Still Good Cake!

Sr. High Teen Camp 2019

We went into Sr. High Teen Camp already broken.

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

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

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

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

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

Only, he didn’t.

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

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

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

I answered that I did not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Broken

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Broken homes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boo Boo

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

Spring CamasCon 2019

300 or so games in the lending library, two additional shelves upon which campers store their own games, and five days spent packed around a cluster of tables bending the mind and focusing the will on strategic victory.

What could this possibly mean???

It’s Spring CamasCon of course!

Forty campers made their way into the mountains, bringing carloads of strategy board games with them.

No need to toil away at work, cook, clean, or even venture more than the few feet between the dinning area, gaming tables, and bathrooms!

CamasCon is all about playing games, so so many games, meeting old friends and new, and gathering together to rejoice in being connected as followers of Christ.

Of course Van Helsing brought board-game-themed lessons for the chapel sessions.

What? You don’t think The Man In Black has anything to do with the Bible?

Oh, you of little faith. Sit through just one chapel and you too will be quoting scripture in the voice of Vizzini! Whether you are looking for quirky Bible lessons,

games with stuffed rats and teeny weeny cardboard cheeses,

epic battles between armies of toothsome monsters,

adventure on the high seas,

tricky track-building travails,

a word puzzle that inexplicably involves adorable plastic pickles,

or just the simple pleasure of antagonizing a good friend,

there’s something at CamasCon for every gamer.

Whether young

and exhausted,

feisty and argumentative,

or an experienced campaigner who is long in the tooth and just might have a gray hair or two.

Thank you to everyone who came and all those who worked behind the scenes to make Spring CamasCon a delightful experience for us all!

Boo Boo

Spring Break Survival Camp

Over spring break, Camas Meadows offers our only day camp. A chance for children, grades 3rd through 8th, to get out of the house and test their mettle against the great outdoors.

Every morning at 7:30 AM, the camp van meets families at the Park-N-Ride on Blewett Pass to pick up campers for their day-long adventure.

After breakfast with friends and a Bible lesson courtesy of Bald Eagle, the campers practice knot-tying with Choco and learn about the survival skill of the day.

Shelter building, food preparation, making water safe to drink, finding edible plants, setting snares, navigation, and safely building a campfire are some of the many skills covered during the morning lecture.

Then comes the best part.

Getting outside to practice all of those fabulous new skills!

Navigating through a scavenger hunt around the lodge with a compass … .

No Problem!

Melting snow over a campfire to make clean drinking water …

or even hot fir needle tea …

got it covered!

Setting up snares without accidentally catching the camp dog …

… harder than it looks, but still possible!

The campers learned how to make survival bracelets which contained a massive amount of useful para-cord as well as a flint striker, small compass, and handy wilderness whistle.

Princess Leia Freyja was of course interested in the constant music of tweeting whistles.

The campers were so fun and delightful as they concentrated fiercely on each lesson and then poured out into the forest to practice every skill.

From shouted queries during the Bible lesson to breaking into their personal piggy banks or even pursuing a lightning fast career as a young entrepreneur in order to gain an extra day in the outdoors, the campers tackled every day with grit and enthusiasm.

Thank you, Choco and friends, for the informative lessons and making it possible for these 20 enthusiastic outdoors-men and women to enjoy God’s lovely creation.

A week in the outdoors is always week well spent.

Especially when there is whittling, fire-craft, and shelter building involved!

Boo Boo

Camas Family Camp 2018

In early December, Camas Meadows Bible Camp heats up the lodge and gets the cocoa ready for former summer staff who wish to bring their own children to play in the snow.

There is tubing “The Hill,” building snow forts, starting snowball fights, and all manner of winter time fun.

Sure, it’s a bit chilly. But the whoosh of snow in one’s face is well worth the rush and excitement of thundering down the tube hill at full speed.

It is hard work though, and sometimes one must pause to catch a breath and take in the beauty around them.

Here, families carry their inner tubes up the steep hill, getting ready for the speedy trip down.

Ready, Set, Go!

Once the shivering sets in, Mom or Dad can take chilly young ones into the lodge for a warm drink and a snack.

We also enjoyed some indoor activities as well. Consider all of these amazing structures that campers built with Kapla blocks.

Yes, much building occurred. As well as fighting, but the good kind!

Nerf fighting!

Everyone got a chance to shoot someone, especially their parents!

A quick lesson in making puffballs for hats was a big hit. Thank you Pippi!

There is always time to make a furry friend.

And of course one is never too old for games!

This one is Pitch Car. Besides this, many card and board games were enjoyed. Some books were even read, while the reader curled up by the crackling fire, with a cup of cocoa, watching her rowdy sons play games with their dad. Yes, the board games and family fun were enjoyed by one and all.

 

 

 

Boo Boo

The Roof is Done!

 

Yes, it has been a long and arduous journey, but the new roof is finally on the main lodge!

There were many setbacks and difficulties, but through the assistance of good friends along the way, the mission was accomplished.

Sure, they had to sweep some snow off the roof to finish, but the whole thing looks lovely. Even Princess Leia Freyja approves.

Now, we can enjoy the snowfall, knowing that the roof is solid and ready for every glorious fake and drift.

In addition to the roof, we finished scrubbing the logs on the Mountain Panther cabin and then put on a nice red-tinted oil finish that will protect the wood for years to come.

Here are some finished logs next to the old ones.

It definitely brings out the natural beauty of the wood, as well as protecting the building from our harsh winters.

So many people jumped into this project. Scruffy spent many many hours as well as each of our boys and various folks from work retreat campers to kitchen crew.

