Middle School 1–Choices

Middle school camp is for such an amazing age group. This is the age of choices. This is the time when a child’s brain grows to be able to understand the abstract things in life (try explaining a metaphor to a ten-year-old) and when they start to understand the complexities of the world around them. They begin to see that they have a say in who they are and who they will become tomorrow and the day after that.

Appropriately enough, our speaker Wiggin spoke on choices.

On Monday his theme was The Choice is Yours. He showed a clip from Tangled where Rapunzel is trying to decide whether to leave her tower. The question for that chapel session was, “Are you going to live in your tower or make the decision for yourself?” He reminded them that everything they did or didn’t do during their week of camp (paintball, dunk tank, horseback rides) was their choice. Would they truly experience the week or remain distanced from the possibilities and people around them?

On Tuesday, Wiggin showed a clip from Monster’s Inc. to remind us that we have a choice about how we see the world around us. In the clip, Sulley tucks Boo into bed. He has the choice whether to believe that there is hope for humans and monsters.

We have the choice to see how bad the world is and to despair, to see both the good and the bad and figure that it sort of evens out, or to see that the world is not how it is supposed to be, that there is bad and good together, but to still hope for when God makes things right. We have the choice to hope.

Romans 8:22-26

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”

Many children have lived through so many hard things by the time they reach middle school and it is at about this age that they are able to process what they have gone through or are going through and then realize when something is wrong.

Just like the monsters in that cartoon are suddenly waking up to the world around them, these little ones become newly aware of the hardship, pain, and evil in our world.

But there is another side to this coin of awakening. Middle schoolers are also freshly aware of their ability to choose to follow God. So much important work with the Lord happens in kids hearts at this age.

It was especially touching for Scruffy to watch Wiggin serve as camp speaker. You see, Scruff and I were here to see Wiggin come to camp as a nine-year-old camper, become a C.I.T., go on to be a camp counselor with our own boys as happy campers in his cabin, grow up, get married, and then come back to teach kids about Jesus.

It is such an honor to have been a part of camp ministry long enough to watch children grow up, grow in the Lord, and then dedicate their lives in service to Him. It isn’t often that we find ourselves doing the same thing for 23 years. But the benefit of being called to serve at the same place for so long is that the full picture of what happens when kids come to camp begins to unfold. Watching Wiggin speak was one of those beautiful moments.

One of our cooks got to go on a horseback ride with a cabin of campers. She told about the camper who rode in front of her and his constant narration about the ride. “The horse is walking now.” He would turn around in the saddle to make sure that she got each important declaration.

“Oh, the horse is trotting.” He would look back and inform her about each change in pace. “The horse is now walking.” Then a moment of drama! His horse stumbled over a rock. But don’t worry, this camper was quick to alert our cook about the experience.

On Wednesday, Wiggin spoke on The Choice We Can’t Make. Sin is in every part of our world, even when we try our best. He showed a clip from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe where Edmund makes a deal with the white witch for some Turkish Delight and the promise of being a prince.

One of the stories from this week that was especially inspiring (yes, it made both Scruffy and Boo Boo cry) started out as a negative.

Scruffy had to deal with a discipline issue in one of the boys’ cabins.

One camper had been bullying another and of course this was discovered when the bullied camper reacted in frustration. As anyone who works with kids knows, it is usually the second person who gets caught, leaving the adult to figure out what exactly happened to elicit the response of the second child in the first place.

After the counselors and our speaker did some sleuthing, they brought the child who had started the kerfuffle to Scruff.

Scruff was just so proud, watching our team work. They showed compassion to both the child being bullied who reacted badly and to the child who had made the initial bad choice to begin with.

By the time Scruffy came on the scene, this camper was ready for some serious conversations about what was really going on with him. We always have a choice in how we will react to the hard things in life and it was so apt that this was exactly what Wiggin was speaking on. This camper recognized that what he had done was wrong and he wanted to make things right. He went up to the other boy, apologized for what he had done, and asked to start the friendship over again.

The camper came back and apologized and the other camper was quick to forgive. In fact, this camper was worried about his bully and the bad choices that this child had made. He thanked his counselor for helping the other camper to feel better, even though he had been the one hurt by the situation.

