I just returned from five days away at Riverview Bible Camp on the Pend O’Reille River as a junior high church camp counselor.
The week proved to be, in many ways, an ultimate outdoor adventure – can you say, living with mice?!
That’s right. Mice and girls and the fear of mice in a cabin for a week.
It was interesting because when we first were assigned to our Oak Front Cabin and the girls staked out their bunks, they immediately noticed mice traps in the room, as if the traps were in the middle of the room, which they were not. They were hidden under beds by the window. But, the discovery of mice traps began the bonding process with the 10 girls, some of them from different schools and backgrounds.
The heat that first day was Spokane warm in our room, making it hard to sleep (I had been up all night, literally, the night before, getting ahead on work before leaving for camp), and the noises from mice and would-be mice scratching kept waking us up, and at one point, one of the girls in our cabin screamed “A Mouse!” and that got the other girls screaming, and only a tarp separated us from two sixth grade girls’ groups who were trying to sleep in the other part of the cabin, and I thought, Oh, Lord. . . .Yet, you have just got to be able to laugh sometimes.
We did get through the first night and the next morning the back cabin dealt with its own mice, which proved our cabin was not just “crying wolf” –or shall I say, “Crying mice” -!
…Okay, beyond the mice issue, the week was highlighted by our chapel sessions, where we worshipped and listened to a speaker Dave who focused on the soil of your heart and whether it is hard or thorny or being choked with weeds or whether it is soft and ready to hear and respond to the word of God. The speaker was very passionate and genuine and seemed like someone who really lived his faith 24/7. God used his messages from Matthew 13 to really challenge all of our hearts.
Two game sessions each day challenged the 350 Junior High campers in different ways – their bodies as they had to run at times from one part of the camp to another, and especially their minds. As a leader, I have to admit that I had a difficult time understanding all of the details of the two games we had almost each day. And, it turned out, I was not alone. Some students, during the mid week Talent Show, performed a skit imitating teasingly how “easy” the game leader’s instructions were — not. They were meant to be challenging for sure, and the skit was just hysterical. Either way, game time was an opportunity to laugh and be by the water and and in the evening play Zombie Apocalypse and pose for photos with groups!
Afternoons were filled with opportunities to play in the water on various toys – the iceberg, the blob, the Saturn. And a challenge course was available as well as a monster zip line, which was not for the faint at heart. Swimming in the pool and trying your hand at archery and having water balloon matches and climbing the vertical playground were other free time options. I loved watching my twins climb the ropes and ring the bell, and then cheer on their friends as well. I snapped lots of pictures there and throughout the week –and sometimes my twins teased me about being a stalker. I was there with my small group and watched the twins from a distance mostly, well, sometimes close distance, and yes, trying to get lots of pictures. This was an adventure with them, and 350 other kids!
During our challenge course, low ropes event, thunder and lightning mixed with rain and sun added to our outdoor adventure course. Wild. Even more wild, was seeing the girls figure out various physical challenges that required team work and thinking together and getting over difficult situations. On one of the activities that was part of the ropes course, some of the girls said at first, “We cannot do this,” but then they were able to figure it out after all. Which was a good reminder as to the importance of team work and not giving up – all applicable principles in our walks with God and in life in general.
I loved our cabin times where we spent time sharing what we were learning and we’d spend time reading God’s word and praying and decorating a journal with photos and words that represent each of our individuality. I also enjoyed meals with the impromptu piano sessions were started and arm wrestling contests began and small groups shared meals together, sometimes joining other groups. And, I always tried to snap photos of camp counselors with their children if they had any at camp. And
During the week, a baptism in the swimming pool focused attendees of the camp on new decisions for Christ and follow-up on past commitments. I had the honor of baptizing a girl from my cabin whose story is amazing. Vikki came to Christ at age 5 through the influence of her grandmother. Vikki’s reason for getting baptized was that she wanted to take her faith “to the next level.” That was such a testimony to others there.
A highlight of the week was our 180 Serve event in the town of Cusick Washington, a small city about 10 miles from camp. The town has an estimated population of 220 and the median income is $ 22,000, compared with $ 56,000 for the rest of Washington. When our bus loads of students and leaders arrived, we more than doubled the income of the town.
We decided as a camp to do an outreach project in this town to assist a small missional church in the area. Students were assigned to work in a certain part of town. Some picked up litter on the school grounds. Others weeded by the Post Office. Still others were on street garbage patrol. The group I was with weeded a very overgrown property where a vacated run down, once popular deli still stands.
When they told us overgrown, we did not realize just how overgrown and hard the soil was going to be. And, there were prickly weeds and thick weeds and tall grass that looked as if it had not been mowed for literally months. And we had no equipment but our bare hands. (A while later, we asked the group by the post office to share their garden tools with us.)
The pastor’s wife came by and said our weeding the property where this bankrupted deli was on was a witness to the woman who owns the property. The church has been trying to reach out to the owner of the property and we hope our 180 Serve event will help her to see that the church is trying to make her feel valued.
Before we arrived back at the buses to drive back to camp, I got to meet Mayor Bob. He drove by in his truck and told me that he opened the bathroom in the community room for us and that he really appreciated what we were doing, cleaning up the community.
Then, when we got on the bus, the driver complimented our students. “I’m a regular bus driver in Spokane, and the students from your church group are such wonderful kids. I am going to request to come back to drive for the church next year.”
Besides the 180 Serve, we were able to see students at the camp step to serve in other ways. On their own, a group of student leaders decided to pray together each day at 1 p.m., and some also cleared tables after meals and led devotions in the morning and attended student leader meetings on a few nights. It was a joy to see my twins at these meetings, as well as others from their cabin and two from mine also.
As the week came close to an end, we shared in a bonfire on the water, where testimonies were shared and ideas were brainstormed about ways to take the camp experience back home. Start a bible study or prayer group at school. Feed the homeless. Go to Africa after graduation. Pastor Mar had encouraged students to think forward, rather than only on the past emotional “”camp bubble” experience,
But, God does use emotion, and during a couple of the worship sessions during the week, students cried and prayed and re-dedicated their lives to Christ.
It was great to see new friendships forged and boundaries broken down. That is not to say that there were no struggles or issues, but flexibility has to be the key — and remembering, as Jen had said during our leader training — we are there for the kids (and of course, for God!!)
The Holy Spirit is whom I depended upon for my st rength this week, that is for sure. I relished some one-on-one time with each of the girls in my cabin, learning of their stories and one girl started the ultimate adventure—giving her life to Christ for the first time during camp. Hearts were being touched and softened on a variety of fronts.
We had some fun surprises, such as the cows at the waterfront early one morning when I was having a quiet time down by the water. Others were awake to see them as well including my co-leader, Kate and her sister Ruth, the assistant nurse as well as another high school leader, Megan.
And, some of the girls started pranking me, which I was told by them, was a sign that I had arrived. It was all in good fun.
The pranks? A mini fish in the mouse trap. A hair ball on my pillow. A water balloon in my sleeping bag – well, it turned out, that was only a threat, but it caused for some laughs from the girls.
Camp website http://www.riverviewbiblecamp.com