Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Daily Life and Activities at St. Lazar’s Camp this Year

Departure from the convent to the camp – first expedition on foot
With God’s help and the earnest efforts and enthusiasm of the expert leaders and volunteers, St. Lazar’s Camp came to life very successfully, to the pleasant surprise of all.  As we know this was the first session of St. Lazar’s Orthodox Youth Camp, this made our unexpected joy even greater.

From the first day, when the participants of the camp, the children and youths, gathered at New Stjenik Convent in a orderly fashion and headed through the mountains on a multiple-kilometer hike to the camp, their settling into and adapting to the camp itself, the surprisingly quick and successful establishment of a complete program of activities in the not-so-easy forest/mountain conditions, all brought us to the conclusion that God’s blessing and the heavenly protection of the Holy Prince Lazar covered our new-born camp. 
Assembly, prayer and raising of the flag
Every day at camp began and ended with prayer.  On the central plateau, in the mornings after prayer, the Serbian flag was raised, and then before prayer in the evenings was lowered as the participants in the camp stood at attention and sang the Serbian national anthem “God of Justice.”

  Only when this central ceremony of the camp was conducted did the other activities begin.  A high value was placed on the neatness of the camp’s participants; hence, nearly every morning an inspection was held of the orderliness of the tents. Nearly every day of the camp was marked by a hike through the mountains with instruction on orientation with topographical army maps, along with the construction of biouvacs of branches and leaves. 

Catechism and classes of national history were held daily.  On a large mowed field nearby,e children also played various sports and games every day.  Along with these physical activities on the field, expert shooting classes with the use of Air Soft rifles were held. There were the inevitable dips in the Demižlok creek, and towards the end of the day, when the sun began to go down, everyone could hardly wait to light the campfire and sit around it, with the singing of many patriotic and pious songs.  Of course, during the ten-day length of the camp, two Liturgies were served in the large central tent, in which the members of the camp actively participated.

All of these activities were nourished by the exceptional, surprisingly rich cooking of the camp which was led by two New Stjenik nuns with the help of one volunteer.  The camp kitchen took care that the children had three generous meals - breakfast, lunch and dinner - and at least one snack, (or when needed, two).  For dishwashing, the campers themselves were put into action, taking turns every day. 

Bishop Akakije surprised the campers one afternoon by bringing a lamb (which was roasted on the spit by the campers themselves for hours) and promising that such a feast of roast lamb or pork would enter into the tradition of the camp in the years to come.  

Every day of the camp was interesting in and of itself and unique.  The socializing was intensive, with the active participation of the expert leaders of the camp, with the spiritual father of the camp, Priest Stephan, at the head. The participants in the camp kept a daily log. Whenever a misunderstanding, argument or quarrel between the campers took place (which was really very rare), they were obliged, before the assemblies and prayers took place, to publicly seek forgiveness of each other, the spiritual father of the camp, and all of the campers. 

The camp officially ended with a Sunday’s Liturgy at New Stjenik Covent, during which Fr. Stephan gave a fitting sermon about the camp and its meaning for all of its participants, the Lazarites, and for a blessing distributed icons of St. Lazar with the emblems of the camp.  After the Holy Liturgy the Lazarites were taken to Despotovac with the help of monastery Land Rovers.  The partings from the camp and monastery were truly touching.
Singing around the campfire
After the conclusion of the camp and the touching parting we can say with surety that this year’s session of St. Lazar’s Youth Camp fulfilled all expectations and that all the effort for its organization and realization completely paid off, for at its conclusion all of the young Lazarites carried away a deeply-imbedded experience of community, churchliness and patriotism which cannot be found anywhere these days.  Thus, we call all parents who decided against against sending their children to our St. Lazar’s Camp this year to definitely do so next year and the years to come.
Transportation of campers to the convent
We owe a special debt of gratitude to our dear Russian guests from the USA, Nikolai and Anya who, with their long years’ experience as scouts of the Russian Church Abroad, through their advice helped our new-born camp mature.  Around the campfire, we had the opportunity to hear many patriotic, monarchist, Russian White and Russian Liberation Army anti-bolshevist songs which deeply inspired us to new zeal and a new fight against every evil with faith in God, for the king and fatherland, or as Russians would say, for the Faith, Tsar and Fatherland.


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