Camp Woody Today
A Report on the Remarkable Summer of 2006
Left: Timothy Smith, author of the articles at Tanignak.com, sings at a campfire at Camp Woody in August, 2006 (Joel North photo)
Introduction: A Chance to Serve Again
Visitors to this site are familiar with my multi-part series on Camp Woody and its history through the 1970s. This article is different, because it tells the story of a much more recent season: 2006. I served as lay pastor for the first camp, co-pastor for the final camp, and participated in the training week that preceded the camping season. In addition, I was the leader for the 50th Anniversary Celebration, the topic of another article. It was very special indeed to get to serve at the same camp where I had spent my growing up years, and the staff of 2006 was in many ways the finest I have ever worked with. Note: The photos used in this article are the copyright of the respective photographers, and used with permission. Any photos without accreditation are ones I took, on my last summer as a film photographer. I hope this begins to tell the story of what Camp Woody is like now.
Right: Camp Woody (the white building in the center of the photo is the main lodge) as it looks from Pillar Mountain. Long Island is in the background. (Thanks to Jake for the use of his 300mm lens and shoulder!)
Camp Woody Today
The summer of 2006 marked the tenth year of my service on staff there, and my twenty-fourth season (I was three years old when the doors opened in 1956!) When I went back to serve at Camp Woody this summer, I consciously decided not to get into all that “we didn’t do it that way back in my day” kind of nonsense. I decided to let the place be brand new to me, and it was. By the end of the summer, I was actually nostalgic for the events I had just witnessed rather than being stuck in the long ago. So what is Camp Woody like now, in its fiftieth season? It’s a hopping place, staffed by dedicated volunteers, and brought to life by all the kids who attend every year. Camp capacity is way up compared with the 60s and 70s, thanks to expanded cabin space and the new extension on the dining hall. The original chapel is simply too small, and the old Boys’ Dorm now serves double duty as rec-hall and chapel (the interior walls were removed years ago). Transportation to and from camp is still a challenge, handled now with a flotilla of volunteer skiffs and speedboats. The old FAA dock is rarely usable because the ramp no longer moves, so the first day of camp resembles a Normandy Invasion as the skiffs hit the beach. But all of this is just the skin of the story. Here’s what camp was like this summer, with lots of those great photos we took in 2006. The order of events follows the order of the camps that summer.
Staff Training Week
Left: The staff poses for its portrait out on the dock during training week. Back row (L to R): Jake Ebersole, Nate Smith, Ryan Boudreau, Lisa Keith, Ashley Overstreet, and co-directors Cheryl Demus and Nick Popp. (Center, kneeling, L to R): Heather West, Adrien Lavoie, Bernadette Gomez and Jennifer Winkel. In front is Taylor Hamlett.
The week before camp began, the staff assembled on Woody for prayer, planning and practice. The staff worked preparing the camper teams, the craft materials, the games, the worship songs and the devotions, and spent a lot of time hanging out and getting to know one another. Each evening, along with worship, the staff would take turns sharing about ourselves (the “life story”) which helped us understand and appreciate each other. We also did a lot of hiking and had campfires at various beaches to familiarize the new staff members with the island.
Right: Poor Ryan ran into barbed wire while hiking during training week, but thankfully was able to continue as a counselor after a few dozen stitches.
Having never seen a training week before, I was impressed with the care the staff took to become as prepared as possible for the challenges to come. The 2006 team bonded quickly into an efficient and supportive unit, and many strong friendships were begun then. But the whole purpose of being there was to minister to the kids, and the place really came alive once the campers arrived!
Left: Nathan gives his “life story” during Staff Training Week. All the staff got to share whatever we thought might help the others get to know us. Since it was up to the speaker to decide what to say, it was a more comfortable way to get to know each other. The staff had bonded into a close group of friends who could already work well together before the first camper ever arrived.
