Full Circle

Posted by Christine Szekeres in Interns on March 26, 2015

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About three and a half years ago I found a place that changed my life, a place that has helped to shape me into who I am today. The people there redefined my view of Christianity and taught me about who Christ is and what his love is capable of. The place I’m talking about is the high school I attended during my sophomore and junior years. I was blessed to be poured into on a daily basis by the teachers, coaches, and the rest of the staff. During that time I was going through a lot at home and it was a time that now when I look back on it I can see just how much of a blessing that school was for me. That school is where I started to make my faith my own.

Turn the page, and I am in a different place in nearly every sense of the word. So much has happened, so much has changed, but I haven’t forgotten the place I found years ago. No longer a high school student, I am currently interning at a new place. This place has also changed my life, and this place even now as I’m writing this is constantly helping to shape me, helping me to grow in Christ teaching me how to live a life glorifying to him. This place is SAMBICA, and it too came into my life at a pivotal moment. God brought SAMBICA into my life when I was struggling to remember what I had learned just a year prior, when I had just finished teetering on the edge of holding on or letting go of my faith. A fire had been lit and what I needed at that moment was a chance to share that light with as many people as possible. I needed to pour out and I needed to be poured into, I needed a family in Christ. I needed SAMBICA.

Since becoming an intern at SAMBICA I have been blessed with a multitude of opportunities to work with youth of all ages, to laugh with them, to teach them, to listen to them, to be a light to them. It has been amazing to see God work through all of the people here at camp and to watch as little sparks begin to appear. One of the ways that I have been able work with the youth is by going on school visits. There are a few visits in particular that I know I won’t soon forget.

A little over a month ago Coach (Matt Wimmer), West Beach (Gerald Bouknight), and I had the privilege of visiting The Bear Creek School for their first ever volunteer service fair. We went there to tell the students and their families about different ways they could volunteer their time to help out at SAMBICA. What was really special about it was that at the same time we were able to talk with them about our mission and vision and explain the purpose behind what we do at camp and how in there volunteering they would be able to help us to do that as well. One of the other awesome things that I was able to do is reconnect with some of our campers from the previous summer. Gerald and I got to sit in on a camper’s choir rehearsal and I was able to help one of our campers revise a personal narrative in their English class!

During this same school visit I remember walking down the hall and seeing it lined with student art. They had recently done a project where they used words written in different fonts and sizes to create images. One that caught my eye was a silhouette of a girl all by herself, the student had used words like, “sad, alone, listen, and fear,” to create the image. However what was even more powerful than this picture was what was written on the piece of paper that hung next to it. On it the student had re wrote those words but in between each row of them she had written 2 Corinthians 4:7, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” As we left Bear Creek I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic as I recalled that place I found a little over three years ago.

Fairly soon after our visit to Bear Creek, Coach, West Beach, and I had the privilege of visiting Seattle Christian for their high school chapel service. As soon as I learned about our upcoming trip I couldn’t help but feel extremely excited. This visit was unlike the previous one as this time coach was to be the speaker at their weekly chapel service. Coach spoke to the students about how God’s love NEVER fails and I couldn’t help but feel emotional as I looked around the full multipurpose room as students listened intently, laughing at the right time and nodding their heads at different things. It was a familiar and beautiful sight to see. My heart felt full as a thought occurred to me, these students had found a place.

Towards the end of Coach’s talk Gerald asked the students to write down on a note card something that they needed prayer for so that we as a team back at SAMBICA could lift them up in prayer. After the students were done him and I went around and collected the folded notes. Later that week we shared the notes with the rest of our team, we read the prayer requests out loud and then one by one we prayed for those students and students everywhere. Afterwards I realized something else, these kids were going through a lot just like I had been during that stage in my life, and God with a love stronger than we can comprehend had blessed them in a similar way by providing for them an avenue to be poured into. During that chapel service I realized I had somehow come full circle. God has blessed me once again by giving me this opportunity and others like it to bless others as I have been blessed.

Written by Mackenzie “Bingo” Davis

Interns: A Shining Light at SAMBICA

Posted by Christine Szekeres in Elementary Events on January 23, 2015

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“SAMBICA Interns exist to make God known by being a Christ-like example to HIS people, loving God, and growing in faith so that God gets the GLORY.”