The counselor set up a board game where both campers played together and it was incredible to see these boys taking responsibility for their actions, apologizing, forgiving, and moving forward with a fun game together.

On Thursday, Wiggin spoke about The Choice Jesus Made. He showed the clip from Mulan where she makes the choice to take her father’s place in battle. Our Lord and savior took our place in a battle that we could never win. Because of His great love, He fought the fight in our stead.

On Friday, Wiggin talked about The Choice of Life. We can live in death or we can choose to live in life with Christ. He showed the clip from The Lion King where Simba hears his father’s voice in the stars, “Remember who you are. You have forgotten yourself and so forgotten me.” He called us to remember who we are. We are heirs with Christ, beloved children of the King, precious sheep of a loving shepherd. We belong to Jesus and we can truly live by walking with Him.

On Saturday, Wiggin talked about The Daily Choice. Wiggin showed a clip from Return of the Jedi . The Emperor has Luke at his mercy but Luke says he will never join The Dark Side. Wiggin pointed out that Luke’s choice of “never” requires a daily choice. It is the same when we choose to follow Jesus. That choice happens again and again with each step that we take for every day of our lives. In the movie, The Emperor’s eyes grew cold and he says, “So be it.” No matter how bad the situation is, we always have a choice.

Wiggin stopped the clip at that dramatic moment but the campers knew what happened next. Many of them made “lightning fingers” simulating The Emperor’s attack. But they also knew that even though Luke’s choice to do right was painful, it led to the downfall of the evil empire. Even though we are not fictional characters, we too are on a journey and we too always have a choice.

John 15:4–“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”

After pond day and horse rides, night games and skits, Watchamabob and dunk tank and slip-n-slide … comes the campfire.

We gathered around the LED fire (fire danger is high in Eastern WA) and passed out glow sticks to the campers who wanted to share. We listened to the wind in the aspen trees. We leaned back and looked up at a dark sky filled with stars. We sung a few songs and then slowly, bravely, the campers came forward.

“I’ve been going through a lot, but coming here felt very homey to me.”

“I’ve had a hard time making friends but coming here I felt accepted and was able to make friends.”

“I wanted to come up here because I knew I needed love and I would find it here because I did last year.”

“This is the one week I look forward to all year because it is a break from the busy schedule and the sports and the drama of the rest of the year.”

The highlight of the week for our speaker was listening to a camper share who had never been around Christians before or heard about Christ. She said that even though we didn’t have the same beliefs, she felt loved and accepted.

Upon hearing the gospel, she said that it was beautiful.

Camp is a strange and lovely experience. It is wild and delightful, much like a furry dog wearing a wig. But that very strangeness, the same rowdy fun that causes us to stick Oreo’s to our foreheads and run through the forest at night in search of a stockpile of rocks painted gold … that also bonds us together. Creates memories. Solidifies friendships that can last a lifetime. Then when chapel time comes, of course children share with that counselor who went in the dunk tank just to make them happy. Of course they honestly discuss the Bible with the leader who walked beside them on the hike and swam with them in the pond. What seems silly, leads to moments that are deeply profound.

Like children learning that they are loved, that they don’t have to be a victim, that they don’t have to be a bully, that they have the power to change, that the God who made them gave them a choice.

Luke 9:23–“Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.'”

Boo Boo

Junior A Camp–Part of God’s Team

Who wants to be part of a team?

Well, actually these campers are volunteering for Watchamabob, an icebreaker that involves putting a pitcher of water on their counselor’s back and leaving them to figure out how to escape … or not.

Brrr … interestingly, this is not the only time that Suki got wet while wearing this charming cow suit.

This week, Epona spoke on the value of being part of a team.

On Monday we watched the clip from the Sonic Movie where our speedy space hedgehog played an amazing game of baseball, playing in every single position because of his great speed … then held his hand up for a high five after the big run. He realized in that moment, that he was truly alone.

Ecclesiastes 4:12–“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

Epona made that first chapel quick and simple. A fast look at the idea of trying to press through life alone and that being on a team is a source of strength and comfort. She gave just a glimpse of how God seeks us out to rescue us and then wrapped things up, knowing that each chapel session would grow deeper and more complex as the week progressed.

