The Masks We Wear

Middle School Camp 2

One of the things I love about photographing camp adventures is capturing the beauty of campers as they relax, have fun, make new friends, and learn about God’s love for them.

On the first day, campers are a bit nervous. Their expressions are careful when I photograph them playing the get-to-know-you game. Their actions are cautious as they take in this strange new environment called Camas Meadows Bible Camp. But given a day with their cabin, campers’ joyous goofiness is revealed. So beautiful!

Perhaps this is part of why we as a people both hate masks and yet can be so quick to create masks for ourselves.

Faramir, our speaker for middle school 2, talked during chapel about the masks we wear.

As controversy rages about masking for healthcare purposes, we’re nonetheless prone to cling to the masks of our own making with grim determination.

Are we the smart kid, the beautiful one, the science nerd, the athlete, the drama star?

That’s fine, but what if we are more than one thing?

What does the beautiful one do if she also loves science, computer games, and Jesus?

What does the athlete do if he also loves baking, back packing, and Bible study?

You would think these amazing and complex individuals would simply trust the Lord who made them and rest in the fact that they are deeply loved by the one who died just for them.

But even we as adults sometimes fall to the same temptation.

What do adults do at work, at their kids’ school, when they walk into a board game convention, or at a church potluck?

All too often, we hide behind the exact same things as our children. When stepping into a group of people, we put on a mask.

When we are at work, that “super responsible employee” mask slips over our faces.

Volunteering at Jog-A-Thon at our kids’ school … well, the “perfect parent mask” takes over.

At a sporting event? Yeah, it’s easy to let the “passionate fan” mask slide into place. Or even the “telling the refs and players how stupid they are” mask or that pesky “I never swear with church friends but football is serious business” mask.

Therein lies the problem. The masks we wear don’t always play nicely together. Sometimes they appear to represent completely different people with a completely different set of values.

Is it any wonder our children do the same?

But while the “Christian kid” mask at youth group, the “chess club champion” mask at school, and the “his dad never counts the bottles” mask that get a child invited to friends’ houses appear to make them blend right in with each group they encounter, God is concerned about deeper things.

He sees past the healthcare masks we argue about, past those invisible masks we snatch up on purpose, and looks upon the person we really are deep down inside.

Man looks at the outward appearance (whether physical or relational or completely made up) but God is different. God looks at the heart.

That is what I love about the freedom found in Christ.

I am constantly delighted as I discover the same kind of beauty while taking pictures for camp.

I start out capturing one thing and slowly, as the week marches on, I end up seeing something completely different come into focus.

Yes, camp is about paintball, horseback rides, and celebrating your birthday with a tea party in the meadow.

Camp involves fake mustaches, water fights, and working together to TP every single cabin in a scramble of less-than-stealthy rowdiness that is sure to reveal who the culprit is.

But as the campers live all these crazy moments together, the masks begin to slip and the real person starts to shine through.

Amazingly, this happens when indoors with facemasks in place as well as out of doors when the face masks are shoved into pockets or hung nonchalantly over one ear.

Because it is that pile of invisible masks that are causing the most trouble. These masks are the ones keeping us from being honest with ourselves, others, and our Lord.

Faramir pointed out how difficult it is to experience our new life in Christ when all we are offering God is our “church kid” mask instead of our very selves.

How can we be light and salt in a world full of hurt when we pull on a new mask for every situation? How can we be different, be like Jesus, if we are simply blending in?

At least two campers chose to give their lives to Christ this week and many more made renewed commitments to follow Jesus in honesty and truth.

Why?

Because what we as adults can find so difficult to recognize, these children understand.

It is not the mask that is priceless, beloved, and precious in the sight of God.

It is the person.

The actual person is the one who can live and love and choose in whose steps they will follow.

God is calling to the person, not their many masks.

Clearly, the campers relished in this new knowledge as we had many mask and hat themed skits illustrating Faramir’s talks.

From epic battles between beard and hat wearing fighters …

… to the adventures of “Good Child” and “Churchy Person” as she tried to navigate life clinging to all of her masks.

The skits were both hilarious and thought-provoking.

And also, strange. We dare not forget strange. Sometimes the mask was a shark head monster that inexplicably appeared in an insane Scooby Do adventure.

Clearly, the shark head mask was far more dangerous than we even imagined!

But whatever props they used, the campers illustrated this truth again and again.

Jesus is calling to the real you.

He is longing to rescue the actual person you are, not everything you pretend to be.

Yeah, we have reasons for the masks that we wear.

Being honest with ourselves is hard.

It’s harder still to be honest with the many different people who share our world.

If we are honest, we will never quite fit in.

Some will judge us. Some will shame us. Some will discount us as unimportant and not worth their time.

But these people, they are not our judge.

We have one judge whose decision counts. One judge and He is the one who made the heavens, the earth, and all that is contained within them … including you, including me.

That judge, well, He is the one who made Himself poor so that we could be rich.

He is the one who suffered so that we could rejoice.

He is the one who was raised so that each of us can choose to be raised with Him.

And yes, He is the one who died so that though we die, in Him, we can truly live.

And how can this glorious transformation occur without being truly honest with our Lord, trusting in His love for us just as we are, and believing in His power to grow us into everything that we were made to become?

“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:  “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Luke 18:9-14

Boo Boo

Image of God: you’ve got gray hair!

Junior B Camp 2021

“Do angels have a hometown or do they just live on clouds without a bathroom?”

“How do I know God is good, if He has never done anything good for me?”

Welcome to the crazy-beautiful gathering of insanity that is Junior Camp!

These camper’s questions give some clues about how they (and we) see God, but how does God see us? The speaker this week taught on images, specifically how we were made to be image bearers. But first, let’s jump into what camp is like with this amazing age group!

Junior campers are joyful, undignified, a bit unhinged. They are a delightful cacophony of questions and wrestling, singing and screaming, leaping and napping, water fighting and praying, weeping and laughing, all rolled up with pure joy and faith and so much hope.

For the youngest of them, it is a giant spiritual leap to raise their hand during cabin discussion and ask why God created dinosaurs, violence, and poison ivy (yes, the counselor had an exciting time trying to answer these delightful little ones). For the oldest junior campers, they are mulling the kind of soul-deep concerns that trouble and stump adults.

