The Summer Staff Winter Retreat is one of our very favorite Camas-run camps!
Scruffy started this camp in 1999 and over the years we have seen so many staff and potential staff form strong bonds of friendship and grow in their relationships with the Lord as they get the chance to be campers!
Yes, our counselors and the support staff that keep camp running behind the scenes work incredibly hard. This camp is their chance to be campers and to just enjoy being together as friends after a long summer of focusing on work and ministry.
Princess Leia Freyja is always thrilled to see the staff she remembers from the summer come back to give her pets and belly rubs. If this were a painting, I think it would be titled “Leia Rampant” as she gives a little hop before charging into the game of hockey.
Princess Leia Freyja is a puck hog and whenever she plays, she bursts straight through all of the whacking hockey sticks to grab the puck and spirit it away. We usually leave her in the main lodge, but she occasionally escapes and rushes to join the fun.
Scruffy was our speaker this week and between hockey sessions, snowball fights, and games of King Elephant he led the campers in thoughtful discussions about living in the tension of following God.
Yes, this is a game of King Elephant. It is harder to play than it looks!
What did Scruffy mean by the tensions involved in following God?
Have you ever read Bible verses that say we should be smart with our money and talents? Have you ever read Bible verses that say we should trust God completely to take care of us?
Another one is God’s call to selfless sacrifice and God’s call to Sabbath rest and self-care. Jesus Himself urged His disciples to get away from the crowds to eat and rest and Jesus Himself urged His disciples to pick up their cross and follow Him in a life of sacrifice.
We are uncomfortable with God’s word when it is confusing. But what if God wants us to live in that tension?
Yes, it is 100% true that He calls us to live faithfully.
Yes, it is also 100% true that He calls us to rely on His grace.
We had some amazing discussions as we dug deep into God’s word and the confusing but amazing ways that He shows His love, power, and care to His people.
There were also some amazing snow forts built and a spectacular snowball fight!
Rowdy games of chair basketball.
Quieter moments of board games, crafts, and time spent sipping cocoa and talking around the fire.
It takes an incredible team of volunteers each year to make our Camas-run camps happen.
Taking the time to pour into the lives of those volunteers and potential volunteers is vital.
Yes, they need to be strengthened and have the chance to grow closer to their Lord just as much as the non-staff campers do.
Time to rest and talk.
Time to enjoy Princess Leia Freyja snuggles or a raukus game of Grog in the dark.
Time to boldly guard a piece of firewood from the attacking team.
Or dig snow tunnels together with friends.
Yes, even time to be amazed that this tree fell a whole inch away from this camper’s truck and not flat on top of it!
Scruffy and I are always exhausted this time of year. We go straight from Christmas to Summer Staff Winter Retreat the day after, to a rental camp that arrives the same day that our summer staff campers leave.
However, this camp is so important. An important time of learning, connection, and just plain fun together in God’s creation. The camps this summer will be all the better because our staff had a chance to grow and connect during the winter months. Yes, God has called us to both carry our own load and to bear each other’s burdens!
Once upon a time, there was a young mother who refused to write a camp blog.
Her husband Scruffy was a camp director and he thought that a camp blog was an amazing idea … for her to write. But she was busy with her three young boys (ages 9, 7, and 5) and attempting to revise her angsty YA novel for the 16th time. She told the Lord that if He wanted her to write a camp blog, well, He was going to have to make that VERY clear.
Now, she loved camp ministry. Loved hearing the stories of camp adventures from staff, campers, and speakers. Loved taking photos and writing. Plus, she had always dreamed of being a photojournalist. However, none of this occurred to her as she stared at the overwhelming idea of starting and writing a blog for the camp where they lived and worked.
Then, some good friends who knew that she loved to write gathered the funds from an amazing group of helpful folks and sent her to the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Conference in Texas! She was so thrilled! What an adventure. Now she could take that angsty YA book manuscript and maybe get an agent and maybe even find an editor who loved it!
The ACFW conference was amazing! Boo Boo zoomed from class to class learning new writer things, meeting agents and editors who were sadly destined to reject her manuscript, and even finding a critique partner! She and her critique partner have worked together on story after story for over ten years now. It was an amazing time.
During the keynote address each day, the conferees would sing worship songs together. During one of those worship sessions, they sang, “Our God” by Chris Tomlin.
Now, Boo Boo learned that song at camp. Worshipping with the wonderful camp counselors and a room jam packed with rowdy children. There is something completely unique about standing in a log lodge on a mountain meadow while fifty children sing at the tops of their lungs around you. Camp worship is Boo Boo’s favorite!
But there is also something incredible about standing in a room of several hundred women (and a scattering of men) and worshipping the same God together. The God who is our creator. The God who gave each one in that room a passion to write, to tell tales, to create beauty and laughter and story … just like Him.
As Boo Boo sang she was overwhelmed until she couldn’t sing anymore. So she just stood there and she wept.
And suddenly, that wasn’t enough. The incredible weight of having so many stories to tell, but not knowing if she was good enough, talented enough, if what she wrote would ever find a publishing home … the weight was so heavy.
Writing is a risky business. One can easily spend a lifetime penning words and never see “success.”
Added on to that weight, Boo Boo thought of that camp blog that she’d refused to write.
She felt the panic of it, the added burden of what she should be able to do and couldn’t. There were so many things to get done, and the list never dwindled.
She didn’t hear a voice. Instead, she felt a twinge, a nudge, an unease.
And that not-a-voice in her heart was so very clear.
“What if I want you to write the camp blog?”
She was the one who lived right there at camp and had been looking for a way to be involved while still parenting her three small sons. She was the one who loved to write, collect stories, and take pictures. And despite it being one of the hardest jobs she or Scruffy had ever done, Boo Boo loved camp.
Who else had a front row seat to the Glory that God accomplished at camp every single week?
What if she’d been slogging along for the last eleven years, learning how to craft her words just right … for something other than a book contract?
What if God had stirred in her the desire to tell stories for such a time as this? A time when people needed to be transported to camp, to laugh, to cry, to wonder at all that He could do in the lives of simple people who ran smack into Him and were changed. Did God still send Esther moments? What if those moments didn’t look like one expected? What if writing and life and ministry didn’t look at all like you thought it would?
Boo Boo felt a new weight on her heart. Now that she had considered the possibility that she was called to this, she suddenly knew something for certain.
She was disobeying God.
Sometimes, it is easier to tell when you are disobeying God than it is to tell that He wants you to do something in the first place. With that weight of disobedience … not guilt … not outside pressure … actual disobedience to Him … Boo Boo knew for sure.
God wanted her to write the camp blog.
Weeping, she hit her knees in the middle of that crowded room and she said yes.
Yeah, she absolutely would write the blog.
Now, God didn’t say not to write novels, angsty or otherwise. He just said to write the blog and that He would give her the time for what was important. Sometimes, it is harder to trust God with our limited time than with other more tangible things.
On December 22nd, 2012 Boo Boo posted her first blog post for Camas Meadows Bible Camp. That was ten years ago today.
No one ever bought Boo Boo’s angsty YA manuscript … or the one she wrote after that.
Boo Boo plugged away writing her stories and very few of them were published. In fact, she has 27 unpublished book manuscripts languishing on her computer. But she wrote that blog, week after week, year after year, cataloging what the Lord has done at a little Bible Camp hidden on a remote meadow in the Cascade Mountains.