Junior Camp (grades 5 and 6)
Photo left: Nate (left) and Adrien (center, in green hood) watch as Heather (right) prepares to lead their cabin group Lieublu (Russian for “love”) in their team cheer. There were four cabin groups.
The fifth and sixth graders were a delightful bunch, full of energy and imagination. As their pastor, I was put through my paces. I quickly inaugurated a “question can,” where the kids could drop in their questions. One whole service was dedicated to answering those questions. The counselors and I divided up their questions, prepared our answers, and presented them. The counselors also frequently helped me with testimonies, and the team effort made for some really great chapel services. And those wonderful campers brought up things I had mentioned in the services, and discussed them with me around the tables and on the hikes. They absorbed so much!
Right: I teach a Bible lesson in the rec hall, Junior Camp, 2006. The campers were attentive and responsive, and asked great questions. The staff frequently helped me to do parts of the messages, which made the lessons even more powerful. A camper in the foreground is taking notes. (Adrien photo)
It was exhilarating to have such an engaged bunch of young people to serve. They were so fun to hang out with! Being used to teaching high school, I found that my sense of humor sometimes sailed right over their heads. But the kids soon discovered that I could do a few impersonations, and they loved my imitations of various cartoon and movie characters. Quite a few of them could trade jokes with me for an entire hike. Their energy was astounding, and I found it hard to keep up with them at the beach. On the lake they were often real rascals. Try as we might, there was no way we could keep them in the canoes, or keep the water out of the canoes either! And wet clothes made for fascinating challenges in the cabins, I’m sure. The photos tell the story of a fabulous time with a really great bunch of kids.
Oh what fun we had! Below are four composite photos from a PowerPoint presentation shown at Pomona First Baptist.
Hiking near Ehuzhik Lake (photo right by Ryan)
Beach fun: sand surfing (left) and enjoying the pond made in the stream at Sawmill beach after the boys had dammed it up. (Both are Ryan’s photos)
Boating in Tanignak Lake: the right way and wrong way to handle a canoe (the bottom photo was staged for my benefit). Swimming is strongly discouraged, since that’s our water supply!
A spectacular day and a low tide made for an amazing time in the tidepools. Gunnar doesn’t like holding the octopus we found!
I was not present during the high school or third-fourth grade camps. I got to spend an extended time with my mother, who was living her last summer in Ouzinkie. She passed away a few weeks after the Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration, so spending those days with her was a precious experience. But I heard a lot about the goings-on during those two weeks at camp, and the photos from the counselors also help to tell the story of what those camps were like.
Senior High (High School) Camp
The Senior High camp was one long rainstorm. But the young people had a wonderful time, and like good Kodiak residents, acted like the rain wasn’t there. But besides the madcap activities, the campers and staff developed some strong relationships. The campers were more spiritually mature than is often the case, and eagerly sought out the things of God. Several of the services (including a unique communion service) were meaningful to campers and staff alike.
Left: Ryan’s High School boys pose rather seriously in a hut they made on the beach out of driftwood logs. (Ryan’s photo looks like an album cover for a rock band!)
Part of the reason for the spiritual vitality in the campers may well be the ministry called Oasis, which is a cooperative venture between several churches. It is a ministry in Kodiak that has been going on for some time, and includes regular fellowship with a praise band, teaching and prayer.
Several of our staff in 2006 (Lisa and Heather, for example) were regular participants in the Oasis ministry, and I was blessed to hear the details of how God was changing lives all winter long, not just at camp in the summertime! So because of vital ministries like Oasis, many of the campers were open to what God was going to do for them at Camp Woody, even in the rain. No wonder they had a blessed time.
Right: Adrien’s photo of her High School girls in their cabin
Left: High School mealtime, on bad hair day, captured by Adrien. Something else must be wrong with Taylor and Heather! (right side of table)
Left: Adrien’s photo shows the high school campers getting ready to leave after a fun (but soggy) week on Woody Island. Jen the counselor is crouching and holding a red coat. To the right is Heather (a camper that week, a counselor the rest of the summer) in a blue hood. It did rain a lot, but one comment I heard from a camper was, “I could have been cold and wet at home, so it was a whole lot better to be cold and wet at camp!”
