We saw the end of an era last week. On May 10th 2022, we said goodbye to our camp founder, Del Griffith. After forty-nine years of ministry, at the age of 104, he left us to greet his Lord and the loved ones who went on before him. Yes, even during his last days he was calling up Scruffy to ask how projects were coming along or chatting with the board members about camp. Del and Autumn poured their hearts and souls into Camas Meadows Bible Camp and after Autumn left us, Del continued welcoming guests and taking an active part in camp business.
Born on April 22nd, 1918, Delbert was the third son of George and Rosa Griffith.
He grew up riding his horse, playing tricks on his four brothers and one sister, and even saw the family move via covered wagon during the great depression.
As a young man, he worked hard at many different jobs. Digging potatoes one day, riding the rails another, and even being hired to watch a herd of about 100 pigs on an island in the middle of the Okanogan River.
He did cowboy work, and wore a cowboy hat and boots whether it was cowboy work or not. He worked in the CCC camps, saw the various dams built along the Columbia, and even learned how to hop a train without injury from a friendly hobo.
Del met Autumn Harmon in the early 1940’s. She was seeing another guy at the time and I once asked her why she chose Grandpa Del. She smiled and told me how Delbert would gather up all of the local kids and lead hiking adventures into the hills. “There was no one like Del, he was just wonderful.”
Delbert married Autumn on July 25th, 1942 at the home of Clarence and Lily Snode in Wenatchee, WA. This is the same Lily Snode who would eventually purchase a large meadow and dairy farm up Blewett Pass.
Del and Autumn settled in Lake Side (now part of Chelan). Del was a milkman and Autumn focused on raising their four children (Terry, Sharon, Clint, and my father Greg).
In order to add new families to his route, Del did more than deliver milk, eggs, and ice cream. He would pick up prescriptions from the pharmacy and library books and drop those off at your doorstep as well.
Del put his faith in Jesus Christ later in life, when he was in his 50’s. He and Autumn had property adjacent to Lily Snode up on the Camas land. As Del’s new faith blossomed (he told us all about how his salty language changed overnight) he and Autumn grew certain that they should dedicate twenty acres of their land to the Lord’s use.
Del was about to get out of the dairy business and was wondering what to do with retirement. Unbeknownst to him, Autumn and Greg had been praying for three days about what to do with the Camas Land. Del was on his knees, putting away dairy items when a man walked by and ribbed him about praying. The funny thing, while Del was on his knees to work, he was praying as well. Also, praying about what to do with the land up Camas Meadows. Then it came to him, start a youth camp. When he came home from work, he walked up to Autumn and Greg and said, “You know what we should do with that land?” Autumn told me later that she just knew this would be the answer to her prayers. “Start a youth camp,” he said. And so, they did.
Here, Del is cooking in the current camp kitchen. But in the early days, he cooked in a tiny lean-to attached to the original dinning hall. He would pass pancakes through the window to the campers. There were many adventures as they took a stretch of empty land (except for a corral) and built two lodges, three cabins, and brought water and generator power to the buildings. Yes, they started out by using spring water that the campers dipped out of milk cans for a drink. Yes, they all used the same dipper! Del and friends found out how much dynamite was too much when blowing up stumps. And one time, someone stored an old chainsaw in Del’s oven and he didn’t see it before turning on the heat. “That was a mess,” he told me.
Del had a talent for talking folks into work and he put it to good use as they started the camp. He got all of his kids working in one way or another. Whether it was skinning logs for their home when they came up to visit or even signing up to work full-time at the camp, family and friends were put to work whenever they stopped by.
Del and Autumn hosted camps years before their house was finished. They simply lived in a tiny two room cabin in the meadow on weekends as they spent the fourteen years needed to build their home. They ran camp that whole time. Del never let a little thing like not having a house nearby stop him when there was work to be done!
They celebrated many wedding anniversaries at the camp. Del led the work crews and Autumn fed anyone who happened by as they lived a life of service in their log home just a two minute walk from the camp they had founded.
When Del and Autumn dressed up for church or a special occasion, Autumn always had her fancy broach and Del sported a bolo tie.
Here, Del and Autumn celebrate their 70th Wedding Anniversary. They would celebrate their 75th before Autumn went to be with the Lord.
Del celebrated his 104th birthday in April. Here he is with his son Clint. During Del’s last week with us, he had a long chat with one of our camp board members, quizzed him about the financial report, and shared important information about his vision for camp as it continues into the future.
During his last day with us, Del chose a wedding gift for his great grand daughter. He was busy and determined right to the end. Grandpa Del leaves a legacy of love, service, and hard work for each of us who are missing him today. He loved his family, his friends, and his Lord. He showed that love through determination and the kind of hard work that left everyone else in the dust. We are so blessed that the Lord saw fit to give him 104 years here on earth. Even 104 years is too short a time to spend with those you love.