She told the story of that time Scruffy worked all week to befriend the grumpy kid … and found out at the Friday night campfire that he had hidden away a gun and a bullet at home. He’d told himself he would go to camp and when he got home, he would end his life. But that kid stood up during the campfire and said that he’d changed his mind. He was going to go home and he was going to live.
She wrote about that incredible off-trail hike where a whole cabin worked to get a camper who used a wheelchair through the woods, over logs, up a hill, and to the top of the ridge to see the amazing views.
Every single week contained so many stories, more than could be recorded. The bully who became a friend. The broken kid who started watching out for others. The one who learned to apologize. The one who learned to forgive. The camper who came to Jesus and the camper who did not … but for the very first time met Christians who were determined to live a life of love, no matter what their campers believe. Endless stories, endless beauty, endless work to do.
This blog is ten now. That means it holds a decade of those stories. Now, this photo was taken the year before Boo Boo started the blog. But it is still a good representation of what she and Scruffy’s life was like at the very beginning. This was the year she refused to blog, after all. Those busy little boys who kept their parents hopping are all taller than Boo Boo now. In fact, they all worked at camp last summer.
Ten years later, Boo Boo may not have sold any angsty YA novels, but she has Scruffy and three tall and sarcastic teenagers, and the knowledge that she obeyed. She wrote the blog. Then she kept writing it for a decade. God has used her simple words and quickly snapped photos to do His work. Sometimes ministry looks totally different than what you expect, but if it is God asking you to do it, it is important all the same. Obedience itself is success. So please, enjoy the blog. Each story and photo is a gift of love, even the ones that are blurry or weird (see foot photo above). God is so powerful and gracious, that He still makes beautiful things out of our fumbling attempts to serve Him. Thank goodness for that!
Let’s end this 10th Anniversary Blog with Boo Boo’s favorite Bible verse.
Jonah 3:1–“And the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time.”
Thank the Lord that we serve a God who gives second chances!
The Lord of the Rings Camp: Fellowship of the King, of course!
There were fun costumes and action figures the campers used to make amazing stories and LOTR adventures!
Even Princess Leia Freyja dressed up. Clearly, she is a warg, complete with her grim warg rider buddy.
As well as leading us in many amazing Lord-of-the-Rings-themed activities, Van Helsing taught several chapel sessions that took the themes from LOTR and then explored scriptures that reflected those same themes.
Did you know that J.R.R. Tolkien was a catholic believer and that his friendship was instrumental in C.S. Lewis’ journey to God?
Not only did he write some pretty amazing books, but Tolkien’s faith shows in the themes, characters, and storyline of his fantasy epic.
Of course, there had to be some rowdy hobbit songs to dance to before chapel began.
Plus time to spend hanging out with good friends and even the chance to make new ones!
During the crazy LOTR obstacle course, participants had to build their team.
There were dangerous safety cones to battle with the sword.
As well as “the mines of Moria” to traverse …
… and the giant squid to battle!
Of course, what is a LOTR obstacle course without the Bridge of Khazad-dûm?
The giant squid went totally berserk when Van Helsing approached the obstacle course.
Was it his Aragorn costume … perhaps the wig?
The campers jumped into the theme with gusto and learned something about Jesus’ legendary sacrifice for them in the process.
This is a camp that many have repeatedly asked for over the years. Thanks to Van Helsing and his many creative uses of LOTR lore in both Bible teaching and costuming, Fellowship of the King was finally a reality!
We enjoyed four CamasCon camps this year. These retreats to connect Christian (although anyone is invited) tabletop gamers with each other and with their Lord. They are a highlight of the camp season. April, August, September, and November all host a CamasCon.
April and November have the normal CamasCon experience with campers who are thirteen + or campers who are 10 + but accompanied by a parent. In August, we have Family CamasCon where we provide child care for children five-and-up until dinner time, when families game together. In September, we offer a calmer CamasCon where all of the attendees are adults and hopefully no one needs supervision to keep them from flipping over the game board when they lose!
Since I am blogging about our recent fall camps, I will highlight photos from both our September and November CamasCon retreats with a few thrown in from the other camps for good measure.
There is such a variety of games and gamers at CamasCon! From those who love a long ten-hour grindy game that is heavy on strategy, to those who are more like myself and only play as a way to connect with others.
Now, Parks definitely has strategy, but since these ladies talked me into playing, you can be confident that it is also easily accessible and lends itself to a relaxed and friendly type of game play.
Twilight Imperium … well that is a whole different animal. These gamers are sitting down to an experience which may well involve planning their strategy in minute detail for ten hours, only to have Scruffy, Ragnar, or some other aggressor blow up their home planet two seconds before they win the game.
There are those who live for that epic battle experience and there are many, many games just for them!
There are also just as many games that fall somewhere in the middle.
It is pretty amazing the number of games that get played in a single CamasCon weekend.
But even with all of those games that need to be played, CamasCon campers pause during the day to connect with their Lord. Here, VanHelsing leads the chapel time at the spring retreat.
He also plays and teaches games. I am not completely sure if this moment is chapel related, game related, or just Van Helsing related. You be the judge. What exactly is he doing?
For those whose brains begin to ache after hours and hours of gaming, there is always the option of taking a quiet walk out in God’s creation or sitting beside the fire with a good book and a furry friend.
Our cook, Ragnar, kept everyone extreamely well fed during their gaming adventure.
Sitting around a table together and connecting over a game is such an amazing way to make new friends and to draw closer to the friends we already have.
I have watched people connecting over boardgames both at CamasCon and in our own home for many years and I cannot express the great value of playing a simple (or brain-numbingly complex) game together.
I have even had multiple teachers from our local public schools ask Scruffy and I to bring in boardgames to play with their students.
To teach math skills and even more important, the skill to communicate with others and to both win and lose with grace.
Gamers need not be quite as close as Princess Leia Freyja insists on being, but nonetheless, CamasCon is a meeting of the minds, hearts, and passions of Christian tabletop gamers as they seek to grow closer with one another and their Lord.
Historically, we have always had our fall work retreat over the Labor Day weekend.
But for several years now, the increased fire danger in our area means that we cannot operate chain saws in late summer. The burn ban doesn’t lift until October and one of our main projects during the fall work retreat is to fell trees, split rounds, and stack firewood so that campers are toasty warm during the long, cold winter nights.
After several years of hoping that the fire danger would be better and we would be able to keep our Labor Day date, after attempting to have two fall work retreats one for wood and one for other projects, Scruffy finally chose an October date for the fall work retreat.
It was so wonderful to have the camp full of workers again!
There was a lot of work to do and God provided the hands to get it done.
The camp woodshed was almost totally empty.
Campers love to sit by the wood stove on chilly nights, chatting and drinking cocoa. This can’t happen without a dedicated wood crew toiling away to fill up that woodshed before the snow flies.
Everyone worked so hard.
From the people who felled the dead trees that had been killed by a pine beetle infestation, to those cutting rounds, hauling rounds, driving the camp truck, splitting rounds, and stacking wood, our crew got grubby and tired but accomplished so much.
Some of the rounds they hauled were so big that it took three people to carry just one.
Just getting them into and out of the truck was hard.
And it is a good thing our wood splitters had young backs.
Thankfully, Ragnar, our cook kept everyone well fed.
In the end, they got that woodshed filled up! We are now ready to host campers this winter. It’s a good thing too, we got over fourteen inches of snow all at once in November!
Thanks to all of these hard workers, when a camper comes in after tubing The Hill and grabs a cup of hot cocoa, there will be a warm fire for them to sit beside as they unthaw. Thank you!
