Jr. High Winter Blast 2020

This was our biggest Jr. High Winter Blast yet with 49 campers, 15 counselors, a big kitchen crew, and several hundred snow ducks! (Yes, this was before concern about the corona virus increased. I know you were worried about all those ducks, clearly not practicing social distancing!!!)

Parents and youth leaders urged weary vehicles up the snowy camp road and into the parking lot where the rowdy fun immediately commenced.

What was the very first game of the weekend?

The chair game, of course!

The goal is to keep the person in your chair from escaping when the person with the empty chair calls their name. This allows staff and campers to learn each others names.

It is also more than a little bit entertaining to watch.

Of course it isn’t camp if you are not outside. So Scruffy took the campers who were bold, brave, and had two working legs, on an amazing hike into Poison Canyon. Down, down, down … and then ALL the way back up!

Poison Canyon is just a wee bit steep. Hiking here causes Princess Leia Freyja to whine with concern and give everyone revitalizing slurps.

Here she is, looking worried for the health and safety of others. Which is actually a fairly common expression for our sweet camp dog.

During the amazing hike, some campers played board games in the lodge or worked on crafts.

Others built a tower of Kapla blocks that rose all the way up to the second story! Campers reached through the rails on the second story balcony to place the final block, until I got out my camera and the invisible power of its nearness seemed to cause the tower to fall right as I snapped a photo!

On the first evening, Scruffy dusted off that Watchamabob favorite of old, the Chocolate Marshmallow Drop.

The participants were ready and eager to go.

The chocolate was gooey and drizzly!

The results: stickiness overload!

The benefits: eating a marshmallow if you actually succeeded and of course the pure and unadulterated joy of having chocolate on your face!

Of course, Watchamabob naturally morphs straight into–all the camp people know the answer–worship!

Hand motion songs first, then quiet worship, and then the lesson.

Our speaker this week was Faramir, and he spoke about turning points.

Of course, he told an amazing story about the time that (although he is terrified of roller coasters) he let his youth kids talk him into riding a super scary roller coaster since he was trying to impress them. Then the operator saw that no one else was in line, gave them a cheery smile, and sent them around the track a second time! The point of no return. That moment that the front car on the coaster (yes, his youth group kids talked him into sitting in the very front) is hanging over the edge of the precipice and it is only a matter of time before the other cars follow. Sometimes we come to a point of not return in life. A time where we must decide the course that we will follow. Faramir did a wonderful job of urging kids to make a decision to follow Jesus when they come to these important turning points in their lives.

On Saturday, every cabin participated in an epic broom hockey match-up!

An afternoon well spent.

Although Princess Leia Freyja was quite dissapointed that Scruffy wouldn’t let her play. She totally understands the game. The first person to run through the gauntlet of smacking sticks, grab the puck, and wildly charge between people’s legs with it in their mouth as their tail wags happily … is the winner!

After hockey, snow duck production went into overdrive!

Sweet Tea, our wonderful camp cook, let campers use her new snow duck makers. They look like salad tongs with half a duck on each side. When you pack them with snow and squeeze the duck halves together, voila, a snow duck! It started with just a few ducks watching the hockey game.

Then two stern leaders in parlay were discovered having a serious discussion in the middle of the ping pong table.

But what is a king without his army? So, two opposing armies of ducks were born.

One side consisted of bald ducks and one side was made up of ducks with charming hair made of lichen. There was also a spy in the midst of one army and a few ducks who really loved Legend of Zelda and created this iconic monument.

Of course, after all of this hearty snow duck creation, it’s also nice to just sit on the couch with friends. A whole lot of friends! Which inevitably turns into a competition. Exactly how many campers and counselors can fit on these particular couches. And a dog … there should definitely be a dog on the couch. Don’t worry, Princess Leia Freyja was happy to help out.

We didn’t let them sit too long. There were still more strange and baffling games that absolutely needed to be played!

OK, these two sisters are ready to go!

What is this? Obviously, some kind of face off between two determined campers. But why?

Hmmm … not sure that this makes things any clearer.

Well, balloons are always fun.

OK, more balloons more fun.

Aha! A chase, a mighty battle!

The goal of this game was to hop after your opponent and pop their balloon without allowing them to stomp on yours.

Princess Leia Freyja seemed concerned.

But the campers had a great time!

Finally, it was Sunday and time to clean up the camp and present cabin awards. No, we do not normally ask the campers to mop with their cute toesies. But when presented with a mop, this cabin of girls begged for permission to mop their own way. They also charged out of the bathroom and seized the camp photographer so that their triumph could be captured on film!

While the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place cabins received bags of candy in various yummy sizes, the staff team got something even better.

A bag of russet potatoes!!!

Little did they know that in a few short weeks Scruffy would walk into Costco to find every single bag of potatoes gone!

Or perhaps they did know, deep down inside. Either way, the potatoes were received with great joy and were distributed among the staff while the candy was distributed among the winning cabins.

It was such an amazing weekend. Not only were many snow ducks created, wild games played, God’s beautiful forest enjoyed, and songs sung at a tremendous volume … but several campers raised their hands to follow Jesus for the very first time. And please do not discount the vital role that a weekend of camp plays in the life of a young Christian who already knows the Lord. Without the encouragement of fellowship, teaching, and the fun of being with a whole herd of rowdy young believers, their Christian walk would be much more difficult. Through the grace of God, we were able to provide a safe place for these 49 children to learn about their Lord and rejoice in the beauty of following Him.

Ephesians 2:4-5–“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.”

