What Breaks our Hearts and Fills Them.

We have the opportunity as a camp to participate in a fellowship of other Christian camps both locally and across America. This fellowship is called the Christian Camp and Conference Association, or CCCA. Recently our staff was able to participate in a local meet up for hospitality and housekeeping folks from ten or so local Christian camps. We were hosted by the beautiful Lake Retreat in Maple Valley area and spent 2 days sharing with, praying for, and helping each other out. In one of our first sessions we went around the room and talked about each of our camps in turn. As we went around the room we heard about where they were located, how many they could hold, what programs they offered, and a little about what makes them unique. 

The funny thing is that while each of our camps started in a different way, built slightly different things, and have distinct ways of staffing or funding - we all share some really essential things.

First, every camp cares about people. Camping is about putting kids, adults, and families in touch with God. Every Christian camp I’ve met, regardless of any other purpose, wants to see Jesus lifted high in the lives of their campers.

Second, camp people love camping. The activities of camp are all familiar: campfire, silly songs, traditions, worship, reading, rest, retreat, and just having fun. We know we're weird for loving these things as much as we do - and we don't care. 

Of course we celebrate our unique strengths here at Pleasant Valley - our location deep in God’s natural creation, our design lends itself toward a feeling of being unplugged and disconnected, and our wonderful community of churches that work together and the people that volunteer to help camps happen every year. We are pretty darn good at giving people a restful and quiet retreat - and we do so for churches and groups from all over the NorthWest. 

But what I love about Christian Camping is that what breaks all our hearts - and what fills them is very much the same: People. The kids and adults that come to camp break our hearts as we get to know them and the challenges they have in their lives. But nothing fills them up quite like seeing God change people’s hearts and minds as they hear and respond to His Gospel.

Sometimes camp work can feel a bit lonely, or even fruitless, as we struggle through the difficulties of fixing, maintaining, recruiting, speaking, sharing, advertising, cleaning, and all the rest of the stuff we do all year round. That is why it is so special, and so important, to sit around and remind each other why we do what we do. I hope that as you read this you are encouraged that the movement to see lives changed through Christian Camping and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is alive and well. To God be the glory here at Pleasant Valley and at every Christian Camp forever and ever amen.

Your Friend in the Wilderness,

Corey Wilson

The Beauty of our Unity

“…And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”                      Ephesians 3:17-19

I have been reading old letters from our camp. In preparing our most recent newsletter, which should go out this week, I thought it would be fun to read through the words of those who have gone before. We discovered several file folders buried in our records during some winter cleaning we’ve been doing. Unsurprisingly these letters are filed with classic pastor humor and church-jokes that are a funny hallmark of our Christian culture. There are also references to people and places that I’ve only ever heard referenced by those that were attending and leading camps almost 50 years ago. And though much of these dusty and moldy old paper leaflets and newsletters is lost on me - I walked away with one strong impression: there is serious beauty in our unity.

Our days are currently filled with so much pessimism, frustration, fear, and constant quibbling that it can be hard to be hopeful. It seems like for many of us this consternation can be our default starting position. 

But in one of my favorite passages the Scriptures it pretty clear that we are called to come together in love - and when we are united in that posture we will discover a beauty that exceeds all that we can know and even understand. 

Yes, the enthusiasm of our early camp and church leaders may seem unequal to the task of confronting the issues of today. But while there is a rising population in our community that relegates these dreamers to a quaint and forgotten era when things were less complicated - I’m not one of them. I think that in days as dark as these - we need more ambitious dreamers not less. We need a more cooperative spirit that seeks others to collaborate with.

When I read the early letters of this camp I see people cut from this cloth. I see men and women excited to embark on an adventure of collective effort to bring praise to our Father and to unify our churches in His name. When I see this I want to do all I can to help us realize this same reality in our generation. I know that our churches are drifting apart both from forces within and without. And many from my generation fail to see what many before us have seen - that we are beautiful when we are united.

What God does, is doing, and has always done in His Church throughout the world - we see in a small sliver right here at the camp in the valley. 

I get it - Getting together can be messy. Sometimes when we get together our relationships can get strained, our expectations go unmet, or people and plans disappoint. But for all that - its still worth it. I thank God that our board and staff here at Pleasant Valley shares in a vision that sees the value in still meeting together. We want this place to be a catalyst for an ever growing knowledge, as we gather with all the saints, of the depth and height and breadth of the love of God. 

