Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Jungle Camp

On Saturday we got together for a swim and barbecue with some of our dearest buddies and co-sufferers of so-called “Jungle Camp” (missionary training experience)—our first meet-up in 24 years! We laughed over our ludicrous antics back when we were young and silly, rebelling over the rules of “camp.” We were only allowed one suitcase and one apple box apiece for luggage, and once in the camp we had no access to our cars or telephones. If we wanted to go to town, we had to hike there. No food could be brought back into the camp.

The story I remember best was the time a couple with no kids walked the five miles into town one Sunday and ordered pizza. Following the letter of the law, Methuselah* and several other people snuck out late that night, and met the pizza deliveryman just outside the gate. I was back at the cabin with a sleeping infant, anxiously anticipating my first bite of “real” comfort food. To my extreme disappointment, Jim returned with empty hands, shocked that I had expected a slice. “But that’s against the rules, honey.” WHAT?!

Another time our friends received a visitor who managed to sneak in a whole suitcase of contraband. Late one night we were invited over to their cabin for a sneak peak and snack. Nothing ever tasted as good as that forbidden Snickers bar. The Jenisons became friends for life at that moment. My heroes.

The last memory is the most preposterous of all. We got our hands slapped for audaciously helping each other on what was meant to be an “independent assignment.” We had backpacked most of the day along a dry riverbed to our campsite. With one piece of plastic and some rope, we were expected to build a makeshift shelter for the night. Then we were to build a campfire and cook dinner for ourselves.

Our “sin” was that the men worked together (a no-no) to build both families’ sleeping quarters while the wives nursed babies and pondered how to turn our rations into dinner without too much cooking involved. By the time we got our fires started, the other campers (minus small babies) had already finished eating their own meals, and we could all but taste the delicious smells wafting toward our camp. One couple kindly offered us their leftovers, but we were informed that this, too, was “against the rules.” With friends sharing our misadvantures, we could laugh instead of cry.

In all these years, I can’t remember a single incident on the field where we met a new missionary and thought, too bad they didn’t go through Jungle Camp and learn to work more independently. On the other hand, many times we have wished our friends and coworkers had been taught the art of partnership and collaboration

IRL*which camp are you in?

[*see Jamie-Jo Speak in sidebar]


  1. In our jungle camp training my husband was paired up with another guy so the two could work together on both homes. We have such special memories of that 6-week experience. Although we never had to bury a trash can to be used for a fridge, we did learn the value and blessings of simplicity and the benefits, joys and art of partnership and collaboration.

  2. I did Jungle Camp in Southern Mexico as a college student traveling with PMT (Practical Missionary Training). I was so scared going into the 2 weeks, but after it was over with, I didn't want to leave.

    My experiences were life changing. I remember after butchering a cow, we had to prepare the meat. Heart, liver and tongue were not my speciality. However, one fellow PMTer said "just pretend you are cutting up cold jello!" And sure enough that did the trick in conquering my fear of preparing the meat.

    I'm grateful for Jungle Camp experiences in my life today (Spiritually and Physically). I use the cookbook frequently, and even this week, didn't have any eggs to prepare the cornbread so turned to the "substitute" page.

    Thank you Jungle Camp for the opportunity to learn and experience new things.


  3. Sharon and Judy, glad to hear you actually learned some useful things besides just gaining fun memories from your training.

    I know for a fact that many others experienced wonderfully helpful training through Jungle Camp. The feedback from our session resulted in many positive changes involving more cooperative efforts for later groups.

    So glad to hear that you felt spiritually prepared for life in missions because of your training, Judy. That was not the case for me. Spiritual warfare was a shocker. They might have taught us a trick or two in advance.

    I wonder if you have the same Jungle Camp cook book I use. Many times I have used the substitute page you mention.

    Ew. We never had to butcher a cow and cook it up. I thought the rooster was bad enough. Yet never in all these 24 years has that been needed on the field. Plenty of neighbors willing to do that for me even if the market was all sold out.

  4. Never been through any such camp, but I'm definitely in the "learn to partner together" camp. Isn't community sort of a cornerstone???

    Glad you at least came through it laughing.

  5. Maybe a little jungle camp would have been good for me... I didn't know how to cook a thing (other than Mac n Cheese from the box) when I left for the field. It was a pretty shocking way of learning to cook... thrown into the deep end of the pool, for sure!
    Now, today, what kind of camp am I in?... Awareness-camp. Wanting to learn (and maybe even learning?) more awareness of Him, His voice, and His Presence more and more through my day. I am pretty sure I will stay in this camp for quite some time!! ...No end in sight and no graduation/certificate of completion :)

  6. Oh my. I'm pretty darn sure I would've flunked that camp. I'm much more in the 'let's work together' camp. :)

    As for being a rule breaker - you remind me of Jesus who took care of people even on the Sabbath - because that was what really mattered.


  7. Awareness camp sounds like a good one, too. I'm afraid we're all in this training for the rest of our lives.

    Thanks for trying to put a nice light on it, Faith, but any way you look at it, we were clearly in the wrong.

    Community as a cornerstone? YES. That's what WOTH is all about, trying to encourage and support us and connect us with each other.

    I appreciate the comments. Keep 'em coming!


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