Boo Boo

Sr. High Winter Camp 2020

For the first time since Scruffy’s worked at Camas, we offered a Camas-Run, Sr. High Snow Camp! Yes, here they are, Sr. High campers … who are sometimes quite tall, as demonstrated by this photo. One of these rowdy boys is actually the camp speaker, though. Can you pick him out?

Van Helsing’s amazing T-Rex impersonation

Yep, this is our speaker. The one and only Van Helsing, who for some very important Biblical reason, was impersonating a T-Rex during his chapel session. Thankfully, I am quick to photograph these amazing moments and so we can revisit this Bible lesson again and again.

As you can imagine, there is plenty of silliness at Sr. High Winter Camp. Does this camper actually have a pet spoon?!?

And of course much Ukulele playing!

The occasional epic tube hill run

Yep, you can tell how much fun they are having by how much snow they track into the lodge!

But a few snowballs brought inside are not sufficient. At Sr. High Winter Camp we get outside every chance we can get!

And that means giant snowballs

And snowball fights!

There’s nothing like blue sky, fresh snow, and an enthusiastic snowball fight opponent.

Like your father … or the camp intern.

This is Inspiration Point. A great place for both quietly viewing the mountains and an epic battle.

Teen campers are great. They can go from thoughtful contemplation to crazed attack and back again in an instant.

That is the beautiful thing about camp. All the rowdiness and fun seems to actually make the quiet times of camp all the more lovely. I think that the very act of having a snowball fight, insane hockey match-up, and super-tense game of grog with a group of people makes you more likely to be honest and open to God’s word with them, when it is time to worship and study.

There is nothing quite like worshiping beside the person who just chased you up the tube hill, in the dark, through three feet of snow, as you both strove mightily to win the game of Mission Impossible.

Camp is my favorite place in the world to worship. Add an acoustic guitar and it feels like Heaven. Surely, there will be acoustic guitar, warm wood tones, a crackling fire, gorgeous views, and good friends in heaven?

This weekend, Van Helsing spoke on Christmas. Which unfortunately meant that he brought a terrifying dancing Santa!

This camper is clearly concerned about the presence of dancing Santa at camp! Don’t worry, he requires electricity. We can always unplug him, or perhaps the generator will break at just the opportune moment.

Thankfully, the creepyness of dancing Santa was offset by this small but significant Christmas tree. As we stepped into the new year, with everyone around us making resolutions all willy nilly, Van Helsing challenged us to pray and ask God what He wanted us to concentrate on this year. The Year of Awesome.

Whether it was anger, self-control, balance, friendship, forgiveness, or “Claws Out!” at the end of the weekend, we wrote our word on a paper, stood up among Christian friends, and placed it on the Christmas tree.

Finding Salvation in Jesus Christ is not the only step on our journey of faith. Living a life for God is a long and at times weary journey. We need to have moments of connection with other believers. Each of us lacks the courage and resilience to go forward at times. Winter teen camp provides a moment along the journey for rest, fun, and encouragement among other young believers. Such moments are vital to being a teen of faith. It is such an honor to be a part of providing such moments for these amazing and wonderful teen campers!

Galatians 6:2–“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Boo Boo

Summer Staff Winter Retreat

Soggy campers fresh from the tube hill

The day after Christmas might be Boxing Day in Canada or a chance to eat leftover turkey and enjoy new toys before they break for others, but here at Camas Meadows December 26th is always first day of Summer Staff Winter Retreat!

How could a camp that involves hockey, snow tubing, snowball fights, and beautiful hikes in a winter wonderland possibly have anything to do with summer?

Good question!

Well, as you can imagine, in order to run our summer camp program we require many amazing volunteer staff. Anyone interested in becoming staff, either support staff who work behind the scenes or C.I.T.s who begin training to become counsel staff, can attend the Summer Staff Winter Retreat as a camper. Campers must be turning 15 in 2020 to be considered.

This is a chance for kids who are considering a summer of service to get to know the permanent staff and connect with older counselors and support staff. To learn some of the fun and beautiful camp songs. To grow in their walk with the Lord as they worship together and hear teaching from God’s word. And to take just a bit of time in the mountains to play and rest and be renewed.

For experienced staff, this is a vital chance for us to minister to them instead of them ministering to their campers.

Yep, these rowdy campers are doing to motions to a song, not attacking each other.

We demand a lot from our summer staff. They must be responsible, constantly alert, think of the needs of their campers before their own, and occasionally have slices of cheese dipped in mayo or gummy worms dipped in chocolate flung at them during Watchamabob! They rarely have time to just talk and share with other staff since they are focusing on the needs of their campers 24/7.

But during the Summer Staff Winter Retreat, the older counselors and support staff who didn’t have the time to hang out in the summer get to do just that. They get to be the campers. They get to have a speaker who challenges them in their walk with the Lord during chapel sessions. They get to talk and laugh and pray and weep and laugh some more together, as a team. Sometimes they even get to take a little nap after a snowball fight or tube hill run.

Princess Leia Freyja, the camp dog, is always ready for a nap or a snuggle with one of the campers.

Of course, camp is not all about rest and relaxation!

There are crazy games

Fun times outside

The occasional snowball fight

Plus, many hours playing strategy board games around the table together.

As you can see, the schedule is full. And this week, camp was full of hilarious people who enjoyed drawing on the official schedule of events. Wait a minute … I recognize that handwriting!

No, Orchid didn’t do it. She was just playing a board game.

With Shine!

From snowy faces

To “I really hate twinkie weenier sandwiches” faces.

To “I can’t believe I ate that twinkie weenier sandwich for my camper” faces.

There were many amazing moments to photograph. Yes, these are Twinkie Weenier Sandwiches, just like in the movie UHF. Twinkie, hot dog, and cheeze wiz … yum!

