After fourteen long months of being closed to groups, and having ministry change from eighty-person crowds to a quieter ministry of supporting individual families and personal retreats, we are finally gearing up for summer camp!
It’s been a long, confusing winter and now we are eager to welcome campers back to Camas Meadows.
However, this summer will not be the easiest or the smoothest. This will be a summer full of personal sacrifice—not a walk in the park. Then again, we are not located in a park. Camp is in the wild. We are used to things that are not easy. This summer is going to be hard. However, Princess Leia Freyja figures that we can do whatever is required, as long as we bring her some campers to love.
What is required of us in order to run camp in these crazy times? Camp will be running at half capacity. There will be masking and social distancing of course, but the more difficult task is making sure that folks don’t come to camp sick. The state requirements are that campers and staff must arrive with either proof of a negative Covid19 test within the last three days or proof of vaccination.
Well, as you can see, Princess Leia Freyja is clearly saying that it will be worth it. You know what? We agree. If we are being given a chance to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with children and welcome them into the wildness and beauty of camp, we will do it.
But despite the difficulties that these guidelines bring, we have been called to this ministry and that takes precedence. Plus, we have a lonely camp dog on the lookout for some kids and we would hate to disappoint her.
If you’re interested in the nitty gritty details, here is a link to the rules for operation that Washington camps must follow. (Guidance for overnight camping begins on page six.) We would greatly appreciate your prayers as we dive into this crazy summer. Thank you so, so much for your support over this quiet year and your prayers as we prepare for the beautiful rowdiness of children coming up to camp!
Philippians 1:3-6–“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
The lodge is empty, quiet, hollow. Normally, at this time of year the entire building echoes with giggles, shrieks, shouts, singing, the clatter of forks on plates as heaps of pancakes are consumed, and the rhythmic pounding of cups on tables as counselors teach another generation of campers that super annoying cup game. In case you were wondering, I am an expert at the cup game. But this skill will do me little good this year.
Camas Meadows has provided our own summer camps every year since 1986 when my father left his pastorate to usher Camas from a purely rental facility to a place that planned, staffed, and ran summer adventures for kids ages nine to eighteen.
Not this year.
This year, we are grieving the loss of a summer ministry that has been a part of Scruffy’s life for the past twenty-one years and part of mine for the last thirty-four. Yes, as a girl I slept in the corner of Robin’s Roost Cabin (before it was Robin’s Roost) on a make-shift bed while my dad ran staff meetings. Camp has been the focus of my summer since before I was even old enough to be a camper.
One time, I drove past an orchard that was being cut down. The trees were in the full-blush of spring bloom. Covered in a glorious snow of pale-pink blossoms. Full of beauty and life and the potential for a fruitful year. But they had all been cut down. They lay on their sides, in full bloom, dead. All of a sudden, I find myself feeling like that orchard.
Camas has run summer camps when forest fires raged in the Cascades, after my father’s sudden death, and even during Scruffy’s first summer when he was hired in May (with a landscape architecture degree and three year’s experience working at a Christian music warehouse) and had all of one month to prepare.
This summer, a global pandemic has forced us to rest the land.
We, as a people, are not used to resting. It has been shocking as business grinds to a halt and anxiety skyrockets. If Scruffy is not a camp director, if I am not Boo Boo (camp director’s wife, camp blogger, camp photographer) with all of the vital tasks and important daily details that this job brings with it … what are we?
In the Old Testament, God commanded the people of Israel to rest the land every seven years. If produce grew on its own, it was available for the poor and wild animals to eat. Then every fifty years came the year of jubilee, where the land rested once more, but in addition, property that had been sold was returned to its original owners. The people and the land both rested before the Lord in obedience as a sacrifice and expression of faith.
Why haven’t we rested the land before this? Well, we are not under Old Testament law … and rest is difficult, expensive, and simply does not come naturally. There are a million and one things to do and so many people that we do not wish to disappoint.
