Middle School Camp 1–Story!

Middle School Camp 1 started out with some of the only rain we’ve seen all summer. Look at those beautiful clouds!

As the campers began to arrive, the wild thunderstorm stilled and our wildness came from this delightfully rowdy group of campers instead.

How do you keep the attention of a large group of Jr. High children?

With stories, of course!

Our speaker for the week was Wiggin. He came to us from a large family full of great camp counselors. First as a camper, then a counselor, and finally as our amazing camp speaker!

This year, his theme was STORY.

During Monday’s chapel Wiggin spoke on “Knowing Your Story.” Yes, a variety of events have happened in your life. But what is the significance of each story event? What does each stop mean on your journey toward Jesus?

That day’s Bible passage … Mark 1:40-45!

A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”

What an amazing moment in that man’s story with God!

Now, if you have ever tried to teach a Bible lesson you will know that it is incredibly hard to gain the focused attention of children who do not know and trust you.

It is the same for adults. How many of us have stopped paying attention to the words and teachings of a minister or even a friend when we discovered that they had missed the mark?

Some people think that the ministry part of camping ministry only happens during chapel time and cabin discussion.

This is so far from the truth!

Archery, mini golf, Gaga Ball … each and every activity shows the campers that the counselors are people who have sacrificed their summer so that they can show the love of Jesus to kids just like them.

A child who shrugs off the good teaching of someone they don’t know, just might listen to that camp counselor who listened to their wild stories on the Star Trek to Inspiration Point to see the stars.

Who taught them how to play carpet ball.

Who made sure that they drank enough water and had a flashlight for the dark parts of the trail.

The one who leaped into the pond with them and made sure they didn’t miss their horseback ride is the one who children trust to have a listening ear and to tell them true things about God.

And so, with the important work of play building strong cabin bonds, Middle School Camp 1 was off to an amazing start!

On Tuesday, Wiggin spoke on Story + Identity how our stories shape who we are.

The passage, Luke 19:1-10.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”

So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

It is so amazing to see how that short story with Jesus changed Zacchaeus’ identity.

He went from an enemy of Israel to a man welcomed by the Son of God.

He was a cheat and a thief who became a generous man.

Zacchaeus went from being an outsider to welcoming the Messiah into his home.

The man who was accustomed to being despised was the beloved of his maker.

How will our story with Jesus transform us?

Wednesday’s chapel was about story + belonging. We find a place to belong through inherited story and when our story intertwines with the stories of others. The great news Wiggin was able to share with campers was that Jesus became human and came to dwell among us. He sacrificed so much to intertwine His story with ours.

John 1:14a–“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”

or as the message puts it:

“The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.”

I saw multiple stories intertwine with Jesus’ story this week. One story from the very beginning of Camas Meadows Bible Camp. Another story that began before this blog was born. And a final story that started with a tragedy and showed itself this summer in a young man we know and love standing up to share his story and to change all of us in the process.

Let’s start with a tragedy that somehow someway, still shows God’s glory in the end.

One of the things that Wiggin talked about during chapel was that God “reaps where he did now sow.” God uses things in your life that He did not want for you. He never wastes anything. He takes the good parts as well as the awful parts of our story and uses them all for good.

We have watched this happen so many times at camp.

Scruffy and I have seen this again and again in our own lives as well.

This week, we saw this in the life of one of our new C.I.T.s.

He probably doesn’t know it, but I wrote about the death of his mom on the blog four years ago. She was my friend, she was a leader and a mother figure in the community and for our staff, and she was the amazing mom of two of our sons’ friends. Four years ago, they lost their mother and this year, her son stood up and paved the way for one of the most amazing campfires I have even been part of.

This young man had seen a lot in the last four years. He is a cheery upbeat person who has faced an incredible amount of pain. Sometime during the schoolyear, he shared the story of his mother’s death for the first time.

Those who were listening were incredibly moved and he realized that this was something God wanted for him, to share his story, even though it hurt.

And so he started looking. Looking for a place to share his story, a place where he felt safe and loved and knew that his words would have the chance to impact those around him.

Then he came to camp and the Spirit stirred and he talked with Scruffy, “I think I’m supposed to share my story.” So Scruff arranged for him to lead off the Friday night campfire by being the first to share.

After he spoke, others found their courage, stood, and told their stories, too. So often it is hard to keep kids from being goofy during campfire, not that night. Hearts were ready for honest talk because one young man had been waiting all year to share from the heart. People shared about the impact of camp and us who work here on their lives, people that we had no idea we had loved, encouraged, and inspired. It was shocking and lovely and truly glorious.

After a long hard season of personal loss and pain, to see how God had worked through our simple, everyday actions was amazing and also humbling. Do not underestimate what He can do my friend. Simple people, doing simple things in His name. He does some of His best work with simple.

