Story from a Camp Counselor

Located on 125 acres bordering the Spokane River near Ford, Washington, Tshimakain (“Shim-uh-kin”) Creek Camp is an outreach of the Union Gospel Mission. Each summer, somewhere between 350 and 400 children from the Inland Northwest’s low-income neighborhoods spend a week at Tshimakain absolutely FREE – thanks to the generous sponsorship of individuals, civic groups, businesses and churches.While typical camp fun abounds, every activity is directed toward one target – building relationships which foster trust and, through those relationships, communicating the unconditional love of Christ.

Earlier this summer, I had the honor of serving the Lord at Tshimakain Creek Camp as a cabin counselor with Grace Christian Fellowship Church. My co-counselor and I were placed in charge of a gaggle of nine third- and fourth-grade girls from Logan Elementary. I’ll admit that at the beginning of the week, I wasn’t exactly bursting with excitement at the prospect of spending five long days corralling giggly, over-excited little ones with a seemingly endless supply of energy. But I prayed for God’s grace and for a heart of service and packed my bags.

This wasn’t my first experience at Tshimakain; I served as a counselor each summer through high school and worked as a member of the camp staff last year. But each week at camp brings new children, new experiences, and new lives transformed by the love and power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

God was clearly at work in so many young lives that week, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll focus on one little girl whom I’ll refer to as “Josie.” By far the smallest girl at camp that week, Josie was nevertheless a natural born leader with large, curious brown eyes and a spirited personality that matched her fiery orange hair. She would romp adventurously with the boys during the games, then primly and carefully braid her hair and cuddle up with the counselors at chapel time or in the cabin. As the week progressed and I got to know each of the girls in my group, I could see that God was gradually drawing Josie closer to Himself.

The first chapel service that was held at camp centered on the creation of the world. Josie and the other girls clumsily but enthusiastically learned the words and hand motions to several songs that spoke of God’s sovereignty and love. Her brown eyes widened as a story was read, describing God’s effortless formation of all that exists in the world. During cabin time the next morning, she surprised my co-counselor and I by excitedly recounting nearly every detail of what was taught the night before.

The next night’s chapel message had a more somber tone. Pastor Dave told the story of Adam and Eve, and of sin tainting the world, making God’s perfect creation no longer perfect. Knowing that many of the children at camp came from broken families, Dave asked whether any of them had ever felt let down by their parents, specifically by their fathers. Josie, who had been silently curled up in my lap, looked up at me, her typically smiling eyes now full of sadness. “I don’t have a dad,” she told me. “Well… I do, but I don’t know where he is. I don’t think he likes me very much.” I held her closer and said a prayer for her as we listened to the rest of the message.

Our conversation with the rest of the cabin the next morning was equally heart wrenching. Such small girls who had barely begun to experience life had already seen so much of the sadness and brokenness in our world. None of the girls were more excited than Josie to visit chapel the next night to hear about how our loving God made a way for us to be saved from punishment and separation from Him.

In the last two chapel meetings of the week, the kids learned how Jesus Christ died on the cross to take the punishment for their sins and restore their relationship with God. Josie and many other little ones found out that, though their fathers on earth had failed them, the holy and perfect God of the universe loves them so much that He sent His son to die so that He could adopt them as His children. Josie was thrilled; for the first time in her life, she had a father! And not just any father, but a Father who would love her perfectly and never let her down. She left camp bursting with excitement and eagerness to tell the rest of her family about her new Daddy and His amazing love.

I am so honored to have been a part of what God is doing out at Tshimakain, and so thankful to witness so many young lives being changed. Thank you to everyone who supports the Union Gospel Mission and Tshimakain Creek Camp; God is being glorified through you.

“Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” –Jesus (Mark 10:14)