Your friend in the wilderness,

Corey Wilson

The Trap of Biblical Celebrity

"To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away."

 1 Peter 5:1-4

Celebrity culture is everywhere. Movie stars, pop icons, athletes and poets alike are held up for all to remember and adore. As Christians it can be tempting to think that, within the Church, we can be free of this - but thats not always the case. And I'm not even talking about our weird obsession with worship bands (who spend all their time singing about how great God is) and preachers (who spend all their time talking about God).

No what I'm thinking of is the way in which we read the Bible - specifically the people scripture highlights.

We nearly idolize the great names of the Bible - characters who are larger than life and who enjoy a great deal of celebrity as a result. But not only do we under emphasize the trials, failures, and sometimes brutal deaths these people faced we also tend to think of our lives as having the same celebrity as them if we too live like they did. We want to be Daniel, not for the lions den, but for the recognition and fame from our culture. We desire to be significant and public characters in God's story. But for the overwhelming majority of Christians throughout history their faith was practiced and tested in small communities that no one ever wrote about. 

Wouldn’t it be great, we think though, to have the Wisdom of Solomon or the Creativity and Masculinity combination of King David? Wouldn’t it be amazing to be Daniel, Gideon, or even Samuel? How great would it be to hold the staff and lead the nation like Moses? And, quietly in some dark part of our hearts, we think how great it would be to be remembered and revered like them too.

Scripture highlights people of significance for a number of reasons. The first and most obvious reason is that there is an over-arching theme and narrative present in scripture that each person and story contributes to. For each of these titular characters there an interaction with this story, and specifically with God, that informs our picture of who God is and what he is doing though history. Scripture also mentions these people because they are great test-cases and examples of the life with God which include pitfalls and perils, tragedy and triumph. These stories inform, challenge, inspire, and grow us thousands of years later because these are complex and unique people worth emulating.

But the complexity of these people tends to get glossed over. Yes, Moses did the Charlton Heston thing before the dead sea, but he also committed murder, doubted God, and ultimately was denied entrance into the promise land because of his decisions. In fact no familiar face from the long line up of Biblical legends is without their share of decisions and actions that demonstrate their profound humanity that goes hand-in-hand with their unique celebrity. To be remembered in Scripture is to be remembered honestly and wholly - warts and all.

Not only that but these people, who are recorded so prominently in the pages, are at the forefront of a much larger picture. God is, as any reader can tell, the central character of the Bible (which is why movie and tv adaptations of Bible stories tend to fail after trying to figure out work arounds for the “God Character”).

But God’s people, Israel, and his Church are the second most ubiquitous characters seen in the Scripture. And the reality is that these groups represent a vast number of individuals who do not get profile pages or Instagram feeds. These people live out their faith in quiet anonymity. 

An overwhelming percent of the people I respect and admire in faith and character will be forgotten in 1-2 generations. No books will be written about them, no movies made, and not even a footnote in a history book will indicate that they ever existed. For most of us this will be true. 

But our significance is not found in page views, likes, front page articles, nightly news stories, or 4th grade textbooks. The pages of history matter little to the people it records. But the significance found in God alone never fades away.

There are people in my life that I admire for their simple and quiet faith lives of integrity, grace, humility, character, generosity, and love. To their immediate surroundings their impact is huge. They are my heroes, my mentors, my celebrities. But they will probably never know how much they mean to me and the people they have impacted. And while everyone likes to know the impact they have on others - these people haven't lived the lives they have for my recognition. Rather they have shunned celebrity in this life in favor of a recognition from their Heavenly Father. 

It is right that we strive for the same power of conviction, faithful action, and uncontainable pursuit of God that we see so singularity in our favorite Bible characters. These men and women stand as examples worthy of emulation. But always keep this in mind: God will decide how to use your story for His glory.

As believers we shouldn’t desire to be like David because he was a recognized and remembered as a warrior poet. Let us instead try to emulate his heart that God so famously captured. It is his heart-full pursuit of God that lead him to such great deeds. And it was David's heart that God put on display to highlight God's glory. You are already a celebrity for an audience of one - and your life could be no more significant than it is when you are seen and recognized by Him when he says  “well done good and faithful servant.”

Your Friend in the Wilderness,

--Corey Wilson

Camp: A Safe Place For Everyone

During my high school years I was blessed to be amongst a group of people who, while not perfect, taught me so much about acceptance and integrity.

