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.

Boogie Man Boogie

Middle School Camp 1

God uses strange things for His glory.

How did a weird tangent during cabin discussion about the omnipresence of God lead to a scary story about the boogie man, morph into lots of dancing, briefly shine as a fairly accurate reflection of the speaker’s theme for the week, and then result in the camp’s winning skit?

Behold!

The amazing powers of God as He works His wonders in Middle School Camp through rowdiness, confusion, and more beauty than we can possibly imagine. I will get back to The Boogie Man Boogie, but first, let me paint a picture of life during a camp for this amazing and delightful age group.

First, Princess Leia Freyja greeted incoming campers at the registration tent. Check-in looked a bit different this year due to COVID restrictions, but the individual car-loads of people coming through the line six feet apart only made it easier for the camp dog to make sure that everyone had the chance to give her belly rubs.

Once campers got their stuff settled into cabins, they played a game of Whomp-Em on the lawn. Not only did campers work to learn each other’s names, but they got the joy of whacking each other with a pool noodle!

Once most of the campers arrived, it was time to head down to the fire pit and meet all of the staff.

Campers listened as all the counselors, support staff, cooks, nurse, and speaker share their favorite “Soup or Hero” with the group and introduce themselves.

Of course, Princess Leia Freyja took the opportunity to meet all the campers one more time, just in case one of them had failed to give her a pat at registration.

Clearly, the girls in Robin’s Roost did not miss any opportunities to give Princess Leia Freyja loves and snuggles.

A very important camp activity is running up the hill to the cabins and back down to the main lodge or the meadow, then up the hill to get some forgotten item, then back down. The counselors do this healthful sprint more than their campers as they accompany them up and down and up and down. Here Hiccup and Samurai start the week out with a few trips up to the Squirrel House with their campers.

On Tuesday, campers enjoy The Gauntlet! No, it is not some terrifying medieval challenge. The Gauntlet is simply an afternoon spent traveling between five fun activities in cabin groups. Our new disc golf course was one of them.

The Gauntlet also features another kind of golf. Mini golf!

Campers also got to play basketball …

While taking important breaks to pet the camp cook’s visiting doggy.

OK, dog patting finished, the campers moved on to more activities!

Archery!

Extreme Mountain Croquet!

And slip-n-slide! Oh, wait. That wasn’t part of The Gauntlet at all. It was fun though and should definitely be included in our documentation of Tuesday’s events.

Don’t these girls make you want to jump on the slip-n-slide and give it a whirl?

Sure, you hear a lot about how stressful junior high is. But in many ways, the middle school years showcase the best of both worlds. The frolicsome fun of childhood with the thoughtfulness and spiritual depth of adulthood. This hilarious group of girls remind me of all that is wonderful about working with junior high students.

On Wednesday morning, Scruffy and Princess Leia Freyja led the campers on a hike to view the mountains across the meadow.

Yes, this gorgeous view is well worth the hike. But something even more amazing happened on the way there. Truly, God uses the strangest things for His glory!

During the hike, one camper kept peering at each flower we passed and asking if it was a rare flower. Lupine, Scarlet Paintbrush, fading Sunflowers. None of these were rare, although they are all lovely.

She had a family member back home who loved gardening and this young lady really wanted to show them a photo of a rare flower. My heart sank. We do have rare flowers here at Camas Meadows, but the Wenatchee Larkspur weren’t blooming yet. We also have several species of fragile flowers, the Mountain Lady Slipper and Trillium which are unlikely to grow back if picked. But these bloom earlier in the year and were long gone. I knew that there was one more rare flower in our meadows, but I didn’t know how to identify it and had no idea when it bloomed. Nonetheless, I prayed about this camper’s desire and then we continued on our hike. Even as I admitted that seeing a rare flower was unlikely, the determined camper paused to investigate every blossom. We rounded a corner in the trail and saw a group of DNR workers across the meadow. They had scattered small flags everywhere. What on earth were they doing?

They were marking the exact locations of some rare flowers! The Wenatchee Mountains Checker-mallow. I had not even thought of trying to find one of these blooms as this was that pesky flower I was unable to identify. A simple hope and prayer. A girl wanting to see a special flower to show her loved one. God saw this and answered in such a beautiful way. Not only were they blooming, but there was a plant biologist with a master’s degree in rare plants on hand when my feeble plant knowledge failed. When we are weak, He is strong! So here it is, the Wenatchee Mountains Checker-mallow in all its quiet beauty.

