Middle School Camp 2–2018

Much preparation and thought goes into a week of summer camp ministry.

Whether it is learning how to do all those tricky hand motions for the fast songs.

Yes, you have to be able to tell right from left.

And you better stretch out before the songs start. A hand-motion-related-injury is the last thing one wants to begin a week of camp with.

Or bravely leading your cabin of incredibly rowdy twelve-year-old boys in prayer on that first day, knowing that it will truly be an act of God if they sit long enough to discuss David and Goliath and the giants that we find in our lives.

Thankfully, acts of God are not unheard of at camp.

Even Leia had some preparatory work to accomplish. She practiced giving warm fuzzy hugs.

And even warmer, sloppy kisses!

Our speaker this week was Ian “Faramir” Ross and yes, he spoke about giants.

Spend a few minutes talking with a Jr. High kid and you will be struck anew concerning the many tall and treacherous difficulties that our children face today.

But just because we face giants, does not mean that we stand alone.

Yes, we made all kinds of preparations before the campers arrived. From fueling up the camp bus, doing laundry, prepping a delicious meal, and making cabin assignments, to pulling thistles in the camp lawn.

But in the end, we must simply do all that we can and then pray that the Lord will show up and do His work among us.

We are able to move mountains of gravel in order to fill potholes on the road and of course, train the counselors in the art of both leading cabin discussion and unplugging a toilet. But we are unable to choose whether or not another soul will follow God.

I saw a boy arrive at camp who kept his facial expression carefully guarded. Because I take the photos and am always waiting to capture those beautiful smiles, I notice their absence.

He played games, worshiped in chapel, participated in every activity, but he was careful to appear ever neutral. Not too happy. Not too sad. On the last day, he was as cautious as ever.

Then I watched him say goodbye to his cabin mates. They hugged and gave hi-fives and yes, finally I saw him smile. Not once, but each time he said farewell. He didn’t know it at the time, but I knew that he was going to attend school with one of those same rowdy boys from his cabin. As I watched that rare and beautiful smile appear as they said goodbye, it reminded me that yes, God is aware of our hurts and needs and pleased to bless us in unexpected ways at unexpected times.

Daredevil became an unexpected blessing to Epona’s cabin of girls when he inexplicably was dubbed “The Camp Grandpa.” He is eighteen years old and not ailing in any way. Yet, this giggly flock of girls called him “Grandpa” and followed him everywhere.

They stole things from him and giggled, hid them and giggled, called him “Grandpa” a few more times and giggled. Much giggling occurred and Daredevil took it all in stride. In fact, becoming a grandfather at such a young age was one of the highlights of his week.

You never know what will touch a child’s heart. One of the girl counselors darted into the pantry to get gluten-free food for one of her campers only to have the girl fling her arms around her and proclaim: “You’re the best counselor ever!”

Another girl camper rode on ‘Merica’s shoulders during the night game since it was somewhat dark and the forest appeared daunting. He told her that he was the scariest thing in the woods and that all bears and grogs (the antagonists of that particular game) would flee his crashing approach (true info by the way). He toted her all over the place, at her beck and call for the entire game.

Whether leading deep and meaningful Bible studies with the support staff, Baptizing a younger sibling with the speaker, telling a personalized story at night that included every camper, or agreeing to sleep outside under the stars with the camp dog, I saw God at work using the faithful hands of a few teens and college age kids.

The Lord was beautiful to behold.

Sis, washed her campers’ feet during one of their cabin discussions. Spontaneously, her girls demanded that they get the chance to wash her feet as well.

One of the girl cabins hiked to Inspiration Point to watch the sun rise. As their counselor watched them walking up the road, she realized that the cliques from Monday were gone. The girls were walking with new friends, including everyone in their group.

During the campfire (don’t worry, we use glo-sticks when the fire danger is high) on the last night, I sat with my dog watching shooting stars fall from the sky. A little girl came and sat down beside me, patting the dog and taking in the expanse of the heavens above us. “My dream is to live up here, but I think it would be pretty expensive,” she said.

Sometimes it is expensive to live so far out in the forest. No one drives up to fix your power when the generator breaks, or the well, heaters, or toilets. Snow removal is a big part of every winter. Everything takes a thirty to forty-five minute drive reach.

But Scruffy and I, Choco, and my grandparents would all have the same answer if you asked us about the cost. It is absolutely, without a doubt, worth every night spent without power, every long drive to get cough medicine, and every day shoveling snow.

We have a front row seat to so many of the Lord’s beautiful miracles.

A couple of days into camp, one of our counselors began to get sick. Now, it is not uncommon to find oneself with a miserable cold after serving day and night among children. But this counselor had a sore throat that turned into a fever. Off to the Doctor he went, hastened there by Scruffy and the camp nurse.

The counselor asked the Lord to heal him, so great was his wish to stay and finish out the week with his boys. The rest of the staff and I prayed for his healing as well, but so many times God asks us to struggle onward, as we are, plagues and pain and all. Yet, this counselor’s symptoms went away. His strep throat test came back negative and he returned to his cabin, refreshed and able to lead.

Three girls chose Jesus as their Lord this week. I gave away the last Bibles in the box that camp purchased to give out to new believers. Their counselors wrote notes inside the covers so that they would remember they are not alone in seeking after the Lord.

