Tag Archives: campers

week four: “my goal is just to have something i say be the title of one of your blog posts.”

week four has historically been fantastic (see here and here and here), and this summer has been no exception. everything was fun, we all made some great connections with the campers, and it was the kind of week where we wished all ten of them were stayovers. just full of blessing and fun. lots of fun.

i mean, just look at these guys. they’re all studs.

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we were set up for success right from the beginning. four of those guys had been in my cabin two years ago, and were some of my favorites of all time. one was the younger brother of a close friend, and another was a camp kid that i’ve known for the past few years. four were ones i’d never met, and every single one of them was awesome.

we did tons of awesome things, like every week. a favorite was once again the minifarm. it’s always a blast seeing the tough guys get really excited about petting baby bunnies. we had a contest to see who could sound most like the pigs, and also took some time to play chicken round up. becca and katherine’s cabins were with us, and becca managed to conquer her (apparently intense) fear of… chickens. we were all very proud of her.


this week, we brought back a favorite of mine from last year: the gentlemen games! i brought all the guys into the cabin and gathered them in a circle to relay our mission parameters. together, we decided to focus on the blazer girl cabins. we grabbed some sticky notes and markers, mentally prepared for the challenge at hand, and sprinted to the oregon territory. our cover story was that we were on a camp tree photo tour. naturally, we had to get some photos so our story was legit (also, note the ties we wore. we simply told people we were on a gentlemen’s hike).


we plastered cabin doors with odd complements (e.g. “you’re better than apple pie. and apple pie is my favorite dessert.”), straightened lines of shoes, and organized clotheslines. most of the girls were out of their cabins, but for the last cabin we had to do all these things without being seen or heard by the ladies inside. it was intense, but we managed to accomplish our mission and sneak away unnoticed. win.

since we were working so well together, it was a great week to do the optimist challenge. we paired up with some of the blazer ladies and trekked across it, encouraging each other along the way. there are so many reasons i love this activity. it’s fun and challenging, it forces people to ask for help and encourage each other, and it creates space for leaders to step up. one of my campers had told me a little earlier in the week that he was praying for God to grow him in his leadership skills (so cool. just so cool.), and so i asked him specifically to be setting the example for encouraging his partner and having a positive attitude. he totally did, and we were all really proud of him.


on wednesday i had the honor of being selected as a safety officer (well, batman did… and he and i are pretty close). it meant that i got a cool fluorescent vest and had the responsibility of making sure that everyone stayed safe. so later that day there was only one thing to do: take safety selfies with everyone. it was a hit. they were some of the safest pictures i’ve ever seen, to be sure.



another reason this week rocked was that i had the chance to be in an awesome chapel. in the skit, milson keeps getting torn down by people, who tear a piece of his heart each time they hurt him. towards the end, milson starts tearing his own heart because he starts believing the things that people are saying. representing Jesus, i came in and gave him my heart. it was a cool picture of the way that Jesus took on the pain and hurt that should be ours because He loves us so much. and even when there is deep pain, we still have an anchor in our loving God.




those two photos were taken by ben dehr, one of the camp photographers. he’s pretty awesome and you can look at all of the camp photos here. he also got some sweet pics of the firewors show (you can see them below), because of course the fourth of july happened this week. along with the fireworks show, we had a spectacular theme dinner on friday.



everyone gets into it, and it’s the best. hands down though, the best part is the relationships that are built here at camp. i love seeing guys, who don’t know each other on sunday when they arrive, leave being best friends. camp just does that. it’s in the dna here.



so, another week in the books. another week to come. crazy how it all flies by! what a busy, busy, sweet, sweet life.


