Friday, September 8, 2017

The News from Magruder September 3-9

The final days of our summer season came this week with our Labor Day Family Camp which started last Friday. On of the first evenings of the camp, we took the group wave jumping. Tom, who has been a camper for several decades went wave jumping for the first time. It was a special moment for him and our staff. It's an awesome thing to witness something happening for the first time. 

As we stood on the beach, watching campers enjoy the ocean there was a smoky haze in the air. The sun was still high in the sky, but it was the color it normally takes on as it sits behind the horizon. We are far from any of the forest fires raging in Oregon right now, but reminders like smoke in the sky set up residence with us this week. Much like the news of the fires this week, regardless of what we did here on the coast, the knowledge that parts of our dear state was burning loomed in the background. It was our regular meal conversation, our regular prayer request. 

Our Labor Day Family camp left on Monday. We spent time with old friends and new ones. Tom also got on the trampoline for the first time. It was a proud weekend for all of us to see him take on those challenges he has seen here at camp for so long. When the campers left, we put on our swimsuits and began the work of taking down the trampoline and swim boundary lines. This is big symbolic act that represents the end of summer to the permanent staff. We unhooked them from their D links, pulled them in, soaped them down, rinsed, dried, folded, and tucked them away on a boathouse shelf. 

As we worked through the afternoon, the sun remained shrouded in a smoky haze. We frequently made comments about how odd it felt. At the end of our trampoline breakdown, we deflated the giant blue doughnut. Everyone laid on it. This was very relaxing work for us. We sprawled out like we
Smith Lake with trampoline and swim boundaries freshly removed
were laying in a hammock. Everyone laughed as they sunk deeper and deeper. Some of us fell asleep. It was a nice way to close out our time together. We have seen a lot this summer. We've worked ourselves into late nights. We've had uplifting moments and disappointing moments. Now, it was just six of us laying on a giant trampoline while it deflated. It felt lazy and satisfying and intimate.

We welcomed the Campus Compact of Oregon, an Americorps training event. A day later we would welcome seniors from Oregon Episcopal School. There is something uplifting about spending days welcoming and cleaning up in the kitchen with young people on a mission. There is a great deal of energy and hope and courage. It's one of my favorite ages to work with, because they are so gifted and excited for new work, and they are also still molding who they are. They listen more readily, trust a little easier, put themselves on the line more quickly. 

These young people have changed our world this summer, and they will return to their other respective worlds soon. I hope they go out seeking the same kind of change there. We are quite literally in a world that is burning right now. But, I feel optimism after weeks like this living in loving community. I know we can not avoid tragedies. But, I have seen that there is love to counteract the terrible things. I know there are people among us seeking to make the world better. I have faith in them, and in all the powers guiding them.

This weekend we welcome the Annual Men's Retreat, Linfield Concert Choir, PSU Ambassadors, and the women of Primera Iglesia Ebenezer. Pray with us that their time will be fruitful. 

Saturday, September 2, 2017

The News from Magruder, August 27 - September 2

As August came to a close at Camp Magruder, we saw our summer slow down near the season's end. If you are a regular reader, you've noticed our several month long hiatus from blog posting. It has been a busy year at the camp with a great deal of staff turnover, an ACA visit, and Troy having his first child. This all, of course, is in addition to the normal summer busyness.

This week, we hosted the Western Oregon University Ambassadors as they prepared for their Fall. It was our only group, which gave the summer staff ample opportunity to clean, to go on a few outings, and give good attention to the WOU Ambassadors as they boated, swam, and did archery. It feels very relaxed compared to our weeks early in August, where the entire dining hall was filled by guests. It is nice to close the summer out with chances to reflect and spend intentional time together. Meaningful things can sometimes just fly right past us if we don't take moments to soak them in, to ponder them, to articulate what they mean to us. The end of Labor Day Weekend finishes what we call the summer season. We don't want it to just pass us by and be gone.

Early in August the cross that looks out over the beach went missing. We don't know what happened to it, but it did not seem likely the cross was lost to winds or the ocean. That cross had stood there for a long time--it was not the first, but it had a great deal of sentimental value to many of our campers and staff members. It was disappointing that the cross which was a symbolic beacon to many people who know Camp Magruder had vanished, that there was an empty space where it had stood. 

This week our staff picked several pieces of driftwood from the beach to make a new cross. A Summer Staffer Andrew had created a temporary cross to stand in place of the old one until a new one could be constructed. They used one of the pieces from that cross. Rik took the pieces and fashioned a new cross. On Tuesday evening, we carried the cross, together as a staff, to the beach where the old one had stood. We wrote prayers on pieces of brown paper and buried them in the hole we dug for the new cross, then we planted it and filled in the hole with sand. 

