Camp Metamorphosis

Like the life-cycle of a butterfly, camp is a strange metamorphosis. Campers come, young and adorable, feisty and impossible. Some of them send their counselors over to our house to borrow a teddy bear and some of them ring the dinner bell at 3:00am.

And they begin to grow up and inevitably they outgrow camp. But a few of them keep coming back. They come back as dishwashers and C.I.T.’s. They come back as counselors and assistant cooks and paintball ref’s for birthday parties. Then they grow up again and this time their lives require money and so they go off to college and get jobs and outgrow camp in a more permanent way. But once again there are some that return. They return for workretreat and ladies retreat for CamasCon and Zombie Reball Night. And then there are a few who send their own young and adorable, feisty and impossible children up to be campers. And the cycle begins once again.

We have blessed them in some small way and then they return and bless us in ways that are impossible to describe. A strange and beautiful dance this metamorphosis.

There is one camper who has blessed us again and again and again. Most of you do not know her as a camper, but as Sweet Tea our fierce and talented head cook. Sweet Tea is the one who makes camp delicious. She is the one who takes an awkward gaggle of ridiculously green dishwashers every year and turns them into people who know how to work! She is the one who gives us culinary delights such as Camas burgers, chocolate chip mandarin scones, and her signature sweet tea. But yes indeed, Sweet Tea is also a camper.

A good decade before my father officially started the summer camp program, Camas did host the occasional summer camp. Sweet Tea was there that very first summer. They slept in tents in the meadow and there were no showers. So a couple of times a week they rode in vans down to the river in Cashmere for an evening swim that was supposed to be a substitute, but was probably more fun then hygienic. They wrote out Bible verses in alphabet noodles on rounds of wood and decorated them in moss. My dad was there, making up goofy songs about camp to the tune of old beer commercials. “C-A-M-A-S  Camas makes the best…meadows!” And they learned to repel off Inspiration Point and the cliff by the rock quarry the old fashioned way, wherein the person holding your life in their hands padded their clothing with handkerchiefs, wrapped the rope around themselves in a weird and complicated manner, and wore leather gloves to prevent rope burn as they lowered you down the face of the precipice.

And there it is, the odd and impossibly lovely life cycle of camp. Thank you Nadine/Sweet Tea, for being the first one to come back.



Zoe and the Midnight Puke Fest

Yesterday I didn’t have anything to write for the blog. I had procrastinated too long and missed my chance to interview our fabulous cook and I was in a panic. I rushed downstairs where the kitchen crew was playing a board game with Scruffy and Choco and informed them that I needed a quick and brilliant story about camp. Zoe kindly succumbed to my panicked pleas and agreed to an interview. When I asked Zoe if she could define camp for me, what it is that makes it such a strange and beautiful place, this was the story she told.

Once upon a time there was a sweet young C.I.T. who had a debilitating fear of vomit. And once upon a very similar time (the same week in fact) there was a camper who traipsed off to summer camp, even though she had the flu. The queasiness was just nerves, she assured her mother, it would improve upon exposure to camp and its various activities. But what actually happened, was that she shared.

And then, in the quiet darkness of the night, the flu bug struck down two or three of Zoe’s campers. One of whom leaped up out of a sound sleep, dashed from her cabin, down the hall, into the speakers room, and proceeded to vomit onto the speakers bed…while he was sleeping peacefully therein.

And so Zoe and her senior counselor proceeded to gather up their pukey charges, clean them up, and settle them back into their beds until their parents could arrive and collect them.

Finally, it was about 2:00am and all of her campers had succumbed to a fitful slumber, but there was still one task to be done. Clean up the vomit.

Although the campers were small, their collective stomachs had produced a spectacular mess that ranged down the stairs and into the domain of the speaker himself. Zoe pushed down her encroaching panic and went to the kitchen for the mop. “Ahhhhh!” her mind screamed, “All the puke! ALL THE PUKE!!!” But this was what she had signed up for and this was what being a C.I.T. was all about wasn’t it? Doing all the terrible chores until one matures enough to have sole charge of the campers. Through her tears Zoe filled the mop bucket with warm soapy water, retrieved the mop, and proceeded to her doom.

 And then, out of the nether Splinter appeared (a senior guy counselor) who was also up with his own troubled campers and he said something to Zoe that changed the way she viewed Christianity, and service, and the body of Christ. 

“Don’t worry about this, I’ve got it. Go be with your campers.”

And so Splinter and Shinobi cleaned up the vomit, even going so far as to clean around the unconscious speaker as he slumbered on in his pukey bed. Zoe went to bed and then awoke the next day to base her own service with the kids and the cook staff at camp, upon that moment. When someone who was older, who had more seniority than her, and needy campers of his own, took up her burden, her mop, and cleaned up all of that wretched vomit himself.

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






So…how did Scruffy get snatched up into all this crazy?

