serenity scene of church on lake

Observations From COP

Devotions written by Kristi Youngdahl, Director of Cathedral of the Pines Camp

Week 11 - August 18, 2022

Hi-League Retreat was a blast! It is a fun weekend for all of our high school counselors and work staff to just be campers. They work hard throughout the summer, so the camp staff goes the extra mile to put on a great weekend for the kids to celebrate their hard work and dedication to COP at the end of the summer. The campers are split into four teams for the week and every event is for points. One highlight was at the homerun derby, we had to go into sudden death. The competition was fierce between Derek Hansen and Brady Busch, but Brady came away with the win. There are cribbage tournaments, gaga ball, spike ball, water volleyball, sand castle competitions, lodge games, and always the most intense game of the day… softball. We even threw Pastor Lose in the lake one day during lunch!

One thing I love about camp is that we can be loud and obnoxious and have a blast, and then on a dime shut it down and enjoy 30 minutes of silence, a morning chapel service, a heartfelt devotion or an evening in chapel. We get it all here at COP!

I am feeling so incredibly grateful for Mount Olivet Church and the commitment it continues to share with the youth in our congregation! I wish that any person who was skeptical or worried about the youth in our society today could spend one day at Cathedral of the Pines! The campers who enter these gates are fun, engaging, extremely creative, kind, and faithful. They are deep thinkers, smart; they enjoy thoughtful, engaging conversations. They understand the importance of faith in their lives and want to learn more. They realize that they are on a faith journey and wherever they happen to be right now is right where they belong! The campers, work staff and counselors who entered the gates this summer were amazing!

The Cathedral of the Pines camp staff of 2022 were fantastic! They were incredible mentors and friends to the entire camp family. They were kind, and they really listened to the campers. The staff was fun, and entertaining. Each staff member understood the importance of camp, and how it can change lives. At the beginning of the summer our motto was: let’s help everyone who enters the gate “catch it”… catch the COP spirit, catch the presence of the Lord, catch the positive energy you can get from being a Christian. I believe we achieved great things together this summer.

-Kristi Youngdahl, Director of Cathedral of the Pines Camp

Week 10 - August 11, 2022

We had another great 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade session. Those little buggers are so dang cute. When the campers get off the bus, they go directly into chapel. We greet the kids, go over a few rules, talk about the schedule for the afternoon and then I answer any questions they might have. I always tell the campers how much I LOVE Lake Caribou and I encourage them to go swimming. One little girl blurted out, “Are there any Caribou coffee shops on Lake Caribou?” We don’t have any coffee shops on the lake… but it sure is fun listening to the campers screaming and laughing and swimming in beautiful Lake Caribou.

One night in chapel, the sermon was about prayer. The campers were taught the “hand prayer”. Whenever they are not sure what to pray about, they can look at their hand as a guide to be reminded. Their thumb is closest to their body, so the thumb reminds us to pray for those who are closest to us: parents, siblings, and close friends. The pointer finger is a reminder to pray for people who point you in the right direction including teachers, coaches, and pastors. The middle finger is the tallest finger so we should pray for people who are in authority: government officials, police, and our military. The fourth finger is the weakest finger so we can pray for people who are weak, sick, live in poverty, or who are treated badly. The pinkie is the smallest finger, furthest from our heart and since we have prayed for others, God wants to hear your needs too. Especially since you have prayed for others first.

I received the most beautiful e-mail from the mother of a couple campers and wanted to share it with all of you.

“I just wanted to thank you for giving my boys a deeper connection to each other through COP.  My boys went consecutive weeks, with my 5th grader going for the first time as a camper, and my 8th grader returning home last night.  So they were apart for 10 days. For a couple of hours last night, the two were engaged in non-stop conversation like I have never seen before. “Did you….”  “What was your favorite….”  “I can’t believe you didn’t get the sketti and meatballs!”  “What did you buy at canteen?”  “Tell me about….”

My 5th grader had seven friends come along, and 100% of them want to come back next year and they all wished it was longer.  It was the first camp experience for all of them, and it couldn’t have gone any better.

Thank you for all you do for the church, and for giving these kids the opportunity to unplug, serve others, strengthen and form friendships, and grow in their relationship with God and the church.

Enjoy the rest of your summer in the magical place you call home.”

-Kristi Youngdahl, Director of Cathedral of the Pines Camp

Week 9 - August 4, 2022

This summer is absolutely flying by! Who can believe it is August? What? Where has the time gone? Luckily, we still have some great sessions ahead of us! One more week of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders and they always bring the fun! Hi-League Retreat is a highlight for our high school kids. Plus we have a full Family Camp and then a weekend with the Thursday Friends group.

