Monday, May 7, 2018

The News from Magruder: April 29-May 5

It's been a beautiful spring so far on the Oregon Coast.  We see blue skies several times a week and the temperatures (mostly) hold at decently warm temperatures.  April was a busy month.  We hosted two training weekends for counselors and summer camp leadership for our Program Camps.  One was for volunteer deans, chaplains, and counselors; the other was a training retreat for our paid Resident Counselors that travel between Magruder, Suttle Lake, and Latgawa.  It was nice to see so many familiar faces and to be reminded of how many people it takes to make camp happen.  Nice to remember that and see our community that rises up, believes in it, and partners with us to put it all on.  Throughout the rest of the month, Outdoor School carried on in full swing.  We welcomed a Men's Group from Imago Dei the last weekend of the month, which also started some of our first chances to lead activities this spring.

St. Pius Middle Schoolers perfecting their rowboat form.
This  week along with Outdoor School, we hosted St. Pius Catholic School, a group of about 50 middle schoolers.  Troy and I would watch them all file in for their meals each day, engulfed in conversation and chattering excitedly.  We spotted a few that reminded us of middle school versions of past staff members and laughed.  They were a fun group.  Troy and I lead boating for them on Wednesday and Thursday.  Rik and Kevin, our maintenance men, have been working for almost a year now restoring our rowboats.  As I pushed each team of rowboaters out, I was able to really appreciate their improvements.  They're really beautiful with their new finishes and restorations.  The new row boats glide across the water elegantly now and remind me of those quintessential camp moments (which include teaching, reteaching, and making dramatic flailing movements trying to help middle schoolers understand how to row in rowboats).  At Troy's session, he had one group of kids catch a snake.  Boating with them was a great way to shake off some of the rust before the summer.

Todd Bartlett, our executive director, hooked into the Giant Swing.
On Thursday the Camping and Retreat Ministries Board arrived for meetings that would take place through Saturday morning.  I joined them at meals.  They were excited to be here.  On Saturday morning, I got up to join them for breakfast, and I sat down next to Todd, our executive director.  Not far into the meal, he leaned over, grinning, and asked me the likelihood of the Board being able to squeeze in the opportunity to go off our Giant Swing.  The Giant Swing is our only high ropes challenge course element, not to be confused with the Big Swing that once stood over our evacuation hill before a storm tore down the tree it hung from.  The Giant Swing is aptly named; it's giant and will make your heart stop for just a second when you first start to swing.  When you're at the very top, you can over the tree tops, over the archery range, past the south Challenge Course to the ocean.

Knowing what's it's like to spend a weekend sitting through the meetings, discussing important topics and the future, I wanted to be able to make sure the Board had the opportunity to have their try at the Giant Swing.  So just before lunch, one-by-one every member of the Board that wanted to swing got their chance.  Every participant made it to the very top of the element, which is not usual, and it was really fun to see everyone whoop and holler.  It's hard not to vocalize surprise or the jump of adrenaline with a drop that fast.

I climbed up the ladder with each member to hook them in and give them one last encouragement just before we pulled them to the top.  When you look into someone else's eyes at the top of that ladder, you peer for a second into eyes mingled with fears and excitements that are more obvious, easier to read, than the eyes we often peer into on the ground.  I usually run the Giant Swing for youth and the occasional counselor or leader.  I'm accustomed to that heightened fear and excitement looking back at me through younger eyes.  It was really neat to see it from the eyes of the leaders and directors on our Board.  That experience helps me spot those emotions when they're more subtle as we stand with two feet firmly on the ground.  It also helps me understand a little better each person's brand of fear and excitement and all those emotions that come out of that and exist in-between those.  It was a joy to spend my Saturday morning with them.

I reminded over and over again all of the preparations it takes to make camp happen.  It takes our volunteers coming to get trained every year -- volunteers to live in the cabins with campers, to dean each camp, to lead us in our spiritual practices.  It takes our Resident Counselors, who travel and train to make each week of camp the best week for someone.  It takes Rik and Kevin, making sure our boats float and our buildings stay strong.  It takes our Camping and Retreat Ministries Board, guiding us, securing and deciding our often-unseen foundational needs.  It takes you, reading this blog and sharing in our community even when you're not here.  It takes me, ready to greet you when you come through the gates to this special place.

