Tuesday, September 16, 2014

God and Ga-Ga

Amid all the excitement associated with the new Upward Tower on camp this summer, you may not have heard about the surprise hit of the season. It’s an inconspicuous little game with a goofy name: Ga-Ga Ball. Ga-Ga Ball is played in an octagon-shaped arena made of two-foot-tall wooden walls. It’s a dodge-ball style game in which the players swat a small rubber ball with their hands in an attempt to tag other players below the knee with the ball. The game originated in Israel, and the word “ga” is Hebrew for “touch.”

We installed the Ga-Ga Ball arena near the cafeteria so that campers would have an activity available while they waited for mealtimes to begin. We figured they would like the game but never anticipated the wild enthusiasm it would generate. Before and after every mealtime, the Ga-Ga Ball arena was filled with campers shouting, cheering, and laughing as they played. By the end of the summer, they were begging us to build another one by the pool and a third one by the Joy Center.

The Ga-Ga Ball arena also became a very special place for me. On Friday mornings, just after breakfast, I would meet with all of the campers who wished to be baptized at camp. The Ga-Ga Ball arena became our gathering place for these meetings. Eager campers would sit perched on the arena walls while we talked about forgiveness, new life, and the importance of baptism. I would answer all their questions (including the occasional, “can we play Ga-Ga Ball now?); then we would pray together and walk to the pool where all the other campers were waiting for our baptism service to begin.

This summer, 115 of our campers made a public profession of faith and were baptized here at camp. Games like Ga-Ga Ball are a great draw to get them to come to camp, but it’s the encounters they have with God while they are here that change their lives forever.