The Silent Summer

How do you say goodbye to a summer?

The lodge is empty, quiet, hollow. Normally, at this time of year the entire building echoes with giggles, shrieks, shouts, singing, the clatter of forks on plates as heaps of pancakes are consumed, and the rhythmic pounding of cups on tables as counselors teach another generation of campers that super annoying cup game. In case you were wondering, I am an expert at the cup game. But this skill will do me little good this year.

Camas Meadows has provided our own summer camps every year since 1986 when my father left his pastorate to usher Camas from a purely rental facility to a place that planned, staffed, and ran summer adventures for kids ages nine to eighteen.

Not this year.

This year, we are grieving the loss of a summer ministry that has been a part of Scruffy’s life for the past twenty-one years and part of mine for the last thirty-four. Yes, as a girl I slept in the corner of Robin’s Roost Cabin (before it was Robin’s Roost) on a make-shift bed while my dad ran staff meetings. Camp has been the focus of my summer since before I was even old enough to be a camper.

One time, I drove past an orchard that was being cut down. The trees were in the full-blush of spring bloom. Covered in a glorious snow of pale-pink blossoms. Full of beauty and life and the potential for a fruitful year. But they had all been cut down. They lay on their sides, in full bloom, dead. All of a sudden, I find myself feeling like that orchard.

Camas has run summer camps when forest fires raged in the Cascades, after my father’s sudden death, and even during Scruffy’s first summer when he was hired in May (with a landscape architecture degree and three year’s experience working at a Christian music warehouse) and had all of one month to prepare.

This summer, a global pandemic has forced us to rest the land.

We, as a people, are not used to resting. It has been shocking as business grinds to a halt and anxiety skyrockets. If Scruffy is not a camp director, if I am not Boo Boo (camp director’s wife, camp blogger, camp photographer) with all of the vital tasks and important daily details that this job brings with it … what are we?

In the Old Testament, God commanded the people of Israel to rest the land every seven years. If produce grew on its own, it was available for the poor and wild animals to eat. Then every fifty years came the year of jubilee, where the land rested once more, but in addition, property that had been sold was returned to its original owners. The people and the land both rested before the Lord in obedience as a sacrifice and expression of faith.

Why haven’t we rested the land before this? Well, we are not under Old Testament law … and rest is difficult, expensive, and simply does not come naturally. There are a million and one things to do and so many people that we do not wish to disappoint.

But this year rest has been forced upon us, and though painful, there is good here, too. Good amidst the sorrow of seeing a quiet summer and an empty lodge. As we were discussing these difficulties, another camp director told Scruffy, “We consider this our year of jubilee.” I do not want to miss this opportunity to trust God and learn the important lessons He has for us in this time of upheaval.

This sudden quiet is a forceful reminder of the incredible value of our calling. As Scruffy and I have fielded phone calls, emails, and facebook messages about camp, parents and kids are showing us again and again that Camas Meadows has played a vital role in not just their enjoyment of a fabulous and fun summer, but in their walk with God as well.

With so many children being separated from their school friends and spending more and more time inside in front of a screen, the need to get out into God’s creation with a bunch of new buddies has never been higher. It hurts to hear the hopes of parents and children alike and to have to tell them that this year a summer camp experience is not an option. But if we ever doubted the vital nature of camp ministry, this has shown the need so clearly. Kids need the woods, new friends, leaders they can look up to, and a week-long encounter with Jesus.

There are indeed moments during the hustle and bustle and constant insanity that is summer camp when I am overwhelmed. Will I ever have an uninterrupted conversation with Scruffy again? Who exactly thought up a schedule that doesn’t allow for a day off from May until the end of August? Will my sons ever stop singing There’s A Hole At The Bottom of the Sea? Why did Zoboomafoo think it was OK to have 26 verses in this song?

But oh what we would give for a splash of insanity right now. Camp is a wild, intense, passionate experience with God. Yes, it brings about bone-deep weariness. A weariness that I am seeing more and more as a badge of honor and the mark of a job well done. This forced quiet has caused me to take a good long look at the fatigue that I so often struggle with during the summer and see that there is a great and mighty worth in that struggle and the work that is accomplished.

God has provided something we did not ask for, want, or even consider possible. A quiet summer, resting the land, thinking upon our calling and the nature of the work He has placed us in. I refuse to waste this opportunity. Yes, it is shocking, painful, and something I have never done before. But we could spend this quiet in anxiety and fear or we could pour it out like a drink offering, a jubilee to our Lord. As Scruff and I walk through a meadow filled with wildflowers, we are reminded of God’s faithfulness and care. As we stand in the empty lodge and long to serve the rowdy hordes of campers once again, our calling becomes crystal clear. As we listen to birdsong in the morning and the low hoot of owls at night, the deep import of camp ministry settles upon our hearts. This time of reflection is important.

