Assalamu-alaikum readers!

Alhamdulillah today was an awesome day for the kick-off of our first-ever youth group Summer camp! Though the temperature hovered in the low 90s most of the day and the humidity was a bit overwhelming at times, we were blessed alhamdulillah to have beautiful clear, blue skies for most of the day.

The morning began at 7 AM with the youth campers checking-in at the Islamic Society of Greater Lafayette (ISGL). After loading everything into our vehicles around 8 AM, we drove to Brookston, IN. The journey was short and sweet as we arrived at the River Village portion of Camp Tecumseh by 9:00 AM. The youth quickly jumped out of the vehicles and excitedly looked around at what would be their home for the next 36 hours. The brothers cabin was uniquely positioned to be within walking distance of many of the major camp activities (climbing walls, archery, GaGa pit, tether-ball, and carpetball), the cafeteria (a.k.a the River Lodge), and our musallah (a.k.a the Creative Arts Center).

14 guys in one room...whose brilliant idea was this?

Adil and Samir K were kind enough to help set-up bunk assignments and get the cabin room set-up before the youth arrived. After walking into the cabin and unloading all the bags, the youth quickly toured their humble abode. Imagine 14 guys in one giant room (with 7 double bunk beds) and that is precisely the situation we found ourselves in. Alhamdulillah the cabin had a bathroom and 4 shower stations inside making life much more bearable (some youth thought we were going back to the 1900s and using outhouses). After settling in, we welcomed all the campers, introduced the counselors and brothers parent representative (Dr. Mohammad Farooq), reviewed the rules, and went over the plan for the day.

Getting mentally prepared for the long ascent up the, wall...

From 10:30 – 11:45 AM, the brothers attempted to channel their inner mountain climbing instincts by attempting to scale two climbing walls. One wall was the “easy” path (though Haroon failed twice to go past the halfway point so he disagrees with this designation) while the second wall was more “medium” in challenge. Most of the youth were able to climb from the base of the wall to a height of nearly 40 feet within 60 seconds. Yacoub ma shaa Allah held the fastest ascent time as he successfully scaled the “medium” wall in under 22 seconds (looks like he has done this before). We had several humorous moments as multiple campers lost footholds (the foothold in the wall literally detached from the wall and fell to the ground) and had difficulty coming back down to the ground after making it to the top of the wall (Adil earned a nice bruise from attempting to retreat down the wall sideways).

Eesa using another camper's head for a foothold

Nabeel, Samir A, and Mohammad all wondering, WHERE'S MY FOOD?!

The youth enjoyed their first meal of the day in the River Lodge cafeteria from 12 – 1 PM. We enjoyed leafy greens (salad), all-you-could-eat cheese pizza, popsicles, juice, and water. After lunch a few of the youth went to the trading post to make calls to home; the remaining youth challenged one another mano-e-mano to a game of carpetball. Carpetball is a combination of billiards (though no cue stick is used) and bowling (instead of pins you use the same balls as one would use for billiards). The object of the game is to be the first player to knock all of the balls into a special hole/pocket at the end of a long (~25 foot) table.

From 1 – 2 PM, we challenged the youth to navigate through a massive obstacle course (known as a minefield). The youth were paired up (into teams of 2). One team member walked through the obstacle course blindfolded while receiving verbal directions from their partner (while trying to avoid hitting objects or “traps” [chairs, cones, pieces of wood, etc.] which were scattered throughout the course). The object of the game was to successfully navigate through the course in the shortest combined time possible and save Snoopy the bear (all while avoiding touching the traps). If the blindfolded partner touched one of the traps, the entire team would have to return to the beginning of the course and start all over again. Each partner had a chance to attempt the obstacle course. Ma shaa Allah Amir and Omar were the quickest duo to pass through the obstacle course. Each one completed the course in a shade under 2 minutes.

Amir carefully walking through the mine field.

The oldest guys (including the counselors) seemed to have the most difficult time passing through the course (some individuals took up to 5 minutes to complete the course). I’m not sure if this was due to having large feet or the fear of public embarrassment if we touched one of the traps. After the obstacle course, Adil discussed two important lessons we learned from the obstacle course with the youth:

1.) The blessing of having eyes to see things clearly and navigate through this world without having to rely on a guide dog or someone constantly giving us directions.

2.) The art and importance of communication. When communication breaks down between people, problems tend to arise soon thereafter.

We quickly made wudu after the short discussion and prayed dhuhr prayer as a group in the Creative Arts Center.

Getting ready for prayer

Interestingly enough, adjacent to our prayer room there was a mock country western jail. As we walked from our cabin to the center for prayer, the youth saw the huge sign for the jail in front of them. Some of the younger guys thought the counselors were upset with the youth and they were taking them to jail as punishment (they didn’t see the sign for the Arts Center until they were literally 20 feet from the entrance of the building). To say the least, this was one of the many humorous moments of the day.

After dhuhr prayer the youth broke up into small groups of 3-4 (by age group) with one counselor leading each group in a discussion about the importance of taking advantage of our time (the message captured in Surat al-Asr). We discussed the fact that the average elementary to high school students spends only 30 minutes daily (which equals only 2% of our total time in the day) on “religious” or “spiritual” activities. The youth wrote down a typical schedule for a weekday and saw that they in fact needed to take better advantage of their time to incorporate more religious/spiritual activities into their lives.

Triple A (a.k.a Tasawwar and Sheheryar) to the rescue!

We drove to the Richard G. Marsh lake next to the River Lodge and went canoeing and paddle-boating from 3-5 PM. Light rain fell from the skies making the experience a pleasant one. Several of the youth went canoeing for the first time today. It was interesting to see the different techniques employed by each canoe group (there were 2 youth/adults per canoe). Some teams unfortunately had an imbalance of power (small guy in the front, bigger guy in the back) which led to the canoe going in circles. Other canoes (*cough* Haroon and Amine *cough*) went from the dock straight to the sand on the other side of the lake (thus getting stuck in the shallow debris of the lake). Unfortunately we couldn’t call AAA to get us out of the predicament. Fortunately Tasawwar, Samir, Adil, and Sheheryar came to the stranded brothers canoe and provided a rescue mission of sorts.

After canoeing for 90 minutes the youth slid down a large yellow slide, next to the lake, using burlap sacks (one of the weirdest experiences of our life for sure). A couple of the uncles (i.e. the counselors) got stuck 3/4 of the way down the slide and had to use a bit of ingenuity to get out of the slide. Fortunately nobody came down the slide during the same time when the uncles were stuck otherwise there could have been a potential injury.

We’ll talk about the remaining activities of the day in the next blog post in shaa Allah.