Q&A w/ Kayla HardageExecutive Director of Camp Tanako

Q&A w/ Kayla Hardage
Executive Director of Camp Tanako

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

Kayla Hardage is the new Executive Director at Camp Tanako in Hot Springs. Hardage, who grew up in White Hall now lives and works at Camp Tanako full-time. In the last 10 years, she has worked for the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. She took some time this week to answer a few questions about her life and her new role at Tanako.

Why did you decide to apply for the Director position at Tanako?

Funny story…My Mom and I were headed to Prescott to visit my grandparents and we were passing exit 97 on I-30 (the Tanako exit) and I told her that I wanted to work at Tanako again, like volunteering for work days or events. We continued talking about camp memories, as we had both worked on college staff. That evening, Kim Carter put on Facebook that she was leaving as Executive Director. I was not looking for a job, but my gut told me to apply, so I did!

What does a typical day as Director look like for you?

One thing that I love about this job is that there is no telling what the day will bring! Sometimes it’s good news, or sometimes there is a tree over the road, but whatever it is, we all have a good laugh. We have to work as a team, and teamwork is what makes camp a great place to work.

Now that the COVID-19 pandemic has made it impossible to hold in-person camp this summer, what kinds of programs and activities is Tanako planning to help people stay connected?

We are launching a new program called TANAKO TALES, where we will take a few minutes each week through our social outlets, to reminisce on memories of camp, sing camp songs and share the good news of Jesus Christ!

What is something good that you can see coming out of this pandemic?

We feel that people will be hungry for fellowship with their community, and as a place for rest and renewal, we are hoping to offer retreats this fall. Tanako is known for the wonderful camps over the last 72 summers. Our hope is that we can grow into a year-round facility for groups, retreats, and conferences. We want to engage the local community and let them know we are here for them, too!

What is your favorite thing about Camp Tanako?

Being present in this place! There is nothing better than watching a sunrise over the lake, or a night at the fire pit with the sounds of nature and camp tunes on a guitar.

Who is someone that has influenced your life in a major way and why?

My greatest influences growing up were my four great grandmothers. I was lucky enough to have a relationship with all four women. Three were United Methodists, and I grew up going to church with all of them on the weekends and we had bunkin parties. I did not realize until later in my 20s that this was truly a gift. I knew six of my eight great grandparents and all four of my grandparents and had a relationship with all of them. These four women laid the foundation for who I am today!

Do you have any big plans for Tanako’s future that you can share?

As I walk through the grounds, I dream of the possibilities of this special place. In my brief time here, I have looked into similar camps, both Methodist and not, and have decided I want to work on a 10-year plan. This plan includes a lodge and conference center, bike trails, partnerships with local businesses for experience trips for our campers, but above all, stay true to our mission of being a place set apart from the busy lives we live. Our foundation is summer camp, and I want that to stay the same.

You’re Not Alone

There are times in life when you have to deal with something that suddenly appears and quickly becomes all-consuming. Like Covid-19. Most of the time, however, you habitually deal with issues that seem to plague you for a lifetime. Like how you feel about yourself. It’s hard to deal with a crisis. It may be even harder to deal with a chronic reality. And so you turn to God. But have you ever noticed how you often experience God’s presence more in a crisis than you do struggling with issues you just can’t seem to fix? It’s probably because you are more open to God in the intensity of a crisis than you are dealing with something for a lifetime when you’ve decided you simply can’t change. But you’re not alone. And you never will be. Jesus came to bring abundant life – especially for those things that seem bigger than you.  

A Sunday Prayer

Lord,

Here I am, Lord, coming to You just as I am.

I am in awe of You, because You are God. I give You praise, because You have given me life and so many blessings. I give You thanks, because You shower me with so much grace in so many ways that I am filled to overflowing. And, Lord, I will continue to do these things into eternity itself.

I confess to You that my heart breaks today when so many are experiencing the pain that Covid-19 has brought. I don’t understand why so many people have to struggle just to buy food, pay rent and get the medical care they need. I am outraged by the injustices that are perpetuated against people of color in our nation. And, Lord, I will continue to feel things into eternity itself.

I long for people to know that You are far greater than any painful, destructive or unjust thing any human being experiences. I cry out that the saving, healing and transforming power of Jesus will embrace people in these days when they need him so much. I seek the comforting presence and transforming power of the Holy Spirit to touch people of faith so their lives are a powerful witness to the Kingdom You are bringing about. And, Lord, I will continue to hope for these things into eternity itself. 

Here I am, Lord, trusting You in all things in the strong name of Jesus.

Amen.

Never Forget

You probably have experienced how the Covid-19 pandemic has brought greater focus to issues you deal with in your life all the time – how important your relationship with Jesus is, the extent to which you believe that you can fully and completely control your own destiny, and what you value most in life. Sometimes you are happy with the results of this clarity. And sometimes it comes as a very painful reality check. Regardless, these insights – good, bad and in-between – are gifts the Holy Spirit is giving you to help you live God’s dreams for you. So never forget the things you’ve learned about yourself during Covid-19. They are some of the things that matter most in your life. And they are also some of the things that matter most to God.

Keep Feeding Your Hope

Hope is the fruit of your relationship with Jesus when he becomes your Lord and Savior. But because you are human, your hope can begin to wane when life is really hard for a prolonged season or you are jolted by a tragedy or you experience a setback just when you are beginning to think things are going to work out. This is why you need to keep feeding your hope every day. So spend time with Jesus who gives you hope. Celebrate the signs of hope that are all around you. And live your hope – especially when you are most uncertain. When you feed the hope Jesus gives you, it will change your life because it has changed you.