As of March 2007, when this is being written, the Oasis kids have had several work parties at Camp Woody, and just got home from a very cold (but fun) winter retreat on the island, which included an extended closing communion service. Those are hardy souls, physically and spiritually, so no wonder their week of rain last summer was no impediment to having a great time!
Third and Fourth Grade Camp
The camp for the youngest age group (just leaving grades 3 and 4) is always a challenge, due to the relative immaturity of the kids. It was a blessing that they got some sunshine, and the photos show some of the fun activities they enjoyed, like swimming in the ocean – an activity only a Kodiak kid could love!
Left: the Third and Fourth Graders frolic in the frigid waters of Chiniak Bay like good Alaskan kids! (Adrien photo)
But as with any group of young kids, there were dietary and hygiene issues that were more acute than with any other camp. Those were the stories most frequently shared by the staff when I returned to the island for the following camp. Kids at that age actually get homesick! The counselors had more intense day to day duties with this group than any other, but the kids had a wonderful time. I imagine every one of those campers will want to come back for years to come, and who knows? Maybe a few future counselors are in their midst.
Right: The campers enjoy slip and slide bowling (into jugs of water) in this photo by Adrien
Junior High Camp (grades 7 and 8)
Nick (standing, center) gives the welcoming speech to the Junior High campers. Note their luggage piled by the flagpole! He is talking about the “Three M’s:” no Moaning (complaining) no Messing (touching other people’s stuff) and no Meandering (wandering off). Now, as when I was a camper at Woody, coming to camp is the highlight of many kid’s summers and a high point in the whole year.
Right: Nick hands out candy to reward the winners of the “Bad Hair Day” contest, although the young lady on the left needs a “Most Creative Hair Day” award!
I returned to Woody for the last camp, and shared pastor duties with Cheryl Young, a youth pastor from Anchorage whose parents serve at the Nazarene church in Kodiak. I took the morning sessions and she took the evening services. I really enjoyed working closely with her. For that camp I made use of lessons I had written during my weeks in Ouzinkie (when it had rained constantly, and Mom was taking very long naps). I wrote a whole series of lessons on what it means to be a friend as a Christian, and why friendship is our high calling as believers in Christ. We are called His friends, after all!
When I shared my first lesson with the campers, I told them I would sometimes be talking about guy-girl stuff as well as “God stuff.” Several of them then pleaded with me, “Please don’t embarrass us!” I assured them that all I had to do was to share my own pathetic stories from when I was their age and that would be enough. We had a few laughs, but I know I shared some much-needed biblical truth with them. I wish I had heard lessons like those when I was their age. Even the counselors said that the series helped them. I’m not surprised that it was a good series of lessons, because I got help and suggestions from several of the counselors before I ever opened my mouth to teach. Bernadette, Adrien, Ryan and Lisa all had input in the series before I started, so it was field tested before the campers heard any of it. Cheryl Young previewed each lesson with me as well, and helped me adjust and focus. Hopefully that series (and the other lessons I wrote while in Ouzinkie) will become a book someday.
Left: Taylor (rear center, with video camera) and Nate (front right, in blue shirt) and a troupe of scriptwriters demonstrate the costumes used in the final video production. Taylor and Nate would help the campers write scripts, and then film them, much to the campers’ amusement. This Woody Workshop was one of many popular afternoon activities for the Jr. High kids. (Cheryl’s photo)
What was it like to work with Junior High kids? In so many ways they are prototype adults, in size, in opinions and in interests. And then a moment later they are still little kids, just capable of bigger and stronger escapades! I loved being with them. The conversations were more mature, and (wonder of wonders) they got all my jokes, too. I got a lot of “you’re old but you’re cool” responses. One camper even dubbed me “Pastor Tim Dude,” a name which stuck for the rest of the week. A humorous highlight was when a group of seven or eight of us (me being the only adult) sat around the fire pit and quoted lines from The Princess Bride and Goonies for half an hour or so. Those are kids after my own heart! Just as warped as me! They live in a more mature world, as well; since last summer several of them have sent me instant email messages from time to time. It was great to hang out with such wonderful young people, and a real privilege to be able to share God’s Word with them.