As you might have guessed, that first question was asked in a cabin of nine-year-old’s and the second was from a cabin of twelve-year-old’s. Each query is vital as these little ones dip their toes in spiritual waters and consider a relationship with their Creator.

This age group is about a lot more than just crazy questions. They also make bold and interesting statements. Our speaker for Junior B was The Mom, mother of eight and a campus missionary with Cru. This week she was talking about how we are made in the image of God.

She used Legos and a $10 coupon to the camp store to illustrate the idea of being image bearers. Wanting to impress on these beautiful children the fact that just because we are broken images doesn’t mean that we have lost our value, The Mom took that $10 coupon and crumpled it, tore it up, and stomped on it. Then she gave it to a camper who was celebrating his birthday that week. “Will he still be able to get $10 of stuff from the camp store?” she asked.

The Mom gave a water bottle sticker to every camper and counselor.

“Yes!” The campers knew that the coupon still retained its value, even after so many difficult times, and so did they.

Junior campers are so very funny. At one point The Mom mentioned that she was pretty old. One camper spoke up immediately at this point. “Yeah,” he shouted, “your hair is gray!” I was sitting behind their cabin and this young man’s cousin was in front of me with his head in his hands. “Please don’t ask how old she is,” he whispered to himself.

“How old are you?” he yelled in a clear, strong voice.

But you know what? It was a perfect illustration of how our value doesn’t come from our age or our hair color. We are God’s image bearers and are priceless to him. When the speaker asked if anyone knew Philippians 4:8 that same camper took a deep deep breath and shouted out the scripture word for word. Weather we are precocious or quiet, we are so very precious in God’s sight.

Camp is important in so many ways. It isn’t just the chapel sessions that help children stretch and grow.

Having an adventure away from home for a whole week is an amazing accomplishment for kids this age. One of our guy counselors said that his favorite thing about the whole week was watching a camper who was homesick talk to his mom on the phone and then decide to stick it out for the rest of the week. By Saturday, this young man had gone from not being sure he would make it through the week to standing up at the Friday night sharing time and saying how much he loved camp. It is such an honor to watch children grow in strength and independence.

Camp is also a great time to try something totally new.

Who knows but that you might be a Ga-Ga Ball champion!

You will never know if you never try.

Some of these girls found out that they were incredibly talented at Ga-Ga Ball and some that it was something hilarious to do with a cabin full of girls who would soon become friends.

By the time this game was over, all were dusty, exhausted, and smiling.

Here, Princess Leia Freyja has strategically positioned herself between the girls playing Ga-Ga Ball and the boys playing Ultimate Mountain Croquet so that she can encourage one and all and of course get the maximum number of gentle pats!

These pictures were taken from the day that campers did, The Gauntlet!

No, this is not as terrifying as it sounds. Each cabin spends a set amount of time at an activity and then moves on to try another.

The campers go from disc golf, to archery, to mini golf, and finally Ga-Ga Ball as a cabin. Not only does this introduce them to some of the different activities that are available for the week, but it also helps them to bond as a cabin and make new friends.

The cabin who accidentally sends all their frisbees way way way off into the forest and then must spend an eternity crashing through the underbrush together looking for them together … stays together!

Of course the beautiful thing about doing an activity with your cabin is that one need not be fabulous at mini golf or croquet to have fun! This camper and her counselor are using the frisbees as fans.

After The Gauntlet on Tuesday came Pond Day on Wednesday!

These girls know how to leap into an activity with gusto!

While we certainly missed being able to travel to Lake Chelan, it was a delight to watch the campers enjoying the pond.

Weather it was jumping from the dock or taking a kayak out for a swim, this was a great way to cool off.

Everyone spent the long, hot afternoon getting exhausted at the pond before returning to camp for showers and a movie.

Thursday was horse day!

Campers got the chance to go on a trail ride with their cabin.

It was so fun to watch each child meet their horse before setting out on a ride.

You never know how God plans to use you during any given camp. I found myself going into a cabin discussion thinking that the Lord would use me to give a pair of very tired counselors a break or perhaps to have a profound theological discussion with this group of campers. What did God use me for? To make those counselors burst into uncontrollable laughter, of course. Apparently, I was the Lord’s comic relief as He worked within that cabin in very mysterious ways.

Laughter is good medicine and so I guess I won’t argue with God and ask for a different assignment. You see, this cabin was asking really tough questions. To let those counselors have a much-needed rest, Bomber and I took on one of their cabin discussions.

The campers were confused to see us. “Where are our counselors? We have LOTS of questions!” they said.

When I explained that we would love to discuss all their questions, these girls had an answer for us right away!

“No, we’ll wait for them. All of our questions are for our counselors.”

Instead of a deep theological discussion, the campers ate cookies, rolled around on the floor sticking their feet in the air, and talked about the camp dog. We did have a good prayer time and shared stories about those who have sacrificed for us and times we have sacrificed for others. But our discussion wasn’t anything like what I expected.

When I met those two counselors on the path after their rest, I explained that apparently their cabin had bonded with them more than they thought. They saved ALL their questions just for them!

The weary counselors bust into laughter. They laughed and laughed and laughed. They tried to stop but instead laughed some more. They stared at me and stared at each other and couldn’t stop laughing. It was very clear that God had not called me to help with the great spiritual questions of the world, but to remind two amazing young women that God had given them exactly what He needed to work in the lives of these highly inquisitive girls.

From watching the whole camp try to tell a pair of identical twins apart to having a cabin discussion that was so incredibly rowdy and loud (lots of wrestling occurred) that the neighboring cabin (one that was on a separate hill) came over to check on them and make sure they were all alive, the counselors had many favorite moments from this week.

One favorite moment was having a perplexed camper at the mini golf course ask, “What size are normal golf balls?”

“These are normal golf balls,” I explained.

“But they said this was mini golf!” the camper said.

Some of our favorite moments are things that we find out later, after camp.

When a camper had to go home a day early, it was so hard to say goodbye. Later, her mother wrote a note that amazed us. Apparently, this young woman had decided that she didn’t want to go to camps anymore after having a bad experience when she was younger.