One of the counselors was there when his camper opened up a Bible for the very first time. He was able to teach another of his boys how to pray. These two young men both chose Jesus as their Lord. One of them went home early, with an action Bible of his own, but came back to be baptized. He told Scruffy that he’d read 100 pages in the short time that he was home!

Let me finish with a few of the things that campers said during the campfire on Friday night.

In between the beautiful sound of children singing worship songs, each one of these kids took a glo-stick from their counselor, stood before their peers to speak, cracked their glo-stick and then tossed it into the fire pit.

“This week I learned, you don’t have to be perfect for God to love you.”

“This week I learned that getting to Heaven isn’t about the good stuff or the bad stuff we’ve done. It’s about knowing Jesus.”

“I had this moment, talking with my friends on the way to Inspiration Point. Then it was silent and there were so many stars. I started to cry and just couldn’t stop. It just struck me.”

“I learned that God loves me.”

Matthew 25:40–“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

 

 

 

Boo Boo

 

Jr. B Camp-2018

Jr. B Camp started out with hot July weather, bright blue skies, and the scent of fallen pine needles baking in the sun along the dirt paths that wind between the cabins. Of course there might also have been one or two dog hairs to be found, but Princess Leia Freyja’s loving slurps and affectionate snuggles appear to make up for that in the eyes of the campers.

On Monday, everyone organized into cabins and then headed down to the meadow for kiddie pool kickball. This would be Robin’s Roost, led by Braveheart, Specter, and Clank.

What is kiddie pool kickball? Well, it is very much like normal, everyday kickball except that each base is a full kiddie pool and home plate is a large horse trough wherein players must completely submerge themselves in order to make a home run. First, the pitcher tosses a soccer ball.

The a player from the opposing team kicks the ball.

There is a great deal of running and chasing between the water-filled bases.

With a big splash at home plate.

Although, occasionally the entire kicking team will plunge in before they take the outfield. It was quite hot after all.

Next came Watchamabob. Yes, Daredevil and Falkor appear to be leaping for joy at the prospect of another Watchamabob.

Instead of leaping for joy, Canada gave Braveheart a new hairdo and some schoolyard game skills.

Hmmm … those simple looking games are more difficult than they appear. Is it slap front slap back or slap slap front then slap slap back?

Princess Leia is always eager to assist. Especially with Watchamabobs that involve cookies.

Oh, look! Cookies!

The goal is to move the cookie from where it is stuck on the forehead, down to the mouth where it can be eaten. No using hands and yes, it is a race!

This requires a lot of eyebrow and nose scrunching.

But is entirely possible as I watched a camper accomplish this amazing task right before my eyes. Yes, he did appear to enjoy his cookie and no, he did not share with Princess Leia Freyja.

But there were plenty of loves and ear scratches to go around, so The Princess decided that the game wasn’t a total bust.

Next, it’s time for chapel. Even those campers who are too weary to move their exhausted limbs and walk into the lodge weren’t left out. Their counselor simply carried them!

Uh, oh! It looks like more campers are hoping for a ride.

Bald Eagle, our speaker this week, taught from the book of Joshua. Be strong and courageous. Definitely a message kids need to hear. Their world is darker than the one that we grew up in and more complicated. But God’s strength and love remain our hope, no matter what perils we face.

Along with fun and incredibly loud songs that have hand motions and all the exciting activities, some truly amazing moments happened this week.

There was one camper who had never prayed before. He asked his counselor to show him how and by the end of the week, this brave young man volunteered to close their cabin discussion in prayer.

Yes, we experienced the beauty of “Lake Day.” Enjoying bright blue skies, crystal clear waters, and baked potatoes at the Lakeside Park in Chelan. But we also saw a very patient Jr. Counselor who had one particular camper glom onto him as his very most favorite person in the entire world.

And so this camper was with his favorite counselor every single second of every single day. Despite having apparently grown an extra arm/leg/hump on his back (where the enthusiastic camper clung to him), this counselor was a delight to watch as he made the week memorable and fun for all of his campers, especially his new best buddy.

We had Warhammer and Uli (who is 9 months pregnant!) drive up to camp three times during the week so that they could minister to the staff. Once to drop off their oldest to be a camper. Once to do a devotional with the staff so that these amazing workers could have a moment to rest and gain refreshment from delving into God’s word. Then once more to pick up their camper at the end of the week!

We had Howitzer, who owns his own business, nonetheless volunteer to run our support staff program. He kept everyone organized and working hard, even though that meant late night work on the computer for him and rising at 5:00 am to get a few hours of additional work done at the local coffee shop before staff meeting at 7:00 am.

OK, full disclosure. These boys are not actually hugging. They are tossing the football around. But there were some epic hugs this week that were real. What immediately comes to mind is when Slappy leaped out of the circle during staff meeting on Saturday, springing over chairs and sending one flying, before she thundered out the door to hug one of her campers goodbye when mom arrived to take her home.

There was the day that Partake challenged one of the campers to a paintball battle. He was thrilled and his entire cabin greatly impressed with her mightiness on the paintball field. This was a bold move on her part, as it had been quite some time since she’d played. But the challenge made it super fun for the campers and so she plunged ahead.