When I looked up this flower later, I was shocked to see that it only blooms in five locations around the Wenatchee area. To be fair, I was told this during my much grumpier teen years and had forgotten, failing to absorb the importance. Camas Meadows has the largest population of this rare plant in the world. Not only is the flower rare, it is also endangered. One website claimed that the Wenatchee Mountains checker-mallow was “the rarest known plant in Washington State.” Whether that is true or not, I would say that God answered this camper’s hope and prayer with a vengeance! We even got to have a lengthy chat with the plant biologist as she personally pointed out various blooms for me to photograph.

God’s work is mindboggling and lovely. This week He even answered my prayers about the camp photos. Catching the perfect moment, a lovely smile, the warmth of a hug, the essence of camp ministry, that’s hard to do. I was trying to get pictures of the Eagle’s cabin playing basketball, hoping for some wonderful smiles. Well, what I got were expressions of grim determination as they worked hard to get baskets.

Until my niece threw a ball that smacked right into me!

This amazing photo was the result.

We laughed and laughed about my near maiming.

Then I was blessed with this beautiful picture to send home to her mom! Yes, God answers prayers and He also uses all of our fumbles for His glory. If my lack of flower knowledge does not stop Him and my propensity to be in the way brings Him glory, what will the Lord use next?

Well, it was pretty sad that we couldn’t bus the campers to Lake Chelan for Lake Day this year. Lake Chelan is amazing, it is one of the top 5 clearest lakes in the entire United States. Nonetheless, we decided to help kids to cool off in whatever way we could. This resulted in the amazing Pond Day. Not only is the pond not Lake Chelan, but our lovely canopy tent was thrashed by the wind whipping across the meadow and broken. How on earth could God use that?

Good times with friends are not limited to days when you swim in crystal waters and the tent remains unscathed. That is such an important lesson for all of us, young and old alike. Resilience is vital to our walk with God and being able to find the beauty in the broken (and sometimes muddy) world around us.

Once we arrived at the pond, the campers actually jumped into (ha ha) to pond day activities with gusto.

It was wonderful to cool off, spend time in the sun with friends, and perhaps get a glimpse of a foot-long goldfish lurking in the shadows.

Nope, not one of the giant goldfish. But this camper has definitely spotted, chased, and even caught them before. Then again, he lives here and has all of the goldfish capturing advantages.

Another favorite Pond Day activity was kayaking.

Campers paddled around in the far side of the pond, while others swam in the near side.

Of course, if Pond Day swimming wasn’t their cup of tea, there was always Princess Leia Freyja to watch as she frolicked in her natural habitat.

What is her natural habitat? I think that position of honor is held equally by both “couches” and “soggy places.”

But whether it is a couch or nice patch of mud, Princess Leia Freyja knows how to get where she’s going.

Just point your snout in the direction you want to go …

… and leap!

Which incidentally, is also a great way to start the Pond Day fun!

On, Thursday, we tried something we haven’t done in years. Horseback rides for junior high campers!

Yep, middle school students still love horses!

I even got the chance to ride after I finished taking horse photos. I love to watch the camper’s faces as they meet the horse they will be riding and then start out on their journey around the meadow!

So, now we have arrived at Thursday night. Skit night! Yep, we are back to The Boogie Man Boogie. What exactly was the speaker’s theme that was so inexplicably illustrated by The Boogie Man Boogie? Finding your identity in Christ, of course!

Princess Leia Freyja is not surprised by God using strange things for His glory. After all, God uses her fuzzy presence and sloppy dog kisses all the time. Why not The Boogie Man Boogie? In fact, I overheard one camper explaining to her mom that she had been homesick on Wednesday but felt better because there were dogs!

So … back to chapel. This week, Chaos (the speaker), taught on finding your identity in Christ. One of the verses she used to help illustrate this important truth was 1 Samuel 16:7.

“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

The junior high years are such an important time to hear this message. I think that each of us struggled through middle school, wondering if we would ever be pretty enough, athletic enough, smart enough, think of witty comments fast enough, or finally get cut off jeans (in my case) so we would have value to those around us. But Chaos reminded the campers this week that none of those external things are what give us value. Our identity is in Christ alone. It is by the great value that He placed upon each living soul that we must judge our worth. He is our redeemer, the great shepherd who would leave the ninety-nine to go in search of the one.

We enjoyed a wide variety of skits on Thursday and many of them used scripture. Including this very rowdy wedding ceremony that quoted key animal-related similes that are of course highly romantic.