Then camp wasn’t even an option in 2020. When the summer of 2021 rolled around, this mom started searching for a camp that was open and found us. She talked her daughter into giving camp one more try. This camper never shared her concerns about being here, she simply decided to give us a chance and jumped into the week, hoping that all would go well.

Her mom wrote that she loved her time at camp and was already talking about coming back next year. Although we had no idea that this camper was coming reluctantly, it was such a beautiful thing to be a part of her journey as she took a risk and learned to love camp again.

You never know what kids are going through behind the scenes.

The camp speaker touched on this when she talked about broken images. Each of us is made in the image of God, we were lovingly crafted and reflect something important about our Creator.

But the world we live in is hard. It is packed full of people who are making their own choices and sometimes we wake up battered and bruised. Whether it was something a parent or friend did or one of our own foolish mistakes, there will come a day when we look at ourselves and doubt that we carry God’s image at all. We don’t see it. What we do see is pain, struggle, suffering, and shame.

But what does God see?

A precious person, made to be like Him. A person He longs to welcome home as His child. A person that He sent His son to rescue. A person He is waiting for, like the father in Jesus’ parable who was waiting for his angry young son to finally come home.

God is like that. He is the worried shepherd who notices that one sheep is missing. He is the woman searching her house for that single, valuable coin. He is the broken-hearted father watching His son storm out of the house. He is waiting for us to take a step on the road back toward Him so that he can rush out to meet us. He longs for that moment when He can pull us into His arms.

Luke 15:20–“So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

I was in the meadow at dusk, watching the campers sing “I’ll Fly Away.” They used the entire meadow. The worship leaders were back at the fire pit but the campers had flown.

The motions for this song involve spreading your arms like wings and rushing around the room. The campers flung their arms wide and zoomed all the way to the end of the mowed grass in the meadow. They were just little dots in the distance flying and flying and flying.

Camp is a raucous affair.

Whether it was the identical twins “multiplying” in their skit on the story of creation, the Squirrel Cabin’s skit that was so unintentionally funny that Scruffy literally wept with laughter, or the fact that a camper was actually injured while doing the motions to a song (yep, he tripped on a root while “flying away” landed on a bench and hurt his leg), the camp experience is undeniably rowdy.

Trauma Trooper, the camp nurse, actually quantified some of this. She treated eight bloody noses, used nineteen icepacks, twenty-three Band-Aids, treated twelve lumps and bumps, nine bites; stings; and rashes, and had five instances of vommiting.

But even amidst all this rowdiness, or perhaps because of it, God’s message rang clean and clear.

You are made in the image of God. Nothing can change that.

No amount of pain, injustice, sin, or destruction can alter the fact that you are made in God’s image.

No force on earth can reduce your value and even more than this, God wants you as His very own.

Rush into His arms child.

Come on home.

Luke 15:5-6–“And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’”

Boo Boo

P.S. To preserve their anonymity, I do not place an individual camper’s picture above their story.

Boogie Man Boogie

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?

Behold!

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!

Archery!

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.”

Wait a minute. Is the Boogie Man sad? Is everyone looking on his outward appearance?

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.”

Boo Boo

Atomic God Bomb: The Still Small Voice!

Senior High Teen Camp 2021

We saw God work with incredible power this week. The power of an improbable coincidence followed by another improbable coincidence that was followed by five more, the power of the Spirit’s gentle nudge, the power of the cup of water given in Jesus name, the power of the still small voice.

When thirty-seven teenagers masked up and hauled their luggage into the lodge for Sr. High Teen Camp, they were starved for connection, community, and just camp itself. Gracious, after a year stuck at home, so were we. Though we felt inadequate, God’s call was clear and strong.

We could not have run camp if even one of our counselors had decided not to come. And guess what? Three of them were last minute additions. The Lord knew of our needs long before we realized them ourselves, even putting camp on the hearts of experienced former staff as early as February. It was so amazing to watch Him work to bring just the right counselors for each cabin’s hurts and heartache. He lined up staff who had just come through difficult trials, the same kinds of trials that their campers were currently facing. We were amazed as we watched Him work. The more we needed Him, the more His power was revealed.

And the miracles were not contained to counsel staff. We were short an assistant cook and a friend of Sweet Tea’s just happened to be available for the first half of camp. Then, Scruff chatted with one of our former staff members as he dropped his sisters off for camp. He became available to help in the kitchen right as Sweet Tea’s friend was leaving. Another former kitchen worker who hadn’t been to camp in years texted Scruffy out of the blue, asking if we needed help. Yes, yes we did!

Here MiniVan and his camper do the motions for “I’ll Fly Away” during outdoor worship

Amidst the crazy fun of camp, we saw that the still small voice of God had begun His work long before campers arrived. Maybe that isn’t a fair description at all. Amidst, presumes that the crazy fun is separate from the work of God. In my experience, God uses the very rowdiness of camp to do great things for His kingdom. The thrill of night games provides community which rolls over into cabin time, allowing new friends to share their hearts in a way they never would have before running through the woods screaming and laughing together.

And it was rowdy and fun and full of life, finally! After fifteen months of ministering to one family at a time with individual retreats, camp was full of riotous sound and the incredible intensity that thirty-seven teenagers provides. It was so very lovely.

I go to bed before anyone else at camp due to getting up early to write. As I lay beside my open window, roars and screams filled the forest outside. Nope, not fifty bears having a brawl. Campers, playing night games in the woods, filling the darkness with laughter and ridiculousness for the first time since summer 2019. I fell asleep smiling. The wildness of camp at work in the lives of kids can sound insane, but it is the very best kind of crazy! We have missed that sound so much.

This wildness is what can be confusing to people at times. It doesn’t always look like ministry and yet, we are honored to observe and participate in ministry of a purity and depth that I’ve rarely found elsewhere. Just like the Atomic God Bomb coming in the form of the still small voice. Confusing, but indescribably lovely all the same.

How does wearing a bison hat and kitty ears in the cabin skit draw kids to God?

What about a rousing game of GaGa Ball with your cabin?

Making or even missing a basket on the sport’s court with new friends?

A quick snuggle with Princess Leia Freyja, the camp dog?

Launching water at an unsuspecting friend?

Revisiting a grade school game?

Fun on the paintball course?