If you're looking for another way to support our community and help us prepare for the summer.  Camp Magruder has made an Amazon Wish List for the Summer 2018.  It's a range of things, some big, some small, that we need for the summer.  New markers for hours spent in the Boathouse and for decorated door signs that will greet campers as they arrive to camp, new mic stands for that legendary Variety Show comedy skit, more arrows for our archery range to replace old and missing ones (even though, we know none of us *ever* miss the target!  Nope, not us!).  We'd love your help in preparing for the summer.  Using this link ( can visit our list.  We've listed each item's priority level and how many we need for this season.  There are items ranging between $6 and $200.  Any gift is so valuable to us.  We hope you'll share this with your family or your Sunday School class or the friends you've attended camp with each year.

Then, we hope to see you soon.  Camp is just around the corner; register at

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Foundation Series: Sacred Places Set Apart

"Provide Sacred Places Apart"

A Perspective from Camp Magruder

The famous naturalist John Muir was also very good at work. He managed businesses, ranches and made a good living of it when he was focused. During his life there were several stretches where Muir was entrenched in domestic life, throwing all his energy into providing for his household, which he was very skilled at doing. I’ve read that when he stayed in that state of productivity for too long, it would take a toll on him until his wife would “shoo” him back to the wilderness (perhaps as much for her own sanity!). And, it is through those wilderness experiences where he was the "John Muir" we mostly read about.

I understand that feeling, because I often find myself reaching moments where I need to get away. It’s not because my life at home is miserable, it’s not because my family isn’t totally wonderful, and it isn’t because something awful has happened to me. When I get away, I could go deep into the wilderness for days and see no other human beings, but it doesn’t even have to be that remote. The biggest factor in this desire to have something like wilderness is the way it is set apart. I need to make a break with the routine. I need to reboot the system. I need to shake up my rhythms. I need to acknowledge this new setting is different and special and let it change me.

The fact that for most of my life I’ve worked at camp (which specializes in providing experiences apart) is either perfectly appropriate because I am doing that thing I myself long for - or - ironic, because I feel the need to set myself apart from a place already set apart. Regardless, whenever I return from time spent apart from the regular, I am more the person I want to be. I have a clearer picture of what is important to me. My spirit is kinder and more appreciative. Time being with myself in an extra-ordinary setting guides me to look through a wider lens. The tunnel vision from being in the same routines is shook open, and I’m able to see much more.

A retreat experience for guests, a week of summer camp for youth, and an outdoor school learning session for students all yank participants out of their norms and plop them down into something different. Whenever we intentionally do something out of the ordinary, the next step is to acknowledge that it is special and  may carry a meaning bigger than itself. I see groups doing this all the time. They may have come to camp thinking they were just here to learn some songs for the choir, to work on staff dynamics, or to spend some time on the beach. But they leave feeling something different in their spirit, something that will linger even when they get back to the routine.

Whenever I address a retreat group, I share with them that my prayer for them is that, beyond whatever their practical reason for visiting may be or whatever good or bad they are leaving behind from home, I hope spending time here with us in this setting offers a sense of peace and rest from the normal. I share that I hope they return home feeling refreshed and better equipped to go back into their world. Setting time and places apart has an almost magical effect in that regard.

It is one reason we light a candle for worship. When we light a candle it is a signal we give to ourselves where we  acknowledge the time is special by doing something special. The act of lighting and the sensory effects received from lighting the candle changes our perception of what is around us. When I light a candle, I pay attention a little bit differently. In moments like these I know I am more likely to feel the presence of God. Regular life can pull us deeper and deeper into something easy to steer and predict. That may be great for productivity, but if it goes on too long without a shake-up, we start to have tunnel vision.
Instead, light the candle, let your wife shoo you off to the Wilderness. We must do this to grow, to live deeply in the spirit. Set time apart. Set places apart. Set ourselves apart. It will open your eyes, and you will see more clearly.

Friday, March 30, 2018

The News from Magruder: March 25-31

It was spring break here for our Outdoor School staff, so camp was quieter than it's been in a couple weeks.  On Tuesday the Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA) came out.  They stayed with us until Thursday.  They were our only group for the week.

