Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Fun, Food and Fellowship!

It has been a fast tradition in this family for as many years as I've been around, to attend our annual church family camp at Eagle Fern. As each new year rolls around, the anticipation begins to grow, and already at the beginning of January, the planning has begun.

Because of Jonathon's work schedule, his top bunk has been vacant for the past four years and he has only been able to make it out for the evening meetings.

Family camp is a time when a group of church friend meet at the camp grounds of Eagle Fern Camp for a special four days of fun and fellowship. 

In those few days, we are blessed by some wonderful teaching. This year, we had the privilege of hearing Dr. Boyd; he spoke on the subject of, "Golden Threads Through Isaiah".

There was a special anticipation as we prepared to get ready to leave. There was something in the air, a certain excitement that caused everybody at home to work a little faster then normal. Yes, it was that time of year again...time to pack up and load the van for our Annual family camp vacation.

The drive there seemed to fly by as energetic little ones looked out the window for the first sighting of Eagle Fern Lodge.

The car door had barely opened before people began tumbling out and the great rush to unload the car began. Bunks were quickly claimed and each one cleaned off. 

This year, Leisel and I had volunteered to be two of the crew leaders alongside of Sean and James. 

To say that we had a fantastic crew would be an understatement! There were 19 signed up to help out. It was evident that the Lord had provided abundantly with the most amazing group ever! 

The crew is a unit of young people whose purpose and desire is to serve the Lord over those few days at camp. But there is a special unity and bond amongst that crew that makes them so close; the common purpose that draws them together and the sweet fellowship that they enjoy in service. 

These people are in the kitchen from early morning and work into late evening. 

But if you were to think that dish washing was the only thing that went on in that kitchen, you would be mistaken. With two people working on rinsing dishes and two people scrubbing out pots and pans, there was just bound to be a good water fight...

This year, the church provided a special gift for each of the crew members...a designed t-shirt with our theme verse imprinted on it.

"Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others." Philippians 2:1-5

Each of the crew members received a code nickname which they carried for the remainder of camp. Trevor earned the nickname Sherlock or Benedict Cumberbatch due to the striking resemblance :)

Within those few days, the crew was introduced to a new game..."Pin the Clothespin", in which the purpose of the game is to try to pin your opponent with out that person knowing it. 

Six o'clock in the morning and already people in the cabin were beginning to stir. The crew readied themselves for a busy day in the kitchen and headed down early to prepare the tables. 

The morning air always has a sort of damp, woodsy smell to it that I remember from my first years at camp. I could hear those same sounds that always welcomed me down to the lodge; the sounds of pots and pans banging as the men prepared the morning meal. 
The aroma of fresh pancakes was already wafting from the kitchen. 

The lodge was still quiet as crew kids began to slowly make their appearance, cupping mugs of hot coffee or cocoa. They all gathered into a small group around one of the tables waiting for everybody else to come down.

When all were present, they gathered for a crew Bible study before the set up hassle began. 
Then it was show time and everybody made a mad rush to wipe off tables and set up dishes.

As the setup was finished, the little ones gathered around the bell waiting to alert the camp that breakfast was served.

 Minutes later, everybody had crowded in, and the crew made their way to their designated crew table. 

The sound of music was heard coming from the lodge as everybody sang a song before the morning meal. 
"I am Feeding on the Living Bread" is a camp favorite.

The crew still had one more task after prayer; the job of distributing the food.
This beautiful dish of stroganoff was decorated by Junko...the red peppers on top created the Kanji word for "Jehovah".

Somehow it always seems that most of the commotion comes from over at the crew table...

When all were finished eating, it was time to don on aprons and clear the places.

From early morning till night, the kitchen was always abuzz with commotion.
Though it seemed at times that the job of pots and pans never ended, the task was somehow sweetened by the fellowship of friends.

Then it was game time!

Whether it was Frisbee or volleyball...

Foosball or air hockey...

...the church camp was always full of friendly competition :)

This year, the weather was especially conducive for swimming...

Wednesday has always been our designated picnic day, which is why the rain was not a welcome sight that morning. As the day continued on, the sky cleared up and tradition was able to be carried out. The crew loaded up tables and benches into the truck before hopping on themselves.

Down by the river, hot dogs and hamburgers were already being grilled. 

Our last evening at camp, the crew gathered in the gym for one last game of four on a couch. 

Already, the week was over. The time seemed to have sped by.  We were not ready to leave everybody.
The fellowship of those within the family of Christ had been such a huge blessing over those few days.  Having spent a week being fed by the Word and in fellowship with friends, it was not easy returning to normal life.

Dealing with after-camp blues was even worse, and for days afterwards, pictures were looked over and memories discussed through many tears.