My graduating class (a paltry 23 people at my small Christian school in Bremerton Washington) was an interesting mixture of people. At a glance we looked like a typical youth group with people ranging all over in terms of church attendance, faith commitment, and “good Christian kid” status. 

Thanks, in no small part, to some amazing teachers our class had gradually come to see ourselves in a more honest way. We numbered a few highly engaged student leaders, a solid group of committed Christians, and a few people who didn’t know what they believed. We even had one person who was brave enough to share his conviction that he was an atheist. His bravery allowed others in our class with doubts or other struggles to be more honest and real publicly. Even those of us who had strong convictions and tried hard to stay “pure” and “holy” came to be more upfront about our own struggles and times when we “fell short.” 

As part of a very well meaning initiative our school leadership handed out small golden cross lapel pins at the start of our Senior year - challenging all of us to wear them at graduation if we were able to avoid falling into the bad behaviors typically associated with kids or age. 

But at a class meeting shortly before graduation we all realized that wearing these pins created a problem for many people. People who had messed up,  struggled during the year with bad choices, or who didn’t believe would be forced to either lie about it and wear the pin - or go without which would mark them with a very small “scarlet letter” which might cause them embarrassment or pain.

So our class decided, collectively, to go without the pin. This really frustrated our school leadership. Thankfully we had an amazing group of educators around us who, through their mentorship, had instilled in us a strong conviction of compassion, personal responsibility, and love for our “neighbor” - and they backed us up in this decision.

After school had ended we all attended a class retreat. One night we were all sitting around sharing stories and one of my friends stood up and wanted to share. He told us that when he had first come to realize he was an atheist at a Christian school he was afraid to be honest about it. But since sharing with our class his beliefs he had experienced only love, compassion, and a respect for his beliefs. He told us that because of this our prayers for him or conversations about God and faith and been welcome and good experiences. He felt free to be who he was without condemnation. And because of our collective goodwill - he had come to know God’s grace. Through us he had come to know and believe in God. It was with tears of Joy that we all welcomed our friend to the family of God that night. But, in truth, he had been a part of our family all along.

I tell you this story because I have seen a smaller version of this same thing happen over and over at camp. People with all kinds of struggles, hurts, and differing beliefs find their way to camp every summer. And each summer God orchestrates at camps all over the world a community of love, acceptance, openness, compassion, and grace that leads hurting people to Him. 

Yes, we work really hard to find great speakers, to write up challenging small group discussions, to create meaningful solo times, and to have all kinds of fun. But it is the choices of everyone who attends to just be honest about where they are at in their relationship with Christ - and to accept everyone where they are - that makes the difference.

This is why I believe in camp and that belief is confirmed every summer. It is my prayer that this summer Pleasant Valley is a place where good community is formed, that God’s love is lived out, and that people carry His light back to their home, youth group, school, or sports team.

"Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." 2 Corinthians 5:20

Your Friend in the Wilderness,

Corey Wilson

 

33 Little Things You Might Not Have Noticed

In case you didn't know - we love working at Pleasant Valley. Our team is always hard at work doing things large and small to make it better every year. While the biggest things we've done are often hard to miss - here are 33 things that you probably didn't notice.

"Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much" Luke 16:10. 

Winter Comes to PVCC!

In case you missed it - winter came to town this weekend with our first snow-fall of the year! We're estimating we had 3-4 inches over the course of a day an a half. It's a great indication for our winter season and we're excited that we're going to be able to offer a snow camps this winter! If you're still looking for a weekend for your church or group check out our camp calendar to see open weeks. January is almost completely open still!

Thank You!

Thank You!

From all of us at Pleasant Valley Christian Camp.

It's that time of the year when it really hits us how truly blessed we are. This summer, especially, has been a reminder of the amazing community of supporters, friends, and attendees that we have the fortune of calling our camp family.

This summer we ran stronger numbers than we have in many years with our year end totals reaching toward the six hundreds. We saw kids and adults respond to God's work in their lives through our amazing volunteer directors and the teams they bless us with. And with more than 50 years of ministry behind us - and new challenges and opportunities ahead - we saw so many of you respond with your time, money, and wisdom.

For those of you who partnered with us financially this year - thank you so much. Because of your support we were able to fund scholarships, bring needed repairs and improvements, and put ourselves on a new course.

For those who haven't seen our summer 2014 recap video I encourage you to do so (found here)!

Thanks again for all you do!

What Fun 2.jpg