I first met today’s #RealLifeWonderWoman at summer camp. I was eleven. She was twelve. At Swan Lake Christian camp in Viborg, South Dakota, we became friends. We swam, hiked, worshipped, crafted, toasted marshmallows, and sang together–returning each summer through our high school years.
Over time, we eventually lost touch, but were reunited nearly two decades later when our daughter Brooke (then in third grade) wanted to attend camp. I reached out out to the camp office, only to realize that my childhood friend Judi and her husband were there serving as camp directors. Talk about full circle! (And peace of mind for me, knowing my little girl was in their hands). Judi and Jerry continue to serve at Swan Lake Christian Camp & Retreat Center giving hundreds of children and families amazing faith-based experiences and growth each year.
It is with much joy that I get to introduce you to today’s #RealLifeWonderWoman…Judi Kroeker!
KR: Would you please tell us about what brings you joy and fulfillment?
JK: Sometimes we don’t always get to see the fruits of our labors. We plant seeds and plant seeds and never know if they take root. Sometimes, however, the plants grow quickly and right in front of our eyes, or within a very short time without us even knowing it. When I get a “thank you” or “this week (or summer) changed my life,” I remember why I am here at camp and why I do this job. Serving the Lord is one of the things I have longed to do. My job has allowed me to do that, but sometimes in the day to day grind, I forget that what I do has meaning. Seeing a life changed or seeing God work in small ways brings me joy. It keeps me going so that the days when I want to quit and run away, don’t seem so bad.
KR: How did you come to be a camp director?
JK: I went to Swan Lake Christian camp starting when I was 12 and loved it. I never missed a summer. When I was in high school, I worked as a cabin counselor and then after college on program staff. I met my husband working here at camp that summer. We married and moved to Kansas near his family. When the position of director opened in 1996, our names were submitted by someone as possible candidates. We were hesitant, but flattered and agreed to an interview since we were coming up for a week to volunteer. We were offered the job but it was July and I was six months pregnant with our second daughter. We couldn’t foresee moving so close to our upcoming birth of our daughter and the holidays so quickly following. So, we laid our fleece before the Lord and said we would come if we could start after the new year. The board of directors quickly agreed and so January 2nd, 1997, we moved to Swan Lake. We first committed to ourselves that we would stay for five years to give the camp the consistency we felt it deserved. As the end of year four approached, my husband began to think about the future and we agreed to commit to another five years. About year nine, he got a little antsy about our future again and we decided then that we would stay till God called us elsewhere, or we both decided to quit on the same day. We have both had our days when we were ready to quit, but never on the same day in nearly 23 years.
KR: We all have inner superpowers. What are some of yours?
JK: I have the gift of organization and taking care of the small, behind-the-scenes details. Doing things well is important to me. I am a completer. I like to see a job done till the end. I see how things are functioning and like to make sure we have all the bases covered, or how we can improve it to make things run more smoothly.
KR: Can you tell us about an influential woman in your life and how she inspired you?
JK: I think there are a lot of things I do in my life that I do like my mother did. She died when I was 16, but things like giving gifts and making holidays and birthdays special for people were things she loved to do. She taught me the value of work, even though I didn’t like it at the time. She taught me about caring for a family and how to be frugal with money. I don’t remember her ever talking about those things with me, but she taught me by example and experience. Each year after I hit age of 40, I have learned to cherish because she never got to experience those years and I know that they are a gift to me and to my family.
KR: If you could have one super-human power, what would it be?
JK: I would like the power of teleportation. Sometimes I need that time away, and there just is not time to get there and back. If I could transport in an instant, it would give me the time I need to relax and rejuvenate, especially during a very busy summer season.
KR: What do you do for fun? What are your hobbies?
JK: I enjoy reading and puzzles, playing games, and crafting, traveling, kayaking. Our vacation time usually centers around seeing God’s amazing creation. And as my family knows, no vacation is complete without a bit of hiking.