Swimming. Not in a pool, lake, or even a sparkly river, but in a pond.

Becoming a weird battle-hermit-crab-thing through the use of a laundry basket?

Donning glowing necklaces, bracelets, halos, and even nose rings for the amazing (and very neon) Worship SmackDown! Yes, even a glowstick artfully displayed on your nose can be a vital puzzle piece in someone’s walk with God.

What is it about all of these seemingly disconnected and crazy-looking activities that leads to this moment? A young woman choosing to make a declaration about her relationship with God by asking to be baptized in our humble pond. This moment certainly looks like victory, spiritual growth, and ministry.

What you might not know is that this moment of victory, coming up out of the murky water of the pond with a joyful smile, surrounded by spiritual mentors. This moment would never have happened without all those other seemingly less spiritual times together.

Why did this young woman want to be baptized here? She could have taken a class at her local church, walked down the smooth steps of a baptismal, and been submerged in pristine and well-chlorinated waters surrounded by the church body.

It is because the body of Christ is not contained by a church building. Her church, the church, is here too!

And this part of the body of Christ, this is the part who had sword fights with her. This small segment of the church is the one who did crafts with her on the porch, took her out to Inspiration Point at midnight to worship under the stars, dunked her in the dunk tank, screamed with her while she zoomed down the slip-n-slide, applauded the crazy skit she did with her cabin, listened when she told her story, and held her as she wept.

The part of the Body at camp is simple, humble, obscure. But God works in mysterious ways and yes, sometimes those ways involve a foam sword or a glowing nose ring. It is the very humbleness of the ministry that gives it Atomic God Bomb power.

We expect to see God in the mighty wind, the destructive earthquake, the raging fire. We expect our Messiah to topple kingdoms and ride to His throne on a warhorse. But sometimes God comes in the still small voice. And our Messiah, well, He rode to His glory on a donkey and was lifted up to victory on a brutal Roman cross. So when our speaker this week planned sessions around God’s Atomic Power, it is no wonder that we saw that power at work like a still small voice among us. We serve a Lord who said that His disciples would receive honor for the simple obedience of giving a cup of water in His name. He is a God who does mighty works with simple people in humble circumstances.

God worked with quiet power. A camper asked to talk with the speaker about a relationship difficulty. Then the very person they’d been struggling with stopped and talked with Van Helsing. That camper walked toward the firepit in front of Van Helsing and he felt the spirit prompt him to ask if he wanted to talk. They had a two-hour conversation that was made possible by that still small voice working with power in the humble venue we call camp.

Our camp nurse had never shared about her battle with anxiety with the staff before. Yet, at staff training she told her story. Then along came senior high camp and so many of our precious campers were battling anxiety. The counselors were able to tell their campers that our very own nurse also had this struggle and still manages to do important work at camp, not the calmest environment out there. We had camp counselors who thought about not coming up to serve because of their own anxiety. God called them anyway, with great insistence, and you know which campers were in their cabin? Exactly! The still small voice of God, working with earth shattering power in the lives of His people.

Here, Scruffy is scowling his displeasure about all of the cracker packets that the ravens have strewn about the camp. He is not fond of ravens. Do you know what else his is not fond of? Sharing his story.

Which seems crazy to those of us who have heard his story. God brought Scruff out of an incredibly dark place. He was actively antagonistic toward God, even going so far as to write a paper with the goal of disproving God’s existence. The journey that led that angry young man into the arms of Jesus is so amazing, but Scuff is loath to share it as he feels people need to hear from others besides him. If pestered, he shares his testimony from time to time. What he has never shared at camp, is the story of how his brother committed suicide four years ago.

Despite his reluctance, God brought this topic up again and again. Simultaneously, He set a weight on Scruffy’s heart that sharing this never-discussed story was important. It started on Memorial Day weekend when a nine-year-old girl said that 2020 was the worst year ever. Scruff smiled and said that he’d had several worse years. He expected to walk away from the conversation at that or perhaps hear an exhaustive list of the awfulness of 2020 from the eyes of this sweet little one.

Instead, that little girl gazed up at him and asked which years were worse. He told her that 2017 was one of his worst years. Undeterred, she asked why. In words appropriate for one so young, he tried to explain the pain of losing a sibling to life-long depression.

Then senior high teen camp came and camper after camper talked about depression and suicide. Scruffy held onto his story, not sure if he should share or when it would even work to do so.

The weight of Scruffy’s story remained. He stopped me on the stairs as we were rushing off to camp. “I think maybe I’m supposed to share.” I told him that from where I stood, it was pretty clear God was calling him to do just that. He met my gaze and said he didn’t know when he could possibly share. Our speaker had all the sessions planned and it wasn’t exactly a pleasant dinner conversation or a cheerful bedtime story.

Then it was campfire on Friday night. We sang worship songs under the stars, snuggled up in blankets around the fire, and silence filled the meadow. No one shared. Finally, Scruffy stood.

Scruff told them about his brother. About missing a phone call from him in the middle of a busy camp summer and then finding out later that he was gone. He told them what it felt like to lose a loved one. The guild, grief, and despair. Scruffy told our campers that suicide does not make anything better for those left behind. He was given the strength to share what he had never shared at camp before by the still small voice of God. Nothing else is as powerful!

Campers began to stand up, toss their sticks into the fire, and share from their hearts. Campers shared who weren’t going to share … but because of Scruffy, they knew that they could. So so many of them were struggling. So many needed to know that yes, dark moments can overwhelm, but life is not made better for those left behind.

So yeah, camp doesn’t appear exactly like what people think ministry should look like. There are more water fights and less hymnals. There is more mud than expected and sometimes bugs in your hair. There is screaming as Partake dons her wedding dress, Choco puts on his tux, and while wearing terrifying make-up they swoop down the road riding on one-wheels.

The worship includes glowing nose rings and things get blasted with an air cannon during chapel time. But God has a habit of using the humble things in this life to do mighty works.

Those campers who swam in the pond with their cabin, ran from Partake zooming by in her wedding dress, laughing during skit night, and cried during worship. Those campers were being ministered to all week. They were loved in little and big ways all week long. Until their hearts were soft enough to hear the still small voice of God. That same gentle whisper that called the staff to come play paintball, gaga ball, and mini golf. The same whisper that commanded Scruffy to speak of his pain. That is what a week of craziness with new friends and caring counselors does. It helps hurting hearts to grow strong enough to dare to listen.