Our speaker, Momo, taught on brokenness. Looking at the faces of these wonderful teens, I hate even the idea of any of them being hurt. But though camp is a place of fun and joy, it is also a place to be honest about the hard things in life.

Hurt people hurt people and that is so discouraging when you see the terrible cycle of brokenness continue around these beautiful kids that we get to work with at camp. But Momo also spoke about how there can be victory from the cycle of hurt and brokenness in Jesus Christ. I myself have seen this legacy of pain stopped in its tracks as Scruffy left a family tradition of heartbreak and addiction to follow Jesus.

It is such a blessing to watch these amazing young people as they come together to worship, share from their hearts, learn, consider a summer of service, and just have a whole lot of fun together. Camp can be such an amazing time to grow and heal and reach out to others with God’s grace. It is an honor to be a part of God’s ministry here.

2 Corinthians 5:17–“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone. The new has come.”

Boo Boo

Fall CamasCon 2019

CamasCon is our strategy board game camp. A way to connect Christian Geeks and Gamers with each other, some amazing games both new and old, and with their Lord through the awesome chapel sessions.

This of course necessitates the arrival of many games. So, so, so, many games! Games with beautiful cover art and massively thick rule books.

Games with fascinating miniatures and intricate pieces of all kinds.

Games with adorable Medieval villages and towering cityscapes.

Games with cool spacecraft.

Games with galloping camels.

Actually, there’s more than one game with galloping camels!

Games with fearsome lady pirates and their unique pets.

Games with intricate maps of the world, both realistic and fantastical.

And everyone’s favorite, games that employ both cute, wooden meeples and ferocious dragons!

Amidst all these games, are competitors of all kinds. New gamers, lifelong gamers, non-gamers who simply wandered in, and even individuals who work in the gaming industry. Though they employ many different stratagems and love many different genres, they all share a passion for table top board gaming and the way it brings people together.

In a world where our eyes are constantly glued to screens, a board game provides fun, competition, and a way to actually look another human being and see them for what they are, beautiful sons and daughters of the Lord.

This year our speaker was Chris Gwaltney of Love Thy Nerd fame.

With Choco leading everyone in some amazing worship

The campers took a moment to step away from the fierce competition, let go of the fact that Scruffy probably was a Cylon even through he swears to his humanity, and come together as the people of Jesus Christ, called to love in His name in a broken world.

After a beautiful weekend together, the CamasCon campers left refilled, refreshed, and ready to try out all the new games they learned on their unsuspecting friends.

Perhaps your passion isn’t strategy board games. But something that CamasCon always reminds me of, is that God made each of us uniquely. After creating us to be like none other upon His world, God then desires to use our passions and abilities for His kingdom. So what about you? How do you connect with others face to face? And are you willing to use that hobby, talent, gifting, or even geekiness for the Holy Kingdom of God?

2 Corinthians 4:7–“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

Boo Boo

The Mountain Muse 2019

The small logging road we hiked during a break between writing sessions.

2019 marked our third annual Mountain Muse Christian Writer’s Retreat and this year brought us the fabulous (and award-winning) Becca Whitham to be our speaker!

I wanted the Mountain Muse to be similar to reading a great book on the craft of writing and then jumping right into the creation process immediately afterward. So Becca, brought us together for short sessions on the craft of writing and then released us into the wild to write or wander, whatever our creative process demanded.

For some, that meant rushing to the computer to get to work.

For others, it meant chatting with the speaker about their plot or characters.

And for others, it was a walk in God’s glorious creation to get those creative juices flowing.

This stunning view is only about a mile from the camp and was well worth the hike there.

Add in worship time with Choco

And the loving attentions of Princess Leia Freyja our Mascot

And the weekend was just what I had envisioned. A time for writers to gather, learn, encourage one another, and relish in some much needed quiet so that they could create.

Princess Leia Freyja is all ready for next year’s retreat! What about you?

The Weak, The Stinky, The Outsider … The Heart!

Middle School Camp 2

We were blessed with another large group of kids for Middle School Camp 2. Fifty-five crazy, beautiful, and hilarious 6th to 8th graders. For our last Camas Camp of the summer, we set out to provide the pure delight of a week chock-full of fun in the forest combined with incredible teaching from God’s word.

Sadly, these girls were completely sorrowful and somber and totally bored on the 100 foot camp slip-n-slide.

Ha ha! No, they were so fun and enthusiastic, I have way too many pictures of them. Jr. Highers are just the best!

Our camp speaker for Middle School 2 was Faramir. And for this rowdy horde, he spoke on the life of David.

“God often chooses the unpopular, the weak, the stinky, the poor, the outsiders, the anxious, the fearful” –Faramir

A camper finds an awesome bug in the meadow!

How many of us felt like this in Jr. High? Well, as they jumped into David’s story, the campers got to see that God is very much interested in what is underneath our awkward clothes, abysmal social skills, and lack of hair-brushing prowess. God looks at the heart!

Why? 

Why does God choose simple, unimpressive people? Why did God anoint the youngest brother, that scrawny shepherd boy, the one so forgettable that his own father left him off his list of sons when chatting with the powerful and respected prophet Samuel?

To show His glory!

No, pause a moment and really let that sink in. Our lack, shows God’s power. Our weakness, reveals God’s strength. Our averageness or even below-averageness, showcases God’s greatness.

Now that is exactly what we got to see this week.

God, doing amazing things, with ordinary people

One guy counselor noticed his campers jumping off the dock at Lake Chelan. He came and joined them, urging everyone to jump in superhero poses. They perfected The Ironman, Hulk Smash, and Batman in jump after jump together.

A camper enjoying leather-working with Bald Eagle.

