Twelve vehicles carrying men from The Master’s College set out for Lake Casitas, Calif. on Nov. 14. Some of the men were older; most were young. Many were students, two were teachers, and a handful of men held other staff positions at TMC. All of them hoped to prove their manliness over the weekend. But did they know what that meant?
The idea of a camping trip for men is not a foreign one at TMC. Dave Hulet, now Associate Dean of Students, participated in a men’s camping trip as an RD around 2009. Additionally, it is common for the men to have a retreat or trip of some kind once a year, but it has been five years since the college has had an official men’s camping trip. So Hulet brought it back.
“I think it’s just fun to get away,” Hulet said. “In an academic environment when you’re being pressed mentally all the time, and you are getting many sermons a week…I was trying to think, ‘What would be a retreat for men? What could they learn more about each other and about God’s creation? How could I get a guy to step outside his own little world and think about something other than himself, and especially about our God?’” Hulet decided that the best setting in which to cultivate these factors would be a camping trip.
“I also want the young men on campus to be exposed to certain relationships on campus that are a few steps ahead of them in life…some cross-pollination, if you will. I want it to develop so that any man that has anything to do with The Master’s College is welcome to come.”
Campers participated in a variety of activities spread out over the weekend. Waldock men prepared all of the food, while other dorms participated in planning and setting up camp. The men split into classes for different competitions, from night capture-the-flag to chopping wood and throwing hatchets. The group went to the beach, hiked short trails, viewed stars through a telescope, and sat around the campfire at night telling riddles and listening to devotionals from Todd Bolen and Joe Keller.
“There’s an enjoyment that comes with working really hard and pulling something off.” Hulet said that his favorite part was watching men take responsibility and grow as a unit. “I was able to do and see more ministry in one weekend than I have in the whole entire year…I feel like those types of times give so much more mileage to ministry. They make people more real. They make me more real.”
Hulet would like to experiment with different locations for the camping trip and find three reliable spots that would rotate from semester to semester. While this semester’s group camped near the beach, the two other locations will most likely be a mountain spot and a desert spot.
Overall, both students and staff received the trip well. “My favorite part was just sitting around the campfire talking with guys. That was really fun and encouraging,” said Cole Heinzen, a junior in Hotchkiss dorm. “If I were to change something though, I might add actual sporting events like flag football or frisbee.”
In coming years Hulet and the team will put more emphasis on communicating and promoting the trip more, and will likely raise the price a small amount in order to purchase better food. In addition, future trips will probably see more staff and teachers there for the younger men to learn from.
Siona Savini, the RD of Hotchkiss dorm, also suggested loosening up the schedule slightly to allow for more free time. “There was just a lot on the agenda. I think less is more.”
Savini quite enjoyed one of the games, though. In this competition, men split into two teams and, on Hulet’s signal, charged full-speed at the other team in hopes of knocking over a guarded stick before the opposing team did the same. Participants came away bloodied and bruised, but no one was seriously injured. “Watching the guys play that game…it was epic,” Savini said.
One of the most memorable parts of the trip for most, and especially for Hulet, was the wood splitting contest. The two contestants, Seth Connell and Canon Baldridge, had to use various chopping implements to split a half-stump into quarters and then kindling; the upperclassmen came out on top. “It was form,” said Hulet. “Seth Connell knows how to split wood…there’s a technique to that, and you can tell he had it.”
“I’ve done my fair share of wood splitting.” Connell commented on his victory and Baldridge’s performance. “His log might have been a bit more dense, but if he had changed one or two things with his form, it might have been different.”
While the men all had a good time participating in manly, shower-free fun, it wasn’t the axe games or the hot dogs that made this trip a masculine success. The real manliness came out in the conversations between younger men, students, and the older men there. It was that aspect that surpassed people’s expectations.
“I saw a really healthy balance between good work ethic and getting physical things done, but also knowing that that leads to great ministry.” Hulet said. “I realized that the men’s camping trip is a lot of hard work, but it’s so worth it.”
By Michael O’Brien