Forest Kindergarten

Have you heard about “Forest Kindergarten”? What on earth is it and what does it have to do with camp? Well, Forest Kindergarten is based on the German “waldkindergarten” model. Strangely, as our ability to study the human brain increases, our value of the simple times of unstructured play during childhood increases as well. Current studies indicate that the intensity and super-scheduled nature of the classroom can be a deterrent to later learning. The solution, get outside and just play! Which is exactly what occurs at Forest Kindergarten. The human brain is busy and at work when children are allowed to simply interact with the outdoor world. You thought that building forts for hours at a time and poking mud puddles with sticks was a waste of time? Not so. Children have a greater capacity to absorb information when they are submerged in nature and a great love of learning can be developed from such an environment.

I read a cool article about outdoor kindergarten this week, so what? What does this have to do with camp?

I live at a Bible Camp, God’s beautiful creation is all around me. Whenever I read something like this, I can’t help but think of camp. Here at Camas Meadows we sing crazy songs, engage in interesting competitions involving mayonnaise and slices of cheese, and learn about God’s great love.

All of this is set within the backdrop of God’s amazing creation. Not only do kids get to read John 3:16 in their Bibles, but they also get to hike to Inspiration Point in the dead of night and gaze upon the vast array of stars spread across the heavens. They tromp through the forest, getting sweaty and tired until finally the canyon view at The Stone Face appears. Steep sandstone cliffs topped by a giant boulder shaped like the stern visage of a mighty Native American Brave. Birdsong and the chattering of squirrels. The mottled shadows and gentle rays of summer sunlight. Spider webs blanketing the undergrowth in the black forest and the silent passage of deer.

God’s creation is astounding and lovely. It is mighty and furious, tender and deadly and strong. Nature points to God in all of His inexplicable holiness. Just as the human brain is stimulated for growth and learning by a few meandering moments on a path through the forest, I believe that God’s creation stirs the soul as well.

Take the time to step outside this week. Run your fingers across the rough tips of grass in an overgrown lawn. Stop and listen to birdsong. Watch a squirrel stealing sunflower seeds from a birdfeeder. Feel the bite of snowflakes against your face during a storm. Watch the rush of clouds across the sky on a windy afternoon. Not only will such activities stir the mind, you just might get a glimpse of the God who made you and loves you as well.


Boo Boo

The Final Frontier

If you are a Trekkie like me, you will know exactly what I’m talking about in the title of this post. Space! It is the final frontier and a particularly amazing collection of galaxies and stars and planets and quasars and asteroids and comets and…things. 

I read an article about space this week that made me think of camp.

You doubt?

Well, it was actually two articles. One by Eric Metaxas in the Wall Street Journal about the signs of intelligent design in the universe and a letter to the editor by Lawrence Krauss saying that Metaxas was all wrong. Now I myself really don’t care whether there is other intelligent life in the universe. Let me amend that, my twelve-year-old self cared very much. I intended to marry Spock and if the universe didn’t cough up some Vulcans real soon I was going to be out of luck. But Vulcans aside, whether or not God created other habitable worlds, my faith in Him is not shaken. So why read these two articles and why in the world did they make me think of camp?

Most campers live in a town of some sort. It might be a small town with lovingly landscaped streets that sport decorative bushes and trees and hanging flower baskets. It might be a larger town with a wide variety of shopping experiences and more than one movie theater. Or they might live in a bustling city with malls and billboards and highways and maybe even a skyscraper or two. But very few of the kids who come to camp actually live out in the woods like my boys.

Just like there is something about the vast, swirling wonders of space which pulls the mind toward questions about God. There is something about setting foot in the forest that makes you pause and wonder, is He there? If so, does He really see me?

When you are in town, you are surrounded by the manmade. Houses are constructed, streets are paved and maintained, stores are bought and sold, trees and shrubs come from a nursery and must be trimmed and sprayed for insects and watered lest they die. The forest, well the forest lives on its own.