Right: A fine day for hot dogs at Scout Beach. Why is it that camp food tastes so much better? We had spectacular cooks all summer.
Left: a “Silly Shapes” game in which the campers have to create recognizable objects using only their bodies. These ladies made a bunk bed!
More Photos of a Fun Season at Camp Woody:
Ryan was our best resident fire starter, along with being more adventurous than most of the campers!
Ashley taught the kids no-bake cooking…
…including this interesting creation! Of course, the most fun was to eat it afterwards. (both photos by Cheryl)
Jen (to the left in the photo) and Adrien stand on a bog next to Ehuzhik Lake (the camp’s swimming lake). Jen was very knowledgeable about local plants, and even taught a class to the campers to help them identify and enjoy the edible plants (and avoid the other ones). Adrien took spectacular nature shots with her digital camera, some of which are in the article of Woody Island scenes.
Jen also was expert at dissecting sea creatures and showing us the edible parts. Shortly after this photo, I ate a raw sucker off the octopus she had, and it seemed like chewing a rubber tire. It didn’t taste bad, though.
Heather did almost every job, including cook. She was counselor for two camps, camper for the high school camp, and cook’s assistant at the last one. Here she’s with Nick’s mom, Rose Marie, who flew up from Wisconsin to help cook. (Did I mention that the food was always terrific?)
The kids loved craft projects: using branches to frame a mirror, left, and woodburning, right (Ryan’s photo)
Jake, an accomplished artist, taught drawing to the campers
Seems like all of us took pictures, but I caught a picture of a picture: Anna, Sara and Adrien, Jr. Hi Camp, 2006 (Top is film, bottom is digital, if anyone’s interested!)
Of course, Kodiak kids know how to fish! (Cheryl photo)
Some girls hang out on the ramp leading to their cabin, while their wet clothes dry on the railing.
Some of the boys hang out on the logs at Sawmill Beach on a spectacular summer day. Others built a large dam for the stream that runs under these logs.
Cheryl leads singing and I follow along at Inspiration Point. Cheryl knows a zillion praise songs, and is on the praise team at First Baptist Pomona. She led the praise at all the services of the 2006 season. If you look closely, you can see how I was watching her guitar chords very carefully!
What We Did Between Camps
Right: Adrien’s photo shows some of the staff, piled into the camp van, head up Pillar Mountain between camps. Left to right: Lisa, Heather, Bernadette, Nate, Tim and Jake (trying to eat the camera?)
Before I finish this snapshot of Camp Woody as it is today, I have to share about what the staff did between camps. Sometimes in past years the staff has scattered to the four winds. But this year the counselors seemed to stick together like glue. Not content to spend week after week on the island together, they hung out together during their down time as well. And they had wonderful fellowship! I was privileged to join them on three of their weekends, and the photos show a very close and loving group. They all became my good friends (in spite of my age difference, which Woody always seems to erase). I got to work closely with my son Nate all summer and he seemed to enjoy it as much as I did; how cool is that?
Cheryl (left, in photo from her camera) and Nick (right, Adrien’s photo) loved fishing any chance they got. Nick usually caught much better fish than this Irish Lord or whatever its name is, but their two smiling faces just had to be included here!
The counselors gather on Heather’s roof on a spectacular day and listen as Nate plays the guitar (and eagles soar overhead). Heather’s family provided a favorite hangout between camps.