This is the purpose statement of the 2014-15 SAMBICA Intern Team. After a refreshing Christmas break home with their families, our seven interns are back at it and ready for a great 2015. Our interns, Chelsea, Mackenzie, Carrie, Gerald, Nate, Ryan, and Adam, are busy being a light on the lake through their work all around camp.

They started off their year by immediately jumping in to serve one of our largest guest groups, Seattle Autoharpers Week. It was very apparent by working alongside our interns that we have a very contentious group. They have servants’ hearts!

Chelsea has stepped up and is leading the team as they run Camp SAM, our Wednesday after school camp that is serving 25-30 kids every week and showing them the LOVE of Jesus. They are working through 1 Corinthians 13 and focusing on what the Bible says love is. They have games, crafts, and snacks each week along with a themed activity to finish off the day. My son and daughter have been blessed to participate in this program so I know it has been a blessing to other students as well. Eli’s favorite weekly theme has been Football and Abby’s was the Christmas Carnival. Tons of fun!

A few highlights of the internship have been camping on Whidbey Island, a day trip to Bainbridge Island, and the chance to host a boating day with a group of homeless youth from Seattle. We have also produced separate night out events for elementary, middle school, and high school students. It is awesome to see some of the connections with campers from the summer continue throughout the year.

God is good, all the time, and that is evident every day in the work and growth of the SAMBICA Intern team so far this year.

Written by Ryan “Gilby” Gilbert.


My Week of Falling Short: Adventures of a "Once 6th Grade Girl" and Other Grace-Filled Lessons

Posted by Christine Szekeres in Summer Camp on August 15, 2014

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Last week, I had the neat privilege to serve as an overnight counselor for sixth grade girls. This role is very different from my usual role as the summer office assistant. I thought I had all the preparation I needed to be a counselor: former ELITE Mentor, Senior High girls youth sponsor, a once-upon-a-time sixth grade girl. I sat through counselor training at the beginning of the summer. I knew everything I needed to know, right? WRONG!

Before you get the wrong idea, the girls I counseled last week were great. I enjoyed watching them as they sang and danced in Rally time, made new friends, and as they had silly and serious discussions with me and with each other. They weren’t worried about makeup or their hair. They didn’t talk about boys. They didn’t really care about how they dressed or the fact that they wore the same clothes multiple times during the week. They were just girls, having fun with new and old friends while learning about Jesus in a fun, new way.

So what was the issue with last week? Well, the issue was me. I wasn’t prepared like I thought I was. I took the experience I had with other campers and with youth group and tried to apply it to my work with these girls. But these girls were different. They weren’t just younger but they were also very unique. They each came with different stories and they all had very different personalities. They had different emotional triggers and ways of handling their feelings. But one things they all had in common. They needed love. They needed someone to teach them simple life lessons in a loving way. They needed someone to be patient with them when they were late to every activity. They needed someone who would listen to every tearful complaint about their feelings being hurt and someone who would offer biblical wisdom to their situation. What they needed was a counselor who could display all these qualities at all times, and I was not that counselor. I missed the mark many times with my girls and I did not always handle every situation like I should have. I didn’t take the time to prepare thoroughly for my time with these girls.

Although I fell short time and time again, I was abundantly blessed to have a wonderful team come alongside me and my girls to give each of us just what we needed at the right times. One time specifically, my girls jumped off the banana boat when they were told not to. They had to sit and talk to Mr. Cress, our waterfront director. Before he came and since I was not on the boat, I tried to listen to each story and figure out what had happened. Two of my girls were in tears and the rest were pointing fingers at each other. When Mr. Cress arrived, he spoke with the girls about what they did and told them why it was wrong. He then went on to tell them that they would not be able to ride the boats any more that day, but when they arrived the next day he would forget it ever happened. They were forgiven. He then proceeded to tell them that in situations like this, he can forgive them because Jesus died for them all and forgave all sins. Even when we mess up, Jesus can forgive us because he loves us. What a beautiful moment it was to see Mr. Cress share the love of Jesus with my girls.

Overall, my week as a counselor was greatly enjoyed. There were many joyful times. We laughed and played together. We tried new things and conquered fears. We each learned something new about ourselves and about each other. There were times of frustration and sadness, but it was in those times that God showed himself in the form of other staff members and counselors.

Even when I thought I was prepared for it all, I fell short many times throughout the week and it was a hard but humbling lesson. No matter what we do, we will fall short. We are human and it’s in our nature. It’s in those moments we can trust that God is still working. Counseling is not a job for the proud. It is for those who are humbled enough to depend on God for their patience and their strength.