We gathered around it and placed our hands on it. We prayed a prayer of dedication. We not only prayed for the cross as a symbol and what it will represent to us and generations of campers. We prayed about loss and disappointment. We prayed for the hope that can rise up out of loss and wished for that in our lives and the lives of so many around the world. We are at no loss for sadness, pain, anxiety, and disappointment these days. I know the staff here at Camp Magruder all want us to grow something big and wonderful out of all the occurrences that impact us negatively. We hope not to dwell in the pain, but fill those empty spaces with something new and beautiful. Something we create together. Something that will carry the wisdom of the past and a hopefulness and ingenuity for the future. 

On Friday our Labor Day Family Camp arrived. The weather is still warm and sunny on the coast, but we know that the leaves will soon be falling from the Alders. The sea air will turn cooler. The clouds will return, and rain will begin falling more frequently. Monday is the last day of our Summer Staffers' 2017 term. We will put up the lake trampoline and the swim boundaries. Camp Magruder will have served another summer. The Summer Staff will go on to school and jobs in other places. We will focus in on evaluations, Outdoor School, preparations for the Spring and Summer of 2018. We hope, though, that this summer will stay with us. We hope that when we return to that spot on the beach so many people recognize and see the cross there, that lots of memories and emotions will
return for us, that it will mean much more than it is.

The cross as a symbol is full of messages. It began as a symbol of pain and disappointment. But, it was taken over hundreds of years and generations and has blossomed into many nuanced meanings. Now, the cross as a symbol is incredibly complicated. It means many different things to different people. We hope through the work we are doing here that when people see the cross they will feel hopeful, they will feel welcomed, they will feel comforted. We hope the time spent this summer has worked to grow that meaning for us and for our guests. 

This weekend we host our Labor Day Family Camp. Next week, we host the Campus Compact of Oregon and the Oregon Episcopal School Senior Trip. Pray with us that these groups have experiences that will stay with them for years to come. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

The News from Magruder April 16-22

Spring continues to toy with our emotions out at Camp Magruder. On several days this week, we had the types of beautiful days that are legendary on the Oregon Coast. Crisp blue skies that make you feel like you have some sort of special glasses making everything high definition. Whales have been spotted near the jetty the past few days. Life is waking up at camp. Then, there are still days of rain and wind that seem to come out of nowhere, drenching the ground and our socks. Our roof project continues to be postponed, because we can't string together enough dry days to get the roofers out here. 

The week started off on Easter Sunday. Magruder has hosted a sunrise service for the local communities for many years. This year we moved it from Carrier dining hall to Sherlock Lodge. Anytime you make a change with something that is a long-standing tradition there are many potential pitfalls. People may end up at the wrong place, because it's so routine to go to the old place. People may miss the old place because there is a special attachment with it. There are routines built into the old place that may not transfer to the new one. It is a scary thing to try something new. Still, Sherlock made much more sense for us this particular year, and so it was moved. 

While I was traveling between lodges to get supplies before the service, I encountered two ducks who have been spending a lot of time on Smith Lake the past few weeks. They were in the gravel lot near Carrier, and they quacked around until I got too close for their comfort, and they retreated through the air back to safer waters. I thought about how very soon they would have several little balls of fluff following them around over land and water. I thought about how life is returning to this place in nearly all its forms and how that is such a perfect setting to reflect on Easter. 

As the service began, I looked around at this community of people who had woke before dawn to participate in this ritual, how I'm growing to know many of them and share faith with them. I looked over at my wife who also worked early and helped me transport pastries and coffee to Sherlock. I thought about how this feeling could come about anywhere--in Carrier, Sherlock, on the porch outside, on the beach in the rain. The power of that time spent really has more to do with the way we fill the space than the actual space involved. Those spaces that means so much to us, mean that because of how we fill them. 

This week we welcomed St. Pius X Catholic school, and they have the special distinction of being the first group to do boating at Magruder this year. To prep for them, I woke our fleet of row boat from their winter hibernation, flipped over on the side of the swim area. These boats are heavy and sturdy, and it takes the correct lifting techniques to avoid dropping one on an important appendage or finishing out the day with major back pain. I turned #2 and #5 over, scooted them into the lake, and attached the oars. It began to drizzle, then rain harder, but this had an incredible calming affect on the lake water itself. I sat in the center and began the familiar motions rocking forward and backwards, taking the boats over to their slips at the boat dock. This seemed almost like something sacred, something holy. 