Even Leia Freyja was able to minister to campers this week. One little girl was hiding under her blanket crying and refused to be comforted. Later, she explained that she was sad about going home from camp the next day.

But when I asked if she would like Leia to come and sleep in their cabin, the camper perked right up. She led the way to her bunk and made just enough room for a 105 lb dog. Leia curled up on the foot … the foot and middle … well, pretty much all of her bed and settled in for the night. Leia raised her head, but didn’t get up when I left. She appeared to realize that she was needed.

Of course Leia was not the only animal involved in camp this week. Bear’s Abode requested the use of one of our chickens during their skit and Ewok rose to the occasion.

Besides the chicken, skit night held multiple whale attacks …

A bit of sword fighting …

The plagues of Egypt …

And an unfortunate death. Poor Cub! Wait a minute … is he smiling???

Um … better make that two deaths. Or is Clank just asleep?

Of course the quote of the week was when Slappy left the cabin for three whole minutes and returned to a group of enthusiastic smiles. “See those rafters!” They then pointed at the rafters in their cabin. “We just swung on them!!!” Thankfully, they not only survived their acrobatic impulses, but were able to learn more about the Lord Jesus and His love for them as well. The counselors have such interesting dual jobs of fun and exciting activities sprinkled with spiritual shepherding at a Jr. Camper level.

Dauntless was amazed as one of his campers furiously memorized Bible verses. Long after the other boys had fallen asleep, this camper kept piping up with “I’ve got another one!”

The staff show God’s love to these kids in so many creative ways. Epona’s campers were voracious melty bead creators. They designed craft after craft and were so sad when it was time to go to bed, that Epona promised them she would stay up that night ironing their artistic creations so that they were ready to go home with her girls the next day. She worked until 3:00 am, fulfilling that promise to her campers.

I myself was incredibly blessed as a mysterious staff member wrote a personal note of encouragement to every single worker at camp. These were not just general encouragements either. Whoever wrote my note, not only owned a very nice purple pen, but had been watching what I did during the week and gave me specific words to spur me on, that only an observant and caring person could have come up with. Each staff member received such a note and if their reactions were anything like mine, there were tears involved, and perhaps those notes might have been kept in a back pocket for a week to pull out and reread during low moments.

I watched ‘Merica minister to the Support Staff as he spent an incredible amount of time leading cabin discussions just for them while the Counsel Staff were leading discussions with their campers. The highlight of the week for Bacta, our camp Dr., was being invited to join the discussion on the day that the Support Staff shared their testimonies. There is an incredible bond formed when believers pour themselves out, together, for an entire week of intense service to their Lord.

Of course, this close bond often involves being tossed into the horse trough by one’s brothers or sisters in Christ.

Even these ridiculous moments are a thrill and a delight to the campers.

For Junior Campers, the very experience of being away from home for an entire week is incredible. They leave their media devices behind, breath in the crisp mountain air, witness God’s starry host stretched across the night sky without the tainting effect of light pollution, and get to actually immerse themselves in the things God has made rather than what man has built up around himself.

I was able to attend the campfire (don’t worry, we had glow sticks instead of flames due to the fire danger) on the last night. Just standing up to share in front of their peers is an enormous event for kids this young. Yes, they might be sharing about how much they loved paintball and how archery tag was their favorite, but the bravery to do this is vast when one is nine years old. Some of these precious children were braver still and shared about what they learned from the speaker or mentioned that worship was their favorite thing of the week, even when everyone else said slip-n-slide.

One of Braveheart’s favorite moments was having a camper plop down beside him on one of the old wooden benches that surround the fireside during worship. The child flung one arm around Braveheart and held the other up to the sky, worshiping with all his heart. That is one of my favorite moments as well, because I know how difficult it is to stir up a hunger for God in the hearts of our kids. It is an epic task that is made just a bit easier by the vast sweep of forest around us, the friends, the fun, the crazy games, the carefully constructed messages by the camp speaker, the loving sacrifice of the counselors, and the pure delight of singing in the middle of a mountain meadow under a blanket of stars. I know this well, because that camper was my own son and to see him throw his heart into praise, breaks mine, in all the best ways possible.

 

Boo Boo

 

 

 

 

Middle School Camp 1–2018

Our speaker was “The Thing” for Middle School Camp One. He is one of my sons’ absolute favorite counselors, but this time, Scruffy had him leave his comfort zone and return to camp as the speaker, bringing God’s word alive for a group of 60 Jr. High Kids.

The Thing had his lessons all lined out … but then verses and topics kept popping up again and again that had nothing to do with the direction he was going for chapels.

After talking with the family of some of the campers who would be attending, he was struck by how vulnerable these children are. How dark their situations can be and how they need to be prepared to face such incredibly difficult times.

He reworked all of his chapel sessions.

In the end, The Thing spoke from the book of Job and the book of Ephesians.

The Bible has much to say about both pain (Job) and preparedness (Ephesians) and since he knew that so many of these kids had already faced more pain than we would ever wish them to endure, The Thing wanted them to know that God is with them and intends for them to face the battles of life with the equipment they need to win.

How do we face pain? How do we walk into the battles that come upon us? Is there victory amidst such darkness?