An amazing week in which Infiniti and her girls win the "oar of awesomeness" and the "dustpan of EPICness".

An amazing week in which Infiniti and her girls win the “oar of awesomeness” and the “dustpan of EPICness”.

Written by Kristen “Infiniti” Gainey

Blooming … The Power of Camp

Posted by Christine Szekeres in Summer Camp on March 27, 2014

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There is a lot of talk these days about “the power of camp”. Leaders in the camping industry are writing magazine articles and blog posts, doing interviews, and sharing the staggering statistics about kids and physical recreation (or the lack thereof).

The average American youth spends…

  • 82 minutes on the phone each day
  • 27 minutes on the computer each day
  • 80 minutes playing games each day
  • and only 4 minutes playing outdoors each day

A week spent at camp…

  • is a chance to be known and loved
  • provides interactions with caring adult role models
  • is 10,080 minutes (a week’s worth) away from the normal pressures of life
  • gives opportunities to decompress, unplug, and dream

Headed into my 5th summer, I can say without a doubt, that kids change during their week at camp. Countless times I’ve watched the nervous, shy camper cling to Mom or Dad at check-in only to have that same camper, all smiles and confidence, begging for another week at parent’s program 5 days later.

At SAMBICA we watch the kids bloom … like so many colorful flowers. Under the sun (and sometimes the rain) campers try new things, make lifelong friends, and gain understanding about the love of Jesus.

There are some interesting things about SAMBICA…

  • we are turning 95 in a few months
  • we are located in the heart of a big city
  • we are 15 minutes from downtown Seattle
  • our campers play on King Dome astro turf
  • though tiny (9 acres) there are tons of amenities

However, the most interesting thing about SAMBICA is our summer team, the wonderful college students who come from across the country and around the globe to serve all across camp doing jobs including counselor, lifeguard, boat driver, mentor, program, kitchen assistant, and so much more. These 100 or so team members are the life blood of SAMBICA in the summer. They energize, encourage, and engage the kids each and every day, watching them bloom and grow.

There is a saying, a mantra of sorts, that the whole team rallies around for the entire 10-week summer: “Day one, week one!” and you will hear members of the team encouraging one another with this mantra all summer long. Every week is day one, week one at SAMBICA. I am humbled to watch our summer team pour out love and energy to the campers who call SAMBICA home each summer.

Registration is open and there are still some great camps available. We hope to see your campers blooming at SAMBICA this summer!

If you are looking for more information about The Power of Camp, the statistics shared here, or to find a camp for the summer, please visit: The Power of Camp website.

Refreshed at Program Advance

Posted by Christine Szekeres in Summer Camp on November 13, 2013

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The promise, the hope, the dream–to walk underneath a waterfall–seemed to be fading as quickly as the light was fading from the sky. Each step felt heavier than the last, as puddles oozed into my sneakers and as sprinkles of rain clung to my already soggy clothes. I felt sure that a blister was about to erupt on my foot to further frustrate my efforts. Trying to protect my neck from the draft while keeping my ankles from twisting on the uneven rocks, I kept on into the gloomy 6-mile trail. Whatever did I get myself into? We left so late in the day during our free time to go on the hike…was I being unrealistic in hoping to reachthe waterfall and be back before dark? Though I didn’t want to give up on this hike, each step became just a dull, heavy, monotonous step, filled with doubt and questions. In fact, it echoed quite accurately what my life was beginning to feel like just before the conference.
Stepping away from camp for a few days to go to Program Advance with SAMBICA’s program director and several other interns helped to refocus, regroup, and refresh. Normal routines ceased as program leaders from many camps in Washington and Oregon gathered together with united hearts and minds, to bring together fresh ideas, different perspectives, and heartwarming stories, to encourage and learn from each other. It was not about secrets and competition–our “only competitors are the dominions of evil.” Neither was it about bragging and arguing about who’s the greatest. Rather, it was about coming to the table to share in the blessings from God, specifically in programming for summer camp.