Boating didn't happen that day. The moment the rain stopped, wind began to rush in making the water way too choppy for a bunch of middle schoolers with minimal boating experience to navigate the lake. The next day we tried it again, and this time we were successful. It continued to rain, which again had a calming effect on the lake. I was soaked by the end of the morning. My toes and fingers felt icy. But, I had done some true camp work. The work of getting outside and having an adventure, even if the conditions weren't perfect. The work of exposing people to something new, something maybe out of their comfort zone. The work of playing in a way that soothes and heals. Even if the weather was going to continue to toy with us, even if the conditions are not the way we idealize them in our minds when we imagine a boating period, the most important thing was the way we filled the space on that particular day. 

This weekend we welcome Cornerstone Church High School Retreat and First Unitarian Church of Portland Men's Retreat. We pray that they are able to fill the space with something life-changing regardless of what the Spring weather decides to give us. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Camp Magruder Welcomes new Executive Chef

Camp Magruder is excited to announce our new Executive Chef, Nick Atkins. His influence will continue Magruder’s proud reputation for serving tasty food made from quality ingredients with special attention to locally sourced. Nick began work with Magruder the beginning of March, and our guests and staff have already enjoyed many wonderful meals prepared under his guidance.

Nick is Oregon born and raised but has traveled all over the world, spending years in Hawaii, New Zealand, British Columbia, Mexico, Greece, and also Paris, France where he studied at the Conrad Hilton. He came to Magruder from Seattle, where we worked in the restaurant industry. Nick began looking for ways to get out of the city and make a bigger difference in the world and it landed him with us. He also loves ocean swimming and diving, sailing and windboarding, and tai chi to start his mornings.

Nick brings a warm spirit and his kind grin to life at camp. We are excited about the ways his presence and work will help us further our mission of providing Christian hospitality to every camper and guest group who visits, not to mention the good it will do for our taste buds and stomachs. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

The News from Magruder April 2-7

It has felt quintessentially Spring out at the coast this week. Our unpredictable seasonal visitor has toyed with our emotions all week long. We have stretches of sunshine and warmth, followed by downpours. One part of the day, you stare out your window wishing to go outside, hoping some task will come up to draw you out. The next part of the day, you stare out your window at the miserable conditions, hoping that nothing pulls you outside into it. On Friday, we've had high winds and periods of rain. Both the rain and the trees are being tossed in strange directions by 40 mile per hour winds.

Outdoor school returned from Spring Break this week, and we welcomed a middle school group from a school in Hillsboro. On Monday, I crossed paths with a few Outdoor School staff members prepping for their high school counselors. We walked towards the dining hall together discussing the previous week. One staff member had gone to Crater Lake during her time off. She showed me a picture of herself standing in front of a 20 ft. snow drift. She said they didn't get to do all that much, but they pretty well had the place to themselves.

I enjoy the possibilities that await in a simple stroll from the office to the dining hall. On mornings like this, I make a hot cup of tea and walk around, observing and interacting with camp life. You might have a solitary walk, spent listening to the birds, looking up into the trees. You pay attention to the breeze, to how loud the ocean is on this particular day. You might encounter kids making their way to their next activity, wrapped up in their conversations, their songs, their games, their growing up. You might find another solitary walker and join up, beginning a quick conversation to pass the time from point A to point B. All are potentially a prominent memory from the day. All could wake you up to the huge variety of ways to appreciate working at a camp.

The next step this week in prepping for roof work on the Walworth Building was to move the old bell. The bell has been decommissioned as an emergency bell when Carrier Dining Hall got an alarm on its roof. The pull rope for the bell rotted several years ago, so it wasn't even usable in its current state. The bell was located very close to a power line, so Rik had to call the utility company to shut down the lines and bring it down. This old, heavy cast iron bell slowly came down. It was originally in a bell tower at Camp Magruder, which stood close to the Miller Cottage where there's now parking for the dining hall. The tower housed the camp office for a time. It was later moved to Walworth. Rik and I gave it a good look. Both our minds were turning over the places we might put it next, the new role it might serve when we wake it up to use it once again.

This week the camp directors of the Oregon-Idaho Conference of the Methodist Church held their meeting at Camp Magruder. In all, there are 6 camp site with directors, and a gathering like this can be a great uplift for camp staff. There is something about sitting at the table with people who do the same work. There's the common knowledge, knowing someone gets what you're going through. There's the stories that everyone easily relates to, that we can laugh at or feel the weight of. Then, there's that chance to help each other, to share our successes and challenges, to pass along little tricks we've picked up, to collectively work on solutions. And then, there is just the chance to let loose a little and play with the people who share our passions.