1 Kings 19:11-13b

“Then He said, ‘Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.’ And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.

So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave.”

Boo Boo

P.S. Besides the girl who was baptized (from whom I got permission) I do not put a camper’s story by their picture to preserve anonymity.

Staff Training 2021

As I sat in my writing chair doing cabin assignments, I heard the sound of an acoustic guitar on the hillside above our house. Worship in the outdoor amphitheater, which is a fancy name for a collection or old log benches that circle the inner slope of a natural bowl in the land between Squirrel Cabin and Mountain Panther. The sound of singing filled the forest with energy as it drifted through our windows. This was the first time I’d heard camp-style worship since March of 2020. I am so grateful that the Lord has called us to serve once more through the crazy beauty that is called camp ministry.

It can be challenging to jump back into something that has been lost to you for a year. Yes, camp was still ministering to individual families in 2020, but we hadn’t hosted a large group for over a year.

But the call was so very clear: in the remarkable way that God provided speakers, nurses, cooks, and counselors. So many small and large miracles have made camp possible this year.

From the camp intern who started having specific chapel session ideas long before we told her that we needed a speaker for our last Junior camp, to the experienced guy counselor who surprised us and just showed up at staff training, the Lord has amazed us with His provision.

When the staff applications stopped coming in, I crunched the numbers. We didn’t have enough experienced girl staff. I showed Scruff and we both stared at the cold hard facts. Would I have to counsel cabins this summer instead of take photos, edit photos, post photos for parents, and write the blog? How would people react to not having the daily updates on life at camp that they had grown accustomed to? We prayed, again. Once more coming before the Lord in desperate need. Then Scruffy got a message from a girl counselor who had just finished her degree and felt inexplicably called to reach out and ask if we had enough girl staff. What we didn’t know, she’d had camp on her heart since February and finally sent a text that she’d had on her phone for a long time. God knew and God was preparing His people to serve in mighty ways.

Scruff could think of one more person to ask about counseling, but he knew she currently had a great job. He almost didn’t send a message, but in the end, didn’t want to say no for her. So he asked. She had just given her three weeks notice since she’d accepted a new position. The camp we needed her for most, well, that fell right between jobs. She was free for that precise week of camp.

There were two weeks of camp where we still required a cook. Out of nowhere, God laid our on the heart of someone we would have never asked and she volunteered to come and serve at camp. Choco, who has been working a different job this year and hardly ever has days off, suddenly had some time off. He and Partake dedicated a huge portion of that precious time to camp in helping us with worship, an unending string of maintenance issues, and the more complicated camper check-in and check-out schedule that Covid-19 guidelines require.

Again and again, we watched Him provide for the summer in a cascade of small but deeply-needed miracles. Finally, we were training staff at camp once more. Counsel staff and support staff, all learning together. The art of washing dishes, leading cabin discussion, unclogging a toilet, sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Service of every kind, vital to camp ministry, this was the week where we gave them the tools needed for the job.

During staff training, something happened that reminded us of the long-lasting power of giving of yourself wholeheartedly in ministry. Epona, one of our interns, was teaching on how impactful small acts of kindness are to campers during their week. Years and years ago, when she was a first-time camper, she was super-excited about her horseback ride. Garmin, her counselor, drew a picture for young Epona of her horse. Epona still has that picture to this day. It was so meaningful to her, she kept it for twelve years.

Well, it has been a long time since Garmin was at camp, but on a whim, Scruff decided to text her about how that one sweet act both encouraged Epona as a girl and gave her a tool for teaching future staff about how to connect with their campers. Scruff was shocked to see that he hadn’t messaged Garmin since 2013, but he sent the text nonetheless. Well, Garmin messaged back saying that she totally remembered that week of camp. Not only that, but she was particularly discouraged that day and had asked the Lord for word of encouragement. Then, here was this text from Scruffy telling about how her week at camp so long ago is still having an impact in campers lives as Epona teaches the staff using Garmin’s simple act of love as an example.

Staff training is beautiful that way. Young staff learning from older staff. Stories of camps of the past retold for a new generation. That video on how to unplug a toilet being shown just one more time! It’s not just the older staff teaching either. The younger ones have things to say as well and are constantly challenging us and brightening our days with their questions and insights. As someone who just sent her youngest son to staff training to watch him listen to lectures on both the magic of working the camp dishwasher and the simplicity and power of the gospel, I am so grateful that my sons can receive this training. Watching staff both receive and give to one another as we prepare for this crazy thing called camp ministry filled my heart and reminded me why we do what we do. Thank you Father, thank you for giving us the chance to serve You in this crazy and lovely way!

1 Timothy 4:12–“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”

Boo Boo

Five Ways to Prepare Your Child for Camp

Are your kids about to zoom off to summer camp but you’re not sure if they’re ready for a week away from home? Well, here are five things you can do to get them geared up and ready to go!

#1 Prepare them for some independence

Attending a week of camp is a huge right of passage for a child and a big step in their independence and growth! I was a camp counselor for many years, married a camp director, and worked training camp staff for years after that. Nonetheless, when our oldest went to camp I was shocked at how hard it was to let him go. We literally live thirty seconds away from the cabin where he stayed. It was still so very difficult and so incredibly good.

Up until that time, I had always been on hand. I talked to other adults for him when he was shy. I dished up the kinds of food he liked. I could tell by that slight weariness in his eyes when he was getting sick. I knew that he liked me to read to him at night and sing a song.

But you know what? Camp counselors can read and sing, too. During that week of camp, I saw something beautiful occur. Our son became part of a group of boys, thundering around with their counselor, totally independent from my hovering, having a total blast. He learned to go with the flow without me there to explain everything and smooth the way. He learned to advocate for himself by asking his counselor for help if he needed a buddy to walk the dark trails with or forgot his toothbrush. My heart ached and swelled with pride simultaneously when his counselor said that he woke with a nightmare and then fell back to sleep as his counselor stood beside his bed holding his hand. My little boy was growing up.

