceremony was a special, solemn opportunity to step back and see the forest of Camp Timberlake as it has grown more beautiful in its entirety.

Tonight we gathered at the Council Ring to hear and see the fruition of five weeks of labor, love, and prayer. Tonight was not only a time to praise the boys who received commendations from the staff for their leadership and service, nor was it simply another ceremony to give due recognition to the young men who have invested in this camp community enough to warrant an advancement in the ranks toward Little Chief. Tonight was a celebration of the bonds of friendship and brotherhood, a grave but joyful occasion for saying goodbyes, remembering events and experiences from the past few weeks, and hearing words of wisdom from six young men who are concluding their final summer here as campers.

I watched sixteen year-old boys shed tears as they talked about what Camp Timberlake has meant to them in their faith, their love for others, and their growth in character and leadership. I watched the campers of Greybeard cabin cheer at the top of their lungs as Carter Boone earned his Little Chief rank. I watched seven-year olds from Tomahawk cabin embrace their fellow campers and talk excitedly about how they can’t wait to come back for next year. And I watched as every single camper at Camp Timberlake shook hands with every single Timberlake staff member, an incredible symbol of the unity and mentorship this camp provides to the boys who come here. It was deeply moving.

I could spend pages talking about the ceremony this evening, but I am sure everyone reading would like to hear the story from their campers. So now we move from the forest back to the trees.

This morning, Matt Hansen and Cody Fisher took Stan Roy, Will Sciandra, Trevor Brown, and Will Brannan on a fly-fishing trip to Newberry Creek, and each of the boys learned the basics of proper casting techniques, how to choose a fly, and how to put together a rod. Trevor Brown even had the good luck of catching a brook trout on the trip. Also, George Cauffman and Robert Knuth took over twenty boys on a Pigeon River white-water rafting trip. The river was running high due to the rain over the past week, but the boys conquered the river nonetheless.

At camp, highlights of the day include William Leonard earning his bronze bar in climbing with Brady Ross by climbing the left side of the tower. In fencing, Mauricio Severo earned his bronze with instructor Drew Johnson, and in archery, Santiago Severo matched his brother by earning his bronze bar in that activity. Logan Brown and Trey Fowler showed leadership at camp today by hosting an air-soft tournament during free time. Alden Morano earned his silver bar in guitar, and Quinn Martin built a two-foot rocket and gave it his own touch by painting it red.

Many other young men could be recognized today for their achievements. But the evening is growing late, and each hour of time is more precious as the session comes to a close. The story does not end tomorrow with the closing ceremony. The story of Camp Timberlake continues in Florida, Georgia, California, France, and wherever these young men return home at the end of this week. They are the bards of Timberlake, and will continue its story through their words and actions in the remainder of this summer and beyond.

Lawson K.