After so many busy summers, perhaps a moment of quiet is vital, lest we grow weary of doing good and forget why we lead water fights and insane songs and encourage kids to throw cheese slices dipped in mayonnaise at each other in a competition to see how many will stick. The camp belongs to the Lord. He is faithful and we can trust Him with its care. So now, we will let the land rest. And when He calls us into service once more, we will be ready. Stronger, more focused, absolutely certain of our calling. Sometimes, rest is actually faith, worship, and trust.

Boo Boo

ParTaco!

It’s official! On June 19th, in a small ceremony on the meadow, Choco and Partake were married under a warm summer sun.

Choco and Partake met through camp and it was fitting that they spoke their marriage vows amidst the tall, waving grasses of the meadow just below the camp lodge. Since the Covid-19 pandemic meant a small ceremony, Choco built a scattering of wooden benches using wood rounds from our local forest and set them up in the meadow facing the aspen grove at the far end. Partake designed a log trellis which Choco built for her out of cut aspen trees. With the help of their officiant (Van Helsing) it was up and ready for their big day. Their guests, only a few close friends and family, walked the narrow path from the lodge to the meadow to enjoy the ceremony. Van Helsing, our regular Sr. High Teen Camp speaker, preformed the ceremony and Choco and Partake sealed their covenant with a kiss under a flawless expanse of blue. Guests grabbed water and soda from an antique bathtub filled with ice and wished the happy couple many years together. Of course, the camp dog ensured that everyone was finished grabbing drinks when she climbed into the antique bathtub to cool off and get a quick drink herself. It was a true Camas wedding: an excited couple who could trace their relationship back through many days spent serving at camp together, the gentle beauty of our Lord’s creation surrounding them, laughter, tears, and a few unexpected surprises. We at Camas Meadows Bible Camp would like you to join us in wishing Choco and Partake well on their journey forward together. Congratulations, ParTaco!

Boo Boo

Teacher Appreciation Week

As I quarantine here at camp with Scruffy and the boys, hoping for the chance to do camp ministry this summer, I am struck anew by the strength and care of our school teachers. I met Scruffy’s third grade teacher at a birthday party right before our state locked down. It reminded me that there are so many people working tirelessly to care for children from a variety of backgrounds. So many times they’ll never know if there will be a happy ending for the hurting kids that walk through their door.

Even though he was her student forty years ago, Scruffy’s teacher recalled some of his difficult circumstances. I was able to tell her about his happy ending. Let me share it with you, and the teachers in my life, because I know that sometimes it feels as though you press on in vain. Sometimes it must feel like letting your heart be broken again and again isn’t bringing forth fruit. We feel this struggle in camp ministry as well, but as I chatted with my husband’s third grade teacher, I was reminded that yes, the struggle is worth it.

Scruffy was one of those kids.

Every teacher worth their salt notices them. I have been volunteering in our local schools for a decade now. I see them, too. It’s not the kids who are confidently shabby, who mess up their hair after Mom brushes it and can’t be pried out of their old boots or favorite stocking cap to save their lives. No, it’s the kids who just seem faded, overlooked, the child who stands in a crowd of happy kids with a smile on their face that never quite erases the shadow of hurt and the overpowering strength of neglect.

Scruffy was the little boy in the faded flannel shirt who desperately didn’t want to smell like cigarette smoke, but knew that he always would. He actually won an award for never missing a single day of school. Not one absence, for twelve consecutive years. Did he really go twelve years without being sick? Of course he didn’t, but being at school was simply a better option than being at home.

I know from experience that doing good can be exhausting and painful. Pastors, youth leaders, camp counselors, camp directors, camp director’s wives, and teachers. Seeing that steady stream of broken children. It can weigh the heart down. It can make you feel like giving up.

But as I sat beside this ninety-three-year-old teacher, I realized something important.

We don’t know the end of the story.

I was there for her great-granddaughter’s birthday party. The birthday girl was one of our camp counselors, young, bright-eyed, so enthusiastic. Not weighed down by life. But her great grandma had taught public school for twenty years, she had seen them. She had seen him in the crowd of barely-restrained energy and action that is a third grade classroom.

“He had a hard life back then, didn’t he?” she said.