Prepare your child for this adventure by telling them to ask for help, think of strategies if they miss home (write a letter, read a good book at bedtime, snuggle favorite stuffed animal), and assure them that this week will give them vital skills for life and their relationship with God for years to come!

#2 Pack the right clothes

Camp is a place for running through the grassy meadow, pounding up and down the twisty dirt trails, or even playing a game of ga-ga ball immediately after a thunderstorm has left the ga-ga ball court slick with mud. Pack accordingly. We’ve had kids who only pack designer clothes, flip flops instead of tennis shoes, or even high-heeled snow boots with furry accents but no real tread. Prepare your child to enjoy the outdoors with a good pair of tennis shoes or even hiking boots. Sandals are fine, but if they wear them all week their feet will hurt and they might trip on the rough terrain or roll an ankle. Pack clothes that can get dirty. Pack for a wide variety of weather conditions. Here in the Cascade Mountains it can reach freezing temperatures at night even when it is sweltering in the daytime. Shorts and t-shirts, socks and sturdy shoes, long-sleeved shirts and pants, a sweatshirt and pajama pants for lounging about, a modest swimsuit, a thick blanket to drape over their shoulders during the campfire, and plenty of clothes to change into. They will get grubby fast and packing a few extra outfits will be perfect for after that impromptu pine needle fight.

Pro Tip: Teach your first-time camper how to make bundles of clothes so that he or she can find an outfit for each day easily. Fold a pair of pants, a shirt, undies, and socks. Stack them on top of each other with the smaller items inside. Roll them up into a clothing burrito and then wrap a strip of masking tape all the way around the bundle. Have bundles for cold days and hot days. Now finding new clothes every day is easy and your camper is more likely to actually put on something fresh!

#3 Pack the right equipment

A flashlight! So many campers forget that it is dark here in the forest. Yes, we have electricity when the generator is on and for a few hours after that as the batteries give us power for a while. But eventually, the power goes out and it is quite dark. A flashlight and extra batteries will help your camper to go back and forth between the mail lodge and their cabin, rummage through their suitcase after the lights go out, or even read a book quietly in their bunk without disturbing the rest of the cabin.

Some camouflage, dark clothing, or even a black cape/gorilla mask for the night games. It sure puts a damper on playing Mission Impossible when you only have a bright white sweatshirt and get captured right away. Do you have a retired soldier in the family? See if they might donate their old camo for your camper’s night game adventure. Head to the thrift store to see what’s been donated or ask grandma to sew a black cape with a hood. At the very least, pack one set of dark clothes including dark shoes and socks. Your camper will smile when they dig through their suitcase and see that they are ready to plunge into the night in disguise.

A sleeping bag and pillow. Yep, sometimes campers forget these important items. Make sure that yours is prepared. For younger campers, a special stuffed animal can make their bunk feel like home. I have loaned out many stuffed animals over the years and of course the camp dog is always available, but a stuffy from home is a special touch.

Toiletries! Yes, they will still need to brush their teeth, run a comb through their hair to remove pieces of bark and lichen, and maybe even wash their faces and hair. Sometimes campers arrive hoping that all of these things are behind them. Our counselors will kindly urge a continuation of basic hygiene, but it sure helps if they have a toothbrush!

A good book. There is very little down time at camp, but we do have one hour of FOB (flat on bunk) in the afternoons and some campers have trouble resting. A good book can also help them settle down at night if they are all revved up after all their adventures and can’t sleep.

A Bible, notebook, and pen. Yes, we have Bibles that your camper can borrow, but it is always nice to have your own and a notebook and pen can make the chapel sessions even more meaningful as your camper jots down things from their week.

#4 Leave some things behind

Does your camper think that they cannot live without their phone, a fine collection of stink bombs, a pair of matching machetes, or their five angry cats? Yeah, they will be fine without those. One of the main benefits of camp is disengaging from the digital world. So, leave that phone behind and bring grandma’s old camera or a single-use disposable camera instead. And the stink bombs, yes, pranking at camp is a fine tradition but all pranks must be cleared by the interns and anything that destroys property weather through a horrible stench, sticky duct tape residue, or a mountain of shaving cream … well, these pranks do not gain approval. If your camper is longing to hone their wilderness skills and learn to use a pocket knife correctly, sign up for our spring break survival camp. But for all other camps, leave those knives at home. Yes, my sons once smuggled a pet chicken into their cabin, but I found her and brought her back home. Please leave your pets behind and enjoy Princess Leia Freyja, the camp dog, while at Camas.

#5 Be ready for different

Camp is not like school, home, or church. Camp is different. That’s one reason we love it! Sometimes campers are alarmed by this. I have fielded many questions from children about camp. “Where are all the video games?” or “Why are there hand motions to the songs?” or “Why are kids pounding their cups on the table, chanting, and racing around the lodge during dinner?” or in the case of my sons, “Why do I have to wear shoes?” Get your camper ready to enjoy something different. They’re going to love it!

Boo Boo aka Kristen is the granddaughter of the camp founders, the daughter of the camp’s first director, and the wife of Scruffy (the current director). She began her career in camp ministry in the dish pit with her best friend at the age of fourteen. They were terrible dishwashers but eventually got the dishes clean after swamping the floor with an inch of water and screaming whenever they had to touch discarded food. Her three sons are now involved in camp, too. The oldest is a counselor, the middle son is cook’s assistant, and her youngest is following in her footsteps with dish pit adventures of his own. Please shoot her a message or call if you have questions about camp or your camper. She has also been known to track them down for you, take reconnaissance photos while hiding behind trees, and post those reassuring pictures on the camp facebook and instagram pages so that you know your camper is alive. She believes that camp is a vital adventure, both for childhood health and joy as well as for our growth as followers of Christ.

Meet the Interns!

Introducing Epona, Dauntless, Bomber, and MiniVan!

We have four amazing interns who have chosen to serve all summer at camp. These guys are the best and your children will have a blast as our Camas Interns lead the way in fun and faith adventures!

Hey, listen! My name is Epona; and, as implied, I love horses and The Legend of Zelda. My youthful appearance belies my age; I might look like I’m twelve or sixteen (take your pick), but I hail from the twentieth century. Camas Meadows Bible Camp has been a part of my life since I was (very) small; my family used to go to a winter retreat there every year, and my older siblings Spike, Rhyme and Splinter were involved in the summer camp ministry long before I was. Because of them, I was instilled with a yearning to be part of that experience myself. I was a camper for four years; and then, the following year, I plunged right into being a counselor.

