We saw the end of an era last week. On May 10th 2022, we said goodbye to our camp founder, Del Griffith. After forty-nine years of ministry, at the age of 104, he left us to greet his Lord and the loved ones who went on before him. Yes, even during his last days he was calling up Scruffy to ask how projects were coming along or chatting with the board members about camp. Del and Autumn poured their hearts and souls into Camas Meadows Bible Camp and after Autumn left us, Del continued welcoming guests and taking an active part in camp business.
Born on April 22nd, 1918, Delbert was the third son of George and Rosa Griffith.
He grew up riding his horse, playing tricks on his four brothers and one sister, and even saw the family move via covered wagon during the great depression.
As a young man, he worked hard at many different jobs. Digging potatoes one day, riding the rails another, and even being hired to watch a herd of about 100 pigs on an island in the middle of the Okanogan River.
He did cowboy work, and wore a cowboy hat and boots whether it was cowboy work or not. He worked in the CCC camps, saw the various dams built along the Columbia, and even learned how to hop a train without injury from a friendly hobo.
Del met Autumn Harmon in the early 1940’s. She was seeing another guy at the time and I once asked her why she chose Grandpa Del. She smiled and told me how Delbert would gather up all of the local kids and lead hiking adventures into the hills. “There was no one like Del, he was just wonderful.”
Delbert married Autumn on July 25th, 1942 at the home of Clarence and Lily Snode in Wenatchee, WA. This is the same Lily Snode who would eventually purchase a large meadow and dairy farm up Blewett Pass.
Del and Autumn settled in Lake Side (now part of Chelan). Del was a milkman and Autumn focused on raising their four children (Terry, Sharon, Clint, and my father Greg).
In order to add new families to his route, Del did more than deliver milk, eggs, and ice cream. He would pick up prescriptions from the pharmacy and library books and drop those off at your doorstep as well.
Del put his faith in Jesus Christ later in life, when he was in his 50’s. He and Autumn had property adjacent to Lily Snode up on the Camas land. As Del’s new faith blossomed (he told us all about how his salty language changed overnight) he and Autumn grew certain that they should dedicate twenty acres of their land to the Lord’s use.
Del was about to get out of the dairy business and was wondering what to do with retirement. Unbeknownst to him, Autumn and Greg had been praying for three days about what to do with the Camas Land. Del was on his knees, putting away dairy items when a man walked by and ribbed him about praying. The funny thing, while Del was on his knees to work, he was praying as well. Also, praying about what to do with the land up Camas Meadows. Then it came to him, start a youth camp. When he came home from work, he walked up to Autumn and Greg and said, “You know what we should do with that land?” Autumn told me later that she just knew this would be the answer to her prayers. “Start a youth camp,” he said. And so, they did.
Here, Del is cooking in the current camp kitchen. But in the early days, he cooked in a tiny lean-to attached to the original dinning hall. He would pass pancakes through the window to the campers. There were many adventures as they took a stretch of empty land (except for a corral) and built two lodges, three cabins, and brought water and generator power to the buildings. Yes, they started out by using spring water that the campers dipped out of milk cans for a drink. Yes, they all used the same dipper! Del and friends found out how much dynamite was too much when blowing up stumps. And one time, someone stored an old chainsaw in Del’s oven and he didn’t see it before turning on the heat. “That was a mess,” he told me.
Del had a talent for talking folks into work and he put it to good use as they started the camp. He got all of his kids working in one way or another. Whether it was skinning logs for their home when they came up to visit or even signing up to work full-time at the camp, family and friends were put to work whenever they stopped by.
Del and Autumn hosted camps years before their house was finished. They simply lived in a tiny two room cabin in the meadow on weekends as they spent the fourteen years needed to build their home. They ran camp that whole time. Del never let a little thing like not having a house nearby stop him when there was work to be done!
They celebrated many wedding anniversaries at the camp. Del led the work crews and Autumn fed anyone who happened by as they lived a life of service in their log home just a two minute walk from the camp they had founded.
When Del and Autumn dressed up for church or a special occasion, Autumn always had her fancy broach and Del sported a bolo tie.
Here, Del and Autumn celebrate their 70th Wedding Anniversary. They would celebrate their 75th before Autumn went to be with the Lord.
Del celebrated his 104th birthday in April. Here he is with his son Clint. During Del’s last week with us, he had a long chat with one of our camp board members, quizzed him about the financial report, and shared important information about his vision for camp as it continues into the future.
During his last day with us, Del chose a wedding gift for his great grand daughter. He was busy and determined right to the end. Grandpa Del leaves a legacy of love, service, and hard work for each of us who are missing him today. He loved his family, his friends, and his Lord. He showed that love through determination and the kind of hard work that left everyone else in the dust. We are so blessed that the Lord saw fit to give him 104 years here on earth. Even 104 years is too short a time to spend with those you love.