Taylor sealed a letter to one of his campers. This was a nice tradition, a chance to encourage the kids after their camp ended. (Adrien photo)
Nate enjoyed relaxing on Mission Beach after visiting at Heather’s house
Bernadette (left) and Cheryl hung out with Karen Young (right) between camps. Cheryl’s photo, taken by Questa at her house.
The staff arrives back at Woody for another camp, as the trailer holds trash and recycling to take to Kodiak for disposal. For many years, Camp Woody has had a very clean footprint on Woody Island.
As I mentioned, the 2006 staff was pretty remarkable. Many of the staff members are still in frequent contact with each other, and several have regular contact with kids who had been in their cabin groups as well. Perhaps one of the reasons that staff and that season at Woody were so outstanding was that the young people seemed to serve each other and lift each other up. They were a very enthusiastic and dedicated group. I almost never heard any expressions of discouragement, even when the weather was bad or one of them was suffering from a cold. They loved to rib each other, and developed a whole string of inside jokes based on various humorous events. But I didn’t hear the harsh, crude joking and sharp-edged teasing that sometimes punctuates the conversations of folks their age. They included me as a member of their summer family, and I was very blessed by that.
For all those old-timers, like me, who experienced Camp Woody in the early days, I can testify that it is one of God’s current events. There’s just no time to wallow in nostalgia; the camp is too busy being what it is now! And what it is today is a splendid place for young people to have a good time, and a compellingly spiritual place of renewal and restoration. It’s easy to meet God there, and God has a way of being new and fresh with each encounter. I am pleased with the way things are run nowadays, and I’m especially pleased with the end results: young people who go away blessed, refreshed and enriched with wonderful memories and life lessons. And it’s not bad to have better mattresses, real showers, and much better facilities than we endured in my day. My only regret is the bittersweet realization that our beloved old chapel (the former power plant from across the island) which was the site of so many of my spiritual blessings, is just too small for the large number of campers that Woody can accommodate now. But after only one service in the old BOQ (the recreation hall now) I could plainly see that God is extremely present in the daily life of Camp Woody!
The following are frames from a PowerPoint presentation given at Pomona First Baptist, where six of the summer staff attend.
You can tell from the photos above that I had a blast at camp. But what did I personally learn from my summer at Camp Woody in 2006? There were the usual lessons of faith and trust which we always seem to need to relearn whenever we step out to serve God. But I also learned that God can do a new thing. I went to Woody trying to have no expectations, intentionally trying not to predict what would happen. I also tried to put out of my mind the inevitable comparisons with Camp Woody the way it functioned in the 1970s when I was previously on staff (or the previous decades, when I was a “camp brat”). It would have been a perfectly awful experience if I had spent my time complaining about how “it wasn’t done that way in my time.” Camp Woody gets along just fine without nostalgia. In fact, it is a fresh and new place, with fresh and new lessons to be learned at every turn. I learned valuable lessons of friendship and service to one another, as I blessed others and was blessed in greater measure by others. I was part of a fellowship of close-knit believers, and that is deeply meaningful whenever it occurs. I know that island and its terrain very well, but one can never predict what God will do next. That was a wonderful thing to be reminded of. And if I am ever blessed with the opportunity to go back there and serve, I will simply expect God to do His own new thing, all over again! He has been doing that for fifty years at Camp Woody.
Thanks to all who prayed for us in 2006, and to those who contributed to Camp Woody. The donation button at the bottom of this article sends funds safely, direct to the camp board. If you feel led, send them something to help keep Camp Woody going for another fifty years. Please see Camp Woody Words for more (quotes from the staff, and more photos) from 2006.
PayPal Link to Donate to Camp Woody:
Written by Timothy Smith, web author. See the About Me page for more information. Always feel free to send me comments, suggestions or corrected information about this article or any of the articles on this site. (Write to: Tanignak@aol.com)
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