As I capture the fun activities the campers enjoy, I find myself blown away by the beauty of these children and their many lovely, rowdy, hilarious, and bold faces.

These beautiful faces belong to the same children who must confront incredible hardships, at home, at school, in their neighborhoods, families, and friendships.

But while they learned about serious things like the heartache of Job and the victory in the armor of God, I got to see something else in their faces this week.

There was the “Am I going to survive the Slip-N-Slide” face.

The “Why on earth did I come to camp with my big brother” face.

The “Oh good, my dad is in the dunk tank” face.

The “Why on earth did I let myself get talked into getting in the dunk tank” face.

The “I’m going to beat him this time” face.

One of my favorites, the “I can do this” face.

The “Ha ha, I’m about to get you” face.

And the closely related, but much more satisfying, “I just got you so what are you going to do about it” face.

The “What game are you guys playing” face.

The “Fine, I’ll smile one more time just because you’re the one asking” face.

And all of the amazing faces of Skit Night!

Part of our ministry is to simply get kids away from their packed and busy world and into the forest. We want to let them run through the meadow and practice a crazy skit with their cabin until it is even crazier than it was to start with.

We want them to get to read their Bibles and have their very own counselors whose sole purpose is to listen to them, love them, chase them around and make them put their shoes on, and try to show them how incredibly precious they are to God Himself.

We had sixty campers this week. When you add staff, that puts the camp at full capacity. Two of our girl counselors had to solo counsel a cabin. One of them told us that sitting together, in the quiet of the pre-camp hours with the other solo counselor, and laying this week before the throne of God, together, as sisters, was one of the most meaningful moments of her week.

All of these counselors had a mighty task before them, but God does not leave us defenseless. We too, have his armor and the strength of His spirit within. That was incredibly evident this week.

When a camper explained that depression was like this game she liked to play, her counselor knew what she meant, because she had stumbled upon a video about how to play that particular game six months ago. It is even more remarkable, because this counselor rarely watches shows, but God made certain that she had the information she needed in order to have this important discussion about depression with one of her girls.

The nurse was delighted to watch a cabin of rowdy boys welcome a child with chronic medical issues, working hard to make him feel completely part of the cabin group.

The Thing was deeply honored to be brutally mocked by a cabin of girls during skit night, but also to see two campers come to know the Lord Jesus as their Savior.

Eleven campers asked to be baptized in the old horse trough out in the meadow.

Several counselors named this as their favorite moment of the week.

Watching the kids go forward to show publicly that they belonged to Jesus was an incredible delight. One counselor’s favorite moment was being a part of his camper’s baptism.

Another counselor burst into tears, trying to explain what it meant to stand beside her older brother in that horse trough, and baptize the campers whom she had grown to love.

Watching The Thing and Sis minister to kids alongside so many other amazing staff, I can’t help but remember that these wonderful young adults were once the rowdy little kids that Scruffy worked with every Wednesday in AWANA. And the mother of those rough and tumble youngsters was one of the only Christians who showed kindness to Scruffy in high school, years before he met God.

What we do and say matters. Who would have known that the hurting teen that Sis and Thing’s mother showed God’s love to, so many years ago would become a camp director and the AWANA worker who helped her children learn Bible verses. Who would have imagined that those kids would grow up to tell children about the love of God, including that camp director’s sons. I understand why Sis wept, unable to express her joy at standing in that big old trough beside her brother, as her campers chose to declare their love for Jesus. God is truly unfathomable in the ways that He brings His wonders into our darkness.

I will leave you with just one more beautiful face and the wise and lovely words of one of the campers this week. He told his counselor: “I know I want Jesus, but I don’t know what salvation is.” That is a question we are always eager to answer. Thank you for the honor of serving your amazing children this week.

 

Boo Boo

Jr. A Camp–2018

There were many crazy and fun adventures during Jr. A Camp. Who could forget the time a pet chicken tried to join the kids in the lodge for chapel or when The Thing slept through his alarm during F.O.B. (flat on bunk) and his campers were forced to jump on top of him wildly shouting “Hop on Pop!” at the top of their lungs in order to wake him?

There were adventures on the low ropes course.

Adventures on the paintball field.

Grab a mask! It’s time to hit the camp’s woods ball course and test your mettle against the tricky terrain and the skill of your fellow campers.

I watched from behind the lens of my camera as a small, pink-clad Jr. camper led a team full of boys to victory during paintball.

She was fearless and the whole group celebrated the victory because she dared to step out from behind the cover of the trees and charge the opposition.

Who could forget the breakfast hike?

Where the entire camp packed up their breakfast in a brown bag, handed the lot to their counselor, and then hiked out across the meadow, through the forest, and to The Stone Face.

Then, as the counselors handed out breakfast bags, their campers gathered around for the morning devotion right in the midst of God’s amazing creation.

Food always tastes better after a hike.

And the wonder and power of God always appears more clear in the wide expanse of the forest with the chirring of cicadas in our ears and the spicy fragrance of pine and fir in our nostrils.

A breakfast burrito doesn’t hurt the experience either!

Then came the adventure of Lake Day!

The sunshine and water were amazing, just don’t forget that sunscreen!

All set?

