This week of camp held many unexpected twists and turns as well as surprising moments of beauty. Much like this rare flower blooming right beside the dusty path down to the meadow. It is a protected flower, a biologist comes to count them every few years. Yet this one is thriving, out in the open, right beside the path that we walk every day. While this type of flower may be in danger, this particular blossom is relentless as it grows and blooms in such a rowdy location. It is ironic that one of my favorite photos from this week would so aptly illustrate our theme.
All three of our interns were required to work as camp counselors this week, leaving Scruffy and Bomber working to run the program and lead the support staff team along with their normal jobs. The interns both managed their cabins and helped those who had stepped in to take over their areas of expertise. Our camp nurse Trauma Trooper was suffering from back pain, therefore Mama Smurf assisted her as she cared for our campers and their various bumps and bruises. Phew! So many things ended up differently than our best laid plans.
Also, our camp speaker was unable to attend due to illness. Therefore, Scruffy needed to speak! During staff meeting on Monday, he gathered three different hats/wigs from the skit box. Scruff wore a different one as he led each of the different parts of the meeting as director, the program director, then speaker. Scruff brushed off a week’s worth of sessions that he taught for a rental group back in 2018 and we gathered as a staff to pray for extra strength and do what we were called to do, summer camp!
And into a wild and wonderful week of camp we went! While registration was going on, we played some games together to help the campers get to know each other and the staff team. First up, Chair Ball.
For chapel, Scruffy started with a crazy car story from his college days. In fact, one boys’ cabin actually acted that story out in their skit. It’s the one where they have towels on their heads and get a door slammed in their faces when they ask for help. You should ask Scruff to tell you the story of The Dust Storm And The 77 VW Dasher.
During the first Morning Jam worship session, I was sitting in the lodge sorting through pictures and posting the best ones for parents to enjoy. I noticed that in the group of boys behind me, there was one who REALLY wanted to do the motions to the fast songs, but his buddies weren’t quite ready yet.
After watching him try again and strike out, I left my computer and joined their cabin. That delightful camper was not daunted by the idea of doing song motions with a 44-year-old mom. He was just thrilled to be doing fast songs and motions and to be part of all the fun. I pulled aside one of his counselors and told him how excited his camper was about the motions. His counselor assured me that he would sit beside him during chapel and do the motions with him.
Later in the week, I saw that his cabin mates had come around. They were enthusiastically doing motions and singing at the tops of their lungs.
On Friday, at the campfire, this same camper stood up to share. He talked about the stars in the sky and everyone there looked up to the heavens to look at the stars, too. Then he said, “Worship made me feel like I was part of things and not left out.”
You never know what God will use in someone’s life. Crazy camp songs, or even a shaggy dog who gives slobbery kisses to one and all.
Another story from Junior B Camp, we had a homesick camper who was trying to decide whether to continue his week of camp or to go home early.
His counselor was attentive to his concerns and needs, giving him special care and trying to encourage him as he struggled with missing his home and family.
The camper mulled over his choices, feeling homesick, but also enjoying camp. Finally, he made his choice. He was going to stick out the week!
After that, he would check in with Scruffy regularly throughout the day.
“Look,” he’d say, “I’m still here!”
This camper slowly made a switch from needing a good deal of encouragement to taking the time and energy out of his busy camp days to encourage others.
On one day, when Scruff was wrestling with the message that he would give that night, this camper walked up to him, gave an encouraging word, and said: “Can I give you a hug?” It nearly brought Scruff to tears to see this little one actively using his gifts to help others.
And what message was Scruffy wrestling with, trying to figure out exactly how to share? This week, Scruffy spoke about God’s pursuit of us.
Like a shepherd traveling into the dangerous wilderness in pursuit of his one lost sheep.
Like a woman cleaning her entire house to find that one valuable coin.
Like a father rushing down the road to pull his broken, starving son into his arms.
Like Westley … or The Man in Black, pursuing Princess Buttercup when she is trapped by an evil prince who is able to force her into a loveless marriage since the law of the land caters to his every whim.
