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Commitment of camp directors and staff lends continuity

Camp sizes fluctuated up and down from previous years, but the long-term commitment from repeat directors brings a consistency to summer camps at Pilgrim Firs and N-Sid-Sen.

float trip
Junior High Aqua Camp youth float on St. Joe River in Idaho.

At its September meeting, the Outdoor Ministries Task Force reported that N-Sid-Sen and Pilgrim Firs drew 694 campers, nearly evenly divided between the two camps.

In addition to evaluations campers turned in each  session, Sharon Linton, the task force convenor, tested an online survey tool and received 100 responses from campers.

camp snake
Intermediate camper Kyle Carpenter gets close to nature.

Of those, 81 percent rated the overall camp experience as excellent; 85 percent rated camp leadership as excellent, and 74 percent rated the food as excellent, she reported.

Kid’s Camp at Pilgrim Firs July 23 to 28 doubled to 42 campers.  Kaila Russell of Tolt UCC in Carnation, who directed the camp with Katie Lloyd of Findly St. Christian Church, attributes the increase to churches being intentional about sending children.

“We focused on the theme ‘Be a Hero’ to let children know that everyone can be heroes by using what God has given them—smiles, being friends and helping people,” she said.

Russell said they turned one snack time into acting out Jesus feeding 5,000 people, based on the “stone soup” model.  Starting with no snack, counselors gradually contributed snacks to a bowl—crackers, pretzels, candy, nuts and more—to make an “awesome snack” to share.

Anand Hernandez from Shalom UCC in Richland shows the T-shirt he designed.

While half the campers were there for the first time, this is the third year Russell has done Kids Camp and her 17th year of leading camps—every year since her first anniversary.

“I do it because I see what a difference it makes in the lives of children of all ages, from little ones to adults,” Russell said.  “Experiencing God in nature is life changing.  I know it has made a difference in the lives of my two children.”

She said her daughter Hannah, now 13, has come with her every year and now comes as an assistant, along with going to junior high camp.

Consistency is behind the commitment of Bob Watrous, of Shalom UCC in Richland, who led Intermediate Camp at N-Sid-Sen with Kim Schulz of Tekoa, too.  He has directed intermediate camps since 2006 and before that came as a counselor since 1984.

The retired nuclear waste cleanup engineer has been involved in community theaters and brings those skills to camp.

Joshua drama
Intermediate campers act out Joshua crossing the Jordan.

Following the theme, “Be a Hero,” he said, the campers did an enactment of Joshua and the Hebrews crossing the Jordan and stacking up 12 stones for the 12 tribes. Campers dressed in period costumes and paraded around the camp before stacking the stones.

To involve the children in the story of the friendship of Jonathan and David, he had them enact it as an old-fashioned radio show, complete with sound effects.

For example, for the sound of walking on a rocky road, they crunched corn flakes in a pan, holding a microphone close. To make the sound of arrows flying, they twanged rubber bands close to the mike.

Because registrations were down from the average of 36 campers, he felt his role as director was to contact several churches to recruit counselors and children. He said that when adults come from a church, children are more likely to come because they know someone.
“I like this age group, because I like to do theater and drama with them, working the Scripture into a play,” he said.

One year, Watrous brought his shadow puppet theater, and the children created the shadow characters for the story.

A previous year, he had the children act out the story of the paralyzed man who was lowered through the roof into the house where Jesus was surrounded by a crowd and where he healed the man. Camp staff helped set up a pulley and scaffolding to lift and lower a camper on a stretcher. The children read their lines from cue cards. Randy Cross of Pullman made a video of the drama.

This year, he used another activity to teach camp rules and dining hall etiquette, based on the secret communication of Jonathan and David. Rules were written with invisible lemon juice and fluorescent ink. The children developed the lemon-juice ink with red cabbage water., and used a black light to read the fluorescent ink.

At the end of the camp, Watrous and Schulz had the children write letters to themselves. They buried them in a time capsule to be dug up in 2016 when they near graduation.

“In January, I grab a copy of the curriculum and begin thinking about themes, stories and ideas for the next summer,” said Bob, who hopes to continue directing the camp.

Jared Hipol gains sailing skills at N-Sid-Sen.

John Hubbe co-directed Junior High Aqua Camp at N-Sid-Sen with Dana Sprenkle, both of Shalom Richland.  To develop the theme of being heroes and living like Jesus, they had youth read at morning watch, program times and campfires from Brad Meltzer’s book, Heroes for My Son.  They read about such people as Mr. Rogers, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., Houdini, Amelia Erhart, Harriet Tubman and others.

Some were included for little-known actions.  For example, film director and producer Stephen Spielberg, for example, gave video documentaries of testimonies of 52,000 Holocaust survivors to the Shoah Foundation in hope that people in future decades will continue to learn from them.

Emily Nightingale
Emily Nightingale and friends

Along with the camp’s usual midweek float trip, talent show, dance and water activities, the 56 junior high campers discussed different heroes.

Directing camps most years since 2000, John said, that while continuity is valuable, he mentors counselors so someone can move up.

After being a counselor for the camp 11 years and co-directing it last year, Rachel (Teigen) Brackett co-directed Senior High Camp at Pilgrim Firs with her husband Sean. 

“We have a good volunteer team for this camp,” she said.

This year the camp drew 75 campers, more than the 50 average in the past.

As one program, her father, Terry Teigen, chaplain at Horizon House, spoke on his visit to the conference’s global partner church in Korea and interest of Korean young adults in visiting the conference.

Brian Kay formerly of Tolt UCC in Carnation and his wife Dana Weir, formerly of Newport UCC—now in Port Angeles—showed ways to express faith in art, using wax to write messages on screen prints.

Brackett, who teaches grade school music in Kirkland and attends University Congregational UCC in Seattle, included plenty of music, so campers were singing through the day—for grace, before programs and at campfires.  Campers brought guitars and drums.

Deeg Nelson, managing director at Pilgrim Firs, gave a presentation on what it will mean for Pilgrim Firs to be an Environmental Justice Center.

Campers spent time in nature reflecting on its value and did service projects to clean up the camp.  They also learned about ways to save energy and preserve nature, Brackett said.

Emily Tanis-Likkel of Eagle Harbor UCC in Bainbridge Island was a first-time camp director for the Pilgrim Firs Family Camp.  Many of the 42 campers were “old-timers,” which she said showed when they did the talent show.  Two teens asked to be emcees.

“It didn’t matter if it was a professional-sounding singer or a seven-year-old throwing a hula hoop in the air and catching it or not, their banter affirmed how amazing each performer was,” Tanis-Likkel said.  “It was grace running over.”

For information, call 208-689-3489 or 360-879-2031.

Copyright Pacific Northwest Conference News © September-October 2010





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