This week at camp, we have half of the 8th grade confirmation class. I am thrilled that we have about 20 campers who have never been to COP. Years ago my dad, Pastor Youngdahl, made the decision that all 8th graders would be required to come to camp the summer before they are confirmed. I was the youth director at the time and I DID NOT agree with this decision. I thought it would ruin the feel of camp to have campers who may not want to be at camp… boy was I wrong! I honestly believe that it is BECAUSE of that decision our high school programs are more successful than ever! These confirmands meet friends from all over the metro area and become great friends. They want to keep the relationships going, so they join Cathedral Choir, come to Hi-League, or become involved in one of our service projects during the school year. They want to see their “church friends” each week. Then they can’t wait to workstaff and counsel at COP during their high school years together. I can honestly say, I can think of only a couple of kids over the years that left confirmation week, without catching the “magic” of this place.

We are blessed as a congregation to have this beautiful piece of property in the north woods, where campers can come to make new friends and to strengthen old friendships, to learn more about themselves, and most importantly to strengthen their relationship with God. Thank you for your continued support and prayers.

-Kristi Youngdahl, Director of Cathedral of the Pines Camp

Week 8 - July 28, 2022

There is nothing better than a camp full of 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders! Their energy level is off the charts. I think I experienced my all-time favorite meal last night. It began with the Disney song “How Far I’ll Go” blaring from the speakers and 120 campers, work staff, counselors, camp staff, and I even saw the cooks in the kitchen, singing at the top of their lungs. We had ham for dinner so I had the camp staff go to the camper tables to cut their meat so they would be sure to eat their dinner. One boy stopped me and said, “I love this camp… do you think I could live here forever?” I am sure his parents would be bummed out if he didn’t come home, but I am very happy that he is having so much fun! Of course, we had the favorite camp dessert… brownie delight. A camper told me it was the “signature dessert” of COP. The meal was noisy, full of enthusiasm, many elbows on the table and just plain joyful!

There are a couple cabins of boys who are “extra” energetic. Geoff Arenson, Camp Staff Mentor/Mount Olivet Youth Director, came up with a great idea to help the counselors with devotions last night. They met at the ballfield, and before they started the devotions, Geoff had them run the bases four times before they started. It was a great way to get rid of some of the excess energy and help the campers slow down so they could concentrate on the devotions the counselors had prepared.

Yesterday our “Mr. Outside”, Jake Anderson, saw a camper admiring all of the nature around camp, enjoying every detail, so Jake brought him over to a rock pile and pointed out a garter snake. The camper was thrilled, I am sure this was the highlight of his week. He and Jake named the snake “Snape” (a character out of Harry Potter). J

As I return from chapel and wash up, enjoying the last night of these sweet 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders, I think about all the little moments and memories that made up this specific session. This week I had a first time camper say to me, “This camp just isn’t long enough, I don’t want to go home yet.” Words a camp director LOVES to hear! But my favorite quote of the week was during open prayer at chapel, a camper said, “Dear God, thank you for getting me out of the house and sending me to this church camp. Amen.”

-Kristi Youngdahl, Director of Cathedral of the Pines Camp

Week 7 - July 21, 2022

We just finished our first annual “Cathedral of the Pines for All” weekend. This weekend was created as an opportunity for anyone, of any age, whether it is your first time at camp or you just want to return to get the Cathedral of the Pines experience. Our first annual weekend was an even split between first time campers and those who came back to re-live their glory days at COP. We may have been small in numbers this year, but we had a BLAST! Everyone who came committed to coming back next summer and to finding others to join us. The age range was incredible… from age 4 to 94 and all ages in between. We had young families, single people, grandparent/grandchildren combos, and people who were campers fifty years ago and got to experience the magic of COP all over again. It was a truly spectacular weekend.

The weather was perfect. Time was spent down at the beach making sand castles and covering each other in mud baths. Boat rides on beautiful Lake Caribou, taking in the scenes of the north woods. There was a fun kickball game where kids played along the camp staff and the adults cheered them on. We had a campfire with lots of singing and laughter. Great conversations were had between the camp staff and each participant, no matter their age. Pastor Lose led us in a lively bible study and beginning and ending our day in the chapel rounded off a perfect day.

This “Cathedral of the Pines for All” weekend is a great addition to the camp schedule. I hope many of you will consider putting it in your plans for the summer of 2023. Cathedral of the Pines is a magical place for anyone who enters the camp gates. I hope that someday you will consider joining us at COP… it is definitely the place to be!

