“CAMP WAKA WAKA”
by Rick Jones, Husband of the Minister's Wife
When I told you about my wife's annual pilgrimage to a women's retreat at Camp Waka Waka in Michigan [shameless promotion for last week's column], I mentioned that I wasn't using the camp's real name. But I didn't make up the name “Waka Waka” when writing the article. It came about years ago because of a prayer request at church and because my memory's not very good.
Like many camps, this one sets aside the summer weeks for kids, and had invented an “Indian-sounding” name that would appeal to youngsters. Yes, I know, that kind of thing is considered politically incorrect today, but back then, when the campground was founded, Native Americans were often called “Redskins” and were apparently a bit more thick-skinned, as in, harder to offend. I say that as someone who grew up playing cowboys and Indians, in an area where most of us were just as willing to be Indians as cowboys. Nobody cared which side won as long as, at some point, we quit relying on imaginary bullets and arrows and started battling up close and personal. I was also a Washington Redskins fan back when NFL rules didn't favor the passing game so much and my team had the “hogs” on the front line. So I associate yelling “hogs” and “Redskins” with cheering on winning warriors.
Anyway, the camp's name was actually something like “Ao-Weh-Taka”. And as hard as I tried, I couldn't get it right. “A-One-On-A-Taco”, I'd say, or wait for Lois to say it right and respond “Gesundheit”. I suppose I could have tried harder – but then, I wouldn't have this story to tell you and right now you'd be reading about why I still read comics books [shameless promotion for next week's article].
Lois and some friends from Goodold Baptist Church had not yet returned from camp as we were meeting one Sunday night. During the time we shared prayer requests, I asked people to pray for those ladies of our congregation. I was saying “. . . as they drive back from --” and suddenly I realized that I had truly forgotten the name of the place! In a slight panic, I blurted out another of the goofy names I had given it, this one inspired by Fozzy Bear from the Muppets – “Camp Waka Waka”.
Some of the people laughed, and we moved on. But when it was time to pray, I called on Barry, who was  hard of hearing, and might never have heard the actual name of the camp clearly, and  probably had no idea who the Muppets were and didn't get the joke. As he prayed, he included the request, “Lord, protect the ladies coming back from Camp Waka Waka”. I was glad that we observed the tradition of closing our eyes as we prayed, because I think it would be counterproductive for people to see the pastor turning red and struggling to keep from bursting into laughter. I kept silent, and fortunately – or should I say, by the grace of God – since Barry was hard of hearing, he didn't notice the few people who were chuckling.
From that day on, I gave up trying to learn the true name of the camp; now I always refer to it as “Camp Waka Waka”.