Andrew, one of the resource staffers from summer 2017, came out to lead their boating and archery sessions on Wednesday.  Towards the end of their session, I walked down to the dock to make sure that everyone had what they needed as they cleaned up and got off the water.  The teachers stood out at the edge of the dock, holding up their phones making pictures.  I listened to them laugh at the way one of the students had kicked his feet up on the kayak, leaned back in the seat, and rested as he floated across the water.  I overheard them comment on the students who they'd seen enjoying this activity much more than they'd expected.

After boating, Andrew met them at the archery shed.  I'd gone out to set up the course beforehand.  I found remnants of the summer-- old target covers and target accessories left behind from some of our groups.  It's strange to think we're only two and a half months away for summer again.  I think back to two and a half months before now-- it seems like it passed quickly.

It's training season for the program portion of camp, so I've stayed busy recently planning training sessions and organizing the registrants for our April Leadership training.  Planning for these events, I feel myself shaking off the rust.  I'm more likely to be humming a campfire song or planning a worship in the back of my mind than I was two and a half months ago.

At dinner on Wednesday, Angie, who was the host for the NAYA group, told us how excited the group had been about the activities that morning.  One camper came and asked Andrew where he could buy a kayak.  The teachers told us about the science project they'd do during part of the boating session.  Their enthusiasm was soothing for me.  I can get so nervous in the work left to do that I forget how powerful just a good boating session can be.

In two and a half months, the summer staff will start to arrive.  Then the campers will follow closely behind.  I'm sure we'll all have to shake off some rust.  I might even forget a verse to a campfire song, but as I read through the names of those coming to join us for the April Leadership training, I remind myself, "These are the people that our guests will remember."  Two and a half months after camp, our guests will remember boating on the lake beside their friends.  They'll remember their counselor who helped them get the courage to do it.  There's relief in remembering that.

Happy Easter to everyone from all of us on the coast.  We hope you find renewal in this season.

If you or someone you know is sixteen years or older, they are eligible to be a volunteer counselor at any of the Oregon-Idaho UM camps this summer.  To do so, they must attend the training April 6-8 here at Magruder.  Register now at  We are always looking for deans, volunteers, and leaders.  Email to get involved.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Foundation Series: Genuine Christian Hospitality and Community

The Oregon-Idaho United Methodist Camping Ministries are posting blogs about the different foundations of our camping philosophies.  Over the next few months, we will repost those blogs as they are published, too.  We hope you enjoy reflecting about our foundations with us!  If you'd like to subscribe to the newsletters these are published in go to or email

Foundation 2: "Extend Genuine Christian Hospitality and Community"

I look down the table the first official day of the start to my summer.  It’s staff orientation week.  Chef Nick has made us a special meal.  I eat a cookie in celebration, which I promise myself I won’t do again until the summer is over.  I knock elbows playfully with a returning staff member hoping to make them drip their water as they take a sip from their glass.  I listen to a new staff member tell us about her high school graduation and her family’s new dog.  I’m filled with a growing anticipation for what these people will mean to this place three months from now, at the end of the summer.

Camp Magruder Staff 2017
The first day of summer staff orientation, one of the first questions I have the staff answer is, “What do you think it means to offer our Christian hospitality?”  Beyond meals and a place to lay their head and a camp map, how can we offer our guests something more?  On the first day of summer, that question is often met with blank stares.  They know the answers, even if they haven’t had to put it into words yet, and if they don’t-- my hope is that they will by the time they leave.  I know that when the very next week I see one of them wading hand-in-hand into the chilly Smith Lake with a camper who is determined to try something new this year.

What are we offering to guests that is more meaningful than just a hotel?  I ask myself that, too.  Those questions can spiral for me.  They begin to point to something else.  Why do we feel compelled to sing around the fire?  Will these meals nourish more than just our bodies?   Despite the beauty of Smith Lake, there are probably more fantastic places to kayak.  Why, despite the cold and wet, do I push off into the water anyway?

I know the answer, too.

