Five Ways to Prepare Your Child for Camp

Are your kids about to zoom off to summer camp but you’re not sure if they’re ready for a week away from home? Well, here are five things you can do to get them geared up and ready to go!

#1 Prepare them for some independence

Attending a week of camp is a huge right of passage for a child and a big step in their independence and growth! I was a camp counselor for many years, married a camp director, and worked training camp staff for years after that. Nonetheless, when our oldest went to camp I was shocked at how hard it was to let him go. We literally live thirty seconds away from the cabin where he stayed. It was still so very difficult and so incredibly good.

Up until that time, I had always been on hand. I talked to other adults for him when he was shy. I dished up the kinds of food he liked. I could tell by that slight weariness in his eyes when he was getting sick. I knew that he liked me to read to him at night and sing a song.

But you know what? Camp counselors can read and sing, too. During that week of camp, I saw something beautiful occur. Our son became part of a group of boys, thundering around with their counselor, totally independent from my hovering, having a total blast. He learned to go with the flow without me there to explain everything and smooth the way. He learned to advocate for himself by asking his counselor for help if he needed a buddy to walk the dark trails with or forgot his toothbrush. My heart ached and swelled with pride simultaneously when his counselor said that he woke with a nightmare and then fell back to sleep as his counselor stood beside his bed holding his hand. My little boy was growing up.

Prepare your child for this adventure by telling them to ask for help, think of strategies if they miss home (write a letter, read a good book at bedtime, snuggle favorite stuffed animal), and assure them that this week will give them vital skills for life and their relationship with God for years to come!

#2 Pack the right clothes

Camp is a place for running through the grassy meadow, pounding up and down the twisty dirt trails, or even playing a game of ga-ga ball immediately after a thunderstorm has left the ga-ga ball court slick with mud. Pack accordingly. We’ve had kids who only pack designer clothes, flip flops instead of tennis shoes, or even high-heeled snow boots with furry accents but no real tread. Prepare your child to enjoy the outdoors with a good pair of tennis shoes or even hiking boots. Sandals are fine, but if they wear them all week their feet will hurt and they might trip on the rough terrain or roll an ankle. Pack clothes that can get dirty. Pack for a wide variety of weather conditions. Here in the Cascade Mountains it can reach freezing temperatures at night even when it is sweltering in the daytime. Shorts and t-shirts, socks and sturdy shoes, long-sleeved shirts and pants, a sweatshirt and pajama pants for lounging about, a modest swimsuit, a thick blanket to drape over their shoulders during the campfire, and plenty of clothes to change into. They will get grubby fast and packing a few extra outfits will be perfect for after that impromptu pine needle fight.

Pro Tip: Teach your first-time camper how to make bundles of clothes so that he or she can find an outfit for each day easily. Fold a pair of pants, a shirt, undies, and socks. Stack them on top of each other with the smaller items inside. Roll them up into a clothing burrito and then wrap a strip of masking tape all the way around the bundle. Have bundles for cold days and hot days. Now finding new clothes every day is easy and your camper is more likely to actually put on something fresh!

#3 Pack the right equipment

A flashlight! So many campers forget that it is dark here in the forest. Yes, we have electricity when the generator is on and for a few hours after that as the batteries give us power for a while. But eventually, the power goes out and it is quite dark. A flashlight and extra batteries will help your camper to go back and forth between the mail lodge and their cabin, rummage through their suitcase after the lights go out, or even read a book quietly in their bunk without disturbing the rest of the cabin.

Some camouflage, dark clothing, or even a black cape/gorilla mask for the night games. It sure puts a damper on playing Mission Impossible when you only have a bright white sweatshirt and get captured right away. Do you have a retired soldier in the family? See if they might donate their old camo for your camper’s night game adventure. Head to the thrift store to see what’s been donated or ask grandma to sew a black cape with a hood. At the very least, pack one set of dark clothes including dark shoes and socks. Your camper will smile when they dig through their suitcase and see that they are ready to plunge into the night in disguise.

A sleeping bag and pillow. Yep, sometimes campers forget these important items. Make sure that yours is prepared. For younger campers, a special stuffed animal can make their bunk feel like home. I have loaned out many stuffed animals over the years and of course the camp dog is always available, but a stuffy from home is a special touch.

Toiletries! Yes, they will still need to brush their teeth, run a comb through their hair to remove pieces of bark and lichen, and maybe even wash their faces and hair. Sometimes campers arrive hoping that all of these things are behind them. Our counselors will kindly urge a continuation of basic hygiene, but it sure helps if they have a toothbrush!

A good book. There is very little down time at camp, but we do have one hour of FOB (flat on bunk) in the afternoons and some campers have trouble resting. A good book can also help them settle down at night if they are all revved up after all their adventures and can’t sleep.

A Bible, notebook, and pen. Yes, we have Bibles that your camper can borrow, but it is always nice to have your own and a notebook and pen can make the chapel sessions even more meaningful as your camper jots down things from their week.

#4 Leave some things behind

Does your camper think that they cannot live without their phone, a fine collection of stink bombs, a pair of matching machetes, or their five angry cats? Yeah, they will be fine without those. One of the main benefits of camp is disengaging from the digital world. So, leave that phone behind and bring grandma’s old camera or a single-use disposable camera instead. And the stink bombs, yes, pranking at camp is a fine tradition but all pranks must be cleared by the interns and anything that destroys property weather through a horrible stench, sticky duct tape residue, or a mountain of shaving cream … well, these pranks do not gain approval. If your camper is longing to hone their wilderness skills and learn to use a pocket knife correctly, sign up for our spring break survival camp. But for all other camps, leave those knives at home. Yes, my sons once smuggled a pet chicken into their cabin, but I found her and brought her back home. Please leave your pets behind and enjoy Princess Leia Freyja, the camp dog, while at Camas.

#5 Be ready for different

Camp is not like school, home, or church. Camp is different. That’s one reason we love it! Sometimes campers are alarmed by this. I have fielded many questions from children about camp. “Where are all the video games?” or “Why are there hand motions to the songs?” or “Why are kids pounding their cups on the table, chanting, and racing around the lodge during dinner?” or in the case of my sons, “Why do I have to wear shoes?” Get your camper ready to enjoy something different. They’re going to love it!

Boo Boo aka Kristen is the granddaughter of the camp founders, the daughter of the camp’s first director, and the wife of Scruffy (the current director). She began her career in camp ministry in the dish pit with her best friend at the age of fourteen. They were terrible dishwashers but eventually got the dishes clean after swamping the floor with an inch of water and screaming whenever they had to touch discarded food. Her three sons are now involved in camp, too. The oldest is a counselor, the middle son is cook’s assistant, and her youngest is following in her footsteps with dish pit adventures of his own. Please shoot her a message or call if you have questions about camp or your camper. She has also been known to track them down for you, take reconnaissance photos while hiding behind trees, and post those reassuring pictures on the camp facebook and instagram pages so that you know your camper is alive. She believes that camp is a vital adventure, both for childhood health and joy as well as for our growth as followers of Christ.

The Silent Summer

How do you say goodbye to a summer?

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.

Boo Boo

Sr. High Winter Camp 2020

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?

Van Helsing’s amazing T-Rex impersonation

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.”

Boo Boo

Summer Staff Winter Retreat

Soggy campers fresh from the tube hill

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?

Good question!

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.

Yep, these rowdy campers are doing to motions to a song, not attacking each other.

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.

With Shine!

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.”

Boo Boo