Isaiah 40:30-31–“Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
Scruffy started CamasCon in 2007 with a dream of bringing Christian gamers (and gamers of all kinds) together for a weekend of fun and fellowship. CamasCon has become an amazing chance for us to prayerfully step into a world were Christ is rarely represented. Gamers of every variety LOVE to get together and play! For years, these retreats have grown and thrived as people travel into the mountains to worship, study the Bible together, … and to play hour upon hour upon countless hour of strategy board games.
While CamasCon is very successful at bringing men together, more than any other kind of camp we’ve run, Scruffy noticed that attendees were almost exclusively male. CamasCon camps filled four slots during the year, but while men continued to enjoy fellowship and boardgames together, very few women attended.
We wondered why this was. Girls love games just as much as boys. I (Boo Boo) was told that boys don’t read fiction and yet all three of our sons devour books. I thought back to when I was at a huge women’s event in Seattle and Scruff wanted to bring me flowers. He tiptoed into an auditorium filled with thousands of women, finally found me, handed over the bouquet and zipped out of there as fast as possible.
How could young women help but see CamasCon as a guys event, when the room was full of 47 guys and 3 girls? If joining an auditorium full of women was daunting for Scruffy, how could we expect girls to give a board gaming camp a try when so few of them were involved?
The problem, Scuffy was also a guy. How could a guy plan a game camp for girls?
By handing off the baton! Scruff talked with Bomber, Epona, Kanga, and Meowth. Our wonderful girl staff took over the planning and took off running with the idea!
They even designed several different posters for the camp! Here is one of them.
The girl staff dubbed the new gaming retreat SamusCon! Named after Samus Aran, the leading lady of the 1986 video game Metroid!
Of course, SamusCon needed all kinds of games and so the girl staff planned a weekend full of board games, table top games, video games, and card games. Even Boo Boo played. Sure, I played badly, but thankfully, no one said that you had to actually be good at games to come!
Yes, while playing Phase 10, it took Boo Boo six tries to make it past Phase 1. However, she found that the sixth time truly was the charm!
Yes, we also played Snorta. Now, I have played Snorta on many occasions. One of the more memorable times was when Scruffy was doing so badly that it caused a small child to burst into tears of deepest sympathy. But none of my previous Snorta experiences was so incredibly LOUD as this one!
Why, you ask?
Well, I trust that a picture does indeed say a thousand words.
Many passionate words were exchanged during this supposedly chill game featuring a variety of farm animals and the noises they make … or could make … or the breakfast foods they remind you of.
The competition was fierce and some (unnamed) people didn’t even give their barn animals easy sounds like: oink, cluck cluck, and heehaw. Oh, no! We had to shout out things like: bacon, breakfast, and waffles!
Plus, when two players were dueling, they had to match these various foods and/or animal noises with the remembered animal that inspired them.
Accusations were made! Animal noises were shouted at terrible decibels! But finally, after some hid in the kitchen to save their ears, a victor was finally chosen.
Needing some time to recover, the SamusCon campers sought out less fierce games for a time.
Although, Mario Cart can get competitive as well …
Epona taught a wonderful game of Above and Below.
One camper went against my shouted warnings not to follow the stranger toward the dark cave … only to battle it out with five rock-wielding villagers and win!
We were all amazed that despite shunning Boo Boo’s sound motherly advice, she was victorious.
The girl staff really worked hard to make this a wonderful weekend.
Of course, Princess Leia Freyja also helped out.
After some practice with Scruffy before the camp, I (Boo Boo) was even able to teach a game! This is actually my very own Scooby Doo mystery game and I got to teach three people how to play with me.
I know this doesn’t look all that complex, but teaching something is totally different than simply playing it!
Despite many trials, Scoob and his friends thwarted the jewel thief and meddled until the criminals were unmasked!
Many games were played. Here, you can see a finished map for Cartographers.
We had an amazing discussion time about a Bible passage together on Sunday.
And took many, many goofy photos!
So there you have it, the very first SamusCon Girl’s Game Retreat!
“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
The first weekend in March is special. This is when we host our Junior High Winter Blast!
In 2020, Junior High Winter Blast was the last camp we ran before everything shut down. It was such a rambunctious time of laughter, fun, and learning about God together. Then we faced the heartbreak and pain of a long, quiet year without camps. That last Junior High Winter Blast was such an important reminder to us. It helped us remember the joy of serving God in a camp setting. To be faithful to God’s call, even though what He asked of us was so very hard. To continue striving after Him, no matter what that looked like.