These boys are clearly ready to tackle the day, giant towel in hand!

Lake Chelan is the third deepest lake in the United States and the 26th deepest in the world. It is considered one of the cleanest, clearest Lakes in the nation.

Every week we bus campers in to enjoy these refreshing waters. We couldn’t ask for a better place for a dip. 

Of course, Chelan is also known for blue skies and sunshine. So if you grow weary of the wild splashing and rowdy fun in the water, it is also a lovely spot to sunbathe.

Some campers enjoy the chance to pause and take in the beauty for a moment before jumping right back into the action.

Does this picture illustrate why The Thing got a haircut recently? Perhaps most of it had already been pulled out.

Thursday brought the adventure of horse day. Every 45 minutes, counselors led campers in groups of seven down to the meadow for a much-anticipated trail ride.

The wranglers helped each camper find a horse and soon it was time to mount up.

Although, some horses were quite distracted by the fresh grass, with a quick kick and a pull on the rains, they were soon on their way.

Priscilla the mule looks ready to go.

 

Thursday’s schedule contained a few unexpected adventures as well.

What appears to have been a summer logging accident, produced much more excitement than anyone expected or wanted in the form of a nearby wildfire.

Although, watching the helicopters dip water from the frog pond to fight the flames was fun. We would take a lazy summer day over this kind of adventure every time!

The campers got a chance to practice their emergency packing skills. Note: let’s slow down and try it again. Throwing random shoes and blankets in the back of the camp truck is not packing! But the firefighters were wonderful and took great care of us and look, ‘Merica is still able to smile, even after such a crazy day.

Add attacking Babylonians … or were they Persians?

A hungry whale

And a strange victory dance and the day was complete!

We wrapped up the week with a sandcastle building contest and an epic water fight.

No one was plagued by a dry patch upon their person!

Though the adventures were numerous and varied, the moments of quiet and opportunities to reflect upon our Lord and Savior stood out this week as well. One of our girl counselors told about the struggle to get her girls to open up in cabin time. Then later in the week, they had this amazing cabin discussion that lasted the entirety of the allotted time. They took a break for campfire, but when they got back, she had a camper ask, “Can we talk about God more?” They had so many questions, she had to write them down to save for later. Her girls fell asleep that night in the middle of an extended discussion. The next morning, bright and early, they wanted to start the day with even more cabin time! God definitely answered her prayers that these girls would want to learn more about Him.

Standing silently at the back of the lodge and listening to a room full of children worship at the top of their lungs is one of the greatest delights of the camp life. When the band struck up “I’ll Fly Away” the chairs emptied as campers thundered about the room, flapping their arms, laughing, and leaping in all their rowdy innocence.

But as the tempo slowed and the children closed their eyes and lifted their hands in praise, I cannot help but think that I have tasted a piece of Heaven. Your children escaped to the forest this week. They set aside the distractions of traffic and TV and busy lives. They got the chance to shout at the top of their lungs and be silent beneath the quiet majesty of a star-spangled sky. They played and they prayed, they learned about God, and they were given the choice to put their trust in Him. Both on carefree, sunny days when the breeze is warm and not a cloud taints the skies, as well as in heavier moments when fires rage and the future is uncertain. May the Lord grant you both adventure and the chance to pause in the quiet and reflect of His love. This week, the staff and campers were blessed with plenty of both!

 

 

Boo Boo

Vanguard-Sr. High Teen Camp-2018

Do you know what a vanguard is? Merriam-Webster defines it as: “The troops moving at the head of an army.” The vanguard rushes into battle first, so the rest of the army has the courage to follow. Being in the vanguard is dangerous. King David placed Uriah the Hittite in the vanguard in order to secure the man’s demise. David ordered his general, Joab, to pull the rest of his troops back, leaving the vanguard to battle alone. That was all it took to kill his rival.

People say it is hard to get teens to talk. That’s not necessarily true. Teens long for honest conversation, deep thinking, the complexities of God’s Word, and the fierce beauty of God’s love for them. The problem? Teens require a vanguard before they will charge forward.

It’s dangerous to be in the vanguard, and few of us will place ourselves in such a position of vulnerability. But that is exactly what I saw the counselors and speaker doing this week. They were the vanguard and when the campers saw them marching ahead, they rushed forward in a mighty wave.

When sharing The Word with children, we stick to the gentle truths of God. His love. His sacrifice. His plan to rescue us from our sin and make us more like Him. But teens must have the whole truth, and nothing but the truth or they refuse to take you seriously. Teens know that life is gut-wrenchingly hard, if you are not real about this, they find it hard to trust us. And so those ministering to these savvy and skeptical not-quite-adults must be honest in a way that hurts. Exhausting and brutal honesty is required in the vanguard.

One of our guy counselors described the week as “pay to play.” Sometimes you must pay to play a game. He had to pay to play all week. Cabin discussion came and everyone went around the circle. Despite a thoughtful chapel, the answers were superficial. So the counselor realized that he had to lead or his guys would never rush into the fray.

He shared from his own struggles, with the kind of vulnerability that’s both exhausting and terrifying. Without him asking, his campers went back and answered that first question again. This time, they were honest with him and themselves. The cabin only got through half of the discussion questions and it took them two solid hours to do so. Teens can go deep, but they must have a vanguard.