People often tell me they wish there were camps for adults at Camas Meadows Bible Camp. Well, I have good news. There are! The Mountain Muse is one of those camps and I am happy to report that instead of getting dunked in the dunk tank or throwing mayo-drenched cheese at each other (please volunteer this summer if you are interested in these things) this camp involves sitting by a warm fire and creating worlds and words that honor our Creator!
We are writers and this camp is all about writing!
The goal of this retreat is to Escape, Renew, and Create. When writers can escape the pressures of everyday life that so often squelch the creative process, when we can be refreshed and renewed in God’s glorious outdoors, when we can learn new techniques and tools of the trade, when we can simply take some time to rest, then that is the perfect recipe for getting some amazing creative work done!
This year, we were incredibly blessed to be taught by award-winning Christian fantasy author Morgan L. Busse!
This is my favorite of her books, but I enjoyed them all!
For The Mountain Muse, we have just a small taste of teaching. At each meal, Morgan gave us about fifteen minutes of info on how to improve our writing craft. Then it was off to the races! Or rather, the chairs and couches. In the main lodge we enjoyed hours of silent writing time and in the small lodge we had space for those who love to listen to music or chat.
We got so much done and yet were also able to connect in deep ways about our writing craft and the God who gave us the ability and desire to write in the first place.
There was even time to sit and read quietly by the fire.
But lest you think that the entire weekend was a sedentary affair … behold! Proof that we went outside. In fact, this was a late night hike to Inspiration Point when the moon was so big that it made shadows and lit up the night so brightly that we could actually see pretty well even in the dark.
One of the best ways to help writers get more creative work done is to feed them! It is so wonderful not to have to worry about meals. Ragnar, Mithril, and Prism did all the work for us, leaving mealtime as a delightful opportunity to connect.
Then it was time to get back to work!
On Saturday afternoon, we took some time for creation appreciation. Princess Leia Freyja led the way as we took a short hike into the beautiful world God made. Mountains, meadows, and forests are all part of the environment at Camas Meadows and we got to see all three on our short, two-mile walk.
After a short break enjoying the autumn colors, you guessed it, we went back to writing!
And finally, after a full weekend of escaping, renewing, and creating … it was time to head home. Princess Leia Freyja sent us on our way with a bark and a wag. It was hard to say goodbye, but with any time of refreshment comes the strength to move forward with new energy and thoughtfulness. We made new writer friends, gained new writing tools, got down a bunch of new words, and are already looking forward to next year. Thank you so much, writer friends, each of you was a delight. I can’t wait to see all of the amazing things that you write in the year to come!
What do a camper’s grubby feet have to do with being an action hero? Those who attended chapel at Senior High Teen Camp know. But for those who didn’t, there is still hope, if you keep reading you too can discover the answer to this vital question.
Behold, in all their glory, a camper’s feet. This particular camper won fame or at the very least notoriety, for being able to contort her feet in this amazing manner. She also chased down hapless bystanders with these dusty toes. Some were impressed, some were horrified, all were amazed. I was so amazed that I snapped this photograph to save the camper’s talent for posterity. At the time, I did not realize that this picture and these feet would play a vital role in telling the story of Senior High Teen Camp.
Van Helsing’s theme for the chapel sessions this week was The Action. His theme verse for day one, James 2:17–“In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
Of course, such a theme demanded watching some film clips that featured explosions, taking a quiz concerning the many action hero idiosyncrasies including why they are inclined to hold a pistol sideways (the bullets hurt more!), and holding a contest where campers and staff competed at holding the best action hero pose!
What? These things don’t seem very . . . Biblical? Stick around and I’ll share one of the great mysteries of camp ministry. Some things may look less heroic the more you investigate, like actors and/or campers posing in front of a flaming backdrop in full costume.
However, there are some things that seem less impressive initially, but suddenly grow amazing when you see the whole picture.
Camp chapel sessions may appear rowdy and haphazard at first glance. Give them time. Stay for the whole week. You won’t be disappointed with the things God can do with a handful of props, a flaming backdrop, and a few good workers intent in investing deeply in the lives of teens.
Teen campers are absolutely amazing!
Consequently, Senior High Teen Camp is also amazing. However, running a camp for teens is incredibly difficult. Why? Today’s teens are dealing with adult problems before they’ve even had the chance to grow up.
They have already walked dark roads by the time they rush into the lodge on that first day of camp. For many, their parents have already divorced. The family circle they thought they could count on is showing cracks. Teens have to make adult choices when they are still children. Alcohol, sex, drugs, the pain of toxic relationships, the pressure of sports, the stress of scholarship, the need to decide on a career path and take the steps necessary to attain their goals. Add to that the weight of all their friends problems as well. Being a teen is exhausting and incredibly high-pressure.
So many teens come to camp already deeply broken. They may look grown-up and have many grown-up decisions to make. But because they are children and do not have complete autonomy, many teens are also struggling under the burden of the choices made by the adults in their lives. Being a teenager is incredibly difficult. I am so proud of the many amazing teens that I know. Hug your teen, folks (or try to, ha!) they are superstars!
After a long school year, summer always comes, and you wouldn’t guess at the pain they carry watching these brave teenagers march through the doors of the main lodge at camp. The entire room crackles with energy and you should hear these kids sing!
Epona led worship this year and when she started playing the opening chords of the song “Stars” by Skillet I heard several campers say “yes!” and even saw a fist pump. There is something breathtaking about worship at camp, it always blows me away.
In the summer of 2016, Epona was a counselor in Bear’s Abode cabin.
Counseling a cabin full of campers is physically exhausting and emotionally draining. It takes all that you have and then some to care for these children with a parent’s eye for safety, a teacher’s eye for growth, a party planner’s eye for fun, a therapist’s eye for emotional health, a pastor’s eye for their spiritual journey, and God’s own love for each of them as His precious sheep.
Not an easy task. In fact, without the Holy Spirit, I don’t think any of us could do this job.
And so in 2016, while her campers slept, Epona stood alone on the Bear’s Abode stairs looking up at the night sky and singing “Stars” as she recovered from the tasks of the day and sought her Lord for strength and wisdom for the one to come.
In 2021, Epona was our worship leader. She decided to teach “Stars” to the campers that year. We worshipped outside that whole summer and it became a favorite of both campers and counselors. At the campfire on Friday, we looked up at the stars above and sang about God’s great love for us. It was such a beautiful moment. This song speaks so clearly of God’s power in our lives.
It is that power which enables us to take action that glorifies Him. To actually live out James 2:17 and be a people who don’t just believe in Christ but act on that belief in tangible ways.
On Tuesday, Van Helsing’s theme was Fists of Prayer! He spoke on how the Christian life takes strict training and hard work, but when you put in the time you get a huge payoff . . . especially with prayer!
I Corinthians 9:25–“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”
During the chapel times, Van Helsing had a lot of fun with the action hero theme.
Action heroes are over-the-top awesome. The drive too fast and never crash . . . or if they do, that crash mysteriously propels them to safety. Action heroes are always witty, always find love under the most unlikely circumstances, and never seem to need to sleep, stay properly hydrated, or comb their hair for that perfect windblown look.
However, the cinematic explosions and ability of action heroes to only get a single decorative scratch on one cheek when a whole building and/or dinosaur falls on them only emphasizes what Jesus said about the kingdom of God not looking like we expect it to.
Jesus is the one who called us to action and His idea of what constitutes a hero flies in the face of what we normally see in a summer blockbuster.