Luke 19:10–“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

It is such a privilege to host these amazing young campers. For many of them, this is their first time spending a week away from home. They seem to instinctively know the value of community. This camper hasn’t even been to one chapel session yet, but he is enjoying being on the Bear’s Abode team for sure.

Philippians 2:4–“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Psalm 133:1–“How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!”

When Elijah thought he was alone after defeating the prophets of Baal, fleeing the wrath of Jezebel, and finding himself waiting for the voice of God on a distant mountain, God did not leave him hurting and alone. God showed up, with a still small voice, and directed Elijah to go and call Elisha to join him in the Lord’s work. God made him part of a team.

As each camper finds out who their counselors will be and which cabin is their home for the week, they learn that they are part of a team.

Whether Robin’s Roost or Owl’s Perch, Sasquatch Lair or Bear’s Abode, it is good to be part of a team and to not be alone.

Princess Leia Freyja is not very good at being part of a team. Here, she wants to sneak out onto the paintball field and chase chipmunks right in the middle of all the action.

During paintball, players are divided into red team and blue team according to the color of their paintball markers.

Here, red team sprints out of their bunker to engage the others in the forest.

A member of blue team sneaks through the woods to try and catch someone from red team unawares.

Paintball is always a highlight. Something that most children don’t get to enjoy at home.

This camper is enjoying the ropes course with her cabin.

After a busy time outdoors, it is always nice to do a craft with your friend.

Or impress a fellow counselor in training by playing with your food! Yes, Dragon looks very impressed with Suki’s mashed potato duck. The photographer was equally astounded, I assure you.

On Tuesday, Epona showed a clip about Miraculous Ladybug and Chat Noir. A team whose gifts are very different, but enable them to have each other’s back during tough times.

Acts 2:46-47–“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

This camper was very nervous about the water. But after Ragnar towed him around a bit and he felt how the lifejacket worked and learned different strategies for keeping his face out of the water, he had a blast during pond day!


Princess Leia Freyja is full of advice for campers about pond day. She is also happy to share a bit of her own water with anyone nearby when she shakes.

On “Horse Day” when all of the campers get the chance to go horseback riding, we enjoyed a special craft courtesy of the hat shop and wood shop in Leavenworth.

Campers loved painting their very own horses to take home.

This camper even incorporated her horse into the cabin’s decorations!

Support Staff and campers alike, enjoyed playing carpet ball. Thank you Christ Center and Brett Holiday.

And finally, the actual horses!

One of the important things about trail riding, is the ability of the horses to walk in line, together as a group.

On Wednesday, the chapel was on Flying in Formation and Epona showed a clip from Star Fox. Being part of a team, means following your leader.

Who is Suki following as she chooses her amazing hair styles?

Ah, yes.

On Thursday, they watched a clip from Robots in Disguise, one of the Transformers cartoons . A team is more than meets the eye.

In Robots in Disguise, some of the transformers were Decepticons but had been pardoned by their leader to become a part of Bumble Bee’s team.

The campers learned that only your leader can pardon your past crimes so that you can move forward into a new life.

On Friday, the campers watched a clip from the Zelda game, Age of Calamity.

During a climatic scene, one of the characters dies and is grieved by their friends. Then, during the great battle, the character that we thought was dead revives and rushes into battle to sacrifice themselves so that the great evil can be vanquished.

Then, Epona talked to children who have a ten minute attention span for over an hour about the gospel of Jesus Christ … and they listened the whole time!

Matthew 26:57–“Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled.”

Luke 23:3–“So Pilate asked Jesus, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’

‘Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.”

Luke 23:35–“The people stood watching and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.'”

Luke 23:34–“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.”

Luke 24:5–“In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

Luke 24:46–“He told them, ‘This is what is written:

“The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”

When we went to our cabins for the discussion time after chapel, one of my campers slipped a piece of paper into my hand. She wanted me to know that she loved Jesus and wanted to follow Him.

Oh, the joy of knowing that at camp we can take the great theological concepts that have baffled the minds of the mightiest thinkers in history and present them to children using story, cartoons, and the power of a toy that changes from a robot to a car … and that God steps in and works His wonders among us. He is still powerful, still loving, still coming down to us to seek and to save what was lost!

Luke 15:3-6–“Then Jesus told them this parable: ‘Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.'”

Boo Boo