Best in the Northwest

posted in BLOG | Friday, April 10th, 2015

Yesterday, Erin and I spent the morning running around camp filming for a contest that Cascades has been nominated for. Each year Evening Magazine and holds a ‘Best of the Northwest’ competition and Cascades was nominated for the Best Kid’s Camp in the Northwest for 2015. We decided that making a short video about camp and why we think people should vote for us would be a lot of fun. The entire time we were filming I couldn’t stop my mind from wandering and swimming in and out of memories of the last summer and daydreaming about what the future holds for this place.

I cannot help but think about the countless campers and families that have spent their summers here at Cascades. I think about how their lives have been changed by the experience they’ve had here. It’s hard not to daydream about the lives that will change in the future because of what God is doing. From my point of view, it is clear that God is at work here.

I personally think that Cascades is the best kid’s camp in the northwest, and not just because we have things like a zipline or horses. Those things have an impact, but for me Cascades is the best kid’s camp in the northwest because of how intentional this place is about showing the love of God to any and everyone that comes through its gates. Cascades has a rich history of providing a safe, fun, loving environment to countless people in the hopes that they experience God. The presence of God and the movement of the Holy Spirit is undeniable in this place. This is what makes Cascades the best.

If you would like, please vote for Cascades Camp and Conference Center as ‘The Best Kid’s Camp in the Northwest’ by clicking this link and following the instructions provided.

- Tom “Hoopla” Eaker


Aslan is on the move

posted in BLOG | Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

This is my first spring spent in Washington, and I feel as though I am finally experiencing the Washington that I was always told about. When I first decided that I was going to come to Cascades to work for the summer all anyone told me was that its beautiful, and to get ready for the rain. So, when I first got here I braced myself for it, and attempted to prepare myself the best I could. At first Washington did not seem to be what everyone told me about, but that as definitely changed now. It’s not that it always rains here, but it’s more of the fact that everything is always wet. These wet and overcast days have made me so much more appreciative of the sunny moments. It has given me the same sensation I would get when the snow would start to melt back home on the east coast.

This sensation reminds me to be thankful and voice those thanks to God. It’s not just the sunny days, or the melting snow that I am thankful for, but it’s everything else that I am reminded of. So often I become all to wrapped up into my own life and so focused on things, that I will forget all the good around me. The sensation of feeling the warm sun on my face after a long rain, or seeing tufts of grass poke there heads out of the snow remind me that I have so much to be thankful for. I have been so blessed and I all to easily can forget that.

Spring reminds me that change is coming. It reminds me of the love of God that has been so graciously extended to us. It reminds me that we are located in the now and not yet; that kingdom has come and is coming. It reminds me to voice my thanks to the one true living God.

In the words of C.S. Lewis, “Aslan is on the move.”

- Tom “Hoopla” Eaker


I am not called to be comfortable

posted in BLOG | Thursday, February 19th, 2015

One of my favorite things about working at Cascades Camp so far has been recruiting for summer staff. When I was told that I would be going to different colleges to talk about camp and being on summer staff, I got both very excited and nervous. An anxiety welled up in me that moved my stomach into my chest, and sent my head into an excited spin. This feeling, even though I have been to many different schools now, has not left me. Every time I get ready to go recruit this strange anxiety comes over me. I get both excited and nervous to talk to people about a potentially life changing experience at a place that I have fallen in love with.

Recruiting can be a very jarring and disorienting thing. From my experience, you may be sent to a school or place that you’ve never been to before, let alone heard of. You talk to a bunch of strangers, having the same type of conversation multiple times, and the conversations and interactions that you have, have the potential to be incredibly awkward. On top of all that you tend to tread a fine line between sharing a cool job opportunity and annoying someone. If you haven’t noticed it yet, summer staff recruiting is an experience that pays little attention to your own personal comfort. Comfort goes on the back burner.

Staff recruiting has in many ways reminded me of my call as a Christian. I am reminded that I, and I think the larger “we” as in the church, are not called to be comfortable in our pursuit and relationship with Christ. We as Christians have been called to follow Christ wherever we are lead. This means that we are not going to always feel comfortable, or feel as though we are safe. We will be put in times of having to have faith that God is going to provide and protect us when comfort pulls on us and calls us back to a place where life makes sense. This seems to be a consistent battle that we have to wrestle with, to follow where God is leading us, or to fall back into comfort, where we only have need to rely on our own understanding.