One of the boys had a hard time getting into the activities as a first-time camper. He resisted the camp counselor’s enthusiastic efforts to get him involved and having fun. It was one of his fellow campers who marched him around from activity to activity and finally convinced him to give camp a try. When we saw his nervous face break out in smiles, it was a sight glorious to see!

From large accomplishments, like finishing the Ga Ga Ball Court after years of dreaming, to small moments such as taking the time to play a boardgame with a child who wasn’t excited about getting wet, acts of love both big and small were a backdrop to the chapel sessions about the life of a simple shepherd boy turned king.

From cleaning up vomit in the middle of the night to limping around camp to locate an absent camper, the counselors consistently showered the campers with God’s love. Knowing that someone will call the nurse and take care of your mess, realizing that instead of being mad your counselor is actually a listening ear and someone who understands, as these young leaders gave of themselves in a continuous stream of little moments during the week they were used greatly by our powerful God.

Like when Orchid took her campers on a hike to The Frog Pond and in a joyful gust of spontaneity, they all jumped into that murky water for a swim!

Or when none of Hiccup and Randalf’s campers were tired and so they read out loud to them, from Leviticus, about how exactly one used to clean up their house after a mold infestation! Hint: in involves painting the walls with a live bird instead of a brush!

Making a bracelet for someone else, listening, sweeping the dirt paths between the cabins and the tube hill for cabin inspections (yes, you read that right. They actually swept dirt!), going on a night hike, Shine jumping around the corner to say, “You’re pretty!” or Zooboomafoo jumping (literally jumping) in to lead motions and increasing the energy in the room by about 400%. It truly is little things, done well, with honesty and consistency that make a difference with kids.

A fork, floating through space, with accompanying sound effects!

Campers bravely stood during the campfire on the last night and said things like, “I was welcomed with open arms.” Or even, “My favorite moment of this week was learning to grow closer to God.” It is amazing to watch God at work with a group of simple, everyday people. The last image from camfire was this, one camper proudly standing alone, raising his arms and singing the last song after everyone else was sitting down.

The life of David gives us hope in so many different ways. It is often in Jr. High that we begin to feel the terrible weight of our own mistakes, and so often at this point, we question God’s love.

But God is careful to record even His follower’s worst errors in His word, so that we are not left floundering and without hope when we fail.

Behold, the giants!

After facing down giants, David stayed home from the war and sneaked a peek at a beautiful woman bathing in the seclusion of her own roof. His staff pointedly mentioned that she was the wife of one of his famous Mighty Men, and yet he ordered her brought to him, got her pregnant, and arranged for her husband to be abandoned on the battle field and killed. David, the man after God’s own heart, pretty much waged a war upon his own honor.

What now? David had betrayed God in a truly epic fashion. According to 2 Samuel 12, he despised the word of the Lord. Instead of a quick smiting, God sent the prophet Nathan with a story about a rich man and a beloved lamb. When David rages at the horrors brought upon this fluffy innocent (that would be Bathsheba) Nathan utters those chilling words:

“You are that man!”

And it is this moment that should give each of us hope, whether we are struggling through Jr. High or 7th grade seems like a lifetime ago. It is this moment that teaches something incredible about the love of God. David, broken with sorrow, repents. And God forgives! Even crimes like these, He shows mercy when He sees what is in David’s heart.

God anointed a shepherd boy as king because of what was inside, not what others could see. Then He boldly forgave a sinner of epic proportions, because of the broken heart that David offered up to Him. David’s life is full of struggle and mistakes, but in the end, he always came rushing back to God.

Whether we are full of dramatic flair, awkward bumbling, blemished skin, unexpected beauty, or agonizing difficulties with math, God is not looking at our surface. He sees the heart. Faramir made sure that these lively campers know this great truth about the Lord.

Life isn’t always easy.

Sometimes our own mistakes add to the mess. Sometimes the mistakes of others splash over into our lives. Sometimes there is no greater good in sight and a thunderstorm hits the Ga Ga Ball court for no apparent reason.

But from the life of David we can be sure of several things. God values what is inside.

He works with incredible power in the humble, small, fragile people who follow Him.

And though we stray, even when we make incredible mistakes …

He has the strength, grace, and mercy needed to get us back where we need to be.

Though the journey is difficult, and sometimes embarrassing, we are always at our best when we are safely in His arms.

He is the one who knows us best and looks upon the heart!

1 Samuel 16:7–“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'”

Boo Boo

Transformed

Jr. B Camp 2019

MAMO, our camp speaker held up a transformer, then another, and another, until five plastic robots of various shapes and sizes cluttered the camp lectern.

How do you teach 1 Corinthians 12 to Junior campers? The very children who relish leaping about during the fast songs, but have such a terrible time sitting still during chapel?

Yep, these are the campers whose cabin discussion went much better, “After we confiscated the whoopie cushion.” Delightful and full-of-energy youngsters whose attempt to learn Biblical things was described by one of the staff as: “A lot of yelling and chasing each other around with toothbrushes!”

How exactly does one show these little ones that they are greatly loved by their Creator and designed with a purpose?

As a mother of seven, MAMO was not daunted by such a task. Before camp began, she prayed, watched, listened, and ordered a fabulous collection of transformers online that she had no idea how to put together!


Wahoo! The box arrived just before camp began. A colorful collection of teeny weeny plastic limbs, wheels, and befuddling bits that could have been a rocket launcher … but might also be a robotic elbow.

And so MAMO vamoosed unto camp, deeply hoping that faith was indeed the evidence of things unseen. For though the shiny sheet of directions that had accompanied her purchase declared her collection of colorful bits to be five mighty robots which when combined would form a single incredible robotic masterpiece of giant proportions, she saw nothing of the sort within the box that she held in her hands.