Now, we have come full circle. A spring, summer, winter, fall, and another spring where we were able to host individual families, but not camps. An amazing summer of ministry. Yes that summer did include a whole lot of hoops to jump through, but it was so worth it. A delightful winter of hosting rental camps that wrapped up with us finally being able to run Junior High Winter blast once again!
It is so good to walk out of the desert for a moment and breath in the fresh air of victory! Yes, our walk with God travels some tough places, shadowed paths, and confusing seasons. God is just as close in the darkness.
However, the joyful craziness of Junior High Winter Blast provided an important time to celebrate, to remember that God also blesses us beyond what we deserve or can even imagine.
Hmmm … so what does one do at Junior High Winter Blast?
There is the all-important game … Oreo Face!
You guessed it. One must open an Oreo cookie and stick it to one’s forehead. Then through vigorous facial contortions, scooch that Oreo down to one’s mouth for eating! The first to eat their cookie wins!
There really are not enough times in life where one sticks a cookie to their head and makes faces to the acclaim of their peers. Perhaps our days would be a little more sweet, if adults adopted this practice! Office dispute, no problem! Oreo Face to the rescue.
Of course, not every activity can involve cookies.
What is winter camp without the famous Camas tube hill?
The answer well could be, “Less painful.”
It is very important to pace yourself as you charge into outdoor activities. A bit of adventure on the tube hill … followed by a mug of cocoa in front of the fire.
But the comfort of indoor activities can only take you so far. To build those truly memorable moments for sharing with your family and friends when you get home …
Means that campers rushed back to the great outdoors!
Then they recovered in the camp lodge with a fun board game.
And zoomed back outside!
Then back inside for building tornado-like-structures with Princess Leia Freyja!
Feast your eyes on this masterpiece, my friends.
Then remember that Radiant and Polaris built this Kapla block structure in a room teeming with exuberant middle school campers, staff, and even a 113lb dog.
Then, once the Kapla Tornado had stood victorious for some time … the campers played ultimate Janga, bringing the whole thing crashing down in epic fashion!
But not everything at camp is silly, for example, chapel time!
Well, I suppose there are one or two goofy songs. But then we get to the message …
Ha! I had you there. If you have ever gone to camp or served at camp, you will know that God uses absolutely everything for His glory! Even those things that at first glance, might just appear somewhat silly. Why are campers ready to raise their hands in quiet worship with their cabin? Because they have just been running around the room flapping their arms with that same group of kids singing “I’ll Fly Away.”
Why do campers listen during chapel, ask questions about God, and actually remember some of the things that they learned? Well, besides all of our many desperate prayers, camp speakers are special. They know and love kids and work hard to present the scripture in a way that children can gobble up.
This weekend the chapel sessions were just so amazing! I’ve been a Christian for a long, long time and they held my attention just as skillfully for me as for all those rowdy kids. Epona is a big fan of the Transformers shows and comics. There are a lot of different versions of the Transformers but one thing is consistent, Optimus Prime. The same actor has provided the voice from 1984 to the present and Optimus Prime has always been “Strong Enough to be Gentle.”
The joy just kept piling on higher and higher as we watched campers having a blast, meeting friends, and playing in the snow. But seeking God together during chapel was definitely one of the best things about this camp.
The more Epona has enjoyed Transformers over the years, the more it struck her that Optimus Prime reminded her of our heavenly father in a myriad of ways. Optimus Prime’s name literally means the best of the best–Exodus 15:11. Like God, Optimus Prime is a mighty warrior–Jeremiah 20:11, Exodus 14:14 and 15:3, 2 Chronicles 32:1-22. Optimus Prime protects, sacrifices himself for, and gently cares for the Autobots. He shepherds them. Ezekiel 34:1-16 (that passage made me weep as we read it again), Psalm 100:3, John 10:1-18 and 27-30. Just like both the old and new testaments use an image of a shepherd to show us what God is like, a simple children’s cartoon can be used to show just a glimpse of God’s power, gentleness, and love.
Just as Optimus Prime is always there, showing up with strength and caring when the Autobots need him, God is always there. Deuteronomy 31:6, Psalm 94:18-19, Matthew 11:28-30, Matthew 28:16-20. There are dark moments in the Transformers cartoon, tragedy strikes, friends are lost, evil appears to win. But Optimus Prime is always there, standing strong with those he loves. These beautiful campers were so attentive (I know, gasp!) as they heard again and again that God is strong, caring, and there to save them and make them His own. What an amazing weekend to be a part of!
“For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.”
It was a delight to run our Senior High Winter camp once again!