But if the Lord wills, it shall not be long before we find that another year has sped by and we are blessed by that same fellowship within the body of Christ.

"Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
the fellowship of kindred minds
is like to that above." 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Seasoned Campers!

Few things can compare to the majestic view of Mt. Rainier standing tall over meadows of colorful wildflowers and wildlife, with its mixture of rolling hillsides and rocky desert trails. At times, you feel like your tramping through the rolling hills of Sound of Music's Switzerland, and the next moment you find that you have reached the Misty Mountains of Middle Earth.

Since last year, the Spafford's have begun a new tradition. Previously, they had never really been into the adventures of camping. Till now...they have since shifted gears and become full-fledged campers, purchasing the needed camping supplies and planning out all of the necessary details. (though some of the campers didn't readily adapted to all of the aspects of camping and found it necessary to bring along a cot for comfort :/ )

Ohanapecosh became their designated camping spot and the hike from Paradise to Panorama Point, one of their traditional and annual hikes.

The smell of campfire smoke, the fresh mountain air...ah yes, they were camping again. 

There they were, after a lovely three hour car trip...free from schedules and time constraints; no more makeup and no more showers for a whole three days; and best of all, no WiFi!

This was the backyard to these camper's little campsite..a lovely river that they were told was snow melt from the mountains.

The campsite was set up in record timing and mom had hot chili and cornbread muffins ready for them all.

The campers found that they had come little prepared for brisk, bundle-up mornings and cold, snugly evenings. Thankfully though, they had their Austin and Ania to build roaring campfires each morning and evening and big brother who saved the day by packing extra chunky sweatshirts.

The call came around the same time every morning. Mom would peak her head into the tent of sleeping campers and call, "First ones up get a cup of fresh, hot coffee." Though the thought of coffee was pleasant, the chilly morning air made it hard for them to budge from their warm sleeping bags.

Slowly and rather drowsily, the first group of campers would arise from their slumbers and claim the first cups of coffee...while others would catch a few extra minutes of shut eye.

Austin was quick on his feet to begin the morning fire. 
The smell of campfire smoke soon permeated the air.

Plates of hot food, be it biscuits and gravy or eggs and sausage, got handed out to each hungry camper.
It was agreed upon by all that food made and eaten in the outdoors beat all other foods hollow.

These lovely metal plates were Bub's contribution to their camping gear.

After morning cleanup, they were off, loaded with trail mixes and water, and much energy and enthusiasm...

The first glimpse of the mountain was spectacular...

Ania held the lead on their first hike to Paradise and Panorama Point, climbing steep hillsides and slippery snow banks like there was nothing to it.

Austin came fully prepared on each hike with his hunting knife, military pack and 1st aid kit...little did he know that he would have a chance to administer 1st aid on a fallen camper's scrapes.

The next day, the campers took on the 7 mile challenge of Burrows I & II, with its 7,400 foot elevation...

Though there were some steep ledges and narrow paths...

.. the view at the top was well worth the effort.

Chubby Chipmunks greeted them at the top of the peak and appreciated whatever little scraps of food fell their way.

There was much wildlife to see, leaving Bubby wishing that it was hunting season. There was even a bet going on that Bubby would buy an ice-cream cone for the first person to spot a bear.

 By the time they reached Burrows II, they were close enough to reach out and touch the mountain.

Standing above all that beauty, they couldn't help but feel a sense of awe for the Creator of such an amazing universe. It felt like each one of David's Psalms would have fit perfectly with that view.

“You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you." Nehemiah 9:6

The weather ended up being quite warm even in the higher elevations and a cool dip in the river was beginning to sound rather refreshing.

On the drive back from their hike, the energy levels of these enthusiastic hikers had drastically decreased. 

When they arrived back at camp, some went for a dip in the river, braving the icy cold for a fresh bath.

Austin was quick to begin a fire to warm up the shivering campers...

Evenings were calm and lacked the earlier enthusiasm of the morning. The campers would sit around the fire and sing hymns and roast marshmallows, or carry on lazy conversation as the fire preformed a mesmerizing affect on the campers. As the fire died down to a couple flickering flames, the campers began to slowly disperse.

Slowly, the chairs emptied and the campers made their way to their sleeping quarters. It did not take long for a hush to fall over the campsite as they all drifted off to sleep. The only sounds remaining were the whispering of a few hushed voices, the rushing of the lake below them and the flicker of the dying fire...(which eventually got drowned out in all of the snoring :)

Another year of camping has passed, another 500 pictures of memories have been made! What a wonderful time!
Thank you Mom and Dad for such a wonderful few days! You make our family times so precious!

Till Next Year!!!