In 2019, I finished my 10th Man Camp over five years in three different locations.
The first time is always the best. Six years ago 500 dudes arrived on a school bus at an unknown location and braved freezing temps and five inches of snowfall overnight. That left an indelible impression. But camp number 10 was close to number one.
Man Camp is about tapping into our primal roots. In all time periods in all parts of the world, men have sung before going to battle. The softened American male doesn’t sing. In all time periods in all parts of the world, men have dumped in the woods. Today’s sheltered American male doesn’t know how to do such a thing without soiling their underwear. In all time periods in all parts of the world, men have sat around the campfire to relive the day’s hunt and bond with one another. Today’s isolated male has no such venue and no one to turn to. In all time periods and in all parts of the world every male has slept under the stars without electricity. Today’s digitized male is intimidated by the sounds of nightfall.
We have lost something as men, and Man Camp has been helping men reclaim what they didn’t even know was stolen.
My least favorite Man Camp was October of 2018. I posted up at the beginning of the walk prepared to playfully heckle people with my bullhorn which has become a Man Camp tradition. Men could choose one of two paths: over a wall and through a narrow path in the woods or bypass the wall on a wide level gravel road. 90+% chose the path of least resistance. During that camp we had more alcohol abuse incidents than we have ever had. One campsite had a guy in recovery from alcohol who told his unit his journey, and yet the group leader allowed bottle after bottle of bourbon to be passed around. The man in recovery got up and walked out of camp. He was a true man. The boys who had walked in on gravel sat clueless.
That camp, which was still great with a huge number of lives transformed, set the stage for change. At our most recent “Man Camp Challenge,” 99% of everyone choose the gauntlet. We scaled a wall, conquered a cargo net, and hiked all of our gear through a rigorous 1.5 mile hike. In the main tent for the first session there was a palpable difference. We either had attracted the creme de la creme with the moniker “Man Camp Challenge” or the challenging hike had called all the men to a higher level. Dudes were amped for what lie ahead.
Men are like my ¾ ton pickup. Without a load we get squirrely. But put an appropriate load in our lives and we calm down. I’m no longer living my life in search of an easier life. I’m no longer avoiding responsibility. I’m no longer believing that if God was to bless me more than he already has then my life would have less challenge in it. The truth of the matter is that I’m a dangerous man when void of any difficulty. If Jesus was good enough to have challenge, difficulty, and even suffering, then why do I think it is my right to not have such things?!
As men, we have more capacity for difficulty than we give ourselves credit for.
As 30 mile hour winds and rains flattened Coleman tent after Walmart tent, I was pumped to see the resiliency of men on display. One guy was 19 and he had no dry gear, no tent, no sleeping bag. Every stitch of cotton on his body was soaked. Someone loaned him some dry clothes and I found him an old sleeping bag in the barn that was previously infested with mice (I didn’t tell him that part). He slept on straw in an abandoned corn crib and survived the 28 degree temperatures.
That man learned something about himself that night. He learned that he had a previously untapped reservoir of strength at his disposal. He learned that he can endure things that other people choose not to endure. There are more positive things in his future which he is now poised to make happen, because he is more likely to endure the difficulty that others aren’t willing to endure.
Men, let’s remember that the world is lying to us. It lies to us when it tells us what a man is. It lies to us by telling us that everything should be easy. It lies to us about what spiritual truth is. We need to get into unpredictable environments which will predictably push us to be men of power. I commit myself and the future of Man Camp to that goal.