The next story started fifteen years ago with a little girl coming to camp for the very first time. I wrote about her journey here, how she stood in the back of the room, tiny arms flung high, worshiping God with all her heart. Summers came and went and winter camps, too. I found myself once again writing her story here, about the quiet miracle that brought her back to camp nine years later. This summer, we were blessed to be a part of her story once again.

That little girl became staff for several years and then completely disappeared from our lives. Life and pain and distance happened. For a wide variety of reasons, we did not see her again for seven years. Then out of the blue, Scruff sent her a text inviting her to Camas Con, our board game camp. She ignored the text. However, it got her thinking and finally she replied asking to come and be part of our staff team once more. What we didn’t know is that when the hurt piled up and we didn’t understand, she left. She left us, she left God, and she ran as hard and fast as she could. But God is not alarmed when His children run. Jesus Himself paints the picture for us. A good shepherd, leaving safety behind to search for that one lost lamb. When she was finally ready to turn and look her Lord in the face, her heart burned, she had something more to do, another risk to take. Come back to camp. Be real. See if perhaps it was worth trying again. Perhaps His church here could learn and grow, just like she had learned and grown in her race away and back to Jesus again. A long, hard talk with Scruffy brought tears and reconciliation. Later, I snapped this photo. The same little girl, daughter of the King, arms flung high, worshipping God with all her heart.

The chapel on Thursday was about how our story isn’t our own. Our story finds completion within the greater story of Jesus sacrifice. How his death brings us new life.

Ephesians 2:4-5–“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” NIV

Friday’s chapel was about story + purpose!

As we live our story, we are called to represent God to those around us through self-giving love.

John 13:4-5–“… so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”

John 13:12-17–“When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them.”

“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.'”

“‘Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.'”

“‘I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.'”

“‘Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.'”

“‘Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.'”

Saturday’s chapel was about the Daily Story.

Each day, we face a choice. Live our lives as part of God’s story redeemed to be more and more like Jesus or live our own story in our own strength out of our own brokenness.

Now, I have come to the final story I will tell about this week.

This one looks back ten-and-a-half years to the very first blog post I wrote for Camas Meadows Bible Camp.

It is about a man in his fifties who finally found Jesus and the amazing woman who stood with him as he did. Now, what that post doesn’t say is that Grandpa Del and Grandma Autumn’s pastor at that time was Pastor Boyd of Little Stone Church in Chelan.

It was to Pastor Boyd that they turned to when Del and Autumn realized that the Lord had called them to start a camp. He showed them how to start a non-profit, how to form the camp board, he even picked up a hammer and helped build the cabins.

They never called him anything other than “Pastor Boyd” I only learned his given name this summer.

Two of the campers at Middle School Camp 1 made plans months ahead of time to be baptized here at camp.

When Scruff asked them who they would like to help him baptize them, both campers chose their older sister, who is one of our wonderful camp counselors, Kindred.

This young man coming out of the water of the horse trough is named William. William Henry Acheson.

He was named after his great great grandfather, Pastor William Henry Boyd.

And so Pastor Boyd’s great great granddaughter, Kindred, stood with Scruffy (the husband of Del and Autumn’s granddaughter) in the horse trough. In the ancient rite of baptism, they helped two young campers show their allegiance to Christ.

Two campers who were also Pastor Boyd’s great great grandchildren. They sank beneath the icy water in a symbol of Christ’s death. And they rose, gasping in a breath of the fresh mountain air. A symbol of Christ rising again and giving His children new life.

Such a story.

Our story. My grandparents’ story. Pastor Boyd’s story. His daughter Margaret’s story as she stopped me every Sunday for a hug and to remind me how the camp began. Her grandson Dilbert’s story as he served as a counselor at camp. Kindred’s story. And finally, it is William’s story and it is Lucy’s story. They took a rich history and a name from their great great grandfather, but on that day in the meadow, they showed that it wasn’t just someone else’s story to them.

It was their story too.

Hebrews 12:1-2–“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Boo Boo

*In order to protect their anonymity (with the exception of the baptism photos for which I got permission) I do not place photos of campers above their personal stories. Although, I may do so with staff upon occasion.

Junior A Camp–Surrender!

Jr. A Camp dawned bright and sunny. Normally, we hold this retreat for 4th to 6th graders over the fourth of July. We finally decided to move it this year and the result, twice as many campers!

The lodge thrummed with nervous energy as forty-eight children leapt into the activities with gusto, some for the very first time.

This is such a great age group. Each new activity is an adventure. Every new experience is a victory for children who have never dared to play night games, ride a horse, or even stay overnight away from home.

Junior campers bubble with excitement as they face a week of camp with young fresh eyes.

Junior campers are young and brave and full of hope.

All of that innocent excitement is catching.

Even us old folk, some of whom have lived in a camp setting for over thirty years (cough cough … Boo Boo) are jolted back to a simpler time when surrounded by all of that energy.

It is a joy and an honor to facilitate a child’s first experiences with camp.