And so camp began! Crazy meadow games, wild worship, and an even wilder game of croquet at Lake Chelan. Yes, croquet can be rambunctious indeed! Who would have known?

MAMO jumped into the sessions, not knowing what would transpire if her amazing metaphor concerning “the body of Christ” turned out to be beyond the skill-level of all the counsel staff and campers combined.

While the five plastic robots toured the camp, going from cabin to cabin in a search for one who understood how exactly they were intended to combine, the chapel sessions continued.

She held up a simple but beautiful ceramic pot. Broken, but repaired by the Japanese art of Kintsugi. The art of using precious metals to transform something that was broken into a thing of beauty, even more valuable than it was before.

“You are not an accident.”

“You are a masterpiece.”

The pure, unadulterated fun and rampant joy of camp roared along between chapel sessions. Night games in the forest, starlight hikes, paintball, and horseback riding galore. Amidst all this, those plastic robots made their way through camp, from cabin to cabin.

In the middle of the week we received an unexpected blessing. Like Gandalf the Gray appearing at the Battle of Helm’s Deep, Falkor arrived mid-week to assist Zooboomafoo with his cabin of ten boys who were more often eleven since they’d welcomed the camp nurse’s young son as their official mascot!

At the campfire, children described conquering their fears when they came to camp for the very first time. Themes that showed up around the flickering fire again and again where words about finding a family, a home, and courage.

Finally, the chapel session arrived that required five completed robots, combined into one, just like the body of Christ … this epic creation was no closer to completion than before.

So MAMO handed those tricky robots to her daughter and my youngest son, then she stood at the front of the room, behind the old wooden pulpit. As two determined children squinted at directions and sorted through plastic pieces, she began to speak.

“You are not an accident.”

“You are a masterpiece.”

The session came to its conclusion. MAMO glanced toward the back where the two campers worked feverishly.

Were they done? Was it even possible?

“Just let us put on the head!” The two campers seized the aforementioned piece, shoved it in place, and rushed the completed robot up to the front.

Five robots in one, combined to make a giant. Seemingly impossible to construct, nonetheless there he stood, just as the box had promised!

Not an accident, a masterpiece.

Designed with a purpose. Just like each and every camper who gazed up at the camp speaker while she held the robot high.

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

1 Corinthians 12:27

Boo Boo

Surrender

Middle School Camp 1

Middle School 1 was our biggest camp of the summer. With 65 campers, 16 counselors, our interns (yes, one of them had to counsel) and four support staff.

It was a delight to see the camp packed full of loud and rowdy kids. But this amazing week began with difficult news. A wonderful local school teacher, outdoors-woman, and worker for the Lord died in a tragic accident while on vacation.

She was a friend of ours, the mother of our oldest son’s good school buddy, and a light of God’s love in our community. Our staff and several campers knew her closely but we did not want to shadow their week of camp with such sorrowful news. So I watched as our intern staff broke down weeping, prayed, then wiped away tears and went back to leading the group. They threw themselves into laughing, shouting, raucous fun, all while deep inside their hearts were broken. I saw them sacrifice their right to grieve, so that these dear children could postpone their sorrow for one, glorious week.

It was a glorious week, indeed. Have you ever been in a room as 65 children sing at the tops of their beautiful voices?

Have you ever felt thunder rattle the room as 65 kids jump in unison to do the hand motions during fast songs?

Then when The Thing got up to speak, it brought us from laughter to tears again in an instant. What wrecked me, was his opening illustration about surrendering to God. He’d prepared the illustration weeks ago, but it truly rattled the staff in our moment of grief. He spoke about a seven day kayaking trip that he and his dad had taken, a trip which was led by the same man who had just lost his wife the day before.

Sorrow and joy, all mingled together. Isn’t that just like life? We follow a broken Savior into a broken world and yet, beauty breaks through all around us.

Yes, the second time she leaped, Meowth jumped even higher!

In keeping with The Thing’s theme, there were many stories of surrender throughout the week.

I was so proud watching the staff come together to keep track of one particularly active camper. The two guy interns and Scruffy jumped in to help. Boromir pulled a pillow and blanket outside to do F.O.B. with him on the camp lawn since laying still in the cabin was pretty hard for this young man. Then Bomber manned the life-guarding kayak even though this boy was the only one still out of the water. Her favorite moment of the week was watching him scream at the top of his lungs, full of pure joy, every time a wave hit his tiny watercraft.

When one of the girl campers hurt her ankle, the whole cabin rallied around her. They rushed to collect various items she might need and prayed for her together.

Yes, the boys had a blast playing golf with Stormbreaker, Zoboomafoo’s walking stick that occasionally wore a bow and showed up in a whole lot of skits on Thursday. But they also demonstrated their compassion and desire to serve, even amidst a great deal of wrestling.

MiniVan wasn’t feeling well, he had 12 campers who generated no small amount of energy between them. He was assisted by Flash and then Boromir just showed up at camp on Monday to counsel when we didn’t expect him. This was such a huge blessing as he was put to good use in this large cabin of boys. Well, an exhausted MiniVan was attempting to get the campers all calmed down, but one of the boys hurtled from the room. Where had he gone? Should MiniVan give chase? After a long moment, the camper rushed back with the rest of the cabin in tow. He had gathered them all so that they could pray for their counselor together.

Sis (our intern and Program Director for the week) told of when a camper pulled her aside and gave her a dollar. This sweet girl had realized that the canteen workers accidentally gave her an extra dollar in change. She had sought out Sis to make sure that the money was paid back.

