June 20, 2015

Ketchup Stories

Yesterday evening I hand wrote what I thought would be this next blog post. I had stories and life revelations and lessons from God all tied up into a neat post.

Unfortunately that page is sitting on my pillow back at camp while I sit at the library. Oops.

But I think even in the hours after I wrote that my perspective is a little bit changed. Last night was the Stick Service, a special service the last night of every camp in which campers get to share what they learned and then throw a stick into the fire.

I remember doing this as a camper myself years ago. We were at an outdoor chapel and it started raining. Not enough for us to run inside soaking, but enough to put out the fire. I think I cried I was so upset that I wouldn't have a real fire to throw a stick into. Almost like I thought I needed the little twig to burn in order for me to actually have learned anything. But just as I was getting up near the front of the line to take my turn something happened and the flame just jumped back up and burned for a few more minutes, just long enough for me to share my tidbit of knowledge and watch my stick turn into ashes. Call me crazy, but I know God lit that fire specifically for me.

Now I get to watch these campers talk about their week. I get to hear child after child say "I rededicated my life to God" or "I gave my life to God for the first time" and I tell you, there is nothing better in the world than to hear those words.

Sometimes I think us adults undervalue the importance of things like camp. It's easy to brush these kids away. After all, how can a ten year old actually understand what it means to be saved from sin and rescued into eternity with the creator of all things? What does a twelve year old know about dedication? But we're wrong. We're so wrong, because these campers get it. They understand so much and so simply and sure, maybe some of the campers just want to hear the staff cheering and clapping for them, maybe they just want to go along with the crowd.

But so many of them know exactly what they're doing.

One day during lunch a little six or seven year old boy showed me a cross made by a french fry and ketchup on his plate. "It's a cross," he said. He scribbled around the red again and said, "Now it's Jesus." I smiled and kept eating, watching as he created yet another picture. "Jesus is gone," he informed me. Before I had the chance to say anything he continued, "Do you know why Jesus is gone?"

"Why?" I asked, curious about what his answer would be.

"Because this is the tomb. That's the stone, rolled away, and Jesus isn't dead."

Friends- that is the message of the gospel. That's the summary of my whole life. Why I'm at camp this summer, why I'm a Christian. Because Jesus isn't in a tomb.

This week I struggled with this whole camp thing. I don't like not having my phone- the thing that keeps me connected to so many friends who are such a huge part of my life. I don't like being always tired. I certainly don't like frantic camp disinfecting days when we have to wipe down every mattress because some camper or staff member got pink eye.

I was enjoying camp and loving the campers (especially the sweet Pioneer Campers who are six to nine years old and so tiny. Most of them can't even see over the counter in the General Store.) but I felt like my life was on hold. Even as I was praying or eating or talking to campers I felt like I was counting down the days until summer is over.

I don't want to live a life of waiting. This is where I am right now, and I want to be all here. My amazing friend from Mexico and England sent me a letter this week and I wish I had one of the quotes she sent. It made me cry (in the middle of a room full of staff checking out for the weekend) because it was exactly what I had been feeling.

The thing is, I may look forward to other things in the future- but I don't like in the future and I don't want to. God is working at camp right now and somehow He's working through me. Even if I barely get the chance to read and have written only one poem in three weeks and not a word toward my novel, this is still life and I can still make it awesome.

I have no good way to end this post and not enough time to hunt down a good poem to include. So, goodbye, see you next week with, I'm sure, some new cute camper story to share.

June 13, 2015



I am at a loss for words tonight as I try to capture a week of camp into one blog post. I've had this conversation with a lot of people already, talking to my boyfriend about every detail of camp my tired and fuzzy brain could remember, telling my mom about the full time staff, telling my sister the fun camper quotes and about unique campers, telling my mother in law (I think that counts if she is the mother of my sister's husband. We are all family of some kind.) about the spiritual battles happening on this camp's ground. God is working.

Kids are experiencing love and attention. Counsellors are being stretched already, trained to deal with any and every situation. I cleaned fifty mattresses yesterday. I helped calm down three kids crying because they were homesick. I wanted to tell them how homesick I get too. Instead we talked about stuffed animals. My fourteen or so year old Panda feels kind of like home. I guess it works for kids too. What is it about animals that can hold so much love? Even fake ones.

I die a little inside at the thought of my families new puppy which I will not meet for at least a year probably. My sister wiggles with excitement at the husky she and her husband are soon to get. Animals are special. They understand us in their simple lack of understanding.