Isaiah 40:30-31–“Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
The first weekend in March is special. This is when we host our Junior High Winter Blast!
In 2020, Junior High Winter Blast was the last camp we ran before everything shut down. It was such a rambunctious time of laughter, fun, and learning about God together. Then we faced the heartbreak and pain of a long, quiet year without camps. That last Junior High Winter Blast was such an important reminder to us. It helped us remember the joy of serving God in a camp setting. To be faithful to God’s call, even though what He asked of us was so very hard. To continue striving after Him, no matter what that looked like.
Now, we have come full circle. A spring, summer, winter, fall, and another spring where we were able to host individual families, but not camps. An amazing summer of ministry. Yes that summer did include a whole lot of hoops to jump through, but it was so worth it. A delightful winter of hosting rental camps that wrapped up with us finally being able to run Junior High Winter blast once again!
It is so good to walk out of the desert for a moment and breath in the fresh air of victory! Yes, our walk with God travels some tough places, shadowed paths, and confusing seasons. God is just as close in the darkness.
However, the joyful craziness of Junior High Winter Blast provided an important time to celebrate, to remember that God also blesses us beyond what we deserve or can even imagine.
Hmmm … so what does one do at Junior High Winter Blast?
There is the all-important game … Oreo Face!
You guessed it. One must open an Oreo cookie and stick it to one’s forehead. Then through vigorous facial contortions, scooch that Oreo down to one’s mouth for eating! The first to eat their cookie wins!
There really are not enough times in life where one sticks a cookie to their head and makes faces to the acclaim of their peers. Perhaps our days would be a little more sweet, if adults adopted this practice! Office dispute, no problem! Oreo Face to the rescue.
Of course, not every activity can involve cookies.
What is winter camp without the famous Camas tube hill?
The answer well could be, “Less painful.”
It is very important to pace yourself as you charge into outdoor activities. A bit of adventure on the tube hill … followed by a mug of cocoa in front of the fire.
But the comfort of indoor activities can only take you so far. To build those truly memorable moments for sharing with your family and friends when you get home …
Means that campers rushed back to the great outdoors!
Then they recovered in the camp lodge with a fun board game.
And zoomed back outside!
Then back inside for building tornado-like-structures with Princess Leia Freyja!
Feast your eyes on this masterpiece, my friends.
Then remember that Radiant and Polaris built this Kapla block structure in a room teeming with exuberant middle school campers, staff, and even a 113lb dog.
Then, once the Kapla Tornado had stood victorious for some time … the campers played ultimate Janga, bringing the whole thing crashing down in epic fashion!
But not everything at camp is silly, for example, chapel time!
Well, I suppose there are one or two goofy songs. But then we get to the message …
Ha! I had you there. If you have ever gone to camp or served at camp, you will know that God uses absolutely everything for His glory! Even those things that at first glance, might just appear somewhat silly. Why are campers ready to raise their hands in quiet worship with their cabin? Because they have just been running around the room flapping their arms with that same group of kids singing “I’ll Fly Away.”
Why do campers listen during chapel, ask questions about God, and actually remember some of the things that they learned? Well, besides all of our many desperate prayers, camp speakers are special. They know and love kids and work hard to present the scripture in a way that children can gobble up.
This weekend the chapel sessions were just so amazing! I’ve been a Christian for a long, long time and they held my attention just as skillfully for me as for all those rowdy kids. Epona is a big fan of the Transformers shows and comics. There are a lot of different versions of the Transformers but one thing is consistent, Optimus Prime. The same actor has provided the voice from 1984 to the present and Optimus Prime has always been “Strong Enough to be Gentle.”
The joy just kept piling on higher and higher as we watched campers having a blast, meeting friends, and playing in the snow. But seeking God together during chapel was definitely one of the best things about this camp.
The more Epona has enjoyed Transformers over the years, the more it struck her that Optimus Prime reminded her of our heavenly father in a myriad of ways. Optimus Prime’s name literally means the best of the best–Exodus 15:11. Like God, Optimus Prime is a mighty warrior–Jeremiah 20:11, Exodus 14:14 and 15:3, 2 Chronicles 32:1-22. Optimus Prime protects, sacrifices himself for, and gently cares for the Autobots. He shepherds them. Ezekiel 34:1-16 (that passage made me weep as we read it again), Psalm 100:3, John 10:1-18 and 27-30. Just like both the old and new testaments use an image of a shepherd to show us what God is like, a simple children’s cartoon can be used to show just a glimpse of God’s power, gentleness, and love.