Since 2013, I have been involved in the summer camp ministry; not counting 2020, this will be my eighth consecutive summer as staff at CMBC. In January 2019, I came to live at camp to work fulltime as an intern, which is the role I currently possess. Counseling at Camas has always been both a tremendous challenge and a great joy, and in that regard, interning is no different.

Being here for such a long time, I have been able to witness God impact many individuals through the ministry of Camas. I have seen several past campers, including my own, grow in their faith and leadership and transition into the role of staff for themselves, which is indescribably encouraging. This is a special place to me, and I am incredibly blessed to continue to serve here in any way I can. I am truly grateful for the experiences I have had, the relationships I have forged, and the many opportunities God has given me here at Camas to grow in my faith and in my character—if not in my height.

Call me Dauntless. I grew up in a Christian household, where I was raised by loving parents alongside four siblings. Throughout the years I’ve participated in Royal Rangers, Junior Leadership Training Academy, and Civil Air Patrol. I succeeded in getting my Gold Medal of Achievement in RR, as well as my Saber from JLTA and the rank of Cadet Staff Sargent in CAP. Though each program had its own way of functioning, they each taught servant leadership, leadership which I have seen exemplified and been able to exemplify at Camas.

The first time I went to Camas was when I was 12, at Jr. High Winter Blast. I immediately fell in love with the atmosphere, the area, and the people. The following summer was my first Summer Camp ever, at the age of 13. Immediately I was hooked, and I continued to come up, first as Support Staff for rental camps and then again for the next Winter Blast. For the next three years I volunteered as a Counselor or participated as a camper depending on the week

This is my sixth year being a part of camp, and the impact Camas has had on my life is incredible. I’ve learned so much about what it means to be a follower of Christ from my Counselors, and from Scruffy, and Choco. The community that’s built during camp is a beautiful thing, and a great representation of the Church. Each staff member being a different part of the Body of Christ, working in unity to provide a loving environment in which to share the gospel, and encourage spiritual growth. I’m excited to help provide that environment for the incoming campers and staff.

Hi, my name’s Bomber. I only came to camp for the first time in 2018, but was immediately hooked. Never before had I felt so surrounded by God; thanks to the love, faith, and service of everyone at camp. Camas is my spiritual happy place and I am so excited to be a part of loving, sharing faith, and serving this summer.
 
For many years now (relative to my age, at least) I’ve been involved in and passionate about children’s ministry. I’ve led Sunday school, VBS, and even went to Houston for a week to lead in their VBS program. Within the last four years, I joined a local youth group led by Camas speaker Van Helsing. I became a part of its student leadership team for two years. This youth group was how I came to camp for the first time! While none of those experiences have been quite as intense as camp, they have all led me to this point. It is incredible to see kids discover joy in Christ. I wish that I could have found that kind of relationship with God at a younger age. That is just one reason I am honored to serve at Camas.
 
This summer will be full of new challenges and experiences. Through whatever comes my way, it is so reassuring to know that the Camas family has my back and that the grace of God will always stay the same.

Hi! I’m Minivan… or as some know me, Thatcher Weedin. I’ve been going to Camas as a camper as long as I’ve been able to and have been a counselor for a similar amount of time. Camas Meadows has meant a lot to me over the years, as it has allowed me to strengthen my relationship with Christ, given me some of my best friends, and has allowed me to discover a gift of music. Through my years of service at camp, I have been faced with many trials and leadership challenges, such as taking care of 13 rambunctious junior high kids with one other counselor. Outside of camp, I have had other leadership opportunities, such as leading a local youth group, and working in a very chaotic job environment.

I’m very excited to take a stab at leadership this summer! I know that God has many great things in store, and I am glad I have the opportunity to be a part of them.

A note from Scruffy and Boo Boo,

We would love it if you’d pray for our interns as they lead the staff into this summer! If you would like, you can also support them financially by giving them a gift here: Donate 

Be sure to designate your donation for the interns in the comment box. Thank you!

Hello Summer Camp!

After fourteen long months of being closed to groups, and having ministry change from eighty-person crowds to a quieter ministry of supporting individual families and personal retreats, we are finally gearing up for summer camp!

It’s been a long, confusing winter and now we are eager to welcome campers back to Camas Meadows.

However, this summer will not be the easiest or the smoothest. This will be a summer full of personal sacrifice—not a walk in the park. Then again, we are not located in a park. Camp is in the wild. We are used to things that are not easy. This summer is going to be hard. However, Princess Leia Freyja figures that we can do whatever is required, as long as we bring her some campers to love.

What is required of us in order to run camp in these crazy times? Camp will be running at half capacity. There will be masking and social distancing of course, but the more difficult task is making sure that folks don’t come to camp sick. The state requirements are that campers and staff must arrive with either proof of a negative Covid19 test within the last three days or proof of vaccination.

Well, as you can see, Princess Leia Freyja is clearly saying that it will be worth it. You know what? We agree. If we are being given a chance to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with children and welcome them into the wildness and beauty of camp, we will do it.

But despite the difficulties that these guidelines bring, we have been called to this ministry and that takes precedence. Plus, we have a lonely camp dog on the lookout for some kids and we would hate to disappoint her.

If you’re interested in the nitty gritty details, here is a link to the rules for operation that Washington camps must follow. (Guidance for overnight camping begins on page six.) We would greatly appreciate your prayers as we dive into this crazy summer. Thank you so, so much for your support over this quiet year and your prayers as we prepare for the beautiful rowdiness of children coming up to camp!

Philippians 1:3-6–“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

The Silent Summer

How do you say goodbye to a summer?

The lodge is empty, quiet, hollow. Normally, at this time of year the entire building echoes with giggles, shrieks, shouts, singing, the clatter of forks on plates as heaps of pancakes are consumed, and the rhythmic pounding of cups on tables as counselors teach another generation of campers that super annoying cup game. In case you were wondering, I am an expert at the cup game. But this skill will do me little good this year.