See? I really don't know what I'm writing anymore. I should get sleep while I can. The point is some times God works like lightning and leaves me a little bit blind at the end. I'm kind of blind tonight- waiting for the next strike as I slide into week two of camp. 

June 6, 2015

Why Camp is like McFarland, USA

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." This is 2 Timothy 4:7 and the perfect verse for my thoughts tonight. Today was my only full day off between the end of staff training on Friday and the beginning of camp tomorrow. I slept in, got dressed up for a homeschool graduation of someone I've never met, talked to my mom for about an hour. One of the most positive conversations we've had this year, she said, and it's true. I wasn't calling to complain or cry or ask for advice. I just wanted to talk before I turn in my phone tomorrow morning for the rest of the week. It felt good to talk about camp and hear my family's new puppy talk to me through the phone. I wish I could go meet her and talk to my mom face to face.

But tonight we watched a movie called McFarland, USA, which is the real reason I'm writing this post instead of getting some much needed sleep before the week kicks off. But this movie spoke to me and I need to now speak it into words because I can't process otherwise. If you haven't seen the movie I highly recommend it. Also I'll be spoiling it a little, but it's a really predictable movie anyway so don't worry.

It's about this coach who keeps messing up and gets stuck in this tiny immigrant town in California teaching the first cross country team. The kids are all first or second generation Mexican and they and their families are pickers. The kids work mornings before school and then work again as soon as they get out of class. The coach comes, after complications finally learns what these kids lives are really like and helps them to find hope and purpose in running. He gives them something to live for and hope for.

This summer I'm going to be like that coach. I've messed up plenty of times. In theory I'm more than qualified to work at camp. I have experience and training and knowledge. But so did the coach. He had anger problems and was too hard on his previous sports teams. I am impatient, easily tired, and easily discouraged.

There's this scene in the movie when the coach goes to pick in the fields with his runners to understand what it's like. He has no idea what he's getting into. He's exhausted. He hurts his back. But he realizes what the runners go through every day. He becomes one of them for an afternoon. And it's hard. That's what Jesus did. He became one of us so that he could learn how to help us. It was hard. It hurt him. This is what I will be doing as I work at camp this summer. I will be lowering myself to become a kid for 8 weeks. To shower in the tiny cube that switches from burning hot to freezing cold a thousand times in one shower. To share three bathroom stalls with over 100 kids. To eat the same camp food every day, week after week. To get dirty and muddy. To walk through the rain. To run until I can barely breathe because the kids want me to play with them. It's going to hurt.

But I cannot help these campers unless I know what it's like to be one of them. I know that some of these kids will come from homes that are broken. They may be poor, they may have to work every day, they may have been abused or abandoned. I won't be able to understand it completely. Like that American coach stepping into a tiny town of Mexican culture I will feel lost at times. I will get frustrated when I can't understand the kids. I will want them to do more than they can. But if I get to know them I will be able to show them that even if I cannot understand, I can care.

I can run the race- or at the very least train these campers to run their own race. I can show them what it means to finish strong. To find their faith and chase after it no matter what. People can laugh, mock, say no, even try to pull out guns. But we have a faith that keeps us going. We have a finish line worth so much more than just fame and accomplishment. We run because running gives us hope for a future. Running this race gives us something to believe in. It gives us purpose for our lives. It gives us life.

This is why I am working at camp tomorrow. Not to sell T-Shirts with the camp logo and not to teach a ten year old how to play capture the flag. I am working at camp tomorrow to change lives. To teach weary children that they can have a family and that they can have a hope. 

June 3, 2015

Too Much

I wish I could write more.

No time.

No internet connection.

Starting next week no phone.

How can I say everything I have stored up in my heart in one half hour break? And say it quickly, since I only have limited data and I don't know how much data a blog post takes up. There's so much. I feel so stretched. Joyful and excited, happy to be here, but tired. Uncomfortable. Unwilling even.

Even now I am staring longingly at my book The Handmaid's Tale, and I am wishing I had more time to read. Or write. I want to write poems again, but I can't write a poem in a half an hour between activities. Actually it's usually more like twenty minutes and I have to debate between phone calls, blogs, reading, and being social with the other staff members like I am supposed so. We are a team. I'm here to support the counsellors and other staff. But I need to write. I need to read. I'm exhausted.

But before I read for my remaining minutes: the view. I love the view here. These mountains. The moon, the stars, the wooden crosses on the mountainside. I love it. I love the beauty that surrounds me at every glance here. Everything is so amazing. I am in awe. Amazed.