My own memories beside the summer staff singing “The Fruits of the Spirit” tells me there’s more to campfire than the flicker of the flame.  The difference between the awkward, forced conversations during the first meal of camp and the middle of the week meal when campers begin to mix with friends they didn’t arrive to camp knowing is palpable.  Something tells me it’s not only Chef Nick’s cooking making that difference.  The opportunity to share a vessel on the water with a friend wakes something primal in me and helps me understand them a little better.
Camp Hope at Magruder
Camp Hope @ Magruder
There’s a quote by Martin Luther King that helps guide my steps as I try to discern that question for myself: “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”  Community requires that we extend ourselves, across barriers and beyond fear to really see and welcome each other.  I believe it takes creativity to do that.  Creativity to imagine how to overcome those barriers.  Creativity to see a path to reconciliation.  Creativity that can see the light that brings us together, rather than the darkness that pulls us apart.  I believe that the work I do at camp necessitates creativity like the kind that MLK is talking about.

Camp Magruder welcomes groups from a diverse range of backgrounds and missions, and each staff member will naturally become more connected with particular groups whose missions touch closer to home or whose staff they really connect with. The summer staff work particularly close to our groups as they share meals, play games, lead activities, and sing songs beside guests that come through in the summer.

Usually by the time the summer staff has left at the end of the summer, many of them have sought me out to share their “aha!” moment in pursuing an understanding of Christian hospitality.  I remember Rikki Earle, summer staff ‘15-’17, telling me of the love and acceptance she felt when she first met the guests from Camp KC, a camp for youth infected or affected by HIV.  As they got in their cars to leave after their week of camp, the staff of Camp KC, in turn, told me how welcomed they felt by Rikki, and how at home they felt here at Magruder.  Anna Allen, summer staff ‘15-’17, saw the lives of Camp to Belong campers change because of the safe space she was able to help provide.  Camp to Belong reunites siblings separated by foster care systems.  As a twin herself, I could see the union of siblings strike home for Anna.

Maddy Hickerson, summer staff ‘16-’17, sums it simply, “Christian hospitality taught me to treat people the way God sees us.”  Community and Christian hospitality allow us to really see the people we’re serving: their pain, their joys, and their stories, and to welcome them into our home. To extend Christian hospitality to our guests is to have the creativity and the courage to invite them into our community and to help them grow in theirs.

So even though it is more than just the meals that Chef Nick has prepared for us, that’s actually not so far off.  It’s offering a seat at our table to eat and share in a meal recognizing that sitting together and eating together-- sharing our lives with one another-- is how we grow close and how we overcome those barriers that seem insurmountable.

Friday, March 23, 2018

The News from Magruder, March 18-24

Crazy weather fluctuations that are quintessential Spring have provided the scenery for the week. We have seen clear sunny skies one moment that gave way to overcast and drizzle then on to cold, wind, and hail. For the most part, I timed my trips around camp well and avoided being drenched or chilled to the core. It is interesting to see little piles of hail along the path while a perfectly blue sky provides the backdrop. It is a reminder how quickly we can shift from one thing to another. 

This week we hosted an outdoor school group from Stoller Middle School. I enjoy walking around camp when campers first arrive. There is so much energy. Leaders are playing tour guide. Kids are not quite comfortable yet. You can see on their faces they are still feeling the place out. I talked to outdoor school leader, "Joker," about this as the kids passed all around. We know from experience some of these kids will be all-star campers, some will be mischievous, some might even be sent home before the day is over. But, for now they seem much more the same as they cautiously figure out this new world. 

During our conversation an adult leader who had just arrived approached Joker to ask about room assignments, and he quickly turned and gave the appropriate "this is beyond my pay grade," response of let me take you to the Outdoor School Director. I walked in their direction and talked to a group of girls who seemed excited to be here. One said she had been to outdoor school before, and it felt like it was still a dream for her to be here now. I told her I hoped she didn't wake up too soon. 

Work on the Bunch Lodge is nearing completion, and we are excited about how it will look when its done. It is amazing what some roof work, a porch roof replacement, and the aesthetic touch-ups those changes incorporate can do for the overall look of a place. Bunch Lodge has a lot of character. It looks like a log cabin on the outside. The inside feels very homey and cozy. But, it certainly has needed an exterior make-over. I expected this roof work to be hardly noticeable--this project was more for maintenance than curb appeal. I was blown away by how much nicer the building looks because of it, though. I would next love to paint Bunch, so it matches with the color scheme of the other lodges. I'd like to put some rocking chairs out front so people can enjoy sitting under the new overhang. Its funny how a little improvement inspires more improvement. 

