Finding Jesus at Camp
“OK,” they told the obstinate camper. “You can stay up—as long as you read the Bible.”
Travis didn’t know what to do with his camper. At age 12 Logan was the toughest kid in the cabin and wanted to be in charge of everyone and everything. One night Logan decided he wasn’t going to bed, so Travis and his co-counselor came up with a plan.
“OK,” they told the obstinate camper. “You can stay up—as long as you read the Bible.” Logan agreed, except he didn’t have a Bible; in fact, he had never read one. So the co-counselor lent Logan his Bible, and by the light of the moon and a flashlight the boy met the heroes of Genesis for the very first time.
The next morning Logan confided to his counselors, “I actually found some cool stories in there.” He was especially interested in the story of Joseph, and asked many questions, wondering how Joseph was able to do all that he did.
“Although Logan still acted tough, you could see the gears starting to turn as he wondered what we were all about,” remembered Travis. “It was kind of cool to see the change that took place over the week.”
It Takes a Lot of Prayer
Most of the kids who come to Camp Polaris don’t know the Bible. Travis remembers a time when only one camper knew the story of David and Goliath. “We’re ministering to kids who don’t grow up in Christian homes, who don’t read the Bible. It takes a lot of prayer to help reach these kids . . . to know how to reach them.”
Travis, a senior mechanical engineering student at Walla Walla University, started working at Camp Polaris in 2011. In addition to being a counselor, he has taught a variety of classes, including wakeboarding and model rocketry.
“I’ve loved it every summer, that’s why I keep coming back,” he says. “I’ve learned a lot about trusting in God, because you get situations where you don’t know how to make it through the week, but you always do. Then in hindsight, you see that even the tough things were a positive. It definitely is about learning to trust God.
“I think I’m a little more comfortable now with just being thrown into a situation. I’ve learned to be flexible and go with the flow, and to be ready for whatever—because you don’t know what’s going to happen next.”
A Light in the World
Heather Ueeck grew up in Delta Junction, a small town at the end of the Alaska Highway. As a child, Heather loved going to camp every summer, and she kept a record of her experiences, listing her daily activities. Early on she wrote: “And of course we had to do worship, and that was dumb.”
But as the years went by, camp worships became more meaningful to Heather. One worship that made a big impression involved a candle and a balloon. “They held a balloon over a lit candle and the balloon popped right away. Then they put water into another balloon and held it over the candle, and it didn’t pop! The presenter explained that we are like the balloon and the water represents Christ. If we have Christ in us, He calms us and gives us peace and strength—He’s a resource that we can latch on to.”
They Keep Coming Back
Heather now tries to pass on these lessons to campers as she works at Camp Polaris. “The kids aren’t Adventists, and they don’t come from the best families. They aren’t used to discipline, to structure, and people caring about them. They often act up. Sometimes it seems as if they hate camp, but they keep coming back. Even with the struggles, underneath they realize that we actually care about them.”
Heather admits that working at Camp Polaris has taught her patience. “It’s my job to lead the kids toward God. Patience and flexibility are so important. And trusting in God. It’s given me a strong tool for facing situations that will come up in my life—just learning to deal with the things that this world throws at you. It’s given me appreciation for others who have served me, and has given me the attitude that I want to help other people and be a light in the world.”
Camp Polaris is in need of updated facilities, such as “bearproof cabins,” says Heather. And now that the Moodys have left, the only way to ferry the children to camp is by making several long trips by small boat. Restroom and bathing facilities include two outhouses, a steam sauna, and the icy waters of Lake Aleknagik.
“I’ve lived in Alaska all my life,” Heather says, “and Camp Polaris is the most isolated I’ve ever been. But it’s definitely a place where you can feel very close to God. I really love it up there.”