For the last few weeks, I was more or less rented out to TEC (Thunderhead Episcopal Center) in the beautiful Black Hills as the program director for the middle school youth camps. Though I have been to the Black Hills a few times before, I have never been to TEC before. For those of you who have never been to TEC, I highly recommend going if a retreat is ever offered. The overall facility is really impressive, with several cabins and the main building dubbed “supertent.” Getting to watch the wild horses grazing and the occasional deer in the field below TEC is an added bonus. I have been to several Episcopal retreat centers over the years, and I believe I can say without hesitation that TEC is an asset that this diocese has to be very proud of.
The first camp was the boys' camp, which had about ten campers. The co-ed camp came next with about 30 campers, and we ended with the girls' camp with about 20 or so. The camp ranged from 5th graders to 8th graders from all over the state. Keeping that diverse an age range occupied was somewhat of a challenge, but I think we did pretty well. We went of several hikes around TEC, including a special hike up Bear Butte for those campers staying over for the next camp. We also had the campers try their hands at various arts, crafts, and sports ranging from making plaster masks of their faces to volleyball. One particular favorite was an ice breaker game similar to Red Rover which one counselor mistakenly misread and introduced as “cow breaker.” It was supposed to be named “crowd breaker. ” Needless to say, the new name stuck.
Many dioceses over the last few decades previously owned retreat properties used for things like youth camps but sold them for various reasons. Many of those dioceses now regret having done that. As a new observer to TEC, I believe the summer youth camps at TEC are back on track and a wonderful ministry for the Diocese of South Dakota to have. I pray this diocese keeps this ministry going for many years. I have no doubt that TEC will operate at full capacity for years to come.