 

Their hard work has finally paid off and as winter blows in across the mountains, it is good to know that Mt. Panther is not only lovely with a fresh coat of finish, but well protected from both sun and snow.

Thank you so much to everyone who gave their time, money, sweat, and blood to each of these projects. Your love and hard work is greatly appreciated! Campers will be enjoying these improvements for years to come. With the fresh snow and blustery weather, it is so good to be able to come inside and thaw out somewhere safe and warm after a hard day of play out in the beauty of God’s creation.

 

 

 

 

Boo Boo

Fall CamasCon 2018

When the first weekend in November rolls around, one or two board games can be found here and there lying about on various shelves at the camp.

There are also occasional stacks of board games on tables, on the floor in distant corners, and of course on the new shelve above the firewood box. What has happened? Why the sudden migration of games in a Camasward direction?

Did I fail to mention that these games were accompanied by sixty boardgamers all revved up and ready to sit in their chairs for the next 3-5 days strategizing on how best to save the world/take over the world/grow lots of vegetables/beat Scruffy regardless of what happens to the world in various epic showdowns that take anywhere from fifteen minutes to eleven hours to complete?

Yes, CamasCon is our camp for Christian boardgamers, wherein they spend an entire extended weekend playing games, meeting other gamers from around the area, and worshiping the Lord together during chapel times. They also get to eat, but very carefully! No one wants pizza grease on all those teeny tiny pieces!

One of the more difficult parts of the weekend is choosing the next game to play. With so many options and so many different people to play with, the choices can become mind boggling.

Should one choose a quick game that non-gamers to join, or maybe a themed game featuring superheros; zombies; dinosaur theme parks; or large grizzly bears that have saddles and can be ridden, or perhaps that epic eleven hour march through history that no one else has ever been willing to play with you … until now!

Once a game is chosen, say Terraforming Mars, it is time to find one to five other people who also wish to play that very game.

Sometimes this means switching games a couple times until you find a winner.

There are just so many options.

A game that piques your interest and people excited to play it with you, the perfect match!

These teenage gamers are finding out whether the Federation, Klingons, Romulans, Cardassians, or Feringi will rule the universe.

There is also the famous Camas Meadows Settlers of Catan Tournament which had two preliminary rounds and one final match. These four talented gamers battled it out in the final game, with ‘Merica (on the far left) taking home the win.

Another enjoyable aspect of CamasCon is seeing all of the different kinds of games that campers bring to play together.

Look at all of these fascinating miniatures.

Our chapel sessions were brought to us by baseball-card-and-ultimate-frisbee-geek, Mike Rumleywells, who was also a missionary in Nicaragua until this year.

CamasCon is also a great time to hang out with both new friends and those you love most in all the world.

Of course if a camper happens to stay up way way way too late finishing that epic game or world-shaking import… there is also plenty of time for a nap and a furry friend who is ever willing to join in.

The Mountain Muse 2018

October brings in chilly wind and creeping mists, changing leaves, and the knowledge that the brilliant bright summer is fading and the sparkling glory of winter is just around the corner. It is an in between time, but also a season of unique beauty. For me and a few other writers as well, October means that it’s time to step away from our hectic lives and make creative endeavors a priority.

It begins with breakfast on the first Friday of October. Writers at all different stages gather together with one goal in mind. Push away the voices that say we can’t and do our very best to simply write. We are writers after all. Even if the words aren’t great, their ours, and the vow this weekend is to get them down and learn to make them better.

The weather in early October is often gorgeous, but even when it is cool and drizzly, the beauty of the forest and small mountain meadow that waits just below the lodge are inspiring.

When the weather cooperates, writers can take long walks through the forest, enjoying the bright yellow of aspen leaves and the crunch of dry meadow grass underfoot. When the fog creeps in and the temperatures drop, the fire is always crackling in the main lodge and a warm scone and cup of cocoa await.

Without having to worry about cooking meals, doing laundry, toiling behind a desk, or driving busy children to and from various activities, The Mountain Muse is a weekend to refresh the spirit out in God’s lovely creation and pour our hearts out onto the page with hours of time to create.

Short sessions follow each delicious meal, just in case writer’s need something to jump start their creativity. But we don’t hold you up for long. The vast amount of the day is left open, so that writers can simply write.

The weekend was designed for writers, but as you can see from some of the lovely scenery photos featured, creatives of many different types enjoy the chance to get away. Our visiting photographer enjoyed getting out into the forest, taking some time to read, and seeing what a few moments to enjoy the peaceful forest can do for the soul.

Did I mention that all is not silence at The Mountain Muse? Yes, writers love to talk, especially to other writers. The only folks who can sit through a conversation with us about character motivation, sensory detail, and exactly how to get that villain through airport security without thinking we are crazy or delusional.

Much brainstorming occurred and our mascot, Princess Leia Freyja, was ever present. Always willing to lend an encouraging paw.

Writers of various ages and stages in their journey joined us, from young teens to Grandmas.

A highlight was the nighttime campfire, where we gathered to roast marshmallows and eat s’mores and take in the vast starry host above.

From letting ideas simmer in the company of like-minded folk, to getting the words down on the page for the first time, to editing manuscripts written in years past, every stage of the writing process was represented.

There are times when a writer must push creativity to the back burner and get all those vital bits of life done and done well. But there are those moments when you realize that creativity is also a vital part of being alive. We were blessed with the chance to take a moment to renew the spirit, to walk in the forest, to put pen to page, and pour forth words.

Whether our words shone with the skill of expert prose or the passion of a beginners first effort, there is a glory in making the attempt to create. Just like the one in whose image we have been made. The one who made humanity, our own desire to create, and the glorious world around us, so long ago.

 

 

Boo Boo

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