Middle School Camp 1
Middle School 1 was our biggest camp of the summer. With 65 campers, 16 counselors, our interns (yes, one of them had to counsel) and four support staff.
It was a delight to see the camp packed full of loud and rowdy kids. But this amazing week began with difficult news. A wonderful local school teacher, outdoors-woman, and worker for the Lord died in a tragic accident while on vacation.
She was a friend of ours, the mother of our oldest son’s good school buddy, and a light of God’s love in our community. Our staff and several campers knew her closely but we did not want to shadow their week of camp with such sorrowful news. So I watched as our intern staff broke down weeping, prayed, then wiped away tears and went back to leading the group. They threw themselves into laughing, shouting, raucous fun, all while deep inside their hearts were broken. I saw them sacrifice their right to grieve, so that these dear children could postpone their sorrow for one, glorious week.
It was a glorious week, indeed. Have you ever been in a room as 65 children sing at the tops of their beautiful voices?
Have you ever felt thunder rattle the room as 65 kids jump in unison to do the hand motions during fast songs?
Then when The Thing got up to speak, it brought us from laughter to tears again in an instant. What wrecked me, was his opening illustration about surrendering to God. He’d prepared the illustration weeks ago, but it truly rattled the staff in our moment of grief. He spoke about a seven day kayaking trip that he and his dad had taken, a trip which was led by the same man who had just lost his wife the day before.
Sorrow and joy, all mingled together. Isn’t that just like life? We follow a broken Savior into a broken world and yet, beauty breaks through all around us.
Yes, the second time she leaped, Meowth jumped even higher!
In keeping with The Thing’s theme, there were many stories of surrender throughout the week.
I was so proud watching the staff come together to keep track of one particularly active camper. The two guy interns and Scruffy jumped in to help. Boromir pulled a pillow and blanket outside to do F.O.B. with him on the camp lawn since laying still in the cabin was pretty hard for this young man. Then Bomber manned the life-guarding kayak even though this boy was the only one still out of the water. Her favorite moment of the week was watching him scream at the top of his lungs, full of pure joy, every time a wave hit his tiny watercraft.
When one of the girl campers hurt her ankle, the whole cabin rallied around her. They rushed to collect various items she might need and prayed for her together.
Yes, the boys had a blast playing golf with Stormbreaker, Zoboomafoo’s walking stick that occasionally wore a bow and showed up in a whole lot of skits on Thursday. But they also demonstrated their compassion and desire to serve, even amidst a great deal of wrestling.
MiniVan wasn’t feeling well, he had 12 campers who generated no small amount of energy between them. He was assisted by Flash and then Boromir just showed up at camp on Monday to counsel when we didn’t expect him. This was such a huge blessing as he was put to good use in this large cabin of boys. Well, an exhausted MiniVan was attempting to get the campers all calmed down, but one of the boys hurtled from the room. Where had he gone? Should MiniVan give chase? After a long moment, the camper rushed back with the rest of the cabin in tow. He had gathered them all so that they could pray for their counselor together.
Sis (our intern and Program Director for the week) told of when a camper pulled her aside and gave her a dollar. This sweet girl had realized that the canteen workers accidentally gave her an extra dollar in change. She had sought out Sis to make sure that the money was paid back.
One of the greatest joys of the week was getting the chance to serve with new Support Staff member, Zamperini. He is the son of the man who led Scruffy to Christ way way back in their college days.
But this fun personal connection was not what made the week so memorable. Although, Zamperini had already battled brain cancer and leaving home to volunteer at a location that is a good 30-45 minutes from the hospital was a risk for him and his family, this young man poured himself into work like no one we’d met before. He always had a smile and a high five for everyone around him and was constantly looking for more work to do! When asked what his favorite moment from the week was, Spectre (Camp Intern and Support Lead) laughed and said: “Every time Zamperini said, ‘I’m bored, they don’t have any more dishes for me.”
I had the honor of watching a brave, first-time Sr. Counselor and equally bold first-time C.I.T. take on their own cabin. We have watched both of these girls from the time they themselves were nine-year-old Jr. Campers. In fact, I was the one who answered the phone and walked one of them through the process of camper registration. Yes, as a fourth grader, she registered herself for camp and she has been blazing through the obstacles standing in her way ever since! The Lord is so good. These young ladies were a bit nervous about leading their first cabin, but a group of more respectful little girls would have been difficult to find. They asked to be excused from the table, checked in with their counselors constantly, and thanked them for leading their cabin! We had no way of knowing that these were the most gracious little girls of all time, but the Lord did and provided this special blessing of a first cabin!
Howitzer had to solo counsel his cabin when his Jr. Counselor went home sick. Though he was surely exhausted, we watched him wrangle a group of rowdy boys with grace and constant patience. Their skit with the bagels and the song that one camper composed and preformed solo, was amazing!
There were so many fun moments during the week, like when Epona explained to her camper about Joshua taking up the job of leading the Israelites from Moses and the camper shouting out: “Like Batman and Robin!” Or when Zoboomafoo sang “Hole in the Bottom of the Sea,” for most of the 80 minute drive home from Lake Chelan until he actually reached twenty-some items which he had to spit out at super-fast speed several times per verse. “A quark on a tater-tot on the cell on the hair on the mushroom on the porcupine on the whole in the bottom of the sea!!!”
As is often the case, his cabin full of 13-year-old boys were themselves full of great peskiness and energy. Nonetheless, with this incredibly active and fun-loving bunch, Zoboomafoo did the impossible. Not only did they rush into night-games with full enthusiasm, they also cleaned their cabin (gasp!), memorized 99 Bible verses (wow!), and won the cabin competition and the much-coveted wheelbarrow of candy!
On the last night during campfire, we asked the campers to carefully consider what they would like to say and only share once. With 65 kids, the process would take quite a long time if everyone thanked their counselors, then thought of something they learned, then popped up again to thank the camp dog. One camper thought long and hard about what to say. When she stood up to share, she thanked the camp staff, including the Support Staff who do the behind the scenes work to keep camp running properly. The campers never notice the support crew and all their hard work! We were so impressed with this observant and thoughtful young lady.
Half of the campers said that their favorite thing about the week was The Thing’s chapel sessions. What? Yes, that is exactly what they said. The Thing has a gift for bringing God’s word down out of the clouds and smack into the hearts of kiddos and they relish the attention and care that he gives them as he teaches.
After one boy stood up to tell his story and then share about what camp meant to him and how it had changed him, a girl camper who had been listening whispered to her counselor, “That was really brave.”
Isn’t that what we are supposed to be as Christ’s church? The people who encourage one another.
The people who notice the hard work of those toiling behind the scenes.
The people who set aside their fun to weep with the hurting. The people who set aside their grief to rejoice with a child.
A people so deeply surrendered to the plan of their Master that they realize it is only He who can win the day. A people who truly belong to Jesus.
This week I got a glimpse of what it means to surrender to Jesus. It was such a beautiful thing to see. May we surrender to Him just as completely, all the rest of the year.
James 4:7-8a–“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.”
*In order to protect their anonymity, I do not place photos of campers above their personal stories. Although, I may do so with staff upon occasion.