Jr. A Camp 2019
After a brutal, but powerful week with teens, the camp was flooded with a bouncing, smiling, laughing horde of 9 to 12-year-olds.
They raced around the meadow, zipped down the slip-n-slide, and thundered back and forth between their cabins and the dinning hall. As the whole group tromped up to Inspiration Point at night to enjoy the stars, one of them mused to a camp intern about spiritual matters.
“I wonder what it would be like to be stepped on by a dinosaur? That is the fourth thing I’m going to do in heaven, be stepped on by a dinosaur”
And that my friend, is the difference between Jr. Camp and Sr. High Camp. But please do not think that we are longing for the spiritually complex discussions and heart-wrenching honesty that teens are capable of. The simplicity and joy that envelope a week with young kids is a beautiful thing to behold. Let me wax eloquent for a moment upon the vital ministry and innate loveliness of Jr. Camp.
At Jr. Camp, everything is a huge adventure! For many of the campers, this is their first time away from home for a week. Some of them have never spent the night without their family even once and so just arriving at camp and staying is the craziest thing they have ever done.
Then there are all the new activities. Dunk Tank, Slip-N-Slide, Night Games, Lake Day, Cabin Skits … . New adventures await every day and these little guys charge through each day, soaking up every one.
There is worship, but unlike worship in any setting they’ve seen before.
Worship where you stretch out before hand to avoid a muscle injury. Worship where you leap and run and dance and shout and do so so many hand motions. But then there is the switch. After they are exhausted and happy and breathless with fun, Choco slows things down and they pray. Then he introduces quiet songs of God and His power and strength and love.
Then there is the unique opportunity to talk about God, not with their Sunday School teacher, Children’s Pastor, or Parents … but with that fun teenager who let them dunk him in the dunk tank, helped them prank the boys’ cabin, or raced across the meadow to unfreeze them during meadow games.
And the great thing about discussing the Bible lesson with a fun camp counselor and a cabin full of kids their age, is that even if they are too nervous to talk the first day, or the second, they still have days and days together to work up the nerve to share from the heart.
We had one first time camper who didn’t talk during the discussion until Wednesday. What happened Wednesday? She made a new friend in one of her cabinmates after a sun-soaked day at Lake Chelan.
Never be fooled into thinking that rowdy splashing, jumping off the dock together, and way way too much sunscreen cannot be used of God.
That is the beauty of Jr. Camp.
It is all about relishing the innocence of childhood. About being a kid on an adventure. About stretching your wings and seeing if you can have some fun, Bible lessons, triumphs, and even a few serious discussions on your own, away from home. Even if the whole cabin has to take a crazed lap around the volley ball court between every question because all those little girls are too bouncy to sit still for long.
Sure, one of the boys’ cabin might have spent a fair amount of time discussing whether or not one would smooosh into the earth if stepped on by a dinosaur or if it would simply crush you. But they also talked about heaven and getting the chance to ask Noah questions. They spent their curiosity on what they would want to discover about God’s creation once they died and had the ability to ask whatever they liked of their Lord.
One Junior Counselor talked about when the Sr. Counselor gave him the opportunity to lead the cabin discussion. He said the boys were pretty wiggly and that they did spend a fair amount of time throwing jelly beans at each other, but that they answered the questions honestly.
How many of us can say the same? Being honest with ourselves, God, and the believers around us is huge. These precious little ones are learning to do that. Taking a bold step out on their own and realizing that other people love Jesus besides Mom and Dad.
And as my own Jr. Camper somehow convinced his counselor to tote him down to the campfire while still snuggled up on his sleeping bag, hopped up to the fire to share, and then hopped back … I remembered again the pure delight of providing a week of camp for young people. Jr. Camp is truly a joyful adventure!
*To protect their anonymity, I do not place photos of campers above their personal stories. Although, sometimes I will with Camp Staff.