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week three: “i have two words to say about the rest of the week: i’m in!”

week three was absolutely awesome. as each week passes, i’m realizing more and more how God is answering my prayers to make this a summer where i am challenged in the best ways, while at the same time He blesses me in ways i would never expect.

i was a little disappointed that i didn’t get to be at camp t for week two, especially after seeing some pictures online (check them out here. you can binge on them if you want. that’s how i just spent my last thirty minutes.) i recognized campers that i’d had in years past, and i was disappointed that i hadn’t been able to reconnect with them. but on sunday i return to camp and discovered two things. first, matty was really excited to see me. it was a great reunion. and second, we had three stayovers. which meant that almost a third of last week’s cabin would still be here, so it was almost like i hadn’t missed out!

also all three of them had been in my cabin last summer. so that was basically the best.

i’m sure i’ll be saying this all summer, because chances are i’ll have more opportunities to have previous campers in my cabin again. but there is just nothing so cool as being able to see the ways God has been working in the lives of kids that you’ve invested in. while i stay in touch with a few campers from over the years, the vast majority of these kids i say goodbye to on saturday and don’t get the chance to see where they are in a year. but when God allows me a glimpse into the lives of campers i’ve developed relationships with, it’s encouraging and exciting and makes me praise Him.

that was probably my high of the week, seeing how guys had grown in patience, care for others, and a desire for God. one of the campers told me after devos that he hadn’t before known that he didn’t have to earn God’s approval. but since coming to camp this week, he learned that there’s nothing he can do that will ever make God love him any less. how is it that the Lord has chosen someone like me to deliver such beautiful good news? i certainly don’t deserve it, but i will gladly accept it. praise Jesus!

other highs of the week would include the clinics. i had hip hop, mountaineering, and clay. all of them were the best. i had some of my campers in mountaineering and clay, and it was so much fun.


a variety of clinics is always the best, because you’re always on your toes and things don’t get boring. i went from choreographing the chorus to “best day of my life” to cheering on a camper who climbed to the top of mount wood to painting facial hair on the campers in clay clinic. all in a couple hours. that’s like the best.

wk3_2we did some pretty awesome things as a cabin this past week too. we went on a mud hike (one of the guys i was sure would back out was in 110%), we visited the minifarm to do the chicken round-up (side note: for some reason i’d always been afraid of chicken round up, mainly because it involved running after them to catch them and i was afraid that somehow i’d manage to lose all of camp’s chickens. but it turned out to be a blast), and we dressed up and went crazy for disco night. we also had one of my favorite unit games ever… prom night! somehow the guys always think it’s the best when they dress me up in pinks and purples and jean jackets and dresses.




what i love most about camp is the relationships that form. i love looking over at trading post and watching david listen intently as his camper explains chess to him. i love watching milson initiate a heart-to-heart with one of his guys. i love all the little things i get to see as i walk around camp. so much silliness, so much happiness, so much joy. and it’s all so very real.


i like real.


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week two: “you know, they should really sell vanilla coke in stores.”

so today at bible study, we got to talk about God’s faithfulness. we looked at different passages throughout scripture that detailed God’s faithfulness in a variety of areas; in forgiveness, in providing what we need, in giving us strength to stand up under temptation. then we all shared a table (and an amazing meal) together and swapped stories of God’s faithfulness in our own lives. it was so, so encouraging to both think back on the ways God has been faithful (all the time) to me and hear about how He’s been doing that in the lives of my friends.

it was actually a great topic, because this week i have definitely felt God’s faithfulness. last week was amazing, and i loved it, but at certain points i was a little discouraged because i didn’t feel like i was making a whole lot of personal connections with my campers. i think i wrote about it a few posts ago.

coming into this week, it kind of felt the same way. the boys are so great, but it’s easily the most energetic cabin i’ve ever had, and along with that energy comes a lot of struggle busing in the listening arena. they aren’t the best listeners, and for many of them, it doesn’t click that ignoring someone when they speak to you is a form of disrespect.

so it felt like i was doing a lot of redirecting and not a whole lot of making connections. yesterday i was feeling especially tired, and so naturally it was really easy to feel especially discouraged. i asked God to please provide some opportunities to make special connections with my campers.

and He totally answered my prayer.

let’s review all the awesome stuff that’s happened so far. yesterday was just lots of fun. we had some brave boy dodgeball, which is always a success.