We have been called to be bold in our faith, to go where God directs us, to follow Christ’s heart for humanity, to advocate against injustice, to love, and to love. This basic direction from God, in my opinion, screams of a lack of comfort. This has been a scary realization in the last few months but I cannot help but be reminded of two verses…

Jesus told his disciples in Luke 9:3 to leave behind things that would bring comfort to them in times of trial as he sent them out for the first time. His instructions forced the disciples to trust that they would be taken care by God in their times of need.

Matthew 6:25-34 lets us know that we will be taken care of when we have been beckoned forth to step out in faith and relationship with Christ, when comfort is not a priority. “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? (Matthew 6:26 NIV)”

As a Christian I am not called to be comfortable. I am just called.

- Tom “Hoopla” Eaker


God At The Climbing Wall

posted in BLOG | Saturday, January 10th, 2015

With MUD right around the corner I have found myself thinking a lot about our last big youth retreat, Thunder.

On the weekend of October 24th, over 400 middle school students came to Cascades for the annual middle school retreat called Thunder. I have never been to a middle school retreat, let alone helped to facilitate and run one, so this experience was a bit stretching for me. I have helped run retreats before, but nothing like this, and if I am going to be completely honest, it was a bit intimidating. It is something that I don’t think I will ever forget, not because of how it turned out, which was amazing by the way, and not because of the organized chaos, or the sheer mass of the event, but I will remember my first experience with Thunder, because of what I witnessed at the climbing wall. That Saturday, I was stationed at the climbing wall to belay the kids who wanted to rock climb, and it was here that I witnessed God fully at work.

Here at Cascades, we have two different sections of climbing wall, one that is 50-feet high and the other 25-feet. As you can imagine the 50-foot wall is a bit more difficult then the 25-foot wall.

Towards the middle of the climbing session there was a boy who wanted to climb the 50-foot wall. He tried so hard and for so long, but could not get up the wall. When he was unharnessed, he walked quickly away and I could tears falling down his cheeks. I assumed he was embarrassed, frustrated, and over all upset with what had happened, and my heart broke for him. I knew how he was feeling, because at his age, I was that kid. His youth leader ran after him, and after awhile both came back. The boy was still visibly upset, but he had decided that he wanted to try the 25-foot wall.

After being harnessed in he began to climb. The wall was wet, because it had been raining that day, and he began to struggle. You could visibly see his confidence leaving him as he tried with everything in him to climb the wall. It was at this moment that another boy, unprompted by anyone, got harnessed and started to climb the 50-foot section of the wall, which runs parallel to the 25-foot section. He climbed up next to the boy on the 25-foot wall and spoke directly to him, encouraging him, giving pointers, pointing out foot and finger holds. As one boy began the climb the other boy climbed and both stayed side-by-side, one showering the other with encouragement and love. Eventually both got to the top of the 25-foot section, every person watching cheered. When the boys came back down, I stood in awe of what I watched unfold in front of me. The boys hugged, thanking and congratulating one another and walked away, both of their arms and hands shaking because of the time spent on the climbing wall that day.

As I sit now, like I have from time to time these last few months, replaying this situation over and over again in my head it is clear, abundantly clear, that God was at work. I have never seen anything like this from middle school boys, let alone with many adults. It is so clear to me that what happened at the climbing wall that day was God tangibly showing, how God cares for each of us, and is begging for us to allow God to help. Sometimes we are so in our own heads that we can’t hear, or see God, and all we can do is focus on the next foot or finger hold. It is at these times that we need to remember Immanuel, God with us. God is begging for us to get out of our own heads and see that God is next to us, showering us with encouragement, love, and grace.

- Tom “Hoopla” Eaker


The Christ Child is Born

posted in BLOG | Saturday, December 20th, 2014

Every year the A Cappela Choir of my high school, back in New York, does a concert for Christmas called Vespers. Each year as the choir exits out of the building they sing “Silent Night”. When I was in the choir this was my favorite song to sing, and to this day is my favorite Christmas song. It wasn’t up until recent years that this song has taken a different meaning for me. When I was in high school this song meant nothing more then just a pretty Christmas carol. Today, this song means more then I can truly put into words. It’s hard for me to explain exactly what this song brings up in me, but I will try.