Matthew 20:16–“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Matthew 23:11-12–“The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Luke 22:27b–“But I am among you as one who serves.”
Sometimes we think we know what a hero looks like . . . and then we see Jesus.
John 13:4–“so He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.”
Sometimes an action hero looks less like someone walking out of an exploding building and more like someone taking over a tired volunteer’s spot on the dish crew.
One of our support staff crew shared how meaningful it was that the support lead watched out for them and made sure that they got breaks when they were tired. A hard worker, she was used to being valued for her work ethic, but not always simply for who she was.
This same girl talked about how she had struggled to glean meaning from sermons in the past, but had soaked up so much from the chapel sessions. How much easier it is to hear of God’s love when His people sit right beside you, showing love in ways that you can see for yourself.
Sometimes a hero looks less like someone flying a fighter jet to inspiring music or battling a marauding mummy in foreign lands and more like a counselor letting his rambunctious crew of boys rearrange the bunk beds every single day for cabin inspection.
After a week of crazy ga ga ball games, slip-n-slide antics, the “bushwhacking hike” where half the camp followed Hiccup down from Weathertop straight through the bushes as he made a way with his machete, and the most insane skit of all time . . . of course his campers would let him pray for them around the campfire after they stood up and shared.
Truly, our Lord knew what He was talking about when He commanded us to serve rather that strut. To love when anger is the sensible reaction. To look to the needs of those around us, trusting that in His great love, God would care for our needs as they arose. We are indeed called to action, but as a different kind of hero.
Sometimes being a hero looks like respecting the person you disagree with.
Two of our senior staff believed differently about what the Godly course of action looked like when a decision needed to be made. I remember praying, stressing, wondering what God could do when the way seemed so clear to two different people. But what was clear to one individual who was faithfully following Christ was completely different from what was clear to the other who was also faithfully following Christ.
They talked, and you know what, both still hold to some version of their same opinion. However, they listened and showed respect. A third senior staff member was asked to attend their meeting to provide an impartial view of the discussion. She told us that it was one of the most powerful moments at camp for her. Not because they came to an agreement, but because they disagreed, were able to talk about it in a humble fashion, and left the discussion having honored their Lord despite their opposing opinions.
You never know how God will use you. Sometimes, the mightiest work of the day may come just from simply keeping your temper.
We do a lot of crazy activities at camp. From whipped cream pies in the face to zombie-themed night games, camp life is rowdy from sunup to sundown.
Then there is the fact that teen campers will make everything even more rowdy themselves. Yes, a simply day swimming in the pond, can turn into a mud bath for no apparent reason.
During Wednesday’s chapel session, the theme was Lock ‘N’ Load. God provides an arsenal of high powered weapons to help us face the enemies and challenges of life – the Bible.
Van Helsing pointed out that many action heroes have a black bag full of important action hero gear. When the bullets and exploding cars are zipping right past the hero’s ears and it seems like all is lost, they reach into that black bag for just what they need at just the right moment.
Just like Arnold packing his black bag for a final showdown, we can be confident that God has not left us defenseless. He has called us to action, but has also given us the tools we need to learn what actions please Him and why.
On Thursday, Van Helsing’s theme was The A-Team. The Action is not a solo mission!
Ecclesiastes 4:12–“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
Van Helsing talked about how we are part of The Body of Christ, we were never meant to act as lone heroes, we are part of a team.
For him, he has four different kinds of people who have been a huge support to him in his journey with God.
THE MUSCLE: the one who prays.
THE BRAINS: the one who studies the Word (and provides Godly counsel).
THE HEART: the one who makes sure your needs are taken care of.
THE RECON: the one who is an accountability partner
With these four specialists on your team, answering God’s call to action becomes much less overwhelming. God did not design us to work alone. He calls us to support one another and expects that we will need and accept help from others as well.
On Friday, Van Helsing’s theme was Blockbuster!
Imagine the moment in a blockbuster movie when all the heroes band together and charge the great evil that threatens to destroy the world. Like this epic scene, when we live our lives the way God wants, we can accomplish the truly incredible through His amazing power!
John 14:12–“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”
As Scruff and I worked through the highs and lows of the week, what many people don’t know is that we have many other tasks weighing upon us.
This year we are still grieving the loss of a beloved staff member and sometimes the pressures of these additional tasks combined with that loss means taking a moment to simply hide and weep.
And then life goes on.
Scruffy goes back to direct camp and work on projects and I wipe my eyes and haul my camera out to where the campers are having a water fight.
During one such moment, I had just stopped the tears of stress and grief long enough to head back to camp, my trusty dog at my side.
Princess Leia Freyja heard something on the lawn up ahead. Her ears came up, her tail started wagging, and she hustled me toward a camper who sat by herself sobbing.
Isn’t it just like God to get you through your tears just in time to hold another as they weep?
So, Princess Leia Freyja and I sat beside the camper while she cried and listened to her once she could talk once more. Why was she weeping? Because everyone had been so kind to her.
Let that soak in a minute.
This camper wept because of the kindness of the body of Christ. There are those to whom kindness is something they do not expect to encounter. No wonder it is a fruit of the Spirit. No wonder gentleness is one of the great actions God calls us to. No wonder patience and self-control are products of His presence in our lives.
God has called us to action. He wants us to be heroes. Just be careful to remember what Jesus says a hero actually looks like.
John 13:14-15–“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”
In the spirit of this, Van Helsing asked Scruffy if he could wash his feet during chapel.
Now, up at camp with all of the sweat, dust, and outdoor play that occurs people’s feet get nasty dirty. We may not be in Bible times back when only the lowest servant washed people’s little piggies, but we are still highly aware of the general uncleanness of feet. We do this job ourselves, in quiet solitude, letting someone else do this grubby task is incredibly humbling.
But isn’t being humbled what Jesus actions were all about? He was God. God Himself with us in this dusty and broken world. He humbled Himself because He was the greatest among us and needed to show His sometimes unreliable followers what being a leader really meant. Being humble, stooping to do the untidy job, maybe even allowing someone you love and respect to do that job because they have asked to. Each of these is humbling. It puts us right where Jesus wants us, serving as He served.
So Van Helsing took action, humbled himself, and washed Scruffy’s feet.
Then Scruffy, recalling our Lord’s words of: “Go and do likewise” asked one of our new C.I.T.’s if he could wash her feet. She was a camper that week and yes, it was ironic because she had been chasing people around with her grubby toes all week long. In fact, I took a picture of them because of her antics and her feet are featured in the photo at the beginning of the blog.
Now this was awkward and initially she laughed and joked . . . but she has also known Scruffy for a long time. He was important to her and we love her very much. And somehow what had seemed so silly took on a gravity that she didn’t seem to expect. This camper began to cry as Scruffy proceeded to wash her dirty feet.
Then some left for cabin time and some stayed to pray for any who wanted support and one brave camper came forward and Van Helsing washed her feet, too. The same camper who had wept on the lawn with Princess Leia Freyja and I.
Yes, there are action heroes among us. You just might not be warned that they are around by the sound of an exploding car.
We saw counselors and campers taking God’s call to action seriously. They went from pranking each other’s cabins one moment, to standing with one another in prayer and tears the next.
Camp forges close relationships. So close that campers trust us with their hard questions about God. With their heartache and brokenness. Even with their dirty feet.
Teens carry incredibly heavy loads. At the very least, here at Camas we can give them a raucous week of rowdiness and laughter. Gazing up at the stars together, singing praises to God. Finding friendship and fun in a cabin full of kids who may be wildly different . . . but deep down are just like them. Experiencing kindness from the staff. Gentleness and a listening ear.