No one is watering the towering pines that cover the hills around camp. They are simply there, stretching toward the heavens in all their splendor. Elk, squirrels, bear, snowshoe hares, deer, porcupines, cougar, and marmots move through the forest unaided. With the exception of the squirrels by my grandparents house, they find their food and live their lives without a mall or medical plan. The sizzling heat of the July sun. The aching cold of a midnight hike to Inspiration Point. The vast spread of stars above and the gentle call of song birds on the wind. We can forget all of these wonders when we surround ourselves with the works of man.

Camp is a place where you meet God.

Not just because the speaker is teaching from the Bible. Not just because the counselors are asking for prayer requests at night. You meet God at camp because camp is surrounded by all the amazing things that He Himself has made. I am awestruck when I touch God’s handiwork. Whether it is a confusing glimpse into the intricacies of space, or hearing an owl call to his mate in the dead of night. I want kids to see His wonders too. I don’t want kids to spend their lives on sidewalks and playgrounds and think that they have seen it all. I want them to experience the things that God made, in all their wild splendor. And that is why those articles made me think of camp.

So how about you?

What leaves you flabbergasted and in awe of God? 


Boo Boo

Behind the Scenes

Camp is chaos with a direction. Not everyone is geared to work at camp. Some folks need a job description, a number of hours they are expected to work, days off, and the promise of a set bedtime. And then there is camping ministry. One never knows what is going to happen next. All the small business owners out there are nodding their heads. They know exactly what it is like to have responsibility for everything that must be done, no matter the day or hour. For some people, this kind of adventure would drive them crazy. But for some, they simply haven’t tried it yet and don’t realize how amazing it is to watch God work His wonders in the midst of our fears and feelings of inadequacy.

Our summer intern posted a beautiful newsletter article that walked us through her first terrifying and amazing week as a camp counselor. I want to repost that here, because it was so real and honest and fabulous. But I also want to give you guys a sneak peak. I want to take you behind the scenes as Scruffy considered making that phone call that would push our dear Sparks way out of her comfort zone and into a leadership position.

Usually one is a C.I.T. her first year, a Junior counselor her second year, and finally in her third year she is considered for the senior counselor position. But things don’t always work out like this. Sometimes a teen is not ready to be a Senior Counselor when their third year of camp experience rolls around. Sometimes we have too many qualified counselors and an individual must be a Jr. Counselor for another year. Sometimes there are simply not enough applicants and we must choose someone to step up. Once in awhile, we will even ask one of the permanent staff members to counsel. Scruffy, Choco, and I have all taken a cabin for a week when needed.

So, it was the night before camp and all through the house, not a creature was stirring…except for Scruffy who was doing cabin assignments. The number of campers did not match up with the number of counselor applicants. When we are in a pinch with the girl counselors, I usually offer to counsel. This time Scruff was not concerned. “You don’t need to, I have someone in mind.”

When we are short on staff, God always provides someone. Sometimes it is a counselor from years before who is suddenly able to return and help out. Sometimes it is myself or one of the permanent staff members. Sometimes it is a new counselor who is ready to be pushed out of their comfort zone and into a position of authority. Sparks was 17 or 18 years old, demonstrated a solid understanding of the Bible and the Gospel at Staff Training, had a summer of experience at a different camp, and she was from the church of Scruffy’s good friend who highly recommended her. So Scruff didn’t even consider pulling me away from my parenting duties, Sparks was just right for the job.

Easy for us to see her potential, hard for her to feel prepared. It can be so difficult to move forward completely relying on God, but this is exactly where we want our staff to be. This is where God does His very best work.

And so without further ado, here is Sparks’ beautiful testimony.