One of the greatest joys of the week was getting the chance to serve with new Support Staff member, Zamperini. He is the son of the man who led Scruffy to Christ way way back in their college days.

But this fun personal connection was not what made the week so memorable. Although, Zamperini had already battled brain cancer and leaving home to volunteer at a location that is a good 30-45 minutes from the hospital was a risk for him and his family, this young man poured himself into work like no one we’d met before. He always had a smile and a high five for everyone around him and was constantly looking for more work to do! When asked what his favorite moment from the week was, Spectre (Camp Intern and Support Lead) laughed and said: “Every time Zamperini said, ‘I’m bored, they don’t have any more dishes for me.”

I had the honor of watching a brave, first-time Sr. Counselor and equally bold first-time C.I.T. take on their own cabin. We have watched both of these girls from the time they themselves were nine-year-old Jr. Campers. In fact, I was the one who answered the phone and walked one of them through the process of camper registration. Yes, as a fourth grader, she registered herself for camp and she has been blazing through the obstacles standing in her way ever since! The Lord is so good. These young ladies were a bit nervous about leading their first cabin, but a group of more respectful little girls would have been difficult to find. They asked to be excused from the table, checked in with their counselors constantly, and thanked them for leading their cabin! We had no way of knowing that these were the most gracious little girls of all time, but the Lord did and provided this special blessing of a first cabin!

Howitzer had to solo counsel his cabin when his Jr. Counselor went home sick. Though he was surely exhausted, we watched him wrangle a group of rowdy boys with grace and constant patience. Their skit with the bagels and the song that one camper composed and preformed solo, was amazing!

There were so many fun moments during the week, like when Epona explained to her camper about Joshua taking up the job of leading the Israelites from Moses and the camper shouting out: “Like Batman and Robin!” Or when Zoboomafoo sang “Hole in the Bottom of the Sea,” for most of the 80 minute drive home from Lake Chelan until he actually reached twenty-some items which he had to spit out at super-fast speed several times per verse. “A quark on a tater-tot on the cell on the hair on the mushroom on the porcupine on the hole in the bottom of the sea!!!”

As is often the case, his cabin full of 13-year-old boys were themselves full of great peskiness and energy. Nonetheless, with this incredibly active and fun-loving bunch, Zoboomafoo did the impossible. Not only did they rush into night-games with full enthusiasm, they also cleaned their cabin (gasp!), memorized 99 Bible verses (wow!), and won the cabin competition and the much-coveted wheelbarrow of candy!

On the last night during campfire, we asked the campers to carefully consider what they would like to say and only share once. With 65 kids, the process would take quite a long time if everyone thanked their counselors, then thought of something they learned, then popped up again to thank the camp dog. One camper thought long and hard about what to say. When she stood up to share, she thanked the camp staff, including the Support Staff who do the behind the scenes work to keep camp running properly. The campers never notice the support crew and all their hard work! We were so impressed with this observant and thoughtful young lady.

Half of the campers said that their favorite thing about the week was The Thing’s chapel sessions. What? Yes, that is exactly what they said. The Thing has a gift for bringing God’s word down out of the clouds and smack into the hearts of kiddos and they relish the attention and care that he gives them as he teaches.

After one boy stood up to tell his story and then share about what camp meant to him and how it had changed him, a girl camper who had been listening whispered to her counselor, “That was really brave.”

Isn’t that what we are supposed to be as Christ’s church? The people who encourage one another.

The people who notice the hard work of those toiling behind the scenes.

The people who set aside their fun to weep with the hurting. The people who set aside their grief to rejoice with a child.

A people so deeply surrendered to the plan of their Master that they realize it is only He who can win the day. A people who truly belong to Jesus.

This week I got a glimpse of what it means to surrender to Jesus. It was such a beautiful thing to see. May we surrender to Him just as completely, all the rest of the year.

James 4:7-8a–“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.”

Unchecked Copy Box

Boo Boo

*In order to protect their anonymity, I do not place photos of campers above their personal stories. Although, I may do so with staff upon occasion.

Dinosaur Stomp

Jr. A Camp 2019

After a brutal, but powerful week with teens, the camp was flooded with a bouncing, smiling, laughing horde of 9 to 12-year-olds.

They raced around the meadow, zipped down the slip-n-slide, and thundered back and forth between their cabins and the dinning hall. As the whole group tromped up to Inspiration Point at night to enjoy the stars, one of them mused to a camp intern about spiritual matters.

“I wonder what it would be like to be stepped on by a dinosaur? That is the fourth thing I’m going to do in heaven, be stepped on by a dinosaur”

And that my friend, is the difference between Jr. Camp and Sr. High Camp. But please do not think that we are longing for the spiritually complex discussions and heart-wrenching honesty that teens are capable of. The simplicity and joy that envelope a week with young kids is a beautiful thing to behold. Let me wax eloquent for a moment upon the vital ministry and innate loveliness of Jr. Camp.

At Jr. Camp, everything is a huge adventure! For many of the campers, this is their first time away from home for a week. Some of them have never spent the night without their family even once and so just arriving at camp and staying is the craziest thing they have ever done.

Then there are all the new activities. Dunk Tank, Slip-N-Slide, Night Games, Lake Day, Cabin Skits … . New adventures await every day and these little guys charge through each day, soaking up every one.

There is worship, but unlike worship in any setting they’ve seen before.

Worship where you stretch out before hand to avoid a muscle injury. Worship where you leap and run and dance and shout and do so so many hand motions. But then there is the switch. After they are exhausted and happy and breathless with fun, Choco slows things down and they pray. Then he introduces quiet songs of God and His power and strength and love.

