You probably won’t believe me after taking a look at the pictures featured here, but at the beginning of this week of camp, the campers were having a hard time focusing on deep spiritual matters. Yep, they just wanted to have fun. Each of us thrives on fun and here at Camas we go out of our way to provide multiple opportunities for pure, unadulterated silliness.
Point in case: skit night and that thing with the pudding and the gummy worms and all the bare (but recently cleansed) feet. And yet the staff wanted so much more for these wonderful kids. For choosing to dig gummy worms out of a tray of pudding and feeding it to a friend with your toes, does not mean that you cannot also choose to lift your face and hands and heart to God as you worship. It does not mean that you cannot also pour over your Bible, searching for all that God offers in His word. It does not mean that you cannot ask the tough questions and say the hard thing when your counselor stands before you and urges you to join the discussion.
And so on Tuesday morning, the speaker and several of the staff met on the porch to pray. They prayed for the campers, that they would be willing to let go of those easy surface concerns that take up most of our time. That they would be willing to risk depth and questions, thoughtfulness and a genuine heart to seek. Then he called them on it. Challenged the campers to look deeper than the bright glittering surface of life. Pressed them to consider being willing to dive deep.
The next day was baffling to watch. Campers pulled the speaker aside to talk instead of swimming in lake Chelan or playing volleyball. Campers abandoned an awesome board game to ask difficult questions of import. Campers waylaid their counselors to talk, postponing activities and broaching difficult topics.
That is what Van Helsing calls a thoughtful discussion. The entire week was full of Deep Dives. Planned and unplanned. Speaker led as well as camper initiated. And so here we stand, astounded once again by all that God can do when we pray according to His will. Of course He wanted these campers to go deep. When we begged Him for this, He poured out His power among us. Why does this continue to surprise. Despite our teeny tiny bit of faith, He is great and He is good. This week was so full. Deep Dives and gummy worms, all wrapped up together and wonderful to behold.
Our second Jr. High Camp was a wonderful conglomerations of so many things. Incredibly energetic campers, the quiet of the forest, the ill-considered consumption of Camas Slushies during the crowd breaker, God’s word brought to us in chapel time, and of course some very confusing cabin skits. Why was that giant whale in an operating room in the first place?
From gorgeous sunshine on lake day to those two amazing campers who made the decision to follow Jesus Christ, we came through the week rife with colds and coughs but so incredibly blessed.
Yes, your camper had to sing and dance if you sent them a package or beautifully decorated letter. Yes, they consumed way too many s’mores that were lovingly burnt for them by their senior counselor. And yes, we strove to challenge them from God’s word, give them a shoulder to cry on, and provide a fabulous week of good old fashioned fun.
I was blessed to hear my own son singing worship songs with his brothers, long after camp had ended. I’m a camper parent too, I understand. Camp is one of the most unique experiences we have in God’s family. A time to escape the pressures of school and home and the eternal striving for success and perfection. A time to listen to the wind in the aspen trees, make a new friend, take a change and reach out to God, and perhaps attack a cabin mate with a NERF sword. A strange and beautiful blessing, that comes complete with the opportunity to wear wigs and throw cheese slices at other children in the pursuit of cabin points. There’s nothing else quite like it, the funny bone of the body of Christ.
Mine Twice Over
Our speaker this week (aka Warhammer) told a story during chapel. The one about the little boy who carved a boat by hand, worked on it in all his spare time, painted it in painstaking detail, and then finally brought it out to the lake to sail it for the first time.
The boat was blown away and lost, although the boy chases it until his breath came in painful gasps and his legs trembled with fatigue. Later, the boy saw it in a shop window. The owner was selling his boat for a high price because the craftsmanship was so fabulous. Even after the boy explained that he had made the boat with his own hands, the shop owner refused to relent. The price was the same.
The boy went home, gathered every penny he had saved, returned to the shop and purchased his boat. On the walk home he clutched his masterpiece in his hands. “I made you and I bought you. You are mine twice over.”
A classic tale of God’s love for us.
During chapel on Friday night a fierce thunder storm rolled through. I was kneeling inside, singing praise and crying at the beauty of the music around me. When the music stopped I stood and walked outside into the storm. Rain fell in torrents, drenching my clothes and plastering my hair to my back. Hail joined the raindrops. Along with the iron gray clouds, spears of sunlight shone through the trees. One particular patch of rain was illuminated by slanting light. Glittering like diamonds, the storm fell through the sunlight and on to the gravel at my feet. A rainbow arched over the volleyball court and the storm continued to rage.
Kids experience so much hurt today. We saw that this week. Tragedies they should never have to endure. Hardship that is not of their making. But God speaks through the wonder of of woods, the trees swaying in a tearing wind, a patch of glittering raindrops and a rainbow that can only be seen if you’re willing to walk out into the storm. We saw God’s love this week as well. And through a ten minute storm, God said more about His love and persistence than I could say in a lifetime. He will not stop loving us simply because we have created so much pain in our world. God is truly mighty. His wonders stretch beyond our ability to destroy and He continues to call to us, even amidst the storm. Especially amidst the storm.
I took our dog, Princess Leia Freyja, for a walk last night. She paused to slurp a camper and then we took off down the twisty path in front of the lodge that leads to the meadow. Behind me, I heard Choco playing guidar and the children singing. Small voices, lifted high, their praises echoing across the swaying meadow grass and into the surrounding trees. Such an amazing moment. Then again, this was an amazing week. From sand sculptures shaped like lions and fish and a volcano in Hawaii with the burning bush on top, to that game where you find gummy worms in Jell-O and feed them to a friend with your feet.
Miracles happened every day. Prayers were answered and God’s love was shared. When the camp bus was stuck in the shop, local churches and individuals stepped up and loaned us enough vans to transport the kids to Lake Chelan for a day of water and sun and fun.
God’s Glory was evident in that gentle and quiet way that is so often overlooked by the crowd, but means everything to the one He is speaking to. Homesick campers who found the strength to stay and overcome, make friends and accomplish what seemed so impossible. A young boy who gave his life to Christ. A child who told Scruffy, “This feels like a safe place.” A shy camper who doesn’t like crowds and yet volunteered for a crazy game in watchamabob.
When I was reading staff applications this year in preparation for camp, something struck me. So many of our counselors mentioned camp as they explained how they came to Christ. Very few of them actually made salvation decisions up here at Camas Meadows. Instead, Camas was the place where they took those first wobbly steps as young Christians who were not simply following their parent’s faith but choosing Jesus for themselves.
There is something amazing about the sun and the sand, the forest and the moonlight, God’s creation shouting out His Glory. There is something priceless about a water fight and a hug, making para-cord bracelets with your friends, and decorating your cabin with a 20 foot cross and a spider web of old twine. There is something life-changing about singing worship songs at the top of your lungs in the quiet of the rustling trees, learning how to find a Bible verse on your own for the first time, and asking your counselor if God can make a rock that is too big for Him to lift. That is what we witnessed this week, God at work in the everyday of camp life. The miracle of children leaping and shouting and galloping about, laughing, making friends, and learning a little bit more about the one who made them and loves them best.