by Deacon Erica Larson
After a year of missed opportunities and changed plans, we were thrilled when 27 children, youth and adults registered for our 2021 summer trips! These experiences create community, promote team building and leadership development, bring the Gospel to life, and remind us loudly and clearly that we are all beloved children of God.
These are just a few of the highlights from some of our campers:
In June, Sasha Elavsky attended Augsburg Youth Theology Institute at Augsburg University. Under the theme “And It Was Very Good: Affirming and Advocating for Gender and Sexual Diversity in God’s Creation,” high school participants dug into scripture, learned about church history, and discovered tools for faithful advocacy that allows LGBTQ persons to be full members of society. Instructors used a theological lens to look at events in recent history, wonder what God is doing and where we are called to be, and help youth discover where discernment could lead them. Sasha’s highlight was hearing Bible stories in a new way, through a theological lens of radical welcome for all people.
We also had campers at Lake Wapogasset (Wapo), Ox Lake, and Wilderness Canoe Base, which are the three sites under the umbrella of Lake Wapogasset Lutheran Bible Camp. The camp mission is places of grace forming people of faith, and the summer theme was JUST LOVE. Psalm 33:5 says “The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord”. Throughout the summer, this theme helped campers and staff focus on living out justice that is formed and shaped by the unearned and utterly gracious love of God, which is longer, higher, wider and deeper than we can imagine!
Mother and son duo Tanya Refshauge and Jacob Pozega joined our groups at Wilderness Canoe Base; and Jacob and his buddy Henrik Karlsson spent a week at Wapo casting their rods during Fishing Camp. Jacob especially enjoyed fishing, learning to portage a canoe and pack a Duluth pack, and making new friends. He says that he experienced God in nature and learned to trust God, having faith that God would get him through tough portages while carrying canoes and heavy Duluth packs.
Tanya was thrilled to be able to say, “This ‘old-lady/COVID-body’ is still capable of carrying me – and a canoe – through the Boundary Waters!” She thoroughly enjoyed immersing herself in nature, seeing young people learn things about their capabilities that they didn’t know previously, seeing loons and bald eagles, and Luka Karkabi’s amazing sense of humor.
Throughout the week, she was reminded of God’s eternal and ever-present healing powers, and she experienced God through the love that Alex Grundeen repeatedly and consistently demonstrated to members of the group. What an incredible gift it was for this duo to bond with one another in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area!
Matthew Mueller was so excited about spending his first full week at Wapo that it was impossible for him to name just one highlight. He loved swimming, campfires, skits, songs, tie-dye, cabin friends, counselors and gaga ball! When asked how he experienced God at camp, Matthew said, “God loves me. God is all around me. God helps me. I can talk to God.” He enjoyed talking about God and love, and will always remember that his counselor Pinky helped him when he was scared of a severe thunderstorm on the last night of camp.
We think Bible camp was a smashing success for Matthew, whose mom Lori shared that he “came home feeling so independent; it was really an accomplishment for him to manage in a new environment and be away from his usual supports. He made friends and had a fun time in the outdoors.” We’re proud of you Matthew!
As summer approached, Sam Karkabi was getting ready to join our group for the Boundary Waters Canoe Trip at Wilderness Canoe Base as well as Senior High Camp at Ox Lake. And then he received an invitation to apply for Servant Leadership Camp at Wapo! Sam was accepted, and he spent a week growing in faith and leadership by working with younger campers and learning leadership skills.
Sam reflected, “This summer I had three amazing experiences, all thanks to Lake Nokomis Lutheran Church. In June, I got to be in the Servant Leader Program at WAPO which meant that I helped out for a week at camp. As we were driving in, I said to my mom "I just hope they don't put me in a cabin with the youngest kids.” And that's exactly where they put me! In the end, I really loved being with this age. In fact, I want to apply to help with the Seeds program next summer.
“Then in July, I got to go to Wilderness Canoe Base in the Boundary Waters. We had an amazing trip with many inside jokes, hardships, and laughs. In the end, we pushed hard and I was very proud of my group.
“Lastly, in August, I attended Ox Lake with other senior high students. It was one of the best camp experiences I've had in my entire life. I was reunited with old counselors and old friends and met some new ones. I played a lot of chess with Alan Atkinson and just enjoyed hanging out and being together.
“In reflecting on these trips, I truly saw God in all three experiences. I left each experience feeling better than when I arrived. I recommend Wapo to everyone. Thank you to Lake Nokomis Lutheran for making this possible for me.”
In addition to those who participated in these incredible experiences, three young people from our congregation stepped into leadership roles in outdoor ministry. Kathleen and Erin Grube were on staff at rustic Camp Vermilion, a Lutheran outdoor ministry near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. And Taylor “Tugboat” Birchem spent his eighth summer on staff at Wapo Bible Camp. It’s a beautiful thing to see young campers grow up to become leaders who invest in the lives of the next generation of young people!
We are thankful for the generous support of our Summer Trip Fundraiser, which allowed campers of all ages to experience God in simple and profound ways. May we never forget the unearned and utterly gracious love of God, which is longer, higher, wider and deeper than we can imagine! Wherever you go and whatever you do, remember to JUST LOVE!