Camas Meadows has provided our own summer camps every year since 1986 when my father left his pastorate to usher Camas from a purely rental facility to a place that planned, staffed, and ran summer adventures for kids ages nine to eighteen.

Not this year.

This year, we are grieving the loss of a summer ministry that has been a part of Scruffy’s life for the past twenty-one years and part of mine for the last thirty-four. Yes, as a girl I slept in the corner of Robin’s Roost Cabin (before it was Robin’s Roost) on a make-shift bed while my dad ran staff meetings. Camp has been the focus of my summer since before I was even old enough to be a camper.

One time, I drove past an orchard that was being cut down. The trees were in the full-blush of spring bloom. Covered in a glorious snow of pale-pink blossoms. Full of beauty and life and the potential for a fruitful year. But they had all been cut down. They lay on their sides, in full bloom, dead. All of a sudden, I find myself feeling like that orchard.

Camas has run summer camps when forest fires raged in the Cascades, after my father’s sudden death, and even during Scruffy’s first summer when he was hired in May (with a landscape architecture degree and three year’s experience working at a Christian music warehouse) and had all of one month to prepare.

This summer, a global pandemic has forced us to rest the land.

We, as a people, are not used to resting. It has been shocking as business grinds to a halt and anxiety skyrockets. If Scruffy is not a camp director, if I am not Boo Boo (camp director’s wife, camp blogger, camp photographer) with all of the vital tasks and important daily details that this job brings with it … what are we?

In the Old Testament, God commanded the people of Israel to rest the land every seven years. If produce grew on its own, it was available for the poor and wild animals to eat. Then every fifty years came the year of jubilee, where the land rested once more, but in addition, property that had been sold was returned to its original owners. The people and the land both rested before the Lord in obedience as a sacrifice and expression of faith.

Why haven’t we rested the land before this? Well, we are not under Old Testament law … and rest is difficult, expensive, and simply does not come naturally. There are a million and one things to do and so many people that we do not wish to disappoint.

But this year rest has been forced upon us, and though painful, there is good here, too. Good amidst the sorrow of seeing a quiet summer and an empty lodge. As we were discussing these difficulties, another camp director told Scruffy, “We consider this our year of jubilee.” I do not want to miss this opportunity to trust God and learn the important lessons He has for us in this time of upheaval.

This sudden quiet is a forceful reminder of the incredible value of our calling. As Scruffy and I have fielded phone calls, emails, and facebook messages about camp, parents and kids are showing us again and again that Camas Meadows has played a vital role in not just their enjoyment of a fabulous and fun summer, but in their walk with God as well.

With so many children being separated from their school friends and spending more and more time inside in front of a screen, the need to get out into God’s creation with a bunch of new buddies has never been higher. It hurts to hear the hopes of parents and children alike and to have to tell them that this year a summer camp experience is not an option. But if we ever doubted the vital nature of camp ministry, this has shown the need so clearly. Kids need the woods, new friends, leaders they can look up to, and a week-long encounter with Jesus.

There are indeed moments during the hustle and bustle and constant insanity that is summer camp when I am overwhelmed. Will I ever have an uninterrupted conversation with Scruffy again? Who exactly thought up a schedule that doesn’t allow for a day off from May until the end of August? Will my sons ever stop singing There’s A Hole At The Bottom of the Sea? Why did Zoboomafoo think it was OK to have 26 verses in this song?

But oh what we would give for a splash of insanity right now. Camp is a wild, intense, passionate experience with God. Yes, it brings about bone-deep weariness. A weariness that I am seeing more and more as a badge of honor and the mark of a job well done. This forced quiet has caused me to take a good long look at the fatigue that I so often struggle with during the summer and see that there is a great and mighty worth in that struggle and the work that is accomplished.

God has provided something we did not ask for, want, or even consider possible. A quiet summer, resting the land, thinking upon our calling and the nature of the work He has placed us in. I refuse to waste this opportunity. Yes, it is shocking, painful, and something I have never done before. But we could spend this quiet in anxiety and fear or we could pour it out like a drink offering, a jubilee to our Lord. As Scruff and I walk through a meadow filled with wildflowers, we are reminded of God’s faithfulness and care. As we stand in the empty lodge and long to serve the rowdy hordes of campers once again, our calling becomes crystal clear. As we listen to birdsong in the morning and the low hoot of owls at night, the deep import of camp ministry settles upon our hearts. This time of reflection is important.

After so many busy summers, perhaps a moment of quiet is vital, lest we grow weary of doing good and forget why we lead water fights and insane songs and encourage kids to throw cheese slices dipped in mayonnaise at each other in a competition to see how many will stick. The camp belongs to the Lord. He is faithful and we can trust Him with its care. So now, we will let the land rest. And when He calls us into service once more, we will be ready. Stronger, more focused, absolutely certain of our calling. Sometimes, rest is actually faith, worship, and trust.

Boo Boo

ParTaco!

It’s official! On June 19th, in a small ceremony on the meadow, Choco and Partake were married under a warm summer sun.

Choco and Partake met through camp and it was fitting that they spoke their marriage vows amidst the tall, waving grasses of the meadow just below the camp lodge. Since the Covid-19 pandemic meant a small ceremony, Choco built a scattering of wooden benches using wood rounds from our local forest and set them up in the meadow facing the aspen grove at the far end. Partake designed a log trellis which Choco built for her out of cut aspen trees. With the help of their officiant (Van Helsing) it was up and ready for their big day. Their guests, only a few close friends and family, walked the narrow path from the lodge to the meadow to enjoy the ceremony. Van Helsing, our regular Sr. High Teen Camp speaker, preformed the ceremony and Choco and Partake sealed their covenant with a kiss under a flawless expanse of blue. Guests grabbed water and soda from an antique bathtub filled with ice and wished the happy couple many years together. Of course, the camp dog ensured that everyone was finished grabbing drinks when she climbed into the antique bathtub to cool off and get a quick drink herself. It was a true Camas wedding: an excited couple who could trace their relationship back through many days spent serving at camp together, the gentle beauty of our Lord’s creation surrounding them, laughter, tears, and a few unexpected surprises. We at Camas Meadows Bible Camp would like you to join us in wishing Choco and Partake well on their journey forward together. Congratulations, ParTaco!

Boo Boo