Then there is the unique opportunity to talk about God, not with their Sunday School teacher, Children’s Pastor, or Parents … but with that fun teenager who let them dunk him in the dunk tank, helped them prank the boys’ cabin, or raced across the meadow to unfreeze them during meadow games.

And the great thing about discussing the Bible lesson with a fun camp counselor and a cabin full of kids their age, is that even if they are too nervous to talk the first day, or the second, they still have days and days together to work up the nerve to share from the heart.

We had one first time camper who didn’t talk during the discussion until Wednesday. What happened Wednesday? She made a new friend in one of her cabinmates after a sun-soaked day at Lake Chelan.

Never be fooled into thinking that rowdy splashing, jumping off the dock together, and way way too much sunscreen cannot be used of God.

That is the beauty of Jr. Camp.

It is all about relishing the innocence of childhood. About being a kid on an adventure. About stretching your wings and seeing if you can have some fun, Bible lessons, triumphs, and even a few serious discussions on your own, away from home. Even if the whole cabin has to take a crazed lap around the volley ball court between every question because all those little girls are too bouncy to sit still for long.

Sure, one of the boys’ cabin might have spent a fair amount of time discussing whether or not one would smooosh into the earth if stepped on by a dinosaur or if it would simply crush you. But they also talked about heaven and getting the chance to ask Noah questions. They spent their curiosity on what they would want to discover about God’s creation once they died and had the ability to ask whatever they liked of their Lord.

One Junior Counselor talked about when the Sr. Counselor gave him the opportunity to lead the cabin discussion. He said the boys were pretty wiggly and that they did spend a fair amount of time throwing jelly beans at each other, but that they answered the questions honestly.

How many of us can say the same? Being honest with ourselves, God, and the believers around us is huge. These precious little ones are learning to do that. Taking a bold step out on their own and realizing that other people love Jesus besides Mom and Dad.

And as my own Jr. Camper somehow convinced his counselor to tote him down to the campfire while still snuggled up on his sleeping bag, hopped up to the fire to share, and then hopped back … I remembered again the pure delight of providing a week of camp for young people. Jr. Camp is truly a joyful adventure!

Boo Boo

*To protect their anonymity, I do not place photos of campers above their personal stories. Although, sometimes I will with Camp Staff.

Still Good Cake!

Sr. High Teen Camp 2019

We went into Sr. High Teen Camp already broken.

We were just finishing up Staff Training and one of the younger counselors pulled Scruffy aside. The choices and struggles of someone else had left this amazing young man feeling the despair of standing by helpless as a loved one spiraled deeper and deeper into heartache.

Then Scruffy got a difficult email from a teen camp parent that night. Their family had recently faced a tragic loss and she wanted her child’s counselor to get a head’s up that all was not sunshine and roses right now and her teen might need some extra care.

So we took our staff to our home church to sing on the last day of Staff Training, already heart-sore over the weight that we knew these teenage campers would be carrying when they came to us on Monday for a week of fun, camaraderie, and teaching.

We were in charge of leading worship and sang some crazy fast songs before settling in for a few of the powerful worship songs that sound so amazing accompanied by drum, piano, and acoustic guitar.

Then the guest speaker, an army chaplain and good friend, opened the Word to talk about pain. Scruffy and I wept through his story of a staff sergeant who lost her son to an accident. He then told of driving up to the home of two soldiers who had lost their baby to SIDS. Several officers stood in front of the house, afraid to knock because they didn’t know what to say. When he arrived they sighed in relief and rushed him forward. He was the chaplain! He would know exactly what to do!

Only, he didn’t.

He knocked on that door at a loss. He’d been a Christian long enough to know that belonging to Jesus does not erase the pain and platitudes only make the suffering worse.

When the door opened, he walked inside, full of the knowledge that he absolutely did not know what to do or say in the face of such grief. Nonetheless, he encountered something amazing. Kneeling by the couch and the grieving parents was the staff sergeant who had lost her son two months before. Her tears, her understanding, her fresh and terrible grief was exactly what this young couple needed. Not words, not assurances, not false happiness or the statement that something good was sure to come. They needed exactly what Romans 12:15 commands, someone to weep with them as they wept.

As we searched the pew for Kleenex, hands held tight, Scruffy turned to me. “Do you know what Van Helsing’s theme for chapel is next week?”

I answered that I did not.

“Broken,” Scruffy said. “His theme is broken.”

This camper was not thrilled by the sudden hailstorm, but her cabin mates helped out!

We had not hauled a single suitcase or sleeping bag up the dirt paths to the cabins. We had not smiled at a single parent, sent a single counselor to greet their new camper, or checked in anyone whatsoever with the camp nurse. But Scruffy and I and the speaker himself walked out of the church with just a tiny bit of fear and trepidation. What on earth was God planning for this week of camp?

On Monday, registration was in full swing. Scruff had just finalized the cabin assignments (there are always several last minute changes to be made) and needed a moment to pull aside one of the counselors and let her know what the mom of her camper had written about their difficult circumstances. With various people asking where he had gone and when he was coming back, Scruffy found a quiet corner and relayed the message. The counselor was amazed. The same exact rare tragedy had occurred within her family, that very year. For just a moment, they paused amidst the hubbub. God’s care was so clear and powerful.

And so we jumped into the week. During that first day, Van Helsing asked each camper and counselor to sign a commemorative pot he’d brought to camp.

He knew what would happen to the pot and yet found himself growing more and more attached to it as campers and staff drew little pictures, encouraging messages, and signed their names in their own unique ways.

During chapel, Van Helsing brought up something that had been made so very clear to Scruffy and I during church the day before. The world is full to the brim with hurt and heartache. It will not spare something, simply because it is precious to us. He had everyone stand up who had ever had a broken bone, a limiting physical condition, a bad sunburn, baldness, or bad gas. Eventually, all were standing. In one way or another, we are all broken.