But this year rest has been forced upon us, and though painful, there is good here, too. Good amidst the sorrow of seeing a quiet summer and an empty lodge. As we were discussing these difficulties, another camp director told Scruffy, “We consider this our year of jubilee.” I do not want to miss this opportunity to trust God and learn the important lessons He has for us in this time of upheaval.
This sudden quiet is a forceful reminder of the incredible value of our calling. As Scruffy and I have fielded phone calls, emails, and facebook messages about camp, parents and kids are showing us again and again that Camas Meadows has played a vital role in not just their enjoyment of a fabulous and fun summer, but in their walk with God as well.
With so many children being separated from their school friends and spending more and more time inside in front of a screen, the need to get out into God’s creation with a bunch of new buddies has never been higher. It hurts to hear the hopes of parents and children alike and to have to tell them that this year a summer camp experience is not an option. But if we ever doubted the vital nature of camp ministry, this has shown the need so clearly. Kids need the woods, new friends, leaders they can look up to, and a week-long encounter with Jesus.
There are indeed moments during the hustle and bustle and constant insanity that is summer camp when I am overwhelmed. Will I ever have an uninterrupted conversation with Scruffy again? Who exactly thought up a schedule that doesn’t allow for a day off from May until the end of August? Will my sons ever stop singing There’s A Hole At The Bottom of the Sea? Why did Zoboomafoo think it was OK to have 26 verses in this song?
But oh what we would give for a splash of insanity right now. Camp is a wild, intense, passionate experience with God. Yes, it brings about bone-deep weariness. A weariness that I am seeing more and more as a badge of honor and the mark of a job well done. This forced quiet has caused me to take a good long look at the fatigue that I so often struggle with during the summer and see that there is a great and mighty worth in that struggle and the work that is accomplished.
God has provided something we did not ask for, want, or even consider possible. A quiet summer, resting the land, thinking upon our calling and the nature of the work He has placed us in. I refuse to waste this opportunity. Yes, it is shocking, painful, and something I have never done before. But we could spend this quiet in anxiety and fear or we could pour it out like a drink offering, a jubilee to our Lord. As Scruff and I walk through a meadow filled with wildflowers, we are reminded of God’s faithfulness and care. As we stand in the empty lodge and long to serve the rowdy hordes of campers once again, our calling becomes crystal clear. As we listen to birdsong in the morning and the low hoot of owls at night, the deep import of camp ministry settles upon our hearts. This time of reflection is important.
After so many busy summers, perhaps a moment of quiet is vital, lest we grow weary of doing good and forget why we lead water fights and insane songs and encourage kids to throw cheese slices dipped in mayonnaise at each other in a competition to see how many will stick. The camp belongs to the Lord. He is faithful and we can trust Him with its care. So now, we will let the land rest. And when He calls us into service once more, we will be ready. Stronger, more focused, absolutely certain of our calling. Sometimes, rest is actually faith, worship, and trust.
The mailboxes at the top of the hill, were in sorry shape. Someone had crashed their car into one side, so it slumped in a sad and broken manner. The package box sagged alarmingly, there was a wasp nest inside, and the door would occasionally fall off and hit you on the head as you reached in to grab a parcel from the far back.
A new mailbox structure was put on, “The List.” What is the list, you ask? Well, it is composed of all the many many projects that need to be done. It is quite lengthy and thus the new mailbox structure remained on, “The List” for some time. Then my brother, CamoMan, decided to lend his considerable carpentry skills (first honed during childhood as he constructed dubious watercraft made from old boards, inner tubes, and duct tape … and also a small log cabin that did indeed employ 12″ spikes pilfered from Del) to the cause.
The first step was to move the old mailboxes so that the new structure could be built.
With the help of a Memorial Day work crew, Camo Man built and poured some incredibly sturdy footings.
Why did he need such a large base for this project?
Well, you never know when an earthquake, exploding volcano, or horde of zombies might come through. A mailbox should be sturdy! It should be epic! It should be a force to be reckoned with!
Behold, the Camas Mailbox Structure!
This one should actually be able to handle the occasional vehicle sliding hither and yon on our icy winter roads and giving it a bump.
