What ever happened to all the men? Somehow our society has made it not politically correct to be a man, and that is wrong. God created guys to be men, and we need to step up to the plate and fill the bill.
Enter Man Camp. Man Camp is the brain child of my friend Ryan, who wanted to develop an event where guys could spend time doing manly things and learning what it means to be a man of God. The first Man Camp was invitation only, and I jumped at the opportunity.
Man Camp started on Wednesday night, with a great steak dinner and a talk by Ryan introducing man camp and the reasons for its existance. One of the really great things about Wednesday night was meeting Marshall, a friend of Ryan who demonstrated selfless acts of service when he setup our tent and made us dinner, despite not attending man camp at all. Marshall didn't need to speak about how a man should serve, he showed it.
Thursday morning we woke up and had a nice breakfast (bacon and eggs, plus leftover steak!) and then went out to the Rampart Range shooting area where we unloaded an arsenal of guns and ammo and proceeded to put them to good use. I don't know exactly how many guns there were, but personally I shot a 9mm, a .40, a .45, a .357 magnum, an AK-47, some sort of Romanian built SKS, a Weatherby 300 mag, and of course the 12 gage pistol grip chrome shotgun. :-)
After a shooting contest we moved over to the shotgun range and had a clay pigeon contest. It took me a while to get the hang of it again, but I still shot poorly. Maybe next year. Marshall was there, along with his friend Matt and one of the security officers from Focus on the Family. Joe talked to us about doing security for focus, why it was necessary, and some of his time overseas. He focused on the religious conflicts he witnessed, and talked about our need to know why and what we believe, as well as to be strong Christians.
After shooting, we moved on to the Pratt river where we went fishing and had a little lunch. Fishing was fun, I haven't stood around and fished in years. It is very relaxing. Unfortunately the fish weren't biting, but I was very successful in hooking many of the rocks that dwell on the bottom of this section of river. Are you supposed to go through a lure every cast?
We finished our journey for the day at Noah's Ark Whitewater Rafting, where we had dinner and setup our camp. The wind was outrageous, causing our tent to fall over and we had to move it and set it up where we could lash it to a fence. We finished the night around a campfire where Ryan was very open and transparent, sharing some of the failures in his life, the lessons learned and the importance of being a man of God. This time also involved a lot of talk from the participants. The mix of married men vs. unmarried men was cool, and I really enjoyed being able to give some of the younger guys some very frank advice about marriage.
After spending a cold night in the tent, we got up the next day and went rafting. Our guide, Dale, was very cool. He definately caught the vibe of our group and we had a blast. I have been rafting before, but it wasn't nearly as fun as this was. It was interesting to observe guys in other rafts not doing their job as men. It really drove home the importance of taking time to think about what it means to be a man and how to live it out day to day.
We left Noah's Ark and made our way back to camp, where we re-assembled our campsite. A man named Steve (who happens to be Marshall's dad) showed up and shared with us some great insights on parenting. He talked at great length about a 13 year old kid who had been killed recently, and the significance of the manhood ceremony that the kids dad had gone through with him. I was deeply moved by Steve's talk, and it really fired me up to think through very visible and concrete ways I can work with my son to lead him into a future as a man. Steve showed us a sword that he had made for Marshall, that included Joshua 1:9 "Be Strong and Courageous" on it. It's amazing how our culture ignores these values, and yet they are so important.
One aside: Steve brought his dog as an illustration. Rugby was a great illustration until he ran off and picked a fight with a skunk. After we all got a whiff of that smell, we didn't really want Rugby around any more, and we had to tie him up down wind. It was a very funny moment. Mostly the part where Zack said "Maybe he saw a skunk" which was followed by the realization that Zack was right, and then the incredible odor that goes along with such a discovery.
Saturday morning we had a nice pancake breakfast followed by a trip the bowling alley, where we saw the most amazing mullett in the history of mankind. We were only using two lanes, but we basically were the only people in the bowling alley, and it was a blast. We all had fun picking random songs from the jukebox and bowling up a storm. The first game was pretty rough, but by the second game most of the guys bowled pretty well. It was very fun, the first time I've been bowling since about 1992 or so.
After bowling we went to the house of Ryan's friend Roy. Roy is an MD who has the distinction of being one of only two people in history to deliver a gorilla via c-section. Roy is a stud. His game room has more trophies mounted on the wall than you could get if you went and shot the local zoo and mounted it on your wall. It was simply astonishing. Roy gave us a slide show of his life and of his safaris, and basically taught by showing the examples of his life. He gave us great instruction on raising kids, how to treat a lady, the importance of spending time with his kids etc. His success is evident not only by the trophies on the wall, but by the lives being lived out by his family. His kids are both very successful and it is apparent that they love their family. It's hard to summarize everything he said, but it also deeply impacted me. I will never forget this visit.
After a time fishing in one of the ponds by Roy's house, we headed over to Ryan's house to watch the UFC season finale and have pizza. I've never watched much of this, but it was very fun. The evening finished around the fire as we sat and talked about life. We needed coffee cups for the next morning, and so I borrowed my friend's Subaru WRX STI Limited and flogged it. WOW what a rush!!! It was so fun I couldn't wipe the giant grin off my face for days. It's a little car that weighs next to nothing and has 300HP. My friend Dave, sitting in the seat next to me, told me that this car could keep up with his Porsche 911 up to about 135MPH or so. Nice! It was, without a doubt, the biggest adrenaline rush I've ever had behind the wheel of a car. Amazingly I didn't get a ticket or hit a deer...
Sunday we went up to Woodland Park for the best donut I've ever had in my life, and then we went to Garden of the Gods for a finale. On the whole it was a fantastic week. I salute Ryan for putting the time into such a life changing experience.
I arrived home to my kids jumping up and down with joy to see daddy again. It was a wonderful welcome home!