Song of Songs 4:2a–“Your teeth are like a flock of sheep just shorn, coming up from the washing …”

Exodus 9:17-18–“You still set yourself against my people and will not let them go. Therefore, at this time tomorrow I will send the worst hailstorm that has ever fallen on Egypt, from the day it was founded till now.”

I Corinthians 13:13–“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. 

” But the greatest of these is love.”

John 14:6–This is the way … nope, let’s try that again. “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life …”

“…No one comes to the Father except through me.”

And some skits tried to answer the great mysteries of the universe.

Such as, “Why don’t airplanes have e-brakes?”

But finally, we come to the terrifying but very spiritual story of The Boogie Man Boogie.

Once upon a time, Hiccup and Samurai were the fearless leaders of the Squirrel House. One of the discussion questions was, “What does God being omnipresent mean to you?” An eager camper leaped forward with an explanation.

Eager Camper–“When it is 3:00 am and I hear the boogie man rat-tat-tating on the window, I know that God is there.”

Wait a minute. Is the Boogie Man sad? Is everyone looking on his outward appearance?

As you can imagine, the cabin discussion deteriorated fairly quickly after that. But it did result in much debate, laughter, and further discussion. The campers discussed the Boogie Man and his rat-tat-tating for the whole rest of the week.

Then it was time to think of a skit. The campers knew exactly what they wanted to do! Their counselors explained to Boo Boo in an interview after camp that their entire skit outline consisted of this short but expressive list: “Boogie Man, scared, God, and also dancing!”

Amazingly, most of these highly-active young men were actually paying attention during chapel and had also memorized the Bible verses for the week. So the campers knew just the verse that would connect The Boogie Man Boogie to finding our identity in Christ!

In their skit, when the Boogie Man leaped into the cabin of sleeping campers, they immediately judged him by his outward appearance.

But all he wanted to do … was Boogie.

And so they did!

1 Samuel 16:7–“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

And that, my friends, is how a cabin discussion became a scary story, galloped off in a wild tangent, morphed into an amazing illustration of the camp speaker’s theme for the week, and won the Camas Meadows Skit Competition!

That is how God uses the rough and rowdy insanity of middle school camp in the hearts, minds, and dance moves of kids at camp. Not only were their skits filled with scripture, many of these campers raised their hands to show that they wanted to become followers of Christ that week. Many more indicated that they wanted to recommit to following the Lord.

God is ever at work in the strangest places and most baffling ways. Isn’t He amazing!

2 Corinthians 4:7–“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

Boo Boo

Fall CamasCon 2019

CamasCon is our strategy board game camp. A way to connect Christian Geeks and Gamers with each other, some amazing games both new and old, and with their Lord through the awesome chapel sessions.

This of course necessitates the arrival of many games. So, so, so, many games! Games with beautiful cover art and massively thick rule books.

Games with fascinating miniatures and intricate pieces of all kinds.

Games with adorable Medieval villages and towering cityscapes.

Games with cool spacecraft.

Games with galloping camels.

Actually, there’s more than one game with galloping camels!

Games with fearsome lady pirates and their unique pets.

Games with intricate maps of the world, both realistic and fantastical.

And everyone’s favorite, games that employ both cute, wooden meeples and ferocious dragons!

Amidst all these games, are competitors of all kinds. New gamers, lifelong gamers, non-gamers who simply wandered in, and even individuals who work in the gaming industry. Though they employ many different stratagems and love many different genres, they all share a passion for table top board gaming and the way it brings people together.

In a world where our eyes are constantly glued to screens, a board game provides fun, competition, and a way to actually look another human being and see them for what they are, beautiful sons and daughters of the Lord.

This year our speaker was Chris Gwaltney of Love Thy Nerd fame.

With Choco leading everyone in some amazing worship

The campers took a moment to step away from the fierce competition, let go of the fact that Scruffy probably was a Cylon even through he swears to his humanity, and come together as the people of Jesus Christ, called to love in His name in a broken world.

After a beautiful weekend together, the CamasCon campers left refilled, refreshed, and ready to try out all the new games they learned on their unsuspecting friends.

Perhaps your passion isn’t strategy board games. But something that CamasCon always reminds me of, is that God made each of us uniquely. After creating us to be like none other upon His world, God then desires to use our passions and abilities for His kingdom. So what about you? How do you connect with others face to face? And are you willing to use that hobby, talent, gifting, or even geekiness for the Holy Kingdom of God?

2 Corinthians 4:7–“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

Boo Boo