MAMO, our camp speaker held up a transformer, then another, and another, until five plastic robots of various shapes and sizes cluttered the camp lectern.
How do you teach 1 Corinthians 12 to Junior campers? The very children who relish leaping about during the fast songs, but have such a terrible time sitting still during chapel?
Yep, these are the campers whose cabin discussion went much better, “After we confiscated the whoopie cushion.” Delightful and full-of-energy youngsters whose attempt to learn Biblical things was described by one of the staff as: “A lot of yelling and chasing each other around with toothbrushes!”
How exactly does one show these little ones that they are greatly loved by their Creator and designed with a purpose?
As a mother of seven, MAMO was not daunted by such a task. Before camp began, she prayed, watched, listened, and ordered a fabulous collection of transformers online that she had no idea how to put together!
Wahoo! The box arrived just before camp began. A colorful collection of teeny weeny plastic limbs, wheels, and befuddling bits that could have been a rocket launcher … but might also be a robotic elbow.
And so MAMO vamoosed unto camp, deeply hoping that faith was indeed the evidence of things unseen. For though the shiny sheet of directions that had accompanied her purchase declared her collection of colorful bits to be five mighty robots which when combined would form a single incredible robotic masterpiece of giant proportions, she saw nothing of the sort within the box that she held in her hands.
And so camp began! Crazy meadow games, wild worship, and an even wilder game of croquet at Lake Chelan. Yes, croquet can be rambunctious indeed! Who would have known?
MAMO jumped into the sessions, not knowing what would transpire if her amazing metaphor concerning “the body of Christ” turned out to be beyond the skill-level of all the counsel staff and campers combined.
While the five plastic robots toured the camp, going from cabin to cabin in a search for one who understood how exactly they were intended to combine, the chapel sessions continued.
She held up a simple but beautiful ceramic pot. Broken, but repaired by the Japanese art of Kintsugi. The art of using precious metals to transform something that was broken into a thing of beauty, even more valuable than it was before.
“You are not an accident.”
“You are a masterpiece.”
The pure, unadulterated fun and rampant joy of camp roared along between chapel sessions. Night games in the forest, starlight hikes, paintball, and horseback riding galore. Amidst all this, those plastic robots made their way through camp, from cabin to cabin.
In the middle of the week we received an unexpected blessing. Like Gandalf the Gray appearing at the Battle of Helm’s Deep, Falkor arrived mid-week to assist Zooboomafoo with his cabin of ten boys who were more often eleven since they’d welcomed the camp nurse’s young son as their official mascot!
At the campfire, children described conquering their fears when they came to camp for the very first time. Themes that showed up around the flickering fire again and again where words about finding a family, a home, and courage.
Finally, the chapel session arrived that required five completed robots, combined into one, just like the body of Christ … this epic creation was no closer to completion than before.
So MAMO handed those tricky robots to her daughter and my youngest son, then she stood at the front of the room, behind the old wooden pulpit. As two determined children squinted at directions and sorted through plastic pieces, she began to speak.
“You are not an accident.”
“You are a masterpiece.”
The session came to its conclusion. MAMO glanced toward the back where the two campers worked feverishly.
Were they done? Was it even possible?
“Just let us put on the head!” The two campers seized the aforementioned piece, shoved it in place, and rushed the completed robot up to the front.
Five robots in one, combined to make a giant. Seemingly impossible to construct, nonetheless there he stood, just as the box had promised!
Not an accident, a masterpiece.
Designed with a purpose. Just like each and every camper who gazed up at the camp speaker while she held the robot high.
“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
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 hole 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.