The discussion topics were not easy ones this week. Van Helsing, our speaker, chose the theme: Jesus Christ–Monster Hunter! 

He spoke on the things that smash kids (and adults) flat in their walk with God. The monsters of Pride, Depression, Lust, and Addiction. How on earth do we find victory when being hunted by such powerful enemies?

I John 3:8–“The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”

Thankfully, Jesus Christ came to seek and to save those who are lost and the Bible has much to say about each of these monsters. But just because the Bible speaks on these struggles does not mean they are easy to overcome, or easy to talk about in the forthright manner that teens demand.

Nonetheless, we saw God at work all over the place this week.

 

I stood in the lodge one night, swept away as I listened to worship. Camp is strikingly unique in the worship department. You rarely hear people sing at the top of their lungs out in the world or in church, but at camp, the sound is something between a song and a musical roar. The amazing thing about hearing teens worship, is that many of them have had musical training of some sort. They are glorious to behold. And that rising song was punctuated by the unique strains of one special needs camper, singing with all her heart. So so lovely.

Then there was the simple beauty of service. I saw a counselor who struggled with asthma, constantly give his all, even though he felt terrible. He wheezed and coughed and yet he volunteered to be the “Old Man Hunter” in the night game. A role that worked well for someone who was already wheezing and coughing, and was willing to sit in the dark forest, bringing the game to life for a swarm of teens.

I saw him jump in Lake Chelan on a day when many of the campers considered it too cold to swim. I watched him run to catch up with the group on the hike to Inspiration Point, when his campers considered simply walking too exhausting.

Then there was Choco. He was sick and exhausted and went home to rest a few hours. But as he sought a bit of restorative sleep, he was called upon to do some extra work for the concrete pour on the lodge entryway. It was determined that the slab in front of the Robin’s Roost stairs had to go in order for the concrete to be deep enough. Instead of sleeping, he busted up old concrete gaining some well-earned blisters.

Then the speaker scheduled a Worship Smack Down. What is a Worship Smack Down, you ask? Well, another thing about teens is that you are welcome to invite them to go deeper with the Lord, but you really can’t make them. That’s not as scary as it sounds. This means that they are finally becoming independent and able to choose for themselves. So we give a lot of options at Sr. High Camp. Yeah, everyone comes to chapel, but there are optional Deep Dives, where the speaker meets with any kids who want to discuss the Bible, God, doubts and hurts, and what they really think about these things. There’s always a crowd of kids at the Deep Dives.

Anyway, one of the options during evening free time was the Worship Smack Down. Kids can play basketball or a game in the lodge or they can go to the meadow and sing worship songs and pray. Teens crowded the meadow for worship and they didn’t just sing for an hour or two, they sang until Scruffy forced them to go to bed at 2:00 am. Choco played guitar the entire time, from memory and in the dark, when he was sick, after he’d already hurt his hands busting up concrete.

This is Scruffy’s 20th summer and it is easy to grow weary. But we saw kids’ behavior actually change over the course of the week. We saw their words and actions slow and stop and begin to represent their Lord. We saw two friends have a huge fight and stomp off in a fury. The cabin had discussed the monster of Pride earlier. It looked like an utter fail at first. Just two angry young men, holding onto their hurt and pride. But then one of them found his friend and they went for a walk, talked it out, and repaired the damage that had been done.

We saw someone use words that hurt another camper. ‘Merica, Scruffy, and Van Helsing had to pull a bunch of kids aside for a serious talk about respect. People chew kids out all the time. How many times have you seen it make a difference? After the talk, both Scruffy and the big sister of the hurting camper looked across the parking lot and saw the girl crying. Scruffy was too far away to hear their voices, he just watched their faces as the conversation unfolded. The big sis marched over, angry, ready to go to battle for a beloved sibling. Then she slowed, the kid was stumbling through an apology that no one had forced him to give.

All Scruffy could see were their faces. The girl’s hurt and anger, the boy’s expression as it changed from the cool arrogance of youth to the tears of a young man trying to figure out how to say he is sorry. They stood back and watched the forgiveness that the Lord can bring after He reveals our failures and then gifts us with His very own righteousness.

A new creation. We saw that happen this week, over and over again. It is not just the new Christians who need to become new. God is constantly at work if we will allow Him to delve deeply into our hearts.

It wasn’t only the counselors who had to pay to play this week. After speaking on the monsters of Pride; Depression; Lust; and Addiction, Van Helsing knew that he had to be in the vanguard if he was going to address one of the most problematic monsters of all. Sometimes, our greatest enemy is ourselves.

But he was late to that vital last chapel. Late because there were some campers who desperately needed some one on one prayer. The rest of the staff stalled and eventually Van Helsing arrived to reveal the truth we all try to hide, but have known all along, deep inside.

We are monsters. Romans 3:23–“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And so Van Helsing stepped up into the vanguard and told the story of when he utterly sinned and failed. The entire camp was silent as he stood before them, daring to admit to what we all attempt to hide.

 

We are monsters. His voice broke in the silence of the lodge as he revealed the path of repentance, forgiveness, restoration, and victory to this group of hurting kids. Scruffy wanted to go up on the stage and hug his friend, but did not. No one wants to mess up chapel. Some of the other counselors wanted to as well, but kept themselves seated.