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many jail brakes were called. the second game we played had a medic, who can heal people when they’re hit. it was a blast; my guys were good sports (for the most part), and they all loved the excuse to run around and throw things at each other.

yesterday was also the day we unveiled a new unit game: prom night. in a nutshell, we had cabins trekking through the woods, answering camp trivia questions. every time they got a question right, they were able to dress their counselor in a costume item of their choice. then we had them go to the lake, where counselors had to fill a bucket with lake water using only the costume clothes they had acquired. it was one of the funniest things i’ve ever done.

also it was chaos.

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it was so much fun. by the end i was soaking wet, absolutely exhausted, and may or may not have been laughing uncontrollably at the state of my fellow counselors. the kids loved it (i don’t believe even one boy  counselor made it to the lake without wearing a dress). it was such a blessing that something that could have gone so wrong (simply because it was the first time we played it) went so well. God definitely had His hand of blessing over it.

today has been even better. it’s probably been the best day with campers yet this summer. we had to do chapel in river village lodge because of some possible weather problems. turned out nothing happened, but chapel in the lodge was still really cool!

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then we had clinics. the first one this week is hip hop with fizz. i love teaching with fizz; she’s got so many ideas and she’s so great with the kids. we work really well together, and this week we have an amazing group of girls. as in they almost know the whole song and it’s only tuesday. as in we’re giving them the second verse to choreograph because they’re that good. yeah.

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the other clinic is peteca with dan. you might recall that i taught peteca my first week last summer. back then i had no idea what i was doing, but God worked it out so that it became my favorite clinic of the week anyway. this summer, i have an awesome partner and we have three great kids. since it’s so small, we really get to work on some second level skills like encouragement, persistence, encouragement, patience, and encouragement. it’s my favorite.

today we started keeping score of how many good hits we got. when we finally made it to thirty, we were all so excited that we had to take a quick photo shoot, naturally.

we took one with our score and frank (we named the ground, because it was catching most of our throws the first day.


then we took one with janet, because she caught a lot of our throws as well.


and then we took one of my favorite pictures i’ve ever taken ever.


so great. so, so great. i love these kids and working with dan and coming up with creative ways to teach peteca. God has really blessed me through the clinics i’m teaching this week.

at lunch, all the brave counselors found cans of coke in their mailboxes from ben and amy and their kids. it was the best.



and then i also got to see some of my favorite people today. lesem is always awesome.


and i love seeing counselors like bradzilla doing some one-on-one with their kids. always makes me smile.


best of all, today was a day where God allowed me to make some really cool connections with almost all my campers. He gave me the peace to let go of certain details that typically would have made me frustrated, and allowed lots of laughter and smiles and jokes and fun.


God is good. and He is faithful. all the time.

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week eight: castles, mud hikes, and other normal things.

one week left. that’s it. one more week, and camp is done for the summer. it’s insane to really take that in, because for the past eleven weeks my whole life has been camp: the training, the new friends, the old friends, the campers, river village, clinics, parent letters, opening and closing campfires, camp food, unit games, cheers and songs, nights and weekends off, this camp blog, meeting new kid and saying goodbye to new friends, writing letters, taking pictures, and the exhaustion and joy that comes with all of it.

it’s bittersweet, of course. i only have seven more days of camp. but then again… i have seven whole days at camp!

nine weeks of campers is a good amount. i’m pumped for this final week, but i’m also ready for some consecutive days off, just to relax and recuperate. i’m also looking forward to my ball state community, excited to meet new freshmen and hang out with old friends. i’m pumped to be back at new life and be more involved in the youth ministry there.

goodness. how awesome and undeserved a life i have. each season of it is filled with such blessing.