These simple joys seem small when compared to the rising tide of anger, hurt, and darkness that threatens to sweep teens away. But take heart, God uses the simple things of this world to shake nations and change hearts.
Again and again we watch the impossible occur at camp, right before our very eyes. God takes the simple joys of rowdy games, new friends, kind counselors, and a listening ear and He produces greatness out of our humble service. Once again, Scruff and I sat weeping at the campfire on Friday night as the campers shared.
They loved the food and the games and the dog . . . but they also felt safe, found friendship, and told us they had found a home.
“This is the happiest place I’ve ever been,” one camper said. “The happiest place in the world.”
They learned things about God that made their hearts burn. They opened their Bibles for the first time in years. They heard what the gospel actually was. They sang. They wept. They saw the stars. They gave Christians another chance. They gave themselves another chance. They realized that they were loved.
God calls us to heroic action.
Then He steps down among us and does the work before our very eyes with nothing but a group of broken people, our humble bumblings, and insistent attempts to love like Him.
Behold, the power of the action hero!
Philippians 2:5-8–“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”
*To preserve their anonymity, I do not post a camper’s story below their photograph.
During Middle School Camp 2 our camp speaker, Faramir, talked about journeys.
Before camp even began, I had the delight of hearing about two incredibly entertaining campers as they made the journey to camp itself. As their folks drove them up the camp road, they were chanting in the car. When they spotted any staff member that they knew from last year, they would chant their name. “Epona! Epona! Epona! Epona!”
“Hiccup! Hiccup! Hiccup! Hiccup!”
They weren’t excited for camp or anything, ha!
And thus, the shared journey that we call Middle School Camp 2 started with a bit of chanting and a whole lot of energy.
Faramir shared during chapel about his own journey to God and how campers can choose to abide in Christ themselves and find their strength in God as their strong tower. But unbeknownst to him, one of Scruffy’s long-ago journeys came full circle in an amazing way this week.
As many of you know, Scruffy didn’t find Christ until he was twenty-one years old and in the beginning stages of alcoholism. A friend from his hometown had been his roommate several times and was shocked to discover that when Scruff decided to follow Jesus, he also decided to stop partying. That friend teased him a good deal about this decision, but Scruffy didn’t let it ruffle him. They remained friends but over time, life happened and they lost track of each other.
This week, that old friend brought his daughter up to Camas to be a camper. He laughed at how much he’d teased Scruff and took a quiet moment to say that even way back then, he’d respected him for making those tough choices.
One person’s journey with God absolutely can encourage another person to seek Him, even years and years later.
There are so many ways that the Lord uses our travels through this world. Many that we would never have chosen for ourselves, but that bring blessings all the same. Two of our girl counselors saw an unexpected twist in a journey that began last year during the 2021 summer camp season.
They had previously counseled a cabin together that had stretched their skills to the limit.
There were many things that made this cabin a challenge including some very tough questions that the campers had about God. So many hard questions! One of their campers had also struggled with being kind to others. Both to the other campers and to the staff. It takes a great deal of patience and sacrifice to live out love for someone who is struggling to be kind.
That camper came back this year! Her counselors were struck by God’s powerful work in this young woman’s life in the year that they were apart. She was having loads of fun, energetic, a joy to be with, and kind. She zoomed through the camp activities making new friends and delighting in each new experience.
Oh how great are the commands of God upon our lives. He demands love just like His towards others and that can be hard. But look at the incredible blessings that can come. A struggling child might just need a week full of loving examples to find the strength and ability to walk into her own future with kindness and grace. May we give each precious one we see the honor of being treated in the same way that God has treated us.
Faramir also talked about how God is our Strong Tower. He gave the example of when a doctor puts a cast on your broken arm. The cast does not remove the pain of your injury. Yet, without the cast, healing is uncertain. The cast stabilizes your injury so that the break can mend, grow strong again, and be useful to you once more. God is like that. Our strong tower in times of trouble.
Another example Faramir spoke on was of trying to hold a pile of sand in your hands. On your own, it just keeps slipping through your fingers.
But put that overwhelming pile of sand into a bowl and suddenly you are strong enough to hold and carry it. The strong bowl holds the sand firm and now you can carry the entire load. God is our strong tower. It is in His strength that we find our own.
One of the camp counselors, Samurai, said that his favorite moment of camp was celebrating the birthday of one of his campers. Now, cake is always fun, but it was the campers reactions to his attempted surprise that really was the frosting on that cake.
He had to run all over the camp to gather each one of his campers for their surprise cabin birthday party. But once he got them all into the small meeting area in Bobcat, he realized that they would see the cake when he brought it in.
A “brilliant idea” came. He would make the campers wait in the bathrooms while he got the cake. He urged all of the campers and his CIT, Chat Noir, into the bathrooms. It was pretty cramped, but he told them to wait.
One of the campers shouted out through the closed door, “This is a hostage situation!”
Chat Noir corrected this alarming and untrue statement, “Don’t say that.”
Therefore, the camper again shouted through the bathroom door, “We are NOT allowed to say that this is a hostage situation!”
Following this, they accidentally put the wrong number of candles on the cake, ended up with trick candles that wouldn’t go out, and an entire cabin of boys enthusiastically blew on those irrepressible candles about twenty times before they were extinguished. What you have there is quite the camp memory … although, not the most germ-free frosting situation.
It is not an accident that incredible moments of spiritual growth often happen at camp. It is the very things that appear to be completely unrelated to the gospel and studying God’s word that actually help build the groundwork for many mighty God moments.
Leaping into the pond with your cabinmates looks like simple play at first glance. What it actually is, a powerful shared experience that creates a bond with new friends and builds trust between campers and the camp staff.
It is the same when they play night games, gaga ball, disc golf and zoom down the slip-n-slide.
Christ didn’t simply pull the golden rule out of a hat for laughs. Loving others with the same care and passion that you attend to your own interests is an incredibly powerful force. It heals hearts. It changes lives. Christ loved us through death itself and it changed everything. Even our small attempts to follow in His footsteps have the power to shake the world and bring life into dark places.
How do kids need love right now?
There are so many ways. Too many to name, but after listening to children share all summer, some of the ways are burned deeply into my memory.
Children need friendship. Sitting around the campfire (LED due to fire danger) out in the meadow, I heard child after child share about their hurt. Voices cracking with emotion, tears filling their eyes, fearful to say anything but compelled by something deep inside to be honest, they stood and shared.
“I don’t have any friends at home.”
“The kids at school make fun of me.”
“I didn’t think this was going to be a good week because I didn’t know anyone in my cabin.”
“None of my friends believe in God and I feel so alone.”
Do you remember the incredible joy of having just one good friend in junior high? Someone to talk with, to share funny moments and a laugh, to weep on, to hug, to listen to. There are children who have no one.
These children come to camp holding a fragile hope. Maybe here, in this place that says it belongs to God, they can make a friend.
Children need family. So many campers mourn their family losses at campfire. The parent who died when they were young, left them, divorced, or was never around in the first place. At the same time, so many campers speak about camp in terms of family.
“Camp is my home.”
“I feel loved here.”
Or quite literally, “Camp is my family.”
One camper who didn’t have a mother figure said, “Orchid is like my mom, this week and the week before.” Why did she come for two weeks of camp? She felt loved here and children need family.