We worshiped with both crazy fast songs that had equally-crazy hand motions and those sweet thoughtful melodies that always make me weep.
Doing chapel again with our wonderful senior high campers next to the warm fire on a cold winter day was incredible.
Our camp speaker, Van Helsing, talked about … doing the hand motions for “Pharaoh Pharaoh?”
Ah, there we go. Van Helsing talked about who God is. God the Father. God the Son. God the Holy Spirit. Plus, how does who They are affect who we are?
Besides speaking, Van Helsing also engaged in many other fun activities.
Including whatever is happening in the photo below. We are not sure … but it definitely looks loud!
We enjoyed delicious food cooked for us by the amazing Kanga!
Yes, playing with your plate is much much more mature than playing with your food … in case you were wondering.
But the campers didn’t just stay inside singing and walking around with plates on their heads!
Oh, no! They ventured into the great outdoors with much gusto!
Hikes through the crunchy snow gave everyone both breathtaking views at Inspiration Point …
… and an opportunity for an epic snowball fight!
Don’t worry, this camper was smiling in the very next photo.
See, I told you he survived!
Many snowballs flew and much laughter filled the mountain air.
The sunshine came out and melted our icy snow just enough so that it packed well and didn’t hurt when hurled through the air at speed.
The fun continued with various attacks.
Both success and failure was fun and hilarious!
Epona, enjoying the camper’s antics.
A camper, enjoying producing those antics!
After invigorating outdoor activities, it was fun to just hang out with friends in the lodge.
Curling up by the fire with a mug of cocoa was a must.
Or, if you are Princess Leia Freyja, just curling up by the fire. Not that she would turn down a mug of cocoa.
The campers had a chance to play some strategy board games once they got tired and cold from outdoor play.
Plus, the chance to make friends with the camp dog.
More outside time was enjoyed with both sledding and then tubing on the terrifying tube hill!
And inside for dog snuggles!
Kanga made these adorable mini pancakes just for Epona! Good things come in small (but mighty) packages.
And then there was hockey!
The senior high campers were especially fond of hockey!
In fact, so was Princess Leia Freyja! She knew exactly how the game was played. Leap in with all four paws and grab the puck. Then run fast to keep it away from everyone else!
Even watching hockey was fun.
Many bumps, bruises, and sore muscles later … victory finally came!
What a weekend! So there you have it: tubing, sledding, snowball fights, hockey, friends, warm crackling fires, snuggly dogs, yummy food, board games, worship, thoughtful chapels, and finally … time to say goodbye.
Fear not! There are more camps coming your way. Stay tuned to hear about Spring Break Survival Camp, CamasCon, Ladies Retreat, Summer Camps, and more!
The day after Christmas marked a beautiful milestone at Camas Meadows Bible Camp.
The first winter camp since March of 2019.
Campers hiked up to Inspiration Point to see the sunrise (only arriving slightly late, ha!) and trekked up the tube hill to zoom down the mountain in a splash of powder. Clearly Scruffy enjoyed his tube run with Boo Boo!
To warm up, we gathered in the camp lodge for board games, time to chat with friends, snuggle the camp dog, and enjoy an epic game of King Elephant.
Princess Leia Freyja was sure that the campers had arrived just to give her pats and treats.
In her defense, there was enough dog snuggling, petting, and treat giving to confuse any canine about the purpose of the camp.
Summer Staff Winter Retreat is unique. It is a chance for counsel staff, support staff, and anyone considering training to be staff next summer to enjoy being campers together.
Exploring God’s beautiful creation is an important part of this four-day camp.
Since the temperatures reached a low of -3 and a high of -1 on the first day and hovered around that zone much of the time, those moments of nature appreciation were spent in quick sprints rather than meandering strolls.
After our mad dashes out of doors, there were plenty of games to play in the lodge near the crackling fire.
Snow angels and a chilly zip down the tube hill.
Then a game of couch …
… and constructing gingerbread houses!
Some gingerbread houses were more detailed … and terrifying than others.
Below, the classic and creepy story of Hansel and Gretel meets both Shrek and the French revolution!
And once our toes thawed … it was back outside again!
But this retreat is also a chance to come together as followers of Jesus and reflect on and talk about His call and what He asks of us in His word.
This year, we focused on the gospels. Watching episodes of The Chosen together, reading scripture, and discussing what it means to follow where Jesus asks us to go.
Like our dawn hike to Inspiration Point, following our Lord is often both harder than expected and even more beautiful. In what ways have you found God’s call more than you expected?
Isaiah 43:1–But now, this is what the LORD says– he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”
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.
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.”
“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.
“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.’”
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?
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!
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.”
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.”
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!
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.”
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.”