well. the last part of my week was great. we had breakfast in bed (read as: breakfast on the table outside the cabin… because a true breakfast in bed would be a disaster with brave boys), went to chapel, and met matthew, our tenth camper! he’d been in a baseball tournament and his team was the state champ! he went to chapel with us, and then we went to choose clinics for him.

of course, we had to take a picture with all ten of them! these were their “we have all of us!” faces:

clinics this week have been awesome. i’m teaching riflery with marie, which is always such a blessing… marie has a way of turning something that could be stressful into a game or something else fun. i love watching her with the campers, how she makes them all feel so special even if they’ve just met. plus the kids feel so proud of themselves after hitting the target! everybody wins.

next is mountaineering, which is rock climbing with matt and nick. only blazers can do this clinic, so it’s an awesome opportunity to hang out with kids that i don’t often get to see. i even had one of my campers from last summer, ben, in the clinic. i love being a mountaineering instructor for many reasons. first, i trained with all the other clinic instructors, so they’re some of the staff that i know better and am closer with. plus, our time on the rock wall is a perfect chance for the kids to encourage each other, get out of their comfort zone, and realize that hey, they can be proud of themselves for doing something. i love it.

finally i’m in the cac with nel for world cultures. it was the first time in a while that i’d taught it, and i was glad to be back. the kids love all the crafts, and it’s fun to be in a place where creatively flows freely and kids see that there are no mistakes when it comes to art. plus, who doesn’t like to color with crayons and build cardboard castles?


more things i love about the cac:

1.) seeing becca teach gymp at the table right next to mine.


2.) random dance parties that break out in the middle of the room.


3.) the togan masks that we made!

thursday we went to the lake after lunch, and i was working the cargo net, timing people who wanted to earn gold medals for their cabin. one of my favorite things is when the boys get up there, totally expecting to beast it across, only to find out that it’s actually a real challenge.


the other thing i love is their faces when i tell them that the record was set by a girl camper: across the whole cargo net in twenty-seven seconds. no big deal.

after lake time we had a mud hike. for whatever reason, it’s always something that takes me a little bit to get excited for. but once i’m there and see the way the guys just eat it all up (we get to get dirty and it’s okay?!), i always have a blast.


we were there with another cabin, and as usual, there were two groups: the muddy buddies and the clean team. both were proud of themselves for their choices.

after, we washed off in the lake and hiked back to the riv, telling riddles and jokes and cheering cheers and having beach towel costume contests. dinner that night was a cookout. it was actually the first outdoor cookout that i’ve been on for (either because it was raining, looked like it might start raining, or was way too hot), and so i was really excited! cookouts are my favorite because we can eat anywhere. the gaga pits and tetherball courts are pretty popular.


there’s always a mad rush for seconds, so tabb and nick made sure to keep order at the front of the line.


that night we talked about loving our enemies, and how it’s weird and doesn’t make sense and isn’t our first reaction, and yet Jesus tells us we should do it anyway. i love it when boys realize it’s okay to be honest even when it means showing that they’re not perfect. i love when my campers see that i need Jesus just as much as (if not more than) they do. i love when people realize we don’t have to be perfect, because Jesus was perfect for us.

friday was an awesome day. in honor of the olympics, we had our very own decathalon, where my guys each got to participate in a small activity (like digging for a buried clothespin, catching three frisbees, hula-hooping for three minutes, or spelling long words) and then do a relay race at the end. two great things happened: the miami gentlemen came in second place, and i learned how to hula hoop! wish i had a picture for you. just imagine me with a hula hoop around my waist, shouting excitedly for others–anyone–to come see as i threw my hips around in a ridiculous circle.

later that night we had our sports mania themed dinner, and everyone dressed up.

falco suggested that miami and mohawk go together as our country, togo. naturally, everyone agreed. we walked to flagpole holding our flag as our campers walked behind us, waving to everyone around. then we led our togo cheer for everyone else. it was great.