There was even a camper who said, “Camp is like my emotional support animal.” Now, any of you who have gotten snuggles from Princess Leia Freyja the camp dog will know that this is a high compliment, indeed!
Children also need the outdoors. Screens and indoor things take up so much of our lives. Children need to be outside, seeing God’s creation and running around doing real life activities. Children need to get the chance to really live.
Do not discount the testimony of a child at campfire who talks about how much they loved playing capture the flag, hiking out to Inspiration Point to look at the stars, or dousing their counselor in the dunk tank. Children need a safe place where they can be kids. It is such an honor to sit around the campfire and realize that they had a wonderful time doing camp activities.
One staff member compared the camp program activities to salad.
Partake calls salad, “A dressing delivery system.” Program activities are like that. They are about relationship, loving God by loving one another. Program activities facilitate growth in our relationships and breaks down our walls and enables us to love better and to love well.
Our camp nurse this week was a bit baffled by all of the wild activities. After campfire she spoke with tears in her eyes, “Now I know why you do all these crazy things.”
You see, so many children shared this week that Scruffy tried to wrap up campfire three different times. “OK, everyone. It’s time to head back to the lodge …” but one more child would stand up to say that they had felt safe, loved, noticed. That they had made friends. That they had learned something new and amazing about God. That they had loved the camp food, “Dude! It just melts in your mouth. It was really good gravy!”
That they had simply had fun.
And yes, a bunch of children raised their hands during chapel wanting to follow Jesus. It is the fun of camp which makes this incredible ministry possible because children need love and they feel loved here at camp.
There was a fun moment at the beginning of campfire that I want to share. Some of the girl campers had flung their arms around each other’s shoulders as they stood around the campfire singing. They stood together and swayed to the music. Epona arrived late and noticed that there was a camper who wasn’t in the circle. She went up and put her arm around this camper’s shoulder and they stood and sang together.
Once the song was over, the camper said: “We’re outside the circle. That was really awkward.”
“Let’s join the big circle,” Epona said. She and the camper squeezed their way into the circle and flung their arms around the other girls. Epona helped this camper to march right up there and take her place with the other girls. She helped her to be brave.
But something funny was also going on during the singing. Edelgard had her arms around the campers and was swaying as they sang. Across from her, a particularly pesky camper caught her eye. She gave Edelgard a mischievous grin and started swaying in the opposite direction. Everyone struggled for a time and then got straightened out … only to have this camper get them going in the wrong way all over again.
One camper stood up at campfire and said, “I like that Faramir told his story. Most pastors act like their lives are perfect, but I realized that he had troubles, too.”
Another camper shared, “I’ve been afraid. I felt this fear following me but I feel like I can let it go. You guys can too, because God is God. We don’t need to be ruled by fear.”
When talking about that beautiful, somewhat never ending campfire, Scruffy said: “Campfire was so powerful, the way kids shared about meaningful stuff was really really cool. It just emphasized how important what we’re doing here is. We’re spending time in the lives of kids. Every time we spend a week getting worn out and exhausted, your labor is not in vain. It is desperately needed. The fields are ripe for the harvest … but the workers are few. When we do ministry the way we do, it hurts. Eph. 2:10, we’re living it out. We saw that in kids lives. Here felt like home. Here felt like they were accepted and loved when they didn’t feel like that at home.”
Yes, kids need camp because they need love. We are here to be that love to them, to show them Jesus, who is love come down just for them.
Ephesians 2:9 and10–“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
John 13:34-35–“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love one for another”
This week of camp held many unexpected twists and turns as well as surprising moments of beauty. Much like this rare flower blooming right beside the dusty path down to the meadow. It is a protected flower, a biologist comes to count them every few years. Yet this one is thriving, out in the open, right beside the path that we walk every day. While this type of flower may be in danger, this particular blossom is relentless as it grows and blooms in such a rowdy location. It is ironic that one of my favorite photos from this week would so aptly illustrate our theme.
All three of our interns were required to work as camp counselors this week, leaving Scruffy and Bomber working to run the program and lead the support staff team along with their normal jobs. The interns both managed their cabins and helped those who had stepped in to take over their areas of expertise. Our camp nurse Trauma Trooper was suffering from back pain, therefore Mama Smurf assisted her as she cared for our campers and their various bumps and bruises. Phew! So many things ended up differently than our best laid plans.
Also, our camp speaker was unable to attend due to illness. Therefore, Scruffy needed to speak! During staff meeting on Monday, he gathered three different hats/wigs from the skit box. Scruff wore a different one as he led each of the different parts of the meeting as director, the program director, then speaker. Scruff brushed off a week’s worth of sessions that he taught for a rental group back in 2018 and we gathered as a staff to pray for extra strength and do what we were called to do, summer camp!
And into a wild and wonderful week of camp we went! While registration was going on, we played some games together to help the campers get to know each other and the staff team. First up, Chair Ball.
For chapel, Scruffy started with a crazy car story from his college days. In fact, one boys’ cabin actually acted that story out in their skit. It’s the one where they have towels on their heads and get a door slammed in their faces when they ask for help. You should ask Scruff to tell you the story of The Dust Storm And The 77 VW Dasher.
During the first Morning Jam worship session, I was sitting in the lodge sorting through pictures and posting the best ones for parents to enjoy. I noticed that in the group of boys behind me, there was one who REALLY wanted to do the motions to the fast songs, but his buddies weren’t quite ready yet.
After watching him try again and strike out, I left my computer and joined their cabin. That delightful camper was not daunted by the idea of doing song motions with a 44-year-old mom. He was just thrilled to be doing fast songs and motions and to be part of all the fun. I pulled aside one of his counselors and told him how excited his camper was about the motions. His counselor assured me that he would sit beside him during chapel and do the motions with him.
Later in the week, I saw that his cabin mates had come around. They were enthusiastically doing motions and singing at the tops of their lungs.
On Friday, at the campfire, this same camper stood up to share. He talked about the stars in the sky and everyone there looked up to the heavens to look at the stars, too. Then he said, “Worship made me feel like I was part of things and not left out.”
You never know what God will use in someone’s life. Crazy camp songs, or even a shaggy dog who gives slobbery kisses to one and all.
Another story from Junior B Camp, we had a homesick camper who was trying to decide whether to continue his week of camp or to go home early.
His counselor was attentive to his concerns and needs, giving him special care and trying to encourage him as he struggled with missing his home and family.
The camper mulled over his choices, feeling homesick, but also enjoying camp. Finally, he made his choice. He was going to stick out the week!
After that, he would check in with Scruffy regularly throughout the day.
“Look,” he’d say, “I’m still here!”
This camper slowly made a switch from needing a good deal of encouragement to taking the time and energy out of his busy camp days to encourage others.
On one day, when Scruff was wrestling with the message that he would give that night, this camper walked up to him, gave an encouraging word, and said: “Can I give you a hug?” It nearly brought Scruff to tears to see this little one actively using his gifts to help others.
And what message was Scruffy wrestling with, trying to figure out exactly how to share? This week, Scruffy spoke about God’s pursuit of us.
Like a shepherd traveling into the dangerous wilderness in pursuit of his one lost sheep.
Like a woman cleaning her entire house to find that one valuable coin.
Like a father rushing down the road to pull his broken, starving son into his arms.
Like Westley … or The Man in Black, pursuing Princess Buttercup when she is trapped by an evil prince who is able to force her into a loveless marriage since the law of the land caters to his every whim.
After reading scripture about God’s pursuit of us, Scruffy ended the chapel session by playing a song. He expected the campers to sit in quiet contemplation, thinking about how much God loved them.