“Recently I’ve been getting caught up in qualifications. Kind of a weird thing, I know. I’ve been looking for a job, reading about how to get the job I want, and how I need to acquire all these qualifications and skills before I can get the job I want. Honestly, it’s overwhelming. I keep thinking I’m so behind and feeling like I’m pushing against this constant wall of “experience.”
I’ve always thought that God’s way is backwards and upside down. He calls the unqualified, the inexperienced, and the weak. I struggle accepting that any of those characteristics could be used to describe me. I struggle accepting them because I don’t want to believe that’s what I am. But like the Bible says, “In my weakness He is stronger.” This brings me to the story of my first week as an unqualified, inexperienced, and weak counselor at Camas Meadows Bible Camp.
It was the night before my first week, first year, first everything, when I got a message from Scruffy saying they were short on girl staff and I was going to be a senior counselor that week. That first week. Of the first year. Of the first EVERYTHING. I had no dang clue what I was going to do.
That week my co-counselor and I had 8 campers. Neither of us had ever been campers up there so we were total newbs. But despite our under qualified-ness, we lead cabin discussions, created amazing sandcastles and skits, and loved those girls with all our hearts. We honestly didn’t know what else to do! During that week we didn’t know what Whatchamabob was, Morning Jam, or “The Pillow Fight”. Because we were such newbs, we didn’t know the exhaustion that comes with camp, so we would completely expended all our energy every day, all day. We were beyond weak at the end.

Three of our girls met Jesus for the first time that week. I still think of their little voices talking to God for the first time and it brings tears to my eyes. I wish I could live in that week always. I wish I could be that weak always. Because we were just winging it, we weren’t relying on God “consciously.” If that makes any sense. We knew we loved Jesus and we knew we wanted these girls to love Jesus too. Each day we didn’t pray “God give us guidance and wisdom as we lead these girls.” We prayed, “Lord, please let us make it to all the activities today and have fun.” In a way we knew God would take care of us. And he did. We didn’t ask everyday to be made humble, we were thrust into humbleness and it was good.
I was inexperienced, under qualified, and weak yet God used me. Yet now I feel like I have to be all these things before God can use me, but that’s not true! God will use me wherever he wants, whenever he wants. I just need to admit I’m nothing without him and that it is only through the love of Jesus Christ that I can accomplish anything. I am nothing without God. He is the ultimate qualification, experience, and strength.”




Have you ever experienced that sinking feeling when you realize something is not going to work. As a child, sitting on your bike at the top of a steep hill, looking down on a hastily build jump, and realizing that you do not have the skill necessary to pull this thing off. Driving all the way to the Laundromat and finding out that you do not have any detergent. Signing up for college classes in your final semester and seeing that the course you need is only offered in the fall. We had this experience at camp this week. But God is strange and faithful and unexpected, especially in times like these.

So, right before he had to leave to shop for camp groceries, Scruffy got an e-mail from the camp book-keeping guy. I was indicating the clock with some concern. Scruff had to get out the door or he wouldn’t get back to camp in time. He shook his head at my insistence. “No, I’ve got to take care of this.”

Our book-keeper had e-mailed with a list of the bills that needed to be paid the first of January. Due to some large, unforeseen electrical costs, there was not enough money to cover everything. He needed Scruffy to tell him what to pay first and what would have to wait for our January income to come in.

It was one of those moments.

Over the lifetime of the camp, we have seen this before, many many times. Full-time ministry is an experience rife with the unknown and learning how to trust by necessity. Although we have grown accustomed to such times, they are never fun to experience.  Scruff made the list and sent off that e-mail. Then he paused for just a moment to open a couple of Christmas cards. One was from a camp counselor who was at that “launching into the workforce” age. A second card was from a high school friend of mine. A friend I haven’t seen since my ten-year-reunion several years ago. The counselor sent a gift for the summer intern program and anywhere else that had a desperate need. My friend simply send her gift. Between those two simple Christmas cards the camp received enough money to pay our bills for January and fund most of our Summer Intern Program.

Thrilled, Scruffy rushed off to do the camp shopping and make deposits at the bank. When he got back he had the joy of writing an e-mail explaining how extra money had miraculously appeared in the camp account.

God could have provided for the camp before Scruffy had to write that e-mail. Before that sinking moment where we faced the realization that our best laid plans were not sufficient. But He didn’t and I for one am glad.

We survive because of God. Inside, we all know this. Our very ability to breath and pump blood through our veins and metabolize energy from our food depends upon God. But it is so easy to forget.

In those dark moments of insufficiency, that is when we see the truth. We will not succeed without God. But that is alright, because He is here, among us. Mighty and baffling and strong. Working His wonders in His own way at His own time.

Boo Boo