When I hear this song I am reminded of Luke 2:8-15. I find this passage absolutely perplexing, and not because of how hard it is to understand, or the issues within the text, but it is because of the events that take place in it that capture my attention. Luke 2: 8-15 explains that the first people to hear of the birth of the Savior of the world, and to see the baby Jesus, were shepherds. The first people welcomed into the physical presence of the Christ child, who would eventually give all to reconcile creation to its vast Creator, were people that no one wanted to be around.

Every time I think about this I cannot help but think about what was going on in these shepherds’ heads. I imagine their thoughts to be something like my own, “How am I worthy of all that is found here?” Or “Why have you chosen me to be a part of this?” Every time Christmas comes around I sit and ponder these thoughts. “How am I worthy of all that you are, my Lord Jesus Christ, and why have you chosen me to see you the way that I have?” I can only imagine that these thoughts are a finite fraction of the questions and thoughts these shepherds had on that blessed night.

It is these questions that will keep me up at night thinking about how vast and grand the table of the Lord is, and how all are welcome. It is these thoughts that remind me of what hope is, and where it is found. Christmas is a celebration of the birth of the child that later, as a man, gave all of humanity new life – and for some reason I am allowed to be in His presence. What excites me the most is not that I am alone in His presence, but that we, all of humanity, are invited and beckoned to be in his presence.

Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Savior is born
Christ, the Savior is born

- Tom “Hoopla” Eaker


Psalm 69:30 Praise and Thanksgiving

posted in BLOG | Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Psalm 69:30 “Then I will praise God’s name with singing, and I will honor God with thanksgiving.”

This morning as I was going through my daily morning routine it dawned on me, tomorrow is Thanksgiving. It seems almost impossible to me that this day is already here. Just a few months ago I was taking my first steps out of a plane on to Washington soil for the first time, and then a few hours after that I was taking my first steps onto Cascades property. Little didi know that God would be leading me to spend a full year here, and would be blessing me beyond belief.

When I think about all the things that have happened in the last few months of be being here, and think about all that has happened in the last 25 years of ministry at Cascades Camp, I find myself utterly in awe of God. This last summer was Cascades 25th year of camping ministry and even before that the blessings that God poured out upon these grounds is remarkable. I have been placed smack dab in the middle of the legacy of love extended by Cascades, empowered by God. We here at Cascades have so much to be thankful. We have been blessed beyond all reason, and for that, and many other reasons, we turn to the Godhead in praise.

And at the same time I am reminded of those around the world who are in great need. At times it seems like the world has spun out of control, and it is so clear to me that we are all in need of Christ. So in this season of Thanksgiving we give praise and thanks for our good God, but also ask for God’s hand of love to be seen and felt in a world that often times seem so lost.

Please pray with me:

Lord, we thank you for all that you do for us.
We are blessed beyond what we deserve, and we thank you for this gift.
We ask that your love may be seen and felt in a world that seems so lost.
Be with all of us in a time that can be hard for many.
Help us to see past our own lives and extend help and love to all.
May we who have so much to be thankful for, return it to you by blessing those in need.
May we be instruments of peace and love.
May we sing with all of creation, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty; the whole earth is full of the Lord’s glory.”

- Tom “Hoopla” Eaker


Donations and The Global Church

posted in BLOG | Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

Sometimes Cascades gets to participate and work with people and/or organizations that are doing incredibly cool ministries.

This past weekend we posted on Craigslist that we were trying to sell a bunch of chairs that we no longer have need of. Two different men, working with two different organizations contacted us about the chairs. Both organizations wanted the chairs to send over seas to Africa to help schools.

We ended up making the decision to donate chairs to both organizations. We also ended up giving away a bunch of mattresses and bunks. We here at Cascades have been incredibly blessed, and so we made the decision to donate what we can to these organizations to help meet their needs. We figured it was better for us to give them away to organizations that will use them for the betterment of lives than to hold on to them or sell them. Cascades fully supports global church and we feel incredibly lucky and blessed to be able to be apart of the global mission of the church, and to pair with both organizations.