Yes, yes he did. It’s amazing, because I absolutely know that the nine-year-old boy who would become my husband never talked with his teachers about the difficult things. Still, they saw. They knew and they cared deeply, but they never witnessed the rest of his story. Not just his third grade teacher but others as well. One teacher noticed him using each pencil until it was barely a nub. This kind man went back to his church and raised money for new clothes, a bike, and school supplies and then took Scruffy shopping.

Teachers notice. Day after day and year after year and still, after watching so many hurting kids walk in and out of the classroom door, they have the bravery to get up and do it all over again.

As a nation, I think we have come to the shocking realization that we have severely undervalued the efforts of our teachers. Nonetheless, they are still working. From home they answer our frazzled emails as we attempt to navigate an online educational system that they only had a few days to learn themselves. They check in with our children to see how they are holding up without their friends. Urge them to get their day scheduled and their work done. And yes, they worry just a little more for the ones like my husband, who would rather be away at school, away anywhere, as long as it meant not being at home.

I was able to tell a ninety-three-year-old school teacher, that the little boy from the rough home grew up.

He grew into the warm, funny, courageous man who is my true love, the dedicated father of our three sons, and the determined shepherd of the small Bible camp that my own grandparents founded, so many years ago. He stepped away from the anger and addiction of his family and into the arms of a loving savior who heals and restores. He has never looked back.

Dear teachers and leaders and workers, do not lose heart. You do not yet know the end of each child’s story. Miracles abound and you are a vital part of them. Thank you for your courage, for letting your hearts be broken, for being willing to open your eyes and see. Thank you for your sacrifice.

Galatians 6:9–“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Boo Boo (aka Kristen to my teacher friends)

The Great Mailbox Project!

The mailboxes at the top of the hill, were in sorry shape. Someone had crashed their car into one side, so it slumped in a sad and broken manner. The package box sagged alarmingly, there was a wasp nest inside, and the door would occasionally fall off and hit you on the head as you reached in to grab a parcel from the far back.

A new mailbox structure was put on, “The List.” What is the list, you ask? Well, it is composed of all the many many projects that need to be done. It is quite lengthy and thus the new mailbox structure remained on, “The List” for some time. Then my brother, CamoMan, decided to lend his considerable carpentry skills (first honed during childhood as he constructed dubious watercraft made from old boards, inner tubes, and duct tape … and also a small log cabin that did indeed employ 12″ spikes pilfered from Del) to the cause.

The first step was to move the old mailboxes so that the new structure could be built.

With the help of a Memorial Day work crew, Camo Man built and poured some incredibly sturdy footings.

Why did he need such a large base for this project?

Well, you never know when an earthquake, exploding volcano, or horde of zombies might come through. A mailbox should be sturdy! It should be epic! It should be a force to be reckoned with!

Behold, the Camas Mailbox Structure!

This one should actually be able to handle the occasional vehicle sliding hither and yon on our icy winter roads and giving it a bump.

Massive structure complete, it was time to employ some enthusiastic teen volunteers. One of these is my middle son and one is his friend. Their hair color and style is so similar, that we confuse them all the time. Can you tell which painter is which?

Much enthusiastic staining occurred at this point … as well as no small amount of wrestling.

But eventually, our golden-haired workers settled down and completed the task at hand.

Thus the structure was preserved from snow, rain, heat, and gloom of night. Well, it is actually the sunny days and weather that damage the wood, but the postman’s motto seemed appropriate even though the mailboxes are pretty secure from gloom of night. But the fresh coat of stain will definitely help with the snow, rain, sleet, and beating sun.

And finally, CamoMan constructed a new package box. One without a hornets nest, where the door doesn’t ever fall off, or even hit you on the top of the head as you reach way inside to retrieve a parcel.

Princess Leia Freyja approved the project with a few happy wags.

But there was one remaining piece needed. Campers continued to get lost while driving to camp. To be fair, this was not entirely their fault. Yes, through the misdirection of various labor-saving-devices (phones, GPS systems, mapquest, Googlemaps …) they drove left instead of right. The took ancient logging roads with trees growing in the center of the trail. They turned onto roads covered in three feet of snow, or conveniently featuring impassible mud in a variety of depths. Finally, Jon Torrence presented us with the much-anticipated solution.

Two corona virus quarantine P.E. days later …

with a bit of wood shop thrown in for good measure …

The project was finally finished! Thank you CamoMan, Jon Torrence, Scruffy and sons, and of course Princess Leia Freyja for your skill and determination to see The Great Mailbox Project reach completion!

Phillipians 1:6–“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Boo Boo

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?

Boo Boo

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