And then he did the unthinkable. Van Helsing took that unique pot, the one with all the signatures, doodles, and sweet notes. He put it in the volleyball court beneath a giant tripod that Choco built, and he dropped a 40lb weight smack on top of it.

Broken

But the beauty of Romans 12:15 is that not only are we to weep with those who weep, but we also rejoice with those who rejoice.

Even with such a brutal reminder of the sorrow that surrounds us as the whole camp stared down at that poor broken pot, that honesty made it almost easier to relish the crazy fun that is camp.

Don’t underestimate the value of a week of water fights and crazy singing, cabin competitions and night games in the forest, taking a hike out in God’s glorious creation and racing to eat a marshmallow covered in spicy mustard. This is the only break that some of our campers get, their only week to be a child.

Amidst water fights, sand castle competitions, swimming at Lake Chelan, and even paintball and slip-n-slide, the campers of each cabin guarded a fragile blown egg that they had decorated and named.

As you might expect, during the Eggstreme Egg Challenge, more than one of these delightful mascots were broken.

Here, a guys’ cabin mourns the loss of their egg after they chucked it down the dock at Lake Chelan in a bold attempt to win the latest challenge and get the egg to the end of the dock and back.

As the different cabins struggled to keep their eggs from breaking during the rigors of the Eggstreme Egg Challenge, Van Helsing continued to both smash items with the 40lb weight and speak on brokenness.

He asked one cabin to bake a truly amazing cake. They made each delectable layer a different color, spread flavoring between, frosted it with care, and applied a gorgeous decoration of sprinkles. Then they put the name “Love” on the cake and Van Helsing spoke on broken hearts.

Even though the human heart is precious and designed by God for love, friendships and romance can be fraught with peril. But as one boy shouted out when the wrecking ball demolished this lovely confection, “Hey, that’s still good cake!” He attempted to eat it out of the dirt, and indeed, the girl’s cabin that baked it had brought their forks to the demolition.

I couldn’t help but stop and ponder that campers words. Isn’t that just like Jesus when we come to Him shattered. Perhaps it was our own mistakes that dealt the destruction. Maybe the sin of others running rampant through our lives or just the ugliness of a fallen world leaving casualties behind. But we are broken and we know it and yet when He sees us shattered and wondering if there is anything worth salvaging, the Savior shouts out, “Hey, that’s still good cake!”

Broken homes?

Yes, so many kids in both Christian and non-Christian homes struggle with this heartache.

When Van Helsing asked a cabin to watch out for this special unicorn all week, they were concerned. “You’re not going to smash Dude, are you?” But when Van Helsing spoke on broken dreams, Dude’s fate was sealed.

We had so many different and amazing campers that week. Campers who were bold and loud, raising a hand in every discussion and always ready to give the speaker something to think on as he addressed the camp. We had campers who were so shy they wouldn’t talk at all. Each of them faced their own struggles and God was faithful to give help when we asked. Like that moment in staff meeting when we realized what it meant to a shy camper every time we used her name. Seeing a bold camper ask for help and a quiet camper stand up and speak in front of the whole group. Watching these kids learn and grow was a true honor.

Teens today face difficulties that have sent many an adult into a tailspin, but it is so hard to talk about what is truly and deeply tearing you up inside.

All those crazy illustrations, from a beautiful smashed cake to carrying around an egg named Lil Sassy, brought out laughter and tears and the ability to pause a moment and address that real thing inside that life has shattered.

If a decorated egg needs to be smashed so that a cabin can hold the pieces and speak of that family tragedy, the bully that was supposed to be a friend, that addiction, the terrible heartache that is making it so hard to trust God, well … smash away! Sacrifices, honesty demands sacrifices.

Those silly eggs, that shattered toy house, the sad and broken unicorn, they gave us a moment to laugh and then to weep because so much more is broken with us as a people than a tasty cake or a little egg with dog hair glued to its crown.

As amazing as each cabin egg was, as lovely and tasty as that gorgeous cake appeared, none of them compared to the value of each beautiful teen we were privileged to serve during the week.

And the hard truth was that, yes, they were broken, too. We all are broken.

Teens absolutely need those carefree moments and delightful rowdiness and fun. This is a balm to the soul.

But they also need honesty. So many teens are deeply hurting and they don’t appreciate the adults around them glossing over their pain and giving them platitudes instead of our hearts. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”

But when we gather the strength to both rejoice and weep together, to face what life has dropped on us, to be honest and real, then we can look at the climax of the story. Jesus Messiah, broken in our place, broken for us.

And what about that young camper who was struggling through the rubble of a family loss? She debated about whether to share or not. I don’t blame her. It is difficult to be that honest, so hard to bare your heart. But eventually she talked with her counselor. As they spoke, strange coincidences started popping up. Both the camper’s family and the counselor’s family lived in the same town, faced the same trial, and even had the same name! They realized that they were actually cousins and would have never known if she hadn’t taken the risk and told her story. God not only gave this camper a counselor who understood her particular struggle, He introduced her to her family. A young woman who was a little older, had been following the Lord a few years longer, and was facing the same brand of hurt.

Even broken, especially broken, with such a Savior standing in our place, we absolutely do have the strength for what we face. For He has the strength and in the end, His strength is what will win the day.

So yes, Sr. High Teen Camp was an amazing week. A week where we rejoiced, wept, and were broken.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” –2 Corinthians 4:7

Boo Boo

*to protect the anonymity of our campers, I make certain not to pair a picture of that particular teen with their own story.