-Kristi Youngdahl, Director of Cathedral of the Pines Camp

Week 6 - July 14, 2022

This summer, the theme of Bible class is centered around our five senses and how we use them to be in relationship with God. This past week at Bible class, during small group, each of the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade campers were given a small wooden cross and asked to pray for five minutes as they used their sense of touch and sight. Following the five minutes of prayer, the campers were asked to share their experience with the group. One camper shared the following:

“I used this cross as a vessel to get closer to God and to talk to him. I first used the sense of sight. I looked in every nook and cranny of the cross and thought to myself – where would God want me to look right now as I pray to Him? Then I came to the realization that God doesn’t care where I look. I could look at any part of this cross or anywhere else and pray to Him – He is always where I am looking. I then used my sense of touch to pray. I started to think about what Jesus was touching and feeling while he was dying for our sins on the cross. I am so thankful that Jesus did this for me, and I can’t even imagine what he was feeling. I hope all of you in this room take your cross home to the cities as a constant reminder that we can use our senses to get closer to God anytime and anywhere.”

Cathedral of the Pines is a special place. It is a place where campers of all ages discover their faith in different ways and ask questions. It is a place where we welcome everyone, practice grace, encourage faith, and I, along with the staff, are so grateful to be a part of the campers’ faith formation!

-Kristi Youngdahl, Director of Cathedral of the Pines Camp

Week 5 - July 7, 2022

I hope everyone had a fabulous 4th of July – I sure did! Every summer is different and this year over the holiday weekend we did not have any campers. That meant our camp staff was able to have some time at home with family and friends. I know the staff enjoys their time away but are also ready for the long drive up to the North Shore, back to COP, and back to work!

This Tuesday, the staff was up early and getting everything ready for a new set of campers. I was just up in the cabin area and everyone was busy with chores. There were mop buckets, rags, brooms, and dustpans everywhere I looked. The camp staff was busy cleaning the flushie building, showers, staff showers, and camper cabins. I could hear laughing and singing while they were doing their chores. (I feel like it is always more fun to clean when it isn’t your own house, right?) The staff takes pride in having a clean camp for when our second week of sixth, seventh, and eighth graders arrive. New campers means a chance for new friendships, new prayers at chapel, and new memories for campers, staff, and volunteers alike!

I have to say that I am VERY happy with the camp staff of 2022! They make quite a team. It starts from the top. Our camp staff mentor, Geoff Arenson, is the “master” at knowing kids’ names and making each camper, work staff, and counselor feel known and loved! Our camp coordinator, Kris Ericksen, is a “rock star” in the Koja (the camp office) answering phones, keeping parents informed, tracking down health forms, and always willing to help the staff with any problem they may encounter. Heidi Youngdahl, our Health Professional, does it all! She keeps the health center in tip-top shape, has a complete handle on the up-to-date COVID protocols, cleans with the best of them, and always has time for a softball game. Our head cook, Mady Lipkin, is the perfect person for the job! She is well-organized, a talented chef, and always gentle, calm, and kind in the kitchen.

Please continue to keep us in your prayers. Cathedral of the Pines is an important ministry in our Mount Olivet Congregation. We take the job very seriously but are not afraid to have fun doing it!

-Kristi Youngdahl, Director of Cathedral of the Pines Camp

Week 4 - June 30, 2022

Summer Starter was a BLAST! I think my favorite moment of every year is watching the high school kids enter the chapel for the first time for the summer. There is pure joy in their faces, happy chatter, and the room is filled with excitement of what is yet to come. After going over the basic rules, getting the schedule nailed down for the afternoon (like there is anything different from the last 73 years), and getting their cabin assignments, they head to lunch in Caribou Park. The camp staff refers to the change of camp day lunches as “bye-bye pizzas” and “hello hotdogs”, because the outgoing campers get pizza and the incoming campers get hotdogs. I always wait for the second picnic because I LOVE a good hotdog!

I think a highlight of the week was class in the morning. This summer we are talking about the five senses. How each sense can show us a different way to connect to God, our world, and the people around us. In class the campers met in the chapel for a quick introduction and then they went out into the camp for 30 minutes of silence. Paying attention to what they were hearing, seeing, tasting, smelling, and were able to touch. I love that we have built into our curriculum quiet time. Camp is filled with singing, laughter, and noise, but there is always time for quiet. Time for reflection and prayer. I know that I am at my best when my life has balance and I know that I learned that lesson here at Cathedral of the Pines.