Late Tuesday night the directors stayed up in the Edwards Lodge playing board games, swapping stories. There were lots of laughs, lots of friendly teasing and joking. In managerial positions, we often find ourselves stuck in this constant need to be serious, to take things seriously. We should be serious about our work--it's a sign we care about it. But, one of the foundations of any successful camp is fun, and I would imagine most of us fell in love with camp in a time when we were having a whole lot of fun. As I looked across the room and watched this group of people who manage these big budgets and thousands of retreat guests, who are steering these ships that are so important to so many people, it was comforting to know we are still laughing and allowing ourselves to play and engage. It was good to feel that we have not forgotten the grease that keeps these gears turning.

Late Thursday night, the wind began to pick up, and it has continued. The advisory is on until 11pm Friday night. There's also a high surf advisory, and those two forces combined make the Pacific look very formidable to a beach visitor. I'm watching out the window as the trees bob back and forth. The office is making creaking noises as gusts build up. There is motion and power all around us, swirling. Spring is keeping us on our toes. In all the chaos and uncertainty, it is good to get out and walk around, even in the crazy moments. The more I look and listen, the more I find myself connecting with things that give me comfort and ease the anxiety brought on by regular change and uncertainty. So many beautiful things happen on any given day--even just a few tastes of them make for good medicine.

This weekend, we welcome an Adventist Young Adult Retreat and the Cleveland High School Choir. Join us in these feelings of welcome, keep in your prayers that they find joy and rest out here on the coast.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The News from Magruder, March 26 - April 1

It was a Spring Break week on the coast, which may or may not have been on your radar depending on what your line of work is or if you have kids. At Camp Magruder, it meant a break for Outdoor School, who I'm sure enjoyed it after two straight split weeks. Being on the coast, it also meant there were more people in on the weekdays than is normal for this time of the year. When you're out at the grocery or eating dinner at your favorite restaurant and notice it's pretty packed for a Tuesday, you scratch your head for a moment then remember, "Oh, that's right. It's Spring Break."

We opened the week with the honor of hosting a memorial service for Jon Brown, a prominent figure in our community. We had been a regular at Magruder's Easter sunrise services over the years, and his family felt like it would be a fitting place to memorialize him. I did not have the pleasure of meeting Jon before his passing, but it was evident by the numbers who showed up on a Monday afternoon how much his life meant to the Rockaway Beach area. 

The Magruder staff was present to help the family set up and to facilitate parking. I spent most of the time waving vehicles into an organized parking plan. The weather was interesting--one moment it was sunny, the next it drizzled. We rotated through this weather all day, really we rotated through this all week. Once the cars were parked, I snuck into Carrier to see a room packed with a range of ages and backgrounds. People traveled from neighboring states to be here. There were infants and toddlers all the way up to elderly here to pay respects. Jon Brown was a teacher, but it was obvious his influence went well beyond the classroom. The next day, my wife and I were meeting with a local lawyer, and he talked about how he had been at the memorial himself, how next to his parents Jon was one of the biggest influences of his early years. 

I thought about how this place will forever be tied into this story for the people who were touched by Jon Brown's life. How the act of choosing a setting can be sacred and make a place sacred for a huge group of people. Over 300 people joined us on a Monday afternoon in our dining hall that has been on this spot almost as long as it has been called Camp Magruder. I think of how many other stories are tied up in that building, how it has been made sacred over the years for so many people, from young worshipers finding their faith to outdoor school kids discovering a passion for wild things to much more random chance encounters that change someone's life forever. 

Spring Break slowed life down for just a moment at Camp Magruder. Slowing down is crucial to healthy life. We will find ourselves busier and busier as summer approaches and passes. There is much work to be done. We hope that our impact is a lasting one. We hope people are changed a bit when they spend time with us. We hope what they experience furthers the sacredness of this place. It is important to remember, but it is also important to continue to practice to bring a place into something new even as we remember what it has been and what it has done. If that doesn't happen we are doomed to forget it--and we don't want to forget things this holy, this impactful, this important.
Things are becoming new again at Magruder. The flowers are blooming, Green buds are opening up on the bushes. The alders will open their leaves soon and we will be mired in sunshine and greenness. It is Spring Break everyone. We often look at it as a time of rest, of taking a break. But make no mistake there is important work going on even now. the work of appreciating, the work of noticing the beauty surrounding us, the work of remembering those who shaped us, the work of making even ourselves new. The sun is visible more and more each day. Summer is on the way. Let's go out into the open air. Let's hear the ocean. Let's do something wonderful with our moment here. Let's leave this space full of memories that will inspire someone else to call it holy and sacred.