Our speaker for this week was Thing.

Scruffy and I remember when Thing was a baby. He is the son of the one Christian teen who was kind to Scruff in high school, years before he decided to follow Christ. Thing’s siblings were both campers and camp counselors, especially his little sister. The one we all miss so much. We’re still grieving her loss today.

This was the first time he’s served at camp since losing her and it wasn’t easy. Camp was a huge part of Sis’s life and she was a huge part of ours. We see her everywhere.

What did Thing choose to speak on this week?


Could he have possibly chosen a topic that was so simple a nine-year-old could completely understand it and also so difficult that the adults at camp were just as challenged by the messages as those kiddos?

Now, this might be a surprise to you, but children do not attend camp for the chapel sessions no matter how carefully they are crafted.

But that is one of the beautiful things about camp. Just as camp ministry isn’t just about fun and games, it isn’t just about lessons and learning either. Camp is an incredible experience made up of so many different vital pieces. One of which, you guessed it, is GaGa Ball!

Every single element of camp is a vital part to showing kids the love of Jesus.

Why do children suddenly start sharing from the heart at camp?

Little ones who were content to just stand on their heads and pretend to listen during cabin discussion on Monday were inexplicably standing up at the campfire on Friday to share about what God did in their lives during the week, what they learned, how they saw Him in new and amazing ways.

How is this even possible?

Well, it wasn’t sudden. That is how.

One of our staff said it this way. “Campers started the week just wanting to play the games, but slowly, as the week went on they had a longer attention span for talking about God as they saw Him in the counselors.”

That, my friends, is the beauty of camp ministry.

Absolutely nothing is wasted.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner campers eat with their counselors around the table. They drink two cups of water to stay hydrated, sing at the tops of their voices, help each other by getting a second platter of pancakes, clean up together, and perhaps even play that cup rhythm game that is so loud the whole lodge rattles with the epic sound of it.

At morning jam and chapel campers sing!

Not like they sing at church, or school, or on their own. They sing camp songs! There are hand motions. There is running and leaping and praising God. There are both soft melodies of stunning beauty and raucous squawks as some hand motions require flapping like a bird.

Campers play! They play meadow games as a huge group. They play carpet ball, gaga ball, archery, dunk tank, slip-n-slide, and board games in smaller groups. The whole camp thunders through the forest in the dark for night games. Campers even enjoy quiet crafts with just one or two buddies.

They explore!

Scruffy leads at least two short hikes during each week of camp.

One of them, the “Star Walk” involves following an old logging road at night up to Inspiration Point.

It is only a quarter mile from the main lodge but feels like a different world as campers stare up at an explosion of stars in the heavens above.

Campers grow and stretch and try new things.

There were campers this week who were nervous around animals, but went horseback riding anyway!

Some campers had never run through tall meadow grass at full tilt, played a group game at night, or opened up a Bible with their friends.

Some campers had never spent five minutes in utter silence listening to the wind in the treetops or seen an endangered flower.

This week, the endangered Wenatchee Mountains Checker-mallow (pictured earlier) grew right next to the path the children traveled to and from the meadow.

Some campers had never been away from home for six whole days!

This is why the spiritual growth that happens at camp is never truly sudden or haphazard.

Each crazy song, delicious meal, rowdy activity, and stunning look at nature is an amazing experience that campers have with someone. With their cabin, with their counselors, with their new friends.

These shared experiences build strong bonds.

When the speaker who went on that amazing hike with them talks about surrendering to God, campers listen.

When the camp nurse who bandaged their scrape and brought them a cool drink asks if they are all right, campers know they will be heard.

When the camp counselor who led them through the forest playing capture the flag, led them in singing “I’ll Fly Away” a zillion times and always flapped like a bird for the motions opens up their Bible to share, campers can truly hear them.

They hear them, because they trust them. Campers trust them, because these same counselors spent six whole days being trustworthy.

Day and night. From breakfast in the morning to that moment someone had a nightmare or suddenly felt sick or homesick or thought they heard a Sasquatch or a squirrel or simply needed a flashlight glowing at 3:00am because they ate extra sugar and then zoomed around their cabin right before bed.

Those counselors spent six days showing their campers that Jesus loves them, because they spent those six days loving them, too.

During the chapel on the last full day, many children raised their hands wanting to follow Jesus. Three children called home so that they could arrange with their families to be baptized at camp. During the campfire on Friday night so many shared that they had learned something new about God. That they had heard about following Jesus before but never knew about surrendering to Him.

One camper said, “I thought the Bible was just a big old boring book.” After a week of camp he learned that it was so much more and inspired by a God who is so much more, too.

Camp may appear chaotic and random when viewed from the outside. It is not. Nothing is wasted. Every single crazy game, rowdy song, and yummy pancake is an act of love intended to lead children to the one who loves them the very most. Their maker and savior and Lord. Jesus.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

Boo Boo