But those campers Van Helsing had been late to chapel to pray with, they led the charge. They rushed the stage and wrapped their arms around him, weeping. Then the whole camp thundered forward to pull him into their arms and cry and sing and revel in the fact that we may be monsters, but Jesus Christ died our death because we are indescribably precious in His eyes. We are beloved.

Three kids came to know the Lord this week. Twelve kids were baptized in the horse trough out in the meadow. So many were challenged to make their faith their own, go deeper and be real with God, trust Him with the hard stuff that pulls us down and makes us give up. So many kids found their way back to their Lord this week, after thinking that He had no concern for the details of their lives.

It’s impossible to sum up this week of camp for you. All I can do is tell a few stories, post a few pictures, pray over the keyboard and ask the Lord to touch you as He has me, in the real bits of life, where I live and love and fail and then have the audacity to try again. He is with us. He loves us. He is working His glory among us. Please don’t forget.

I saw the Creator of the Universe at work this week and I am different because of His attention to the goings and comings of the children whom He adores. Do not think that He is at work only in the chapel sessions or the Worship Smack Downs. He is ever waiting, longing for you to seek Him. Reach out. He will not abandon you to struggle alone. He will not let you drown. Even the darkness is as light to Him. How can we despair with such a Lord and guide as Jesus.

Psalm 139:11-12–“If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”

 

Boo Boo

 

Staff Training 2018

Staff Training is arguably the most important week of ministry during our long and busy summer here at Camas Meadows. That may seem odd, as there are no campers in attendance, only staff.

But pause and mull that over for a moment. This is the week that we devote to training and ministering to our staff. Without Staff Training, there would be no one ministering to the children.

Those six days may seem long, but they feel short to us. There is so much to teach, so much for them to learn. How exactly does one lead a cabin full of ten-year-old boys in a discussion of the Bible without everything spiraling into a chaos that would rival any epic superhero movie? I challenge you to place yourselves in that cabin and not flee in gibbering terror. Yet, the counseling staff accomplish that epic task and more during a summer full of camp ministry.

How do you run the dunk tank in a fun and safe manner? How do you unplug a toilet? How do you lead a hike, a meadow game, or that classic camp activity where everyone races to chew up a pickle and spit it into the top of a soda bottle?

How do you run the camp clothes washer? Because you will need to know when that camper has an accident at 2:00 am. and you sneak her bedding out to wash it before any of her peers finds out. And the drier, you will need to know how to use the drier as well.

How many times do you need to make your campers apply sunscreen on Lake Day? It’s three or more, if anyone is wondering. What precisely is the reason we don’t let anyone chat with lifeguards or bop them on the head with pool noodles?

And is duct tape really that difficult to remove from log buildings? Yes, it is! So don’t use it in your pranks, painter’s tape only!!!

What should you do about homesickness, food fights, bullying, night terrors, grasshoppers that are captured and then released in a plague-like horde within the cabin, or that kid who does not want to shower?

How do you pray with a child? How do you accomplish all of those complicated hand motions to the camp songs? How do you continue to serve, even after being woken up five times to check under the bunks for Sasquatches?

It is an honor and a privilege to teach and learn with this fabulous group of young people for a week. Campers catch a glimpse of Jesus not only in the chapel sessions but also on the paintball field, at the dinner table, in the meadow, and during skit prep because of this amazing week spent training the staff who have volunteered to be the Lord’s hands and feet over the summer.

They are truly an answer to prayer. Scruffy and I spend so much time asking that the Lord send just the right counselors each year. Sometimes He waits until the last minute, but look at what He has done! Here they are, ready and willing for a summer of service.

Please join us in praying for the summer here at Camas Meadows Bible Camp. As you lift up the campers, speakers, and numerous activities, don’t forget a prayer or two for this hardworking staff!

 

Boo Boo

 

 

Camas Ladies Retreat 2018

Camas is transformed with wildflowers in May. Every year, on the weekend after Mother’s Day, a horde of ladies swarms the meadow to enjoy the beauties of God’s creation and learn from His word.

This year the speaker was my own wonderful mother, Momma Smurf. Well, her camp name is Momma Smurf but I suppose you might also know her as Judy Baker.

Years ago, as she was caring for my stepdad during his battle with cancer, Judy discovered anew Proverbs 18:10–“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe.” As she clung to these and many other verses during the time of Dave’s illness, the Lord informed Judy that He would be asking her to share them with others one day.

Over two years passed. Dave died. She moved to a new home, a new role as “sweet widow lady with a fierce purse dog,” and a new occupation as the sole caregiver for her father. The Lord kept these hard-won lessons brewing in her heart and mind. Then the leaders of the Camas Ladies Retreat asked her to speak and she knew that it was time to share these particular verses with others.

During this encouraging weekend retreat, women from all over the state come together to relax in the rustic lodge, walk the forested paths, view wildflowers in the meadow, raise their voices in worship together, and dig into God’s word for a time of learning. It was a particular pleasure to hear more of my mother’s story during the chapel sessions, especially as I was there for many of the difficult times where she leaned on and learned from the Lord. The same circumstances that caused these verses to become precious to her.