This week, we've had the joy of hosting Brush Prairie Baptist Women's Retreat. They were originally scheduled for the fall weekend when tornadoes hit the coast, so we are happy to finally welcome them back. Keep their time in our prayers. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

The News from Magruder, March 19-25

The rain is slowly letting off at Camp Magruder, and we are beginning to have more days where we aren't totally inundated with water. This is not to say that every day is dry and sunny. Even now, most days rain still manages to fall at some point. But, we are seeing glimpses of the blue sky. Our skin has even seen sunshine here and there. It has been a very rainy winter on the coast, and a string of sunny days sounds like almost too much to ask for. We are seeing hints that it may return, though.

This week was a split week for Outdoor School. On these particular weeks, one school group comes in at the beginning of the week, leaves on Wednesday, and another group comes in on its heels to finish out the week. It adds an extra day to ODS's typical weekly schedule, and presents some logistical challenges on that Wednesday where one group is coming in and one is leaving.

Imagine the feat it is for these staffers to finish up with a group and take care of all that you do the last day of camp. Cleaning the cabins, packing, eating the last lunch, wrapping up your sessions, saying goodbye to everyone, putting a ribbon on those meaningful relationships that were established in those three days. Now imagine as you are doing all that, also managing to do all the things you do as you welcome in a new group. Helping them get off the bus and find their way in a new place, giving introductions and introducing the staff, eating the first meal (right after the other group ate their last), teaching them songs, learning their names. Think of the emotional transitions for staff members that has to happen in quick succession. They do this and do it well, but it is an impressive undertaking.

I think about how this is the life of a healthy camp. You welcome the stranger, and the stranger leaves a little bit more a friend. This is powerful and life-changing work on both sides. It has an impact on us. A good retreat experience can stay with us for weeks, months, years. But when you work at a camp, it's important to be able to put feelings and experiences on their proper shelves, so you can go back to them later. It won't be long before you will need to be totally present for the next group. In a world that puts so much value on multi-tasking, camp sometimes requires a good organized shelf where we quickly switch from one item to the other.

Towards the end of the week, we were also joined by a Church of God Men's Retreat. We hosted participants from all over the country, who gathered on the Oregon Coast for a time of fellowship and worship together. This group along with our outdoor school group presented more logistical challenges, mainly in the realm of dining. This is also a big part of camp life. On the surface, what is often seen is the relationships, the care for the buildings and grounds, the way we try to make it nice to the eyes and comfortable for the guest. The underground work is the scheduling, the coordinating among staff people, the meetings just to figure out how to hold people in the same place at once.

This week we hosted meals in the upstairs of Carrier Dining for outdoor school, and the Men's group in downstairs Chappell Hall. That seems straightforward enough, but that means the meal must be split in the kitchen and carried to two different locations. Kitchen staff must haul food, plates, cups, utensils downstairs. We need two KP crews. When the meal downstairs is finished, all the dishes must be brought back upstairs to be washed, then back down for the next meal. We have to coordinate this to try to avoid a traffic jam between the groups at the dishwasher. The kitchen staff must be on the same page. All this must be figured out before the groups get there to eat.

We spent a lot of time over the past few weeks, and even months, planning for these events, knowing that having two large groups like this together could be uncomfortable if we hadn't prepared for it properly. At the end of the week, most of the work done, it was a nice release to stand at the serving line with Big Mike watching our guests enjoy their meal. Our work at this point was just to watch the food and make sure the serving dishes were refilled it needed. The tough stuff was finished. We talked about how smooth things had gone, we talked about some of the characters in this group and what a hoot they were. Every now and then, I'd grab an egg roll or piece of curry pork and snack as we saw the fruits of our labors and just took a moment to enjoy life.


At the end of the day, it is a beautiful thing to see these processes go smoothly. We don't always get them perfect, but it feels like such and accomplishment for multiple groups to get their meals, to talk about how tasty the food was, to have a few moments just to greet people and ask how their day has been. It's also a pleasure to work with people committed to these types of challenges. When you get home at night, you are tired, but it is a good kind of tired, a warm kind of tired. You leave with a good feeling deep down, because you did something that could leave an impact on other people, and it has also left an impact on you.