One of our most precocious girl campers heard the music and just started belting out the song, full voice, loud and strong. Slowly, more and more children joined her.
The words were included in the video, so even children who didn’t know it could sing along. By the time the video reached the chorus for the first time, the entire room of children were singing.
No one was leading them. Staff simply watched, amazed, or wept like Scruffy and I.
Adults would have known the purpose of the video, thinking on the words, enjoying the music, thoughtful, quiet, orderly.
But God doesn’t tell us to come to Him like orderly adults who understand social cues and are quiet when they are supposed to be.
“…unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
No, our Lord said that if we want to be His, we come to Him as children or not at all.
And so the children sang. No leaders, top of their lungs, some in tune, some out of tune, some both. One boy sang harmony every single time instead of only on the ending chorus. Wild, reckless, joyful, strong. They didn’t sing because it was time to sing.
They sang because they saw that they could and knew they wanted to.
This, my friend, is how we must come to God.
Not confident that we know all the dos and don’ts.
Not with pride and a feeling that we are more worthy than others.
We must come as children.
Like children who hear a song and simply know that they want to sing.
When the song ended, that obstreperous little girl who has started it all looked over at me and furrowed her brow. “Why are you crying, Boo Boo?”
How on earth could I possibly explain?
So, I didn’t.
“I’m just worshiping,” I said.
Baffled, she shrugged and marched off to the next camp activity, having no idea that what had just happened would stick with our entire staff as one of the most amazing moments of camp.
So much beauty. So much craziness. It was such a busy and boisterous week.
One evening, Orchid found herself rushing around, madly searching for one of her campers.
She zoomed up to the lodge and found the “lost” camper with the nurse.
“Why didn’t you tell me you were going to see the nurse?” she asked.
“You told me to go to the nurse.” The camper reminded her.
Orchid sighed, the camper was right. It had been her idea for this camper to go and see the nurse, but when Orchid had gotten to the activity she’d wondered where the camper had gone.
The camper reached up and patted Orchid on the top of the head. “It’s OK brain, you can do this, just one more day.” It is so delightful when the campers learn how to encourage their counselors as they do the delightfully rowdy job of keeping each of them safe. So much learning and growth happened in the lives of these wonderful children.
One of the most fun moments of the day is worship time. Before they start, Epona always asks the campers to give her three reasons why they want to praise God.
The reasons vary, from grilled cheese to Princess Leia Freyja, there is always something to praise God about.
This week, one of the funniest reasons was this: “Praise God for Dragon scaring people and praise God for pie in Dragon’s face!”
Yes, the Watchamabob where Dragon was hiding under the table and when the campers lifted the box, they saw her head was very memorable.
What was also memorable was when Brennan lifted the box and splatted Dragon in the face with a whipped cream pie!
Then of course Dragon burst out of her hiding place and chased Brennan all the way across camp!
Hiccup had a moment to praise God for this week. He shared about a package that was incredibly encouraging to him.
He was in the middle of a very hectic week of counseling. His particular group of boys were incredibly energetic. He was starting to get discouraged when a strange package appeared in the mail.
It was sprayed liberally with perfume. Everyone at camp knows that smelly packages or letters have to be opened in public.
He opened the box … to find a smaller box.
He knew exactly what that meant. Box after box after box after box. “That package!” he said. “It was good to be reminded that at least some people thought I was doing a good job.”
Hiccup and Meteor Knight’s cabin was indeed incredibly active. They did everything together and they did it at full speed with every ounce of energy they possessed. Their counselors were kept quite busy chasing these rambunctious boys throughout the week. But they also memorized Bible verses and cleaned their cabin with just as much enthusiasm as they played Ga Ga Ball and Night Games. In the end, they even won the cabin competition!
Hiccup’s cabin was not only known for their speed and volume, one of the campers also kept telling Ragnar (Hiccup’s brother) that he reminded them of his Grandma. Ragnar would do something and the camper would reply, “Oh, my Grandma does that, too!”
Scruffy pointed out that Ragnar did wear a bathrobe over his clothes for a good portion of the week, which might account for all of the Grandmother references.
Boo Boo was startled to hear some fairly paternal words coming out of the mouth of Ragnar, her middle son and first-time C.I.T..
Once such occurrence appeared when Ragnar was tasked with getting the cabin to change into pants for the night game.
Camper–“I’m wild! I don’t need pants. I can do this in shorts!”
Ragnar–“You can be wild with pants on. Go get some pants!”
Rowdiness was not only found in the boy cabins. True, I didn’t hear any of the girl counselors tell about how they were awakened from a nice FOB nap by the sound of their campers racing through the rafters. But the girl campers kept their counselors on their toes just fine.
Our cook, Earhart, was sitting by the window in the lodge and was delighted to hear her sister Kanga leading cabin discussion. How wonderful. How sweet. “What is sin?” the campers asked.
Kanga and Orchid explained.
“But what is sin?”
Kanga and Orchid explained in a different way.
“Hmmm … so, what is sin?”
Kanga and Orchid explained yet again.
In the end, Earhart smiled in amazement as she went back to the rigors of the kitchen. Kanga was left to explain one more time.
It is no easy task to wrangle excitable children, keep them safe, make sure they are having fun, and tell them about the love of God all in one wild week!
During the campfire, we are reminded how God uses all of this wonderful rowdiness for His glory.
“I wasn’t sure that this would be as good a year at camp because I didn’t have any friends in my cabin. But everyone just welcomed me in.”
“I learned that everyone has troubles, not just me.”
“I love how everyone makes you feel at home.”
“I learned that God searches for you like a lost sheep and wants to put you on His shoulders and take you home.”
One of my favorite and rowdiest moments was when I was in charge of a boys’ cabin for about fifteen minutes.
Hiccup was up at the lodge and MeteorKnight had to take a camper with a possible allergic reaction up to the camp nurse.
Therefore, I found myself the caretaker of five young boys and in charge of handing out glow sticks so that they could share in front of our LED fire.
“Sounds easy,” you say. Well, no it’s not. You see, you have to hand out the glow sticks but keep the campers from cracking them until they are indeed ready to share. Otherwise, they begin waving their glow sticks around, then leaping around, then running around in the dark and tripping over wooden benches and getting hurt. Do not ask how I know this!
So, I was very carefully handing out glow sticks to “my” campers, one at a time, lest unsafe frivolity occur. Each boy got one. They shared.
“I thank God for grilled cheese sandwiches!”
“Ga Ga Ball was so awesome!”
“Night games, night games, night games, raaaaaar!”
The boys used up my last glow stick and I settled in, prepared to spend my remaining time shushing them.
“Can I have another glow stick?” one little boy whispered.
“I’m all out,” I informed him.
“Can I share even without a glow stick?”
“You’ll need to do it soon, they’re about to wrap things up.”
“I’ll go after one more person goes.”
No one went.
Scruffy got up and was about to signal the end of campfire, when he paused. “If there is anyone else who wants to share, this is your last chance.”
My camper stood up and went to the campfire. “Before I came to camp, I didn’t really believe much in God. But now I know that God has more of an impact on my life than I realized.”
He didn’t have a glow stick to throw into the “fire” but another camper saw and threw his own glow stick in for him. That wild and rowdy camper knew when he had important words that needed to be shared. Seeing him boldly walk forward, without a glowstick, reminds me once again of God’s great love. He seeks us, relentlessly, with the kind of love that doesn’t make sense. Then He calls is to follow, not like learned students or stately theologians. No, He calls us to come like reckless and rowdy children who just know that God is who they want.
