“It is better than Disney World.” Those are not my words, but the words of my two daughters, Katelynn, age 8, and Kylee, age 7. I am sure that Will, age 3, would say the same thing.
As you know, I was asked to speak at the Kanakuk Family Kamp in Branson MO last week (and no, I did not misspell “camp”). It is called K-Kaua’i. I spoke for five mornings on the subject of grace to more than 20 families. I am compelled to devote this blog to this subject because of my experience which cannot be described as anything short of amazing.
Most of you think of camp as only for your children, but since the introduction of K-Kaua’i in 2006, the “camping” experience is now available to the whole family. Let me tell you, they do things well. This particularÂ camp is part of the Kanakuk Ministries which includes a large family ofÂ kidsÂ camps. I never attended one of these camps before, but always heard about them as a kid. My first experience with Kanakuk is when I was invited to teach at their InstituteÂ a couple of years ago. The Kanakuk Institute is a training program that allows students to receive a Master of Arts in Youth and Family Ministry in less than nine months. I was very impressed with Kanakuk’s emphasis on the Scripture and their Christ-centered emphasis on ministry. Well, the Family camp has broadened my understanding of their mission and given me an even greater appreciation for all that they are doing.
From the first day we arrived we felt like we were entering into a five star resort. They treated me and my family as one of the guests, even though I was the speaker. We were greeted by some of the hundreds of college students who work for Kanakuk during the summer. They took our car, parked it, and unloaded all our baggage. That set the tone for what we were to experience for the rest of our time. I don’t ever remember being served in such a way anywhere. Not only this, but those who worked there loved their job.
Every morning I spoke at 10am to 11am on theÂ subject ofÂ grace. After this, they took our kids to different places around the camp, teaching the Bible, illustrating the love of Christ, and setting a great example that my kids will not soon forget. Why did they take the kids (even 3mo old Zach)? To give the parents (even single parents) time to engage in one of the dozens of activities that they had planned for us. The first morning we played “monster golf” with other husband and wife teams. As we played, Will Cunningham, Kaua’i co-director, gave short lessons before each hole from his book How to Win a Family Fight. Since my wife and I had just both lost a family fight the night before, this was a great way to start. After this, we picked up the kids and had lunch (oh, btw: the food itself is worth the trip). Then we had many choices. We could join other families for another fun competition of some sort (friendly family battles!), challenge our faith in each other on the ropes course and “zip line” (you have to do this!), or go out on the boat for some skiing or cliff diving. If you don’t want to do any of these, you could go to one of the two water parksÂ (incredible) or just take a nap. No pressure. It is up to you.
They also provided a “date night” where they took the kids, served us a candle light dinner, and took us out on the boat into town for some ice cream. We needed this!
Well, I would like to tell you everything, but it would be hard to write it all down and I, in the end, would feel like I do now, that words could not express how great it all was. Let me give you a couple of particulars that stood out:
- Katelynn, my 8 year old daughter, found inspiration that could not be found in any other setting. The college girls and boys, the K-Kaua’i counselors,Â that took the kids were mature beyond belief. They loved our kids silly. One of the counselors had such an impact on Katelynn that she said she wanted to be just like her. I asked, “Why?” She said, “Because she is mature and she loves the Lord.” I cannot say enough about the counselors devotion, excellence, competence, and maturity.
- Kristie and I did not want to leave. No, not just because of the breaks that we had from the kids, but because of the relationships that were created. All the opportunities for fellowship, learning, discussion, and fun formed an unexpected connection to many of the families. Each night, after the kids went to bed, I would head over to the coffee shop that was open until 11pm. I would get my milkshake and sit down at the computer and begin to work. But my work was always cut short by some of the other fathers who were hanging out in the coffee shop with me. We had a great time discussing theology, digging into their lives, and playing cards. It was hard to leave them.
- The campgrounds were beyond my expectations of what a “camp” could be. Our rooms were perfect and spacious. There were streams and waterfalls all over, leading into pools and ponds. I could actually let my kids run around the camp by themselves with no worries (this coming from a guy who can’t even let them go out in our front yard alone!) It was beautiful and relaxing.
- The scheduled special events for were all intentionally centered on Christ. There was a great spiritual presence there, but the funny thing was that it was not pressured in any way. In other words, I felt that I could have brought anyone, including an unbelieving friend or family member, and they would not have felt looked down upon. They would have just heard about the love and grace of God in everything.
Since this is only their second year to do this, I asked if they had thought about having a week or two (or three!) that was devoted to theology. I said we could focus upon theological development in the teaching and theme, yet keep all else the same. I would like to go back and do five days on “How to Study the Bible.” We could do this in the mornings for an hour and then for two nights bring in an evangelical scholar,Â like Dan Wallace,Â to further teach on the subject. This way, we could join the missions of Reclaiming the Mind Ministries and Kanakuk Kamps in accomplishing a common goal with great excellence. I also said that it would be a great opportunity to get many of those involved in Reclaiming the Mind Ministries together for a great time of learning, fellowship, fun, and relaxation. I think we could fill up a couple of weeks with our people alone!
Anyway, yes, I have been to Disney World – twice. And, yes, it was an incredible experience that I thought could not be topped. I never thought that I would say this, but I have to agree with Katelynn and Kylee, Kanakuk K-Kaua’i was better than Disney World. I highly suggest that you make this your next vacation. You won’t regret it.
P.S. Just so you know – this endorsement could not be more sincere. In other words, I was not paid to do this!