One of the organizations that we able to donate to is though Legacy Emmanuel Medical Center in Portland Oregon. The hospital will be sending a volunteer group of nurses and doctors to Ghana to help in schools, where the supplies we were able to provide will be going. If you have any questions, want to help support, or help meet the needs they have, contact the hospital and ask for Akwasi Sarfo-Kantanka or any other nurses or doctors involved with the trip to Ghana.

Featured: Akwasi Sarfo-Kantanka and Tom Moline


We also had the pleasure of meeting Sariang “Sam” Marong who is involved in Heeno-International. The things that we donated to Heeno-International will be sent to The Gambia. Heeno-International is a non-profit dedicated to “…the advancement of education, understanding and socio-economic development in The Gambia and other countries in and outside Africa.” They believe that global poverty and the environmental crisis are two of the world’s biggest challenges today. If you would like to help support Heeno-International or have any questions, check out their website,

Featured: Jordan Nelson, Cean Williard, Sariang “Sam” Marong, Reid Palmer, and Mike Bothman


- Tom “Hoopla” Eaker


Photos and Thoughts: God’s unrelenting pursuit

posted in BLOG | Thursday, September 25th, 2014

June 1939 Junior Boys Baptism in Puget Sound at Covenant Beach

Last week I spent my morning going through archives of old camp photos. As I searched through these photos, I became overwhelmed at the thought of the events that occurred for this place to exist. In 1989 Cascades first opened, but before then there were three other Covenant camps, Driftwood Point, Covenant Beach, and Circle C Ranch, that pooled their resources together, after years of ministry, to make it possible for Cascades Camp to become an actual thing, and not just a pipe dream. All four of these places have a rich history of sharing the love of God with thousands of people for decades. It is because of this legacy of love that I find myself reflecting upon the steadfast love and faithfulness that God continuously shows creation.

I had no idea that Cascades existed until my first year of seminary in 2012, and I didn’t actually set foot onto Cascades property until June of this year. If I could have known the impact that this place would have had on me in just three months, I wouldn’t have believed it. This summer, being the staff pastor, I was placed in an interesting position to see how God was working amongst not only staff, but also campers, families, and guests. I watched and listened to people search earnestly after God but I also watched and listened to God chase after God’s beloved creation, us. There were times this summer when people talked to me that it was clear that the person was searching for God; at times it was even more apparent, however, that God was searching after them. It was in these times that I could not deny that God’s hand is extended towards us every moment, even when we have turned our backs. It is clear to me that God is sprinting towards us even when we have turned and tried to walk in the opposite direction.

It was through looking at these photos that I was reminded of God’s unrelenting pursuit of us. The events that have allowed Cascades to happen, and the ministries that were at work before this place are all evidence of God’s love for us. It was through seeing the countless unknown faces within photos, and thinking about the even greater number of people that were affected by these ministries that I am truly taken aback. It is such a blessing to be a part if a place such as this, and take part in the legacy that Cascades was born out of, and fully participates in now, in showing God’s love to all people.

- Tom “Hoopla” Eaker


Join in welcoming the new 2014-2015 Interns!!!

posted in BLOG | Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

Summer camp has come to an end, and as many of you know, that means that a new set of interns have joined the Cascades Family. Now introducing (drum roll please)…

Tom “Hoopla” Eaker will be working alongside Claudia Fisher and Erin Liden as this year’s Marketing/Program intern. This past summer Tom was the staff pastor here at Cascades. Tom originates from Jamestown, New York. Before arriving at Cascades in June, he was attending North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois, pursuing a Masters in Christian Formation. He will be graduating from North Park this coming December. Tom feels called to this internship, because he has a deep love for camping ministry as a whole, and plans to pursue a career in it. When asked about the internship Tom said, “I am excited to see what camping ministry is like from a year round perspective, and not just from a summer staff point of view. I am excited to learn as much as I possibly can about camp, and about God. This will be both a growing and stretching experience that I am incredibly excited about. I cannot wait to use both my graphics and ministry degrees in the same setting.” An interesting fact about Tom is that before coming to Washington State he had never seen mountains before.

Reid “Swarley” Palmer is the new o-team intern. He will be working alongside Cean Willard to help keep Cascades Camp in good running order. Reid originally hails from Apple