bonus: we sneakily taped our flag up on the back of the stage. so now whenever the meal host speaks, it looks like they support togo, no matter what they say. when they announced the gold medals this morning, our flag was standing boldly behind it all. i’m pretty sure it’s still there. we’ll see how long it lasts.

brayden sat with our table for dinner (note the extra big mug he brought for his chocolate milk)! i love this guy. he and gavin, both kids whose parents work at camp, are just two of my favorite people. they’re fun, they love camp, and they love hanging out with us. i’ve gotten to know both of them a lot better this year.

that night during trading post i got to hang out with some of my favorite campers from last summer, cameron and jacob. for those of you who read my blog last summer, jacob (on the right) was the one who pretended to sleep walk all the time. this week, i told him on monday that it made my day when he yelled my name and waved whenever he saw me. and so, an average of about four or five times a day, i would hear my name called and look over to see jacob waving at me, the biggest grin on his face. it was one of the best parts of my week.

closing campfire is always great. this week becca, morph, johnny d, katie and i did a skit from mine and bec’s childhood called “makin’ eggs”. it had never been done before, and it was a huge hit with everyone. my kids were quoting it all night. it’s so weird to think that we only have one more before the summer is done.

one of the last things we do at closing campfire is the torchbearer ceremony. torchbearers are what we call the oldest pathfinder campers, the ones that will be too old the following year to come as a camper. they’re called forward by name, given a leather medallion and a candle, and are encouraged to keep God first and bring the light of camp to the rest of the world. it’s a really cool part of campfire. as we leave, the torchbearers’ candles are all burning, lighting the way for us as we go back to our cabins. i love the symbolism and the gravity with which camp treats the call to be the salt and light of the world.

and then saturday comes, and after breakfast and chapel it’s time to say goodbye. i’ll miss all these kids.




we have two brilliant stayovers, which means that i’m even more excited for next week. it’s the last group of kids, and i’m determined to make it the best ever.

after everyone leaves, it’s an odd quietude that settles over camp. it’s really busy during checkout, but then suddenly everyone’s gone. bec had the car with celyn today, so me, james, josh, kyle, and katie went to dairy queen for lunch. we just talked and hung out, and james revealed that those ketchup cups are actually meant to expand so they can hold more ketchup! take a look.



it was great to hang out and get to know each other better, even if we only have a week left together.

then we came back, and i’ve been blogging ever since. i love being able to take time to write. it’s therapeutic and fun and helps me clear my head of all the stuff that’s been rattling around.

one more week, guys. one more week and camp is up.

pictures from this week that i love:

lesem and e.j.

diego and one of his campers.

grace and her lake buddy.

huron boy and his new bug friend.

irving all dressed up for the olympics.

the list we made for hugo.

“don’t you turkeyerize me!”

two of my campers who were the best examples of gentlemen i’ve seen this summer.

have i told you guys i love what i do?

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week eight: impact.

sorry that i haven’t updated in a while. things have been great, but really busy, and to be honest i needed a couple days free of the pressure of posting. but i’m excited to update you now!

the weekend was awesome. it was olivia’s last week, and so james, scott and i drove down to drop her off at her house and spend the rest of the weekend there. olivia’s family is comprised of my favorite kind of people: kind, genuine, funny, sarcastic, and a little crazy. we took lots of pictures.


lots of them.


we had a blast, if you wouldn’t tell.

on the way home, i got to have some #realtalk with james and scott. they’re two of the coolest people i know at camp, and it’s such a blessing when God provides unexpected time to connect with people i wasn’t anticipating. it was the perfect re-energizer for the following week.

right now it’s the second to last week of camp, and this week’s guys are amazing. we have one who has a hard time listening, but he’s also really genuine and really loves camp, and wants really badly to be a solid miami gentleman. in fact, all of them do. this is one of the few groups i’ve had that legitimately listens in devos and wants to try and apply the things they’re learning. it’s cool to see.