Massive structure complete, it was time to employ some enthusiastic teen volunteers. One of these is my middle son and one is his friend. Their hair color and style is so similar, that we confuse them all the time. Can you tell which painter is which?
Much enthusiastic staining occurred at this point … as well as no small amount of wrestling.
But eventually, our golden-haired workers settled down and completed the task at hand.
Thus the structure was preserved from snow, rain, heat, and gloom of night. Well, it is actually the sunny days and weather that damage the wood, but the postman’s motto seemed appropriate even though the mailboxes are pretty secure from gloom of night. But the fresh coat of stain will definitely help with the snow, rain, sleet, and beating sun.
And finally, CamoMan constructed a new package box. One without a hornets nest, where the door doesn’t ever fall off, or even hit you on the top of the head as you reach way inside to retrieve a parcel.
Princess Leia Freyja approved the project with a few happy wags.
But there was one remaining piece needed. Campers continued to get lost while driving to camp. To be fair, this was not entirely their fault. Yes, through the misdirection of various labor-saving-devices (phones, GPS systems, mapquest, Googlemaps …) they drove left instead of right. The took ancient logging roads with trees growing in the center of the trail. They turned onto roads covered in three feet of snow, or conveniently featuring impassible mud in a variety of depths. Finally, Jon Torrence presented us with the much-anticipated solution.
Two corona virus quarantine P.E. days later …
with a bit of wood shop thrown in for good measure …
The project was finally finished! Thank you CamoMan, Jon Torrence, Scruffy and sons, and of course Princess Leia Freyja for your skill and determination to see The Great Mailbox Project reach completion!
Phillipians 1:6–“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
For the first time since Scruffy’s worked at Camas, we offered a Camas-Run, Sr. High Snow Camp! Yes, here they are, Sr. High campers … who are sometimes quite tall, as demonstrated by this photo. One of these rowdy boys is actually the camp speaker, though. Can you pick him out?
Yep, this is our speaker. The one and only Van Helsing, who for some very important Biblical reason, was impersonating a T-Rex during his chapel session. Thankfully, I am quick to photograph these amazing moments and so we can revisit this Bible lesson again and again.
As you can imagine, there is plenty of silliness at Sr. High Winter Camp. Does this camper actually have a pet spoon?!?
And of course much Ukulele playing!
The occasional epic tube hill run
Yep, you can tell how much fun they are having by how much snow they track into the lodge!
But a few snowballs brought inside are not sufficient. At Sr. High Winter Camp we get outside every chance we can get!
And that means giant snowballs
And snowball fights!
There’s nothing like blue sky, fresh snow, and an enthusiastic snowball fight opponent.
Like your father … or the camp intern.
This is Inspiration Point. A great place for both quietly viewing the mountains and an epic battle.
Teen campers are great. They can go from thoughtful contemplation to crazed attack and back again in an instant.
That is the beautiful thing about camp. All the rowdiness and fun seems to actually make the quiet times of camp all the more lovely. I think that the very act of having a snowball fight, insane hockey match-up, and super-tense game of grog with a group of people makes you more likely to be honest and open to God’s word with them, when it is time to worship and study.
There is nothing quite like worshiping beside the person who just chased you up the tube hill, in the dark, through three feet of snow, as you both strove mightily to win the game of Mission Impossible.
Camp is my favorite place in the world to worship. Add an acoustic guitar and it feels like Heaven. Surely, there will be acoustic guitar, warm wood tones, a crackling fire, gorgeous views, and good friends in heaven?
This weekend, Van Helsing spoke on Christmas. Which unfortunately meant that he brought a terrifying dancing Santa!
This camper is clearly concerned about the presence of dancing Santa at camp! Don’t worry, he requires electricity. We can always unplug him, or perhaps the generator will break at just the opportune moment.
Thankfully, the creepyness of dancing Santa was offset by this small but significant Christmas tree. As we stepped into the new year, with everyone around us making resolutions all willy nilly, Van Helsing challenged us to pray and ask God what He wanted us to concentrate on this year. The Year of Awesome.