There is a hair-pin corner on the camp road that we call “Rattlesnake.” If it is icy, there is the possibility of launching oneself onto the guardrail or beyond. When I was a kid, our progress on this tricky bit of road was sometimes halted by insane teenagers slinging their bodies down this slippery slope on runner sleds. It was quite annoying and of course very dangerous. This was Scruffy’s introduction to camp. Yes, before he met Christ he was even crazier than he is now and after I married the man, I found out that he was one of those “foolish teenagers” risking life and limb and making us late for church, ha!

He grew up and ran smack into God at college and moved back home where he was an occasional speaker at AWANA and summer camps. Then he started dating me and wanted to earn some money before we got married. In a bold plan to earn grand piles of cash working with his brother up on the slope in Alaska, he quit his job and flew up to Ketchikan, AK. The bottom went out of the oil industry while he was mid-flight. He spent four tortuous months “unemployed in Greenland” or Alaska as it were, wondering if God even had a plan for him at all. He came home just as our current camp director resigned.

The camp board offered him the job…and we were going to turn them down, but promised to pray about it first.

Scruff wanted the job, he really did. But he’d only been a Christian for seven years, had a degree in landscape architecture, had never been to Bible college, he didn’t think he could do the camp justice. But he told God that he was willing to try, if that was His will.

My motives were less noble. I didn’t want to do it because I knew exactly how hard the job would be. I had just finished college and had never lived away from home. I wanted to get married and go away to Bible school and jump into an occupation that had at least a short honeymoon period. You know that first year where you don’t actually realize how difficult work is going to be. But camp? I’d grown up here. I knew all of the tribulations of camp. But I told God that I would try, if ordered to do so.

And so we rushed away from that board meeting, praying that God would make it clear to us, clear that this job was too difficult and untimely for Scruffy and Boo Boo.

We had a week to give the camp our decision, and by the end of that very day our prayers had miraculously changed. By that evening we were telling God that we really wanted to do this, but we were willing to say no, if ordered to do so. Once we said yes, an incredible weight lifted from Scruff’s shoulders. For the first time in a long time, he knew exactly where he was supposed to be. Sometimes, folks will offer Scruff a job somewhere else. He answers them before they even finish their speech, because this isn’t just a job. It is a call.

And really, aren’t most of the paths that God sets before us too difficult? Do we ever have the necessary experience or talent or perseverance for the task at hand? God knew Scruffy’s heart. He knew his passion and his personality and that he would be absolutely perfect for the job. And God knew one more thing, that we do not need to be ready and able, that is His job.

That will be fourteen years ago this May (23 years now), and I can think of no other occupation that would fit my husband better. He is the man who went down “Rattlesnake” on a runner sled, the man who will never really grow up. Scruffy was made for this place.

What about Boo Boo, the reluctant Camp Director’s Wife? Well, I found that the best things in life are hard. Being a wife, a mom, working at camp. I also discovered a small slice of camp that needed exactly what I had to give. I’d wanted to be a photo journalist as a girl and thought that dream was dead. Guess what I’m doing today? I stand quietly on the outskirts of the action (like the introvert I am) and photograph this wild beauty that is camp ministry. I listen, I observe, I jot down the stories as they happen. I post photos of your kids and write the story of each week on the blog, so that you can be a part of the adventure. Don’t say no just because a task is difficult. You will miss out on everything.

Psalm 139:5–“O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. You hem me in–behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.”

Boo Boo

The Call

My parents had a dream as well. Someday they said, they wanted to move up into the mountains and work at camp. But it never seemed to work out… until the call came.

The problem, nothing had changed to make it work out. Call from God or no call, moving to camp just didn’t make sense. They had a house that hadn’t sold. They were pastoring a church with a brand new building and no replacement pastor. My dad had built a playhouse that we couldn’t move with us and we had a Shetland pony and no horse trailer. But most daunting of all, there was no housing for them at the camp and no guaranteed income.

So what did they do? Left the playhouse, shoved the pony into the back of a pickup truck, and moved to camp into my grandparent’s house. Half of the week we stayed in their old home in Lake Chelan, an 80 minute drive from the camp, and the other half of the week our family of four lived in a single bedroom of my grandparent’s home at the camp.

And then my Dad started the summer camp program and all of the Camas run camps. We eventually build a house of our own and even got to live in it for 2 and ½ years before he died. Sometimes I can’t believe it was only six years. Dad worked his heart out at camp for six years and finally that very last summer he had enough camp counselors to go around and a fairly solid program. He didn’t have to be the director, program director, and speaker all at once and things were looking good. Then he died in an accident and we realized that those six years were his last.

I’ve thought about what Dad would have done if he knew he only had six years to live and love and serve here on earth. And you know what? He would have done exactly the same thing that he actually did. He would have left everything behind and lived his dream and changed camp forever. Camas Meadows went from being solely a rental facility to somewhere that created affordable summer camps for children all across the state. Dad started training his own summer staff, planning his own summer program, and changing the lives of children in our own community. He did not leave the nitty gritty of ministry in the hands of the churches who rented our lodge. He wanted to do it himself, and he made it possible for Camas Meadows to continue to do just that to this very day.

He listened to the call. Ignored all the crazy, and plunged ahead just as though what we were doing was sane.

It is amazing what God can do with just a handful of loony people and a dream.

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


Boo Boo