After reading scripture about God’s pursuit of us, Scruffy ended the chapel session by playing a song. He expected the campers to sit in quiet contemplation, thinking about how much God loved them.
The song was Reckless Love sung by Cory Asbury.
But contemplative silence was not what happened.
One of our most precocious girl campers heard the music and just started belting out the song, full voice, loud and strong. Slowly, more and more children joined her.
The words were included in the video, so even children who didn’t know it could sing along. By the time the video reached the chorus for the first time, the entire room of children were singing.
No one was leading them. Staff simply watched, amazed, or wept like Scruffy and I.
Adults would have known the purpose of the video, thinking on the words, enjoying the music, thoughtful, quiet, orderly.
But God doesn’t tell us to come to Him like orderly adults who understand social cues and are quiet when they are supposed to be.
“…unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
No, our Lord said that if we want to be His, we come to Him as children or not at all.
And so the children sang. No leaders, top of their lungs, some in tune, some out of tune, some both. One boy sang harmony every single time instead of only on the ending chorus. Wild, reckless, joyful, strong. They didn’t sing because it was time to sing.
They sang because they saw that they could and knew they wanted to.
This, my friend, is how we must come to God.
Not confident that we know all the dos and don’ts.
Not with pride and a feeling that we are more worthy than others.
We must come as children.
Like children who hear a song and simply know that they want to sing.
When the song ended, that obstreperous little girl who has started it all looked over at me and furrowed her brow. “Why are you crying, Boo Boo?”
How on earth could I possibly explain?
So, I didn’t.
“I’m just worshiping,” I said.
Baffled, she shrugged and marched off to the next camp activity, having no idea that what had just happened would stick with our entire staff as one of the most amazing moments of camp.
So much beauty. So much craziness. It was such a busy and boisterous week.
One evening, Orchid found herself rushing around, madly searching for one of her campers.
She zoomed up to the lodge and found the “lost” camper with the nurse.
“Why didn’t you tell me you were going to see the nurse?” she asked.
“You told me to go to the nurse.” The camper reminded her.
Orchid sighed, the camper was right. It had been her idea for this camper to go and see the nurse, but when Orchid had gotten to the activity she’d wondered where the camper had gone.
The camper reached up and patted Orchid on the top of the head. “It’s OK brain, you can do this, just one more day.” It is so delightful when the campers learn how to encourage their counselors as they do the delightfully rowdy job of keeping each of them safe. So much learning and growth happened in the lives of these wonderful children.
One of the most fun moments of the day is worship time. Before they start, Epona always asks the campers to give her three reasons why they want to praise God.
The reasons vary, from grilled cheese to Princess Leia Freyja, there is always something to praise God about.
This week, one of the funniest reasons was this: “Praise God for Dragon scaring people and praise God for pie in Dragon’s face!”
Yes, the Watchamabob where Dragon was hiding under the table and when the campers lifted the box, they saw her head was very memorable.
What was also memorable was when Brennan lifted the box and splatted Dragon in the face with a whipped cream pie!
Then of course Dragon burst out of her hiding place and chased Brennan all the way across camp!
Hiccup had a moment to praise God for this week. He shared about a package that was incredibly encouraging to him.
He was in the middle of a very hectic week of counseling. His particular group of boys were incredibly energetic. He was starting to get discouraged when a strange package appeared in the mail.
It was sprayed liberally with perfume. Everyone at camp knows that smelly packages or letters have to be opened in public.
He opened the box … to find a smaller box.
He knew exactly what that meant. Box after box after box after box. “That package!” he said. “It was good to be reminded that at least some people thought I was doing a good job.”
Hiccup and Meteor Knight’s cabin was indeed incredibly active. They did everything together and they did it at full speed with every ounce of energy they possessed. Their counselors were kept quite busy chasing these rambunctious boys throughout the week. But they also memorized Bible verses and cleaned their cabin with just as much enthusiasm as they played Ga Ga Ball and Night Games. In the end, they even won the cabin competition!