Whether it was anger, self-control, balance, friendship, forgiveness, or “Claws Out!” at the end of the weekend, we wrote our word on a paper, stood up among Christian friends, and placed it on the Christmas tree.
Finding Salvation in Jesus Christ is not the only step on our journey of faith. Living a life for God is a long and at times weary journey. We need to have moments of connection with other believers. Each of us lacks the courage and resilience to go forward at times. Winter teen camp provides a moment along the journey for rest, fun, and encouragement among other young believers. Such moments are vital to being a teen of faith. It is such an honor to be a part of providing such moments for these amazing and wonderful teen campers!
Galatians 6:2–“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
The day after Christmas might be Boxing Day in Canada or a chance to eat leftover turkey and enjoy new toys before they break for others, but here at Camas Meadows December 26th is always first day of Summer Staff Winter Retreat!
How could a camp that involves hockey, snow tubing, snowball fights, and beautiful hikes in a winter wonderland possibly have anything to do with summer?
Well, as you can imagine, in order to run our summer camp program we require many amazing volunteer staff. Anyone interested in becoming staff, either support staff who work behind the scenes or C.I.T.s who begin training to become counsel staff, can attend the Summer Staff Winter Retreat as a camper. Campers must be turning 15 in 2020 to be considered.
This is a chance for kids who are considering a summer of service to get to know the permanent staff and connect with older counselors and support staff. To learn some of the fun and beautiful camp songs. To grow in their walk with the Lord as they worship together and hear teaching from God’s word. And to take just a bit of time in the mountains to play and rest and be renewed.
For experienced staff, this is a vital chance for us to minister to them instead of them ministering to their campers.
We demand a lot from our summer staff. They must be responsible, constantly alert, think of the needs of their campers before their own, and occasionally have slices of cheese dipped in mayo or gummy worms dipped in chocolate flung at them during Watchamabob! They rarely have time to just talk and share with other staff since they are focusing on the needs of their campers 24/7.
But during the Summer Staff Winter Retreat, the older counselors and support staff who didn’t have the time to hang out in the summer get to do just that. They get to be the campers. They get to have a speaker who challenges them in their walk with the Lord during chapel sessions. They get to talk and laugh and pray and weep and laugh some more together, as a team. Sometimes they even get to take a little nap after a snowball fight or tube hill run.
Princess Leia Freyja, the camp dog, is always ready for a nap or a snuggle with one of the campers.
Of course, camp is not all about rest and relaxation!
There are crazy games
Fun times outside
The occasional snowball fight
Plus, many hours playing strategy board games around the table together.
As you can see, the schedule is full. And this week, camp was full of hilarious people who enjoyed drawing on the official schedule of events. Wait a minute … I recognize that handwriting!
No, Orchid didn’t do it. She was just playing a board game.
From snowy faces
To “I really hate twinkie weenier sandwiches” faces.
To “I can’t believe I ate that twinkie weenier sandwich for my camper” faces.
There were many amazing moments to photograph. Yes, these are Twinkie Weenier Sandwiches, just like in the movie UHF. Twinkie, hot dog, and cheeze wiz … yum!
Our speaker, Momo, taught on brokenness. Looking at the faces of these wonderful teens, I hate even the idea of any of them being hurt. But though camp is a place of fun and joy, it is also a place to be honest about the hard things in life.
Hurt people hurt people and that is so discouraging when you see the terrible cycle of brokenness continue around these beautiful kids that we get to work with at camp. But Momo also spoke about how there can be victory from the cycle of hurt and brokenness in Jesus Christ. I myself have seen this legacy of pain stopped in its tracks as Scruffy left a family tradition of heartbreak and addiction to follow Jesus.
It is such a blessing to watch these amazing young people as they come together to worship, share from their hearts, learn, consider a summer of service, and just have a whole lot of fun together. Camp can be such an amazing time to grow and heal and reach out to others with God’s grace. It is an honor to be a part of God’s ministry here.
2 Corinthians 5:17–“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone. The new has come.”