Matthew 18:1-3 –“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’
He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.'”
Middle school camp is for such an amazing age group. This is the age of choices. This is the time when a child’s brain grows to be able to understand the abstract things in life (try explaining a metaphor to a ten-year-old) and when they start to understand the complexities of the world around them. They begin to see that they have a say in who they are and who they will become tomorrow and the day after that.
Appropriately enough, our speaker Wiggin spoke on choices.
On Monday his theme was The Choice is Yours. He showed a clip from Tangled where Rapunzel is trying to decide whether to leave her tower. The question for that chapel session was, “Are you going to live in your tower or make the decision for yourself?” He reminded them that everything they did or didn’t do during their week of camp (paintball, dunk tank, horseback rides) was their choice. Would they truly experience the week or remain distanced from the possibilities and people around them?
On Tuesday, Wiggin showed a clip from Monster’s Inc. to remind us that we have a choice about how we see the world around us. In the clip, Sulley tucks Boo into bed. He has the choice whether to believe that there is hope for humans and monsters.
We have the choice to see how bad the world is and to despair, to see both the good and the bad and figure that it sort of evens out, or to see that the world is not how it is supposed to be, that there is bad and good together, but to still hope for when God makes things right. We have the choice to hope.
“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”
Many children have lived through so many hard things by the time they reach middle school and it is at about this age that they are able to process what they have gone through or are going through and then realize when something is wrong.
Just like the monsters in that cartoon are suddenly waking up to the world around them, these little ones become newly aware of the hardship, pain, and evil in our world.
But there is another side to this coin of awakening. Middle schoolers are also freshly aware of their ability to choose to follow God. So much important work with the Lord happens in kids hearts at this age.
It was especially touching for Scruffy to watch Wiggin serve as camp speaker. You see, Scruff and I were here to see Wiggin come to camp as a nine-year-old camper, become a C.I.T., go on to be a camp counselor with our own boys as happy campers in his cabin, grow up, get married, and then come back to teach kids about Jesus.
It is such an honor to have been a part of camp ministry long enough to watch children grow up, grow in the Lord, and then dedicate their lives in service to Him. It isn’t often that we find ourselves doing the same thing for 23 years. But the benefit of being called to serve at the same place for so long is that the full picture of what happens when kids come to camp begins to unfold. Watching Wiggin speak was one of those beautiful moments.
One of our cooks got to go on a horseback ride with a cabin of campers. She told about the camper who rode in front of her and his constant narration about the ride. “The horse is walking now.” He would turn around in the saddle to make sure that she got each important declaration.
“Oh, the horse is trotting.” He would look back and inform her about each change in pace. “The horse is now walking.” Then a moment of drama! His horse stumbled over a rock. But don’t worry, this camper was quick to alert our cook about the experience.
On Wednesday, Wiggin spoke on The Choice We Can’t Make. Sin is in every part of our world, even when we try our best. He showed a clip from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe where Edmund makes a deal with the white witch for some Turkish Delight and the promise of being a prince.
One of the stories from this week that was especially inspiring (yes, it made both Scruffy and Boo Boo cry) started out as a negative.
Scruffy had to deal with a discipline issue in one of the boys’ cabins.
One camper had been bullying another and of course this was discovered when the bullied camper reacted in frustration. As anyone who works with kids knows, it is usually the second person who gets caught, leaving the adult to figure out what exactly happened to elicit the response of the second child in the first place.
After the counselors and our speaker did some sleuthing, they brought the child who had started the kerfuffle to Scruff.
Scruff was just so proud, watching our team work. They showed compassion to both the child being bullied who reacted badly and to the child who had made the initial bad choice to begin with.
By the time Scruffy came on the scene, this camper was ready for some serious conversations about what was really going on with him. We always have a choice in how we will react to the hard things in life and it was so apt that this was exactly what Wiggin was speaking on. This camper recognized that what he had done was wrong and he wanted to make things right. He went up to the other boy, apologized for what he had done, and asked to start the friendship over again.
The camper came back and apologized and the other camper was quick to forgive. In fact, this camper was worried about his bully and the bad choices that this child had made. He thanked his counselor for helping the other camper to feel better, even though he had been the one hurt by the situation.
The counselor set up a board game where both campers played together and it was incredible to see these boys taking responsibility for their actions, apologizing, forgiving, and moving forward with a fun game together.
On Thursday, Wiggin spoke about The Choice Jesus Made. He showed the clip from Mulan where she makes the choice to take her father’s place in battle. Our Lord and savior took our place in a battle that we could never win. Because of His great love, He fought the fight in our stead.
On Friday, Wiggin talked about The Choice of Life. We can live in death or we can choose to live in life with Christ. He showed the clip from The Lion King where Simba hears his father’s voice in the stars, “Remember who you are. You have forgotten yourself and so forgotten me.” He called us to remember who we are. We are heirs with Christ, beloved children of the King, precious sheep of a loving shepherd. We belong to Jesus and we can truly live by walking with Him.
On Saturday, Wiggin talked about The Daily Choice. Wiggin showed a clip from Return of the Jedi . The Emperor has Luke at his mercy but Luke says he will never join The Dark Side. Wiggin pointed out that Luke’s choice of “never” requires a daily choice. It is the same when we choose to follow Jesus. That choice happens again and again with each step that we take for every day of our lives. In the movie, The Emperor’s eyes grew cold and he says, “So be it.” No matter how bad the situation is, we always have a choice.
Wiggin stopped the clip at that dramatic moment but the campers knew what happened next. Many of them made “lightning fingers” simulating The Emperor’s attack. But they also knew that even though Luke’s choice to do right was painful, it led to the downfall of the evil empire. Even though we are not fictional characters, we too are on a journey and we too always have a choice.
John 15:4–“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”
After pond day and horse rides, night games and skits, Watchamabob and dunk tank and slip-n-slide … comes the campfire.
We gathered around the LED fire (fire danger is high in Eastern WA) and passed out glow sticks to the campers who wanted to share. We listened to the wind in the aspen trees. We leaned back and looked up at a dark sky filled with stars. We sung a few songs and then slowly, bravely, the campers came forward.
“I’ve been going through a lot, but coming here felt very homey to me.”
“I’ve had a hard time making friends but coming here I felt accepted and was able to make friends.”
“I wanted to come up here because I knew I needed love and I would find it here because I did last year.”
“This is the one week I look forward to all year because it is a break from the busy schedule and the sports and the drama of the rest of the year.”
The highlight of the week for our speaker was listening to a camper share who had never been around Christians before or heard about Christ. She said that even though we didn’t have the same beliefs, she felt loved and accepted.
Upon hearing the gospel, she said that it was beautiful.
Camp is a strange and lovely experience. It is wild and delightful, much like a furry dog wearing a wig. But that very strangeness, the same rowdy fun that causes us to stick Oreo’s to our foreheads and run through the forest at night in search of a stockpile of rocks painted gold … that also bonds us together. Creates memories. Solidifies friendships that can last a lifetime. Then when chapel time comes, of course children share with that counselor who went in the dunk tank just to make them happy. Of course they honestly discuss the Bible with the leader who walked beside them on the hike and swam with them in the pond. What seems silly, leads to moments that are deeply profound.
Like children learning that they are loved, that they don’t have to be a victim, that they don’t have to be a bully, that they have the power to change, that the God who made them gave them a choice.
Luke 9:23–“Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.'”