this week, in honor of the olympics, we’ve themed the majority of our activities after them. each duplex of cabins represents a country, and during certain activities we can compete to earn medals for ourselves. miami and mohawk represent the country of togo, a small territory in africa. since one of the things they are known for are their tribal masks, falco had the brilliant idea to schedule some time in the cac so that we could all make our own plaster masks and decorate them. it went perfectly, and the guys had a blast. i love working with creative, fun people.

i wish i had been more on my game and taken more pictures. just trust me when i tell you that these guys designed some legit masks. and it was lots of fun putting plaster everywhere.

something i’ve been thinking about a lot is making an impact. next week is my last week, and i want my campers to have the best week of their summer. as i’ve posted before, God’s been blessing me with a lot of opportunities to connect with campers, whether or not they’ve been in my cabin.

there was a guy last week, adam, that i got to spend lake time with. he was quiet and polite, and really fun to hang out with. i found out that he was right next door in mohawk, and so whenever we would see each other we would high-five and catch up a little bit. he’s a great kid, and it was great getting to know him.

i received a letter from him today. completely unexpected, and it totally made my day. his mom wrote a note too, telling me that she really appreciated the impact i had on her son. it was so humbling to know that God used the short time i had to hang out with adam to really make a difference.

God’s been blessing me with lots of feedback from campers and parents as well, stuff that makes me feel appreciated and like what i’m doing here matters.

it’s got me thinking about the impact that God has on me. or the impact He should have. just like me with my campers (only completely free of sinful motives like arrogance), God wants that interaction with me. He doesn’t need it or require it. it isn’t essential for Him to be sure He’s doing a good job. but regardless, He wants to hang out. He wants to know what’s going on. He wants to mail and receive letters from me.

and the thing is, i know all about God. certainly not everything there is to know (i feel like i’ve shared before that that’s one of my reasons i’m so excited for heaven… an eternity of constantly learning more about our infinite God), but i know His love for me and i know the sacrifice He made for me, and i have His letters to me and i have a direct line of communication to Him that i can use at any time.

and yet i have a severely lacking desire to be impacted by Him. when it’s convenient for me, i’ll look for Him, because i know that usually something awesome will happen. but that’s not something that i’m doing non-stop. and shouldn’t it be? my God is a God who passionately, intensely loves me despite all the times i screw up and fall into the same sin over and over again.

i was listening to some mumford and sons on the way home tonight, and a lyric from their song roll away your stone really stuck with me:

“it’s not the long walk home that will change this heart, but the welcome i receive with a restart.”

that aspect of God alone—that He accepts me (not just accepts me, but pursues me) despite the person that i am—should be enough to propel me into His arms every single second of every single day. my heart should be in a constant state of gratitude and humility and disbelief at the grace i receive.

God has had an immeasurable impact on me, and yet at times i resist anything more than that which i’ve already received. what? am i crazy?

well, yes. crazy and sinful and forgetful and distracted. but thankfully that doesn’t stop my God from loving me with a love just as crazy.

things i love seeing and experiencing at camp:

1.)  secret buddy gifts. making and receiving them.

2.)  watching hugo with the kids. have i mentioned how much i love this guy?

3.)  hearing, as i walk away, my cabin yell all at once, “hey brad! we love you!”

4.)  letters from campers.

5.)  seeing becca and just talking on the way back from clinics.

6.)  hearing campers encourage each other during mountaineering.

7.)  wearing togas for opening campfire because we’re from togo… and it sounds kind of similar.

8.)  giving kids missions to accomplish during pool time.

9.)  getting huge group hugs from my cabin.

10.) this sign (“james has swag”).

11.) friendship bracelets.

12.) hearing a dozen different conversations going on right now in the fellowship room.

13.) seeing my kids get excited about being gentlemen.

14.) experiencing God’s unconditional love.

15.) mini ties.

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