Hiccup’s cabin was not only known for their speed and volume, one of the campers also kept telling Ragnar (Hiccup’s brother) that he reminded them of his Grandma. Ragnar would do something and the camper would reply, “Oh, my Grandma does that, too!”
Scruffy pointed out that Ragnar did wear a bathrobe over his clothes for a good portion of the week, which might account for all of the Grandmother references.
Boo Boo was startled to hear some fairly paternal words coming out of the mouth of Ragnar, her middle son and first-time C.I.T..
Once such occurrence appeared when Ragnar was tasked with getting the cabin to change into pants for the night game.
Camper–“I’m wild! I don’t need pants. I can do this in shorts!”
Ragnar–“You can be wild with pants on. Go get some pants!”
Rowdiness was not only found in the boy cabins. True, I didn’t hear any of the girl counselors tell about how they were awakened from a nice FOB nap by the sound of their campers racing through the rafters. But the girl campers kept their counselors on their toes just fine.
Our cook, Earhart, was sitting by the window in the lodge and was delighted to hear her sister Kanga leading cabin discussion. How wonderful. How sweet. “What is sin?” the campers asked.
Kanga and Orchid explained.
“But what is sin?”
Kanga and Orchid explained in a different way.
“Hmmm … so, what is sin?”
Kanga and Orchid explained yet again.
In the end, Earhart smiled in amazement as she went back to the rigors of the kitchen. Kanga was left to explain one more time.
It is no easy task to wrangle excitable children, keep them safe, make sure they are having fun, and tell them about the love of God all in one wild week!
During the campfire, we are reminded how God uses all of this wonderful rowdiness for His glory.
“I wasn’t sure that this would be as good a year at camp because I didn’t have any friends in my cabin. But everyone just welcomed me in.”
“I learned that everyone has troubles, not just me.”
“I love how everyone makes you feel at home.”
“I learned that God searches for you like a lost sheep and wants to put you on His shoulders and take you home.”
One of my favorite and rowdiest moments was when I was in charge of a boys’ cabin for about fifteen minutes.
Hiccup was up at the lodge and MeteorKnight had to take a camper with a possible allergic reaction up to the camp nurse.
Therefore, I found myself the caretaker of five young boys and in charge of handing out glow sticks so that they could share in front of our LED fire.
“Sounds easy,” you say. Well, no it’s not. You see, you have to hand out the glow sticks but keep the campers from cracking them until they are indeed ready to share. Otherwise, they begin waving their glow sticks around, then leaping around, then running around in the dark and tripping over wooden benches and getting hurt. Do not ask how I know this!
So, I was very carefully handing out glow sticks to “my” campers, one at a time, lest unsafe frivolity occur. Each boy got one. They shared.
“I thank God for grilled cheese sandwiches!”
“Ga Ga Ball was so awesome!”
“Night games, night games, night games, raaaaaar!”
The boys used up my last glow stick and I settled in, prepared to spend my remaining time shushing them.
“Can I have another glow stick?” one little boy whispered.
“I’m all out,” I informed him.
“Can I share even without a glow stick?”
“You’ll need to do it soon, they’re about to wrap things up.”
“I’ll go after one more person goes.”
No one went.
Scruffy got up and was about to signal the end of campfire, when he paused. “If there is anyone else who wants to share, this is your last chance.”
My camper stood up and went to the campfire. “Before I came to camp, I didn’t really believe much in God. But now I know that God has more of an impact on my life than I realized.”
He didn’t have a glow stick to throw into the “fire” but another camper saw and threw his own glow stick in for him. That wild and rowdy camper knew when he had important words that needed to be shared. Seeing him boldly walk forward, without a glowstick, reminds me once again of God’s great love. He seeks us, relentlessly, with the kind of love that doesn’t make sense. Then He calls is to follow, not like learned students or stately theologians. No, He calls us to come like reckless and rowdy children who just know that God is who they want.
Matthew 18:1-3 –“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’
He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.'”
* To preserve their anonymity, I do not share a camper’s story underneath their picture.