-Kristi Youngdahl, Director of Cathedral of the Pines Camp

Week 3 - June 23, 2022

Family Work Week has always held a special place in my heart! I love the traditions that are built into the week. Kids playing with the camp staff as the parents work together to get the camp ready for the season. Time spent in the lodge eating three meals a day together as a family. The staff singing songs for a crowd after practicing over and over during staff training. Softball games with moms and dads, as well as children and college kids… some playing and others cheering on their families from the bench. (Everyone trying to ignore the gnats… easier said than done!) Swimming in cold Lake Caribou, most needing to sauna before jumping into the lake so early in the season. Even a talent show put on by the youngest campers with help from the camp staff, I love watching their happy faces, as they get up on the stage, eager to share the talent they had been practicing all day long.

Evening chapel is a highlight during Family Work Week. Parents proudly watch their kids participate in the service reading scripture, saying a prayer, or singing from the hymnal. For the last forty years, I have looked forward to the Murray brothers singing special music and now they sing with their sons in perfect harmony! This year they sang a song their mother Carol Murray wrote, “Give It Away”.  But my favorite tradition of the week is going down to Lake Superior and having chapel looking out over the lake. Some years the lake is perfectly calm and still. This year the waves put on a show for us! They were crashing upon the rock with beautiful sprays that were sparkling in the sunshine. In my opinion, there is nothing better than the North Shore!

-Kristi Youngdahl, Director of Cathedral of the Pines Camp

Week 2 - June 16, 2022

Every summer, we have five days of camp staff training. When the camp staff arrives for work, the senior staff immediately splits them up into small groups, making sure they mix up friend groups. Those small groups are then asked to come up with some funny skits! It is a great way to get people out of their comfort zone and jump in “head first”. The skits this year were funny, and the creativity got better as the staff became more comfortable with each other!

The first days of training always start with “get to know you” games, devotions, job training, and brainstorming lots of ways to greet and engage the campers when they arrive at camp. A long-standing tradition during staff training is to randomly draw numbers before each meal to see who sits at which table. That way, the camp staff can sit with different people at each meal and be in conversation with each other.

The best part of the training is when the Mount Olivet Pastors arrive. They come for 24 hours to train alongside the camp staff. Every session during the summer, one of our fantastic Pastors is at camp teaching Bible study, preaching, offering spiritual guidance, and participating in all of the camper activities. (Plus, they are just fun to be around!) Having Pastors at staff training allows the camp staff time to get to know the Pastors on a more personal level. Also at training, we were able to share our spiritual autobiographies, brainstorm what is important in faith formation for campers, participate in a bible study, play softball, build relationships, and prepare for the campers to arrive!

The gnats are still out in full force this year! The good news is they do not stay all summer… hopefully they are on their way out! However, that just means the mosquitos are on their way in… the beauty of Minnesota summers! Bugs! It has been a rainy, rainy, damp, cold day… I am on my way to take a nice hot sauna and jump in beautiful Lake Caribou. Then on to be with the families participating in Family Work Week, the summer has officially begun!

-Kristi Youngdahl, Director of Cathedral of the Pines Camp

Week 1 - June 9, 2022

Hello summer of 2022! Cathedral of the Pines was hoppin’ last weekend! We had our Hi-er League Retreat with 86 college age students. I felt as if I had died and gone to heaven. To have these young adults enjoying this beautiful space in the same way they did as campers, work staff and counselors… it filled my heart with joy! I am thrilled I have the privilege of watching them grow and mature into such awesome human beings. I wish they could have stayed all summer.

We had nice weather… but the black flies were out in force! (The locals call them black flies but you might know them as gnats.) They were thick! Flying all over our heads, in our eyes, nose, stuck in our hair but we powered through and didn’t let them bring us down. Softball was intense and competitive. EVERYONE was trying for a home run with bragging rights.

There were saunas and jumping in Lake Caribou, a campfire at Dragon Fly Place, a dance in the Education Building, hoops on the Upper Court, canteen, coloring in the Holiday Lodge, and a hike to Solitude. We really packed a lot into a couple days!

Of course, the highlight was beginning and ending our days in the chapel. Being in that sacred space is so special! Sitting in the pews with church friends, the people who know you the best, is a gift! During class we did a meditation and took 30 minutes of silence to slow ourselves down and to listen to what God had to say. Then had the opportunity to share that experience with each other. If last weekend is any indication as to how the summer is going to go… 2022 is going to nothing short of awesome!

-Kristi Youngdahl, Director of Cathedral of the Pines Camp