Campers left this morning just after a pizza lunch. Much of Oregon had seen snow. I guided a frantic set of parents to the outdoor school office who needed to pick up their child as quickly as possible, because the roads had delayed them enough to possibly miss a flight. I was grateful not to be in their shoes, needing to rush through the indecisive weather. I got where they'd find their child, and I returned to my relaxed pace, wondering what the weather would bring next. It is a bit of a dream that
I get to be here, that so many get to visit this place and be made better by it, that there is such a history of builders and maintainers who kept this place around for generations to come. I'll hope not to wake up from the dream for a little while yet. 

If you want to be part of the dream, if you'd like to visit, volunteer, or support the work we're doing through funds, contact and we can talk about ways to keep making Magruder's dreams come true.

This weekend we welcome Student Reach Portland, Southminster Presbyterian, Portland First Unitarian Family, Boy Scout Troop 799, and Julie Fleming. We pray that they will leave this place a little better than they came. 

Friday, March 16, 2018

The News from Magruder: March 11-17

It’s been an exciting week here on the coast.  The weather has been outstanding. We’ve seen temperatures comparable to our summer season except usually in the summer the grass has dulled to brown.  Middle schoolers in Outdoor School have filled our grounds. It’s been nice to have them back. We can sometimes hear them singing or laughing from the office, and you can’t cross camp without catching a snippet of a field study or hear the very distinctive clumping of a middle schooler in rain boots on a trail nearby.  The weather and the campers’ return syncing up easily lifted spirits around here. The ocean was a pretty blue green several days this week.

Camp life is very in tune with the seasons.  For many of us the spring work is very different than the winter work.  In the kitchen, the days of deep cleaning and experimenting with recipes are traded in for jam packed days serving lots of hungry middle school mouths.  The housekeepers’ schedules becomes more constant. In my work, spring means it’s time for staff and leader trainings. It also means summer is just around the corner.  I check the summer camp registrations regularly. I get excited when I see familiar names. I wonder about the campers belonging to those new names I see, too.

This week at Outdoor School we had two different middle school groups.  On Wednesday one group left and literally moments later, another group arrived.  Throughout the whole week, the same counselors, generally high schoolers, remained.  Those high schoolers are essential to the operation. Their willingness to serve is what makes it possible for those middle schoolers to be here.  It’s obvious a lot of times that those high schoolers are willing to come back because they’ve experienced how powerful a week at outdoor school can be already, when they were in those middle schoolers’ shoes.  I’ve watched them throughout this week more closely. Their interest and joy in being at camp is infectious.

Middle Schoolers arriving to Outdoor School
This year, I check one registration list slightly more than I check the others.  We’re offering a new Senior High camp this summer. I find myself drifting over to its registration list in my down moments.  It’s what humans do: we try to anticipate what’s coming. I read the names signed up so far. I imagine what it will be like.

We already offer Senior High Coast Adventure and Music, Arts, Dance, Drama (and tech) camps both for high school students.  The arts camp, or MADD, is known for the incredible community it builds as it prepares for its annual production at the end of its week.  It’s one of our oldest, most successful camps. Senior High Coast Adventures hosts a small group of campers that travel to different sites around the coast together.  They enjoy an intimate, tight knit community they build in relationship to their experience in nature.

We’re excited about the potential of this new camp.  We hope to offer many different options for high schoolers at our camp to grow and flourish and continue in their spiritual journeys.  It’s our goal to build safe spaces for high schoolers to ask hard questions and talk together about what those questions mean with other campers their age.  We’ve asked Sam Hatch to dean it. Sam has been the Middle School II dean in July for the past two summers. That camp has thrived, and Sam’s energy is naturally warm and welcoming.  As much as we need and love our high school counselors, I know from experience the impact that the mentors and memories of being a high school camper had on me, too. We believe even more powerful communities are possible after Middle School camp; we want our high school students to have that opportunity.

I dragged a chair out onto North Ball Field to write this week’s blog.  I didn’t feel good about being inside on a day as pretty as this one. I don’t know the next chance I’ll have to sit out and enjoy the weather.  I think of the speed of my everyday life, how often it keeps me from sitting still and basking in the sunlight. I can only imagine how much more busy high schoolers are now than when I was there.  I think it’s important to offer the space for them to relax and reflect in fellowship with their peers and mentors that care. I can’t wait to see what this summer will hold.

