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
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
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
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)