Image of God: you’ve got gray hair!

Junior B Camp 2021

“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.

The Mom gave a water bottle sticker to every camper and counselor.

“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.’”

Boo Boo

P.S. To preserve their anonymity, I do not place an individual camper’s picture above their story.

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