Junior High Winter Blast!

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!

Ezekiel 34:11-12

“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.”

Boo Boo

Jr. High Winter Blast 2020

This was our biggest Jr. High Winter Blast yet with 49 campers, 15 counselors, a big kitchen crew, and several hundred snow ducks! (Yes, this was before concern about the corona virus increased. I know you were worried about all those ducks, clearly not practicing social distancing!!!)

Parents and youth leaders urged weary vehicles up the snowy camp road and into the parking lot where the rowdy fun immediately commenced.

What was the very first game of the weekend?

The chair game, of course!

The goal is to keep the person in your chair from escaping when the person with the empty chair calls their name. This allows staff and campers to learn each others names.

It is also more than a little bit entertaining to watch.

Of course it isn’t camp if you are not outside. So Scruffy took the campers who were bold, brave, and had two working legs, on an amazing hike into Poison Canyon. Down, down, down … and then ALL the way back up!

Poison Canyon is just a wee bit steep. Hiking here causes Princess Leia Freyja to whine with concern and give everyone revitalizing slurps.

Here she is, looking worried for the health and safety of others. Which is actually a fairly common expression for our sweet camp dog.

During the amazing hike, some campers played board games in the lodge or worked on crafts.

Others built a tower of Kapla blocks that rose all the way up to the second story! Campers reached through the rails on the second story balcony to place the final block, until I got out my camera and the invisible power of its nearness seemed to cause the tower to fall right as I snapped a photo!

On the first evening, Scruffy dusted off that Watchamabob favorite of old, the Chocolate Marshmallow Drop.

The participants were ready and eager to go.

The chocolate was gooey and drizzly!

The results: stickiness overload!

The benefits: eating a marshmallow if you actually succeeded and of course the pure and unadulterated joy of having chocolate on your face!

Of course, Watchamabob naturally morphs straight into–all the camp people know the answer–worship!

Hand motion songs first, then quiet worship, and then the lesson.

Our speaker this week was Faramir, and he spoke about turning points.

Of course, he told an amazing story about the time that (although he is terrified of roller coasters) he let his youth kids talk him into riding a super scary roller coaster since he was trying to impress them. Then the operator saw that no one else was in line, gave them a cheery smile, and sent them around the track a second time! The point of no return. That moment that the front car on the coaster (yes, his youth group kids talked him into sitting in the very front) is hanging over the edge of the precipice and it is only a matter of time before the other cars follow. Sometimes we come to a point of not return in life. A time where we must decide the course that we will follow. Faramir did a wonderful job of urging kids to make a decision to follow Jesus when they come to these important turning points in their lives.

On Saturday, every cabin participated in an epic broom hockey match-up!

An afternoon well spent.

Although Princess Leia Freyja was quite dissapointed that Scruffy wouldn’t let her play. She totally understands the game. The first person to run through the gauntlet of smacking sticks, grab the puck, and wildly charge between people’s legs with it in their mouth as their tail wags happily … is the winner!

After hockey, snow duck production went into overdrive!

Sweet Tea, our wonderful camp cook, let campers use her new snow duck makers. They look like salad tongs with half a duck on each side. When you pack them with snow and squeeze the duck halves together, voila, a snow duck! It started with just a few ducks watching the hockey game.

Then two stern leaders in parlay were discovered having a serious discussion in the middle of the ping pong table.

But what is a king without his army? So, two opposing armies of ducks were born.

One side consisted of bald ducks and one side was made up of ducks with charming hair made of lichen. There was also a spy in the midst of one army and a few ducks who really loved Legend of Zelda and created this iconic monument.

Of course, after all of this hearty snow duck creation, it’s also nice to just sit on the couch with friends. A whole lot of friends! Which inevitably turns into a competition. Exactly how many campers and counselors can fit on these particular couches. And a dog … there should definitely be a dog on the couch. Don’t worry, Princess Leia Freyja was happy to help out.

We didn’t let them sit too long. There were still more strange and baffling games that absolutely needed to be played!

OK, these two sisters are ready to go!

What is this? Obviously, some kind of face off between two determined campers. But why?

Hmmm … not sure that this makes things any clearer.

Well, balloons are always fun.

OK, more balloons more fun.

Aha! A chase, a mighty battle!

The goal of this game was to hop after your opponent and pop their balloon without allowing them to stomp on yours.

Princess Leia Freyja seemed concerned.

But the campers had a great time!

Finally, it was Sunday and time to clean up the camp and present cabin awards. No, we do not normally ask the campers to mop with their cute toesies. But when presented with a mop, this cabin of girls begged for permission to mop their own way. They also charged out of the bathroom and seized the camp photographer so that their triumph could be captured on film!

While the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place cabins received bags of candy in various yummy sizes, the staff team got something even better.

A bag of russet potatoes!!!

Little did they know that in a few short weeks Scruffy would walk into Costco to find every single bag of potatoes gone!

Or perhaps they did know, deep down inside. Either way, the potatoes were received with great joy and were distributed among the staff while the candy was distributed among the winning cabins.

It was such an amazing weekend. Not only were many snow ducks created, wild games played, God’s beautiful forest enjoyed, and songs sung at a tremendous volume … but several campers raised their hands to follow Jesus for the very first time. And please do not discount the vital role that a weekend of camp plays in the life of a young Christian who already knows the Lord. Without the encouragement of fellowship, teaching, and the fun of being with a whole herd of rowdy young believers, their Christian walk would be much more difficult. Through the grace of God, we were able to provide a safe place for these 49 children to learn about their Lord and rejoice in the beauty of following Him.

Ephesians 2:4-5–“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.”

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