In all honesty, looking at my mother’s circumstances, it is easy to feel like life and the Lord have somehow shortchanged her. We lost my dad when I was 14 and she was 39. Then Dave died before they had been married 20 years. She even lost her first feisty little purse dog (Don’t worry, we talked her into another dog).

But what she shared during the Ladies Retreat, was the way the Lord brought blessing among all that terrible hardship. He does not pluck us from this dark world, not yet. But He does walk beside is in all His strength, power, and comfort. I was blessed to be able to attend and to hear of the Glory of the Lord and His mighty power, even when everything around us appears to be crumbling.

 

Boo Boo

 

145th Celebration

Camas Meadows Bible Camp has been around for 45 years and our founder Del Griffith for even longer! He just celebrated his 100th birthday on April 22nd. Such illustrious milestones demanded a bit of a party and so that was what we were up to last weekend.

So we gathered at the camp on May 12th. Campers, board members, counselors, cooks, nurses, speakers … those who love Camas Meadows and wished to celebrate with Del traveled up that twisting mountain road for a bite of cake and a time of reminiscing. 

It was a gorgeous spring day with scattered wildflowers blooming and the scent of new forest growth on the wind.

Camp people young and old packed the lodge to hear stories about the camp’s beginning years as well as a few of Del’s own tales.

It was a time to visit with good friends from the past and discover new folks with a connection to the camp or to Del. Looking out across the room was such a reminder of all the people Del and Autumn have blessed through the years.

A camp intern, counselor, and speaker sat on the couch … it sounds like the start of a joke, but they actually behaved pretty well. Yes, I’m talking about you Warhammer!

Once the beautiful cake was eaten and the many tales of camp adventures come and gone had run their course, everyone said goodbye and walked beneath the new sign placed at the entryway in Del and Autumn’s honor.

In 1973, Del and Autumn stepped out in faith and turned a crazy dream into reality. Forty-five years later, God’s work is still going on in this quiet mountain meadow tucked back into the forest. It was a delight to have the chance to thank Del for his lifetime of service and celebrate a monumental birthday together. May what they started continue for many years to come.

 

Boo Boo

 

 

 

Spring Break Survival Camp-2018

Over Spring Break, Camas runs a day camp that gets kids into their Bibles, out into the beautiful forest, and learning an abundance of skills from knot tying to how to safely start a campfire and sterilize a can full of water.

Choco began the week with teaching various kinds of knots and when and how to use them, but soon the campers progressed to that much-anticipate skill … fire starting! With snow still on the ground in many places, it was a perfect time to learn how to clear the area of debris, build a campfire, and both feed it constantly and watch the flames like a hawk lest they spark out of control. 

Just getting that little fire going was a Herculean task in and of itself.

But survival is always made easier by the help of a friend.

Next came shelter building. With a drizzle of rain falling, the campers were even able to test exactly how waterproof their survival shelters were in real life.

Of course, the children of a certain unnamed camp photographer and blog person always love being photographed!

Some members of each team worked on watching the flames of their campfire while others gathered a few dry branches.

Of course, sticks are incredibly useful for many different projects.

Not only does this shelter appear cozy and dry to young boys …

… but young dogs seem equally interested.

Choco, demonstrating how to boil water. No, really, it is harder than it looks. I encourage you to get out there and try doing so without a stove. Fun times!

There were many different knots for various situations and jobs. This particular knot is useful for whipping around a log or branch in order to drag it to a new location.

Finally, time to learn how to use a compass. Do you know how to properly us a compass? A huge thank you to Choco and our other volunteers as well as Bald Eagle who provided the wonderful devotionals from the book of Daniel. Survival, friendship, and fun in the great outdoors. It was such a delightful week. Thank you, all.

 

Boo Boo

 

Spring CamasCon-2018

Let me catch everyone up concerning the last few Camas camps on the schedule this Spring. At the end of March, Camas Meadows once again hosted our Spring CamasCon.

Hundreds of games, a room full of dedicated board game enthusiasts, and the entire weekend to play long into the night, pause to connect with our Lord Jesus, and meet other Christian gamers.

As you can see, the selection of games was wide and varied. Do you enjoy co-ops, deck builders, worker placement games, dungeon crawls, games that involve a giant praying mantis attacking either New York or Tokyo, area-control fighting games (my kids call them”face smashy” games), or quiet games about Japanese art that have adorable little paint pots as game pieces? Well then, CamasCon is the right place for you … especially if you know what all that jargon means. But even if you do not, there is always someone willing to teach a newcomer and cultivate a love of all things competitive … or cooperative, depending on your choice of game.

There are games for rivals, families, and games for good friends.

Then again, you might find that the words: friend, family, and rival can be used interchangeably more often than not.

The game above is full of all three.

As well as fun gaming and chapel sessions digging into God’s word, CamasCon also hosts a raffle benefiting the Camper Scholarship Fund. This young gamer won a copy of Stuffed Fables. An RPG wherein a troupe of lovable stuffed animals battle nightmares in order to save their little girl. Which honestly, is just about too cute for words. Adorable!

And that, my friend, is what CamasCon is all about. Connecting Christian Gamers: to God, some amazing games, and each other.

 

Boo Boo