Campers were ecstatic to arrive at Camp Paxson in Seeley Lake, Montana, where a fantastic camp staff team awaited their arrival. The Montana Conference's long-time tradition took a summer off in 2020 due to COVID-19. However, it came back full throttle this year.
If you've ever attended or worked at summer camp, you know the feeling of excitement that fills your heart as camp begins. From struggling to decide which classes to sign up for to meeting new friends and reconnecting with old ones, there are a lot of important decisions to make and a lot of new things to experience. It's what makes summer camp so special.
In years past, cooler temperatures and mosquitos were a dominant feature of Camp Paxon. But not this summer. Record high temperatures beat down on the camp all week. Heat kept the mosquito count low and made the lake a perfect escape. Camp nurse, Sarey Robinson kept a close watch on campers and staff alike, ensuring everyone stayed hydrated and regularly covered themselves with bug spray and sunscreen.
Learning to shoot arrows at targets or riding a wild tube behind a boat will always attract a crowd, but there were many other classes that campers enjoyed, too. Activities like wood burning, water-skiing, wakeboarding, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) projects, kayaking and paddleboarding filled each camper's day.
The incredible kitchen crew was celebrated for keeping everyone satisfied all summer. It is no easy task to make food that everyone enjoys, but somehow, Denise Ferro and Debbie King made it happen morning, noon and night. Campers would then wash dishes, wipe down tables, as well as clean bathrooms.
After dinner each night, cabins would be assinged unique challenges like knot tying, building a crocodile out of sand, designing cabin flags as well as creating a paper wheel that all the campers had to walk in.
At the end of the day, some may wonder. Why run a summer camp?
To provide a safe place for campers and camp staff to learn more about Jesus and what it looks like to have a relationship with Him.
Every morning, campers gathered in the worship bowl as camp staff led them to share a devotional thought through skits or games. Every evening, they would gather again to sing camp songs, hear words of affirmation from camp staff as well as spiritual insight from the Billings Church pastor, Stephen Carlile.
Carlile loves to share the love of Jesus, sometimes through comical illustrations from his own life. The campers were always curious about what the next daily theme would be. They learned that God is with us, God hears us, God spends time with us, God forgives us, God knows us, God loves us and God helps us.
The week ended on a high note with a baptism on Sabbath afternoon. Riley Schillo wanted to be baptized last year at camp. But his plans were delayed due to pandemic restrictions. Even though pastor Carlile, Schillo's home church pastor, offered to baptize him at church, Schollo politely declined. His dream was to be baptized at Camp Paxson.
The day finally came. Schillo's family and Camp Paxon campers gathered onshore to witness the commitment of faith. While the sun was shining brightly, Carlile lowered Riley into the water. The joy was evident on Riley's face as he rose out of the water. Those on shore began singing, "I have decided to follow Jesus."
Summer camp is one of those special places where new friends are made, activities are enjoyed and, most importantly, decisions are made for Jesus. It's no wonder so many were thrilled that Camp Paxson was back for the summer of 2021.
To watch Camp Paxon's summer of 2021 memory video, go to mt.nwadvent.st/kus0p.