Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Phooey Kerflooey, Perfect Peace, and the Chaos of Camp Ministry by Kristen Joy Wilks

When my three sons were young, they asked me to write about our Newfoundland dog, Princess Leia Freyja. Now, I knew that a story for kids had to have adventure and chaos and fun. So, the method of producing chaos that I chose was a rampaging squirrel.

Our family lives and works at an off-grid Bible camp and we have had a number of rampaging squirrels over the years. We’ve had squirrels that broke into the house, the camp buildings, the pantry. We’ve had squirrels eat food, tear things up, and drag stuff all over the place. We’ve even had a squirrel that started a fire!

What started out as just fun and games became much more serious and close to home as my story grew. You see, any character must face a dark moment and grow into a new person because of it.

I didn’t just pull my theme of finding God’s peace in the middle of squirrel and puppy chaos out of a hat. My husband and I have worked in full-time camp ministry for almost twenty-five years. Camp life is a life of chaos and not just the good kind, either.

Yes, you have the delightful fun of watching the campers think up and perform crazy skits. But you also have the clean-up when they inexplicably decide to dump pudding on someone’s head or dealing with the necessary 911 call when they include a light-hearted joke and rub hot sauce on the camp director’s (my husband Scruffy’s) back and the sauce turns out to be a lot more potent than anyone imagined.

Yes, you have the charming chaos of water fights, night games, and sand castle competitions. But you also have the responsibility of protecting campers from injury, sunburn, and exhaustion after a week full of activities.

Yes, you have the joy of telling children of God’s love for the very first time. Amazing moments like when the great great grandchildren of the camp founders’ pastor ask to be baptized in the horse trough in the camp meadow. But you also have the grief of seeing people decide that they don’t need God, growing older and walking away from their faith, their friendships, and their relationship with you.

Yes, you have the victory of watching children who were campers grow to be camp counselors, camp interns, leaders in their own churches, and even the parents of campers. But there are those you can’t save. We have loved with all the strength we had within us and then found out that the one we loved so deeply still chose to take their own life in the end.

Joy and pain and chaos and grace, all smashed together into this thing we call camp ministry.

It is no wonder that I ended up writing about a boy who wants God’s perfect peace but all he seems to get is a whole lot of chaos. This is a journey I have lived and it is one that you will live too, dear reader. So, don’t wait for the world to stop spinning to reach out. God is love. Even when everything around you is not. He gives the kind of peace that can handle a little bit of chaos . . . or even a whole lot.

Isaiah 26:3

You will keep in perfect peace

all who trust in you,

all whose thoughts are fixed on you! NLT

 Kristen Joy Wilks

Author of Phooey Kerflooey


A puppy will fix everything.

A boring new house?
Boring house + puppy = adventure!

An attacking squirrel?
Evil squirrel + puppy = a squirrel-battle extraordinaire!

A daredevil brother who zooms into constant peril?
Rowdy sibling + puppy = calm days snuggling their furry friend!

What could possibly go wrong?


Kristen Joy Wilks writes from a remote mountain meadow that alternates between quiet and chaos. The mom of three sons, an orange cat, and a giant Newfoundland dog, she lives with her camp director husband at Camas Meadows Bible Camp where she is photographer and camp storyteller. Kristen once climbed a tree and snuck into a church through the balcony to return a library book (and check out another) and has been pursuing stories ever since.  Her writing highlights the humor and grace God gives amidst the detritus of life. She can be found tucked under a tattered quilt at 4:00 a.m. writing a wide variety of implausible tales or at Try one of her stories for free with her newsletter!


  1. Thanks for being here today, Kristen. I always love reading about your camp and your family.

    1. Oh, Liz. It is an honor to be here! Camp ministry is certainly crazy but God does so much . . . it is also breathtakingly beautiful!

  2. I love to hear the stories behind the story.

    1. I'm so glad! On completing this book, I was shocked at how much of myself and our hectic life creeped into the tale!

  3. This story sounds like so much fun! I enjoyed the sneak peek into what it's like to work and live at a camp, too. The photos are pretty and it looks like a special place. :)