Just as Optimus Prime is always there, showing up with strength and caring when the Autobots need him, God is always there. Deuteronomy 31:6, Psalm 94:18-19, Matthew 11:28-30, Matthew 28:16-20. There are dark moments in the Transformers cartoon, tragedy strikes, friends are lost, evil appears to win. But Optimus Prime is always there, standing strong with those he loves. These beautiful campers were so attentive (I know, gasp!) as they heard again and again that God is strong, caring, and there to save them and make them His own. What an amazing weekend to be a part of!
“For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.”
“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.
“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.’”
As I sat in my writing chair doing cabin assignments, I heard the sound of an acoustic guitar on the hillside above our house. Worship in the outdoor amphitheater, which is a fancy name for a collection or old log benches that circle the inner slope of a natural bowl in the land between Squirrel Cabin and Mountain Panther. The sound of singing filled the forest with energy as it drifted through our windows. This was the first time I’d heard camp-style worship since March of 2020. I am so grateful that the Lord has called us to serve once more through the crazy beauty that is called camp ministry.
It can be challenging to jump back into something that has been lost to you for a year. Yes, camp was still ministering to individual families in 2020, but we hadn’t hosted a large group for over a year.
But the call was so very clear: in the remarkable way that God provided speakers, nurses, cooks, and counselors. So many small and large miracles have made camp possible this year.
From the camp intern who started having specific chapel session ideas long before we told her that we needed a speaker for our last Junior camp, to the experienced guy counselor who surprised us and just showed up at staff training, the Lord has amazed us with His provision.
When the staff applications stopped coming in, I crunched the numbers. We didn’t have enough experienced girl staff. I showed Scruff and we both stared at the cold hard facts. Would I have to counsel cabins this summer instead of take photos, edit photos, post photos for parents, and write the blog? How would people react to not having the daily updates on life at camp that they had grown accustomed to? We prayed, again. Once more coming before the Lord in desperate need. Then Scruffy got a message from a girl counselor who had just finished her degree and felt inexplicably called to reach out and ask if we had enough girl staff. What we didn’t know, she’d had camp on her heart since February and finally sent a text that she’d had on her phone for a long time. God knew and God was preparing His people to serve in mighty ways.
Scruff could think of one more person to ask about counseling, but he knew she currently had a great job. He almost didn’t send a message, but in the end, didn’t want to say no for her. So he asked. She had just given her three weeks notice since she’d accepted a new position. The camp we needed her for most, well, that fell right between jobs. She was free for that precise week of camp.
There were two weeks of camp where we still required a cook. Out of nowhere, God laid our on the heart of someone we would have never asked and she volunteered to come and serve at camp. Choco, who has been working a different job this year and hardly ever has days off, suddenly had some time off. He and Partake dedicated a huge portion of that precious time to camp in helping us with worship, an unending string of maintenance issues, and the more complicated camper check-in and check-out schedule that Covid-19 guidelines require.
Again and again, we watched Him provide for the summer in a cascade of small but deeply-needed miracles. Finally, we were training staff at camp once more. Counsel staff and support staff, all learning together. The art of washing dishes, leading cabin discussion, unclogging a toilet, sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Service of every kind, vital to camp ministry, this was the week where we gave them the tools needed for the job.
During staff training, something happened that reminded us of the long-lasting power of giving of yourself wholeheartedly in ministry. Epona, one of our interns, was teaching on how impactful small acts of kindness are to campers during their week. Years and years ago, when she was a first-time camper, she was super-excited about her horseback ride. Garmin, her counselor, drew a picture for young Epona of her horse. Epona still has that picture to this day. It was so meaningful to her, she kept it for twelve years.
Well, it has been a long time since Garmin was at camp, but on a whim, Scruff decided to text her about how that one sweet act both encouraged Epona as a girl and gave her a tool for teaching future staff about how to connect with their campers. Scruff was shocked to see that he hadn’t messaged Garmin since 2013, but he sent the text nonetheless. Well, Garmin messaged back saying that she totally remembered that week of camp. Not only that, but she was particularly discouraged that day and had asked the Lord for word of encouragement. Then, here was this text from Scruffy telling about how her week at camp so long ago is still having an impact in campers lives as Epona teaches the staff using Garmin’s simple act of love as an example.
Staff training is beautiful that way. Young staff learning from older staff. Stories of camps of the past retold for a new generation. That video on how to unplug a toilet being shown just one more time! It’s not just the older staff teaching either. The younger ones have things to say as well and are constantly challenging us and brightening our days with their questions and insights. As someone who just sent her youngest son to staff training to watch him listen to lectures on both the magic of working the camp dishwasher and the simplicity and power of the gospel, I am so grateful that my sons can receive this training. Watching staff both receive and give to one another as we prepare for this crazy thing called camp ministry filled my heart and reminded me why we do what we do. Thank you Father, thank you for giving us the chance to serve You in this crazy and lovely way!
1 Timothy 4:12–“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”
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.”