If you feel so inclined, one of the biggest things you can do to support Camp Magruder is to share our photos and blog posts either on your personal social media or in real life with the people you love.  I look to the summer and ahead at the rest of our spring, excited for the potential. The potential to share in this with others, to make fellowship and keep growing in those hard questions, to see many different seasons of life together.

See a full list of our children and youth, intergenerational, and family camps at  Please email or call me, Hope, if you have any questions.

Friday, March 2, 2018

The News from Camp Magruder February 25-March 3

It's been a quiet week at camp.  We had the pleasure of hosting the Grace Lutheran Council Retreat this past weekend.  They came out of Corvallis, and there were about eleven of them.  It was just enough people that we were able to push two tables together in the dining hall and all eat together.  Nick and Peter, our chefs in the dining hall, tried new recipes for them that they don't get to practice for larger groups.

This was our last down week before the Outdoor School staff returns for the spring season of Outdoor School.  Many of us talked of looking forward to welcoming back the ODS staff.  They are a crucial part in the community we have here.  The work they do in sharing environmental education with middle schoolers across the region feels important.  It helps round out the work we do the rest of the year.  Part of our mission in the church of the United Methodist Oregon Idaho Conference is to assist in developing an understanding of our interconnection with creation.  I hold that part of our mission close to heart; I don't feel alone as a part of our year round staff in appreciating the good work the ODS staff does in sharing that.

We had some sunny days that were deceivingly cold.  The temperature dropped into the 20's, which doesn't happen often on the coast.  Being our last quiet week before ODS is back and the spring season ramps into our summer season, it felt like camp was hunkering down to get some final beauty sleep before the return of the liveliness and energy that comes this time of year.

Over the weekend, I talked with one of the Grace Lutheran Council members about the way their council retreats have changed over the years.  He told me they'd gone on retreats for many years at a different camp, and then over time those retreats become day meetings where they'd returned home in the evenings to their families before returning the next day.  Then later he worried those day meetings would become conference calls.  He told me he felt they were missing something they were supposed to have in those retreats, so he pushed for them to return again to their overnight retreats at a place set aside.  That's part of how they wound up here at Magruder.  He spoke of spending the evenings staying up visiting with his fellow council members and the jokes they shared.  He pointed out that a few members of the council had tried yoga over the weekend while one of the other council members led them.  We agreed that time together is important.  It can be hard to say exactly why, but I told him I believed in it, too.

I've spent the past few weeks interviewing summer staff members and preparing applications for other positions as we continue through our hiring season.  It's an exciting time of year.  Every time we add someone to the team, I get up from my chair in my office to tell the other staff members.  We celebrate.  There's a sense that even now, they are becoming a part of the work we'll do together this summer.

I go to career fairs to recruit applicants, too.  Often our booth is nestled between business and marketing internships or opportunities for higher paying positions.  It can be hard to explain in a two minute elevator speech why a position at a summer camp is so worth it, but the last career fair I did at University of Oregon, it clicked for many students.  I told them about the way we strive to lay the foundation for intentional communities, like the Grace Lutheran Council, to come in and achieve goals so they may return into the world and take some goodness back out.  I told them about the impact camp has had on me as a person growing up in it and the way I see that still happening in our youth and summer camps.  I talked to one student about the importance of setting that time aside to live in community for purposeful reasons.

I look forward to the work I share with the summer staff because I believe they leave here able to return to the world some of the goodness we've shared together.  We go back out holding a small flame to our chests.  I see some of our summer staffers here and there throughout the year.  They are more confident with their compassion than I knew them to be at the first of their time here.  They listen hard to others and are able to pick up the meaning behind people's words.  They share that little flame little by little with others through their everyday work.

Together, the community we make here builds.  Making room for this work allows a spark to flicker.  On the lakeside doing a science project with the ODS staff.  Sitting in the dining hall sharing a meal with our guests around one table.  Living beside each other and laughing.  I'm looking for the presence of that flame.  We hope you'll come share in it, too.

We are still hiring male Resident Counselors for summer 2018, and applications for summer 2018 resource staff members are due back March 9th.  Find more information about both positions at  Feel free to email me at or give me a call at our office.  I'm happy to tell you more about the work we can
do together.