Middle School Camp 1
God uses strange things for His glory.
How did a weird tangent during cabin discussion about the omnipresence of God lead to a scary story about the boogie man, morph into lots of dancing, briefly shine as a fairly accurate reflection of the speaker’s theme for the week, and then result in the camp’s winning skit?
The amazing powers of God as He works His wonders in Middle School Camp through rowdiness, confusion, and more beauty than we can possibly imagine. I will get back to The Boogie Man Boogie, but first, let me paint a picture of life during a camp for this amazing and delightful age group.
First, Princess Leia Freyja greeted incoming campers at the registration tent. Check-in looked a bit different this year due to COVID restrictions, but the individual car-loads of people coming through the line six feet apart only made it easier for the camp dog to make sure that everyone had the chance to give her belly rubs.
Once campers got their stuff settled into cabins, they played a game of Whomp-Em on the lawn. Not only did campers work to learn each other’s names, but they got the joy of whacking each other with a pool noodle!
Once most of the campers arrived, it was time to head down to the fire pit and meet all of the staff.
Campers listened as all the counselors, support staff, cooks, nurse, and speaker share their favorite “Soup or Hero” with the group and introduce themselves.
Of course, Princess Leia Freyja took the opportunity to meet all the campers one more time, just in case one of them had failed to give her a pat at registration.
Clearly, the girls in Robin’s Roost did not miss any opportunities to give Princess Leia Freyja loves and snuggles.
A very important camp activity is running up the hill to the cabins and back down to the main lodge or the meadow, then up the hill to get some forgotten item, then back down. The counselors do this healthful sprint more than their campers as they accompany them up and down and up and down. Here Hiccup and Samurai start the week out with a few trips up to the Squirrel House with their campers.
On Tuesday, campers enjoy The Gauntlet! No, it is not some terrifying medieval challenge. The Gauntlet is simply an afternoon spent traveling between five fun activities in cabin groups. Our new disc golf course was one of them.
The Gauntlet also features another kind of golf. Mini golf!
Campers also got to play basketball …
While taking important breaks to pet the camp cook’s visiting doggy.
OK, dog patting finished, the campers moved on to more activities!
Extreme Mountain Croquet!
And slip-n-slide! Oh, wait. That wasn’t part of The Gauntlet at all. It was fun though and should definitely be included in our documentation of Tuesday’s events.
Don’t these girls make you want to jump on the slip-n-slide and give it a whirl?
Sure, you hear a lot about how stressful junior high is. But in many ways, the middle school years showcase the best of both worlds. The frolicsome fun of childhood with the thoughtfulness and spiritual depth of adulthood. This hilarious group of girls remind me of all that is wonderful about working with junior high students.
On Wednesday morning, Scruffy and Princess Leia Freyja led the campers on a hike to view the mountains across the meadow.
Yes, this gorgeous view is well worth the hike. But something even more amazing happened on the way there. Truly, God uses the strangest things for His glory!
During the hike, one camper kept peering at each flower we passed and asking if it was a rare flower. Lupine, Scarlet Paintbrush, fading Sunflowers. None of these were rare, although they are all lovely.
She had a family member back home who loved gardening and this young lady really wanted to show them a photo of a rare flower. My heart sank. We do have rare flowers here at Camas Meadows, but the Wenatchee Larkspur weren’t blooming yet. We also have several species of fragile flowers, the Mountain Lady Slipper and Trillium which are unlikely to grow back if picked. But these bloom earlier in the year and were long gone. I knew that there was one more rare flower in our meadows, but I didn’t know how to identify it and had no idea when it bloomed. Nonetheless, I prayed about this camper’s desire and then we continued on our hike. Even as I admitted that seeing a rare flower was unlikely, the determined camper paused to investigate every blossom. We rounded a corner in the trail and saw a group of DNR workers across the meadow. They had scattered small flags everywhere. What on earth were they doing?
They were marking the exact locations of some rare flowers! The Wenatchee Mountains Checker-mallow. I had not even thought of trying to find one of these blooms as this was that pesky flower I was unable to identify. A simple hope and prayer. A girl wanting to see a special flower to show her loved one. God saw this and answered in such a beautiful way. Not only were they blooming, but there was a plant biologist with a master’s degree in rare plants on hand when my feeble plant knowledge failed. When we are weak, He is strong! So here it is, the Wenatchee Mountains Checker-mallow in all its quiet beauty.
When I looked up this flower later, I was shocked to see that it only blooms in five locations around the Wenatchee area. To be fair, I was told this during my much grumpier teen years and had forgotten, failing to absorb the importance. Camas Meadows has the largest population of this rare plant in the world. Not only is the flower rare, it is also endangered. One website claimed that the Wenatchee Mountains checker-mallow was “the rarest known plant in Washington State.” Whether that is true or not, I would say that God answered this camper’s hope and prayer with a vengeance! We even got to have a lengthy chat with the plant biologist as she personally pointed out various blooms for me to photograph.
God’s work is mindboggling and lovely. This week He even answered my prayers about the camp photos. Catching the perfect moment, a lovely smile, the warmth of a hug, the essence of camp ministry, that’s hard to do. I was trying to get pictures of the Eagle’s cabin playing basketball, hoping for some wonderful smiles. Well, what I got were expressions of grim determination as they worked hard to get baskets.
Until my niece threw a ball that smacked right into me!
This amazing photo was the result.
We laughed and laughed about my near maiming.
Then I was blessed with this beautiful picture to send home to her mom! Yes, God answers prayers and He also uses all of our fumbles for His glory. If my lack of flower knowledge does not stop Him and my propensity to be in the way brings Him glory, what will the Lord use next?