When I think of programming in camping, I think of designing, scheduling, and planning games. And games are what kids do a lot of. Some say that programming is “unspiritual” and a “waste of time.” So why encourage games and take the time plan them out? I learned from a patient at a previous job that video game designers are required to take a creative writing class and must learn the process of creating a storyboard. The video games that sell are those that tell stories; I think that’s because it is the core to which all human beings can relate. We take time to carefully plan and prepare each summer because, 1) God tells us to work hard at everything we do, as if we are serving Him, not people (1 Cor 10:31, Col 3:17) and 2) “spiritual formation is encouraged through community building and mentoring.” Both contribute to further our mission to “be a light on the lake” and “inspire youth to a relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Every child wants to be a part of a story–something outside of themselves and their environment. They want to be a part of a great adventure, where they have the chance to be a hero, where they can be pursued, where they can play an important role. Wait, was I talking about kids? Sorry, but include me in on that one! Our hearts within never grow too old to the desire of being on an adventure. After all, our lives are inside of a great story being told, so stories are something both the young and the old can relate to; God created us against the backdrop of a grander story that He graciously lets us be characters in. I learned that this is how we can build every game and activity, through the channel of a story, and let God’s Spirit work through this deliberate programming.

I must admit, you gain a new perspective hiking in the dark (on the way back from the majestic waterfall) with just a weak cell phone flashlight to guide you one single step at a time. When you turn it off, there is pitch black darkness, concealing the deadly fact that a cliff is just inches away from your feet. True, in the darkness you have a greater appreciation for the stars, shining brighter than ever, as they dance through the sky. So, even when God brings before us clarity for only a single step, we will take it, and when we can’t see, we will pause, look up to the stars, and drink in their wonder as our hearts dance to their beat. I would like to ask that you partner in prayer, that God may breathe life and adventure into all of our programs, through the inspiration of the creative Spirit, as we apply ourselves diligently to the task set before us, all for His glory.

Written by Lily Semenyuk

As summer ends…

Posted by Christine Szekeres in Summer Camp on September 3, 2013

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It’s a bittersweet, but true fact: everything that has a beginning also has an ending. Thirteen odd weeks ago the 2013 leadership team arrived at camp. For the next three weeks, as more and more staff arrived and the first “day one, week one” drew steadily closer, I marveled at the beginning of yet another summer. Then, almost as soon as it started, it was drawing to a close. Staff heading out for school or work and camp getting turned over for the next season at SAMBICA.

Ten weeks of camp, a record-breaking 2,600 campers, and one of the best summers (weather-wise) in recent years made SAMBICA’s 94th summer a true blessing! It’s always bittersweet, coming into work on the Monday (or in the case of 2013, Tuesday) after camp has ended. It’s quiet. Partially because the full time team are rotating though some much-needed time off so there are fewer of us here but mostly it’s the laughter and the joy of the campers and the summer staff. It always makes me a little sad. Working at SAMBICA year-round is truly a blessing but camp is never better than when it’s filled with the laughter of campers and staff.

There were so many blessings this summer: staff baptisms, camper firsts, new friends, old friends, and the joy of sharing the love of Jesus Christ. As the sun streams through my window, I am reminded of God’s enduring love for us and of His blessings. I’m also reminded of all the amazing, God-inspired events, and particularly the story of Cole.

Cole & Hub Cap

Cole has been coming to SAMBICA for a few years now. He has a condition that prevents him from engaging in verbal conversation. Because of this, Cole can’t really participate in the activities that other campers enjoy. Due to his needs, we encourage Cole’s family to send him to camp early in the summer when we have extra staff and are able to place someone with him one-on-one. This summer Cole was paired with Hub Cap and it was a week of transformation for both camper and counselor. Cole doesn’t usually make eye contact or gestures to others or allow much physical contact. One day when the bus came to pick him up I watched as he got on the bus, took his seat, turned and made eye contact with Hub Cap. Cole placed his hand on the window for Hub Cap to “high five” and smiled wide when Hub Cap placed his hand on the window completing their high five. It was unprecedented.


All week Cole was fascinated with campers going down the zip line and riding the flying squirrel. Cole tried three times to make it up the ladder to the zip line, each attempt taking him higher. Though he didn’t make it all the way up, it was a HUGE step forward for Cole. Hub Cap worked on his ability to communicate with Cole and on earning his trust. By the end of the week Cole was able to participate in the flying squirrel and had a giant smile splayed across his face the entire time!

There are many amazing stories from this summer. Stories of fears overcome, friends made, first time experiences, swim tests passed, wake boards ridden, songs sung, and lives touched by the love of Jesus. Do you have an amazing story of your campers experience at SAMBICA this summer? I would love to hear about it. Drop me a note at stories.

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