In our second Alumna Spotlight, we’re highlighting two Cedarbrook alumnae who have been friends for a long time — and now, they both live in Australia! Karen (Laws) Botha and Lara (Wayman) Ribe talk about their camp friendship and Cedarbrook’s lasting impact.
What years were you at camp?
Karen: I went to camp from 1996-2007. We did CILT together and graduated in 2007. Became counseling staff in 2007 till 2009 and 2011, and then came for weekends from 2012-2016. I also worked as the camp nurse in 2009 and 2011 for a couple weeks.
Lara: My bird name was Sphen. It comes from the scientific name for penguins, and I really love penguins!
Karen: My bird name was Kitti. Kittiwake is a type of seagull. I found it when we were working in Pooh Corner during CILT and thought it’d be a great name!
Lara: Karen and her mom went to Mother Daughter weekend together way back in 1996. They had so much fun [that] they invited their best friends, me and my mom, to Mother/Daughter weekend the next year. In 1999, we went to camp as Pathfinders together, our first week away from home. Every summer, we’d be in the same cabin, from Pathfinder through being KAs and CILTs! Throughout the year, we always looked forward to camp together and had little traditions like coloring in the camp map together. We’d drive up to camp every year together, singing camp songs and making our parents go crazy.
Karen: Lara and I not only went to camp together each summer, but we spent the rest of the year together as well. We took classes together, got to see each other multiple times a week growing up, went to each other’s youth group and church events, and our summer would be focused around attending camp at the same time.
How did camp affect your faith?
Karen: I accepted Christ my second time at camp during a Mother/Daughter Morning Watch time. Even though I attended church regularly, it was always going back to camp and to the friendships I made there that really strengthened my faith. Having that time, being immersed in the Bible teachings through Morning Watch, Bible exploration, and the messages from the counselors in the evening made a solid foundation for my faith in all areas of my life.
Lara: Being at camp and out of my normal routine gave me the space to make my relationship with Jesus personal. In the quiet of Morning Watch, I learned to listen to Him and how make prayer a conversation. Having this experience on my own, away from my parents, helped make it my own faith.
What was your favorite activity (to do as a camper and teach as staff)?
Karen: When we were little, we both loved Nature Nest; as Challengers and Explorers, we loved riflery.
Lara: My favorite to teach as staff was OLS! Especially outdoor cookery.
Karen: I loved to teach high ropes and riflery, and I especially liked to be the KA counselor and work in the kitchen.
Did any counselor or staff member have a big impact on you? Could you tell us about that?
Lara: Wally’s servant leadership impacted me at a young age. Also, I had Laudi as a counselor (Explorer age). She really believed in me and encouraged me, all the way through my college years.
Karen: ALL the staff made a big impact in my life. Some of the ones who made a difference in my life included Olli, Kiska, CeeGee, Capri, and Laudi. They all inspired me to work harder on my faith and in all aspects of my life and relationships.
What was the most important thing you learned at camp?
Lara: You can never pack too many socks. In seriousness, though, going to camp gave me a inner confidence and strength that helped me be adventurous in my young adult years.
Karen: My fear of spiders grows less as the summer weeks go by. Camp taught me to be flexible and to take on leadership roles and responsibilities that others thought I could do even though I didn’t necessarily believe in myself yet.
You’re both in Australia. How did that happen? (And is it true that everything in Australia is trying to kill you?)
Lara: My husband, then fiance, was studying at Hillsong International Leadership college while I was finishing up Uni. When I graduated, I thought I’d go do six months in Sydney with him just for fun. Six years later, we are still here! We fell in love with Sydney and feel called to be a part of our church here. As a side note, Americans are always talking about Australia’s dangerous animals, but actually most of Australia’s animals are super adorable—google the Quokka to see what I mean!!
Karen: Lara found me a husband so I had to move here. The long story was that my husband was couch-surfing while studying at Hillsong College and ended up on Lara and her husband’s couch for a few months. One day, I was Skyping with Lara, and she handed Mike the computer and told us we’d like each other. Sparks flew, but nothing happened until I visited Lara in Sydney. Mike and I ended up going on a date, and a year later he proposed, and we realized Lara’s plan all along was just to get me to move to Australia! Also, camp prepares us for the amount of spiders we see here in Australia.
What are you up to now? Does what you learned at camp affect your life now?
Lara: I am an administrator for the Children’s department of Hillsong Church. So much of how I communicate and lead children I learned from Wally during CILT. My husband and I are parents to two fluffy kittens and have quite a lot of plants on our balconey—even while living in the city, the appreciation of creation and nature camp instilled in me is still going strong! And I’m still singing camp songs!
Karen: I’m happily married for one year in July, and working as a nurse in a hospital here in Sydney. The leadership skills and flexibility I learned at camp I definitely use throughout my career as a nurse. My first job in Sydney was being a float nurse. I worked to fill in the gaps in staffing in all areas and departments of the hospital here. I learned that flexibility and willingness to go wherever they needed me from camp. One summer I moved to a new division/cabin/health hut every week. I learned to be flexible, willing to learn and grow in all aspects of life!