Well, it was pretty sad that we couldn’t bus the campers to Lake Chelan for Lake Day this year. Lake Chelan is amazing, it is one of the top 5 clearest lakes in the entire United States. Nonetheless, we decided to help kids to cool off in whatever way we could. This resulted in the amazing Pond Day. Not only is the pond not Lake Chelan, but our lovely canopy tent was thrashed by the wind whipping across the meadow and broken. How on earth could God use that?
Good times with friends are not limited to days when you swim in crystal waters and the tent remains unscathed. That is such an important lesson for all of us, young and old alike. Resilience is vital to our walk with God and being able to find the beauty in the broken (and sometimes muddy) world around us.
Once we arrived at the pond, the campers actually jumped into (ha ha) to pond day activities with gusto.
It was wonderful to cool off, spend time in the sun with friends, and perhaps get a glimpse of a foot-long goldfish lurking in the shadows.
Nope, not one of the giant goldfish. But this camper has definitely spotted, chased, and even caught them before. Then again, he lives here and has all of the goldfish capturing advantages.
Another favorite Pond Day activity was kayaking.
Campers paddled around in the far side of the pond, while others swam in the near side.
Of course, if Pond Day swimming wasn’t their cup of tea, there was always Princess Leia Freyja to watch as she frolicked in her natural habitat.
What is her natural habitat? I think that position of honor is held equally by both “couches” and “soggy places.”
But whether it is a couch or nice patch of mud, Princess Leia Freyja knows how to get where she’s going.
Just point your snout in the direction you want to go …
… and leap!
Which incidentally, is also a great way to start the Pond Day fun!
On, Thursday, we tried something we haven’t done in years. Horseback rides for junior high campers!
Yep, middle school students still love horses!
I even got the chance to ride after I finished taking horse photos. I love to watch the camper’s faces as they meet the horse they will be riding and then start out on their journey around the meadow!
So, now we have arrived at Thursday night. Skit night! Yep, we are back to The Boogie Man Boogie. What exactly was the speaker’s theme that was so inexplicably illustrated by The Boogie Man Boogie? Finding your identity in Christ, of course!
Princess Leia Freyja is not surprised by God using strange things for His glory. After all, God uses her fuzzy presence and sloppy dog kisses all the time. Why not The Boogie Man Boogie? In fact, I overheard one camper explaining to her mom that she had been homesick on Wednesday but felt better because there were dogs!
So … back to chapel. This week, Chaos (the speaker), taught on finding your identity in Christ. One of the verses she used to help illustrate this important truth was 1 Samuel 16:7.
“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
The junior high years are such an important time to hear this message. I think that each of us struggled through middle school, wondering if we would ever be pretty enough, athletic enough, smart enough, think of witty comments fast enough, or finally get cut off jeans (in my case) so we would have value to those around us. But Chaos reminded the campers this week that none of those external things are what give us value. Our identity is in Christ alone. It is by the great value that He placed upon each living soul that we must judge our worth. He is our redeemer, the great shepherd who would leave the ninety-nine to go in search of the one.
We enjoyed a wide variety of skits on Thursday and many of them used scripture. Including this very rowdy wedding ceremony that quoted key animal-related similes that are of course highly romantic.
Song of Songs 4:2a–“Your teeth are like a flock of sheep just shorn, coming up from the washing …”
Exodus 9:17-18–“You still set yourself against my people and will not let them go. Therefore, at this time tomorrow I will send the worst hailstorm that has ever fallen on Egypt, from the day it was founded till now.”
I Corinthians 13:13–“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
” But the greatest of these is love.”
John 14:6–This is the way … nope, let’s try that again. “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life …”
“…No one comes to the Father except through me.”
And some skits tried to answer the great mysteries of the universe.
Such as, “Why don’t airplanes have e-brakes?”
But finally, we come to the terrifying but very spiritual story of The Boogie Man Boogie.
Once upon a time, Hiccup and Samurai were the fearless leaders of the Squirrel House. One of the discussion questions was, “What does God being omnipresent mean to you?” An eager camper leaped forward with an explanation.
Eager Camper–“When it is 3:00 am and I hear the boogie man rat-tat-tating on the window, I know that God is there.”
As you can imagine, the cabin discussion deteriorated fairly quickly after that. But it did result in much debate, laughter, and further discussion. The campers discussed the Boogie Man and his rat-tat-tating for the whole rest of the week.
Then it was time to think of a skit. The campers knew exactly what they wanted to do! Their counselors explained to Boo Boo in an interview after camp that their entire skit outline consisted of this short but expressive list: “Boogie Man, scared, God, and also dancing!”
Amazingly, most of these highly-active young men were actually paying attention during chapel and had also memorized the Bible verses for the week. So the campers knew just the verse that would connect The Boogie Man Boogie to finding our identity in Christ!
In their skit, when the Boogie Man leaped into the cabin of sleeping campers, they immediately judged him by his outward appearance.
But all he wanted to do … was Boogie.
And so they did!
1 Samuel 16:7–“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
And that, my friends, is how a cabin discussion became a scary story, galloped off in a wild tangent, morphed into an amazing illustration of the camp speaker’s theme for the week, and won the Camas Meadows Skit Competition!
That is how God uses the rough and rowdy insanity of middle school camp in the hearts, minds, and dance moves of kids at camp. Not only were their skits filled with scripture, many of these campers raised their hands to show that they wanted to become followers of Christ that week. Many more indicated that they wanted to recommit to following the Lord.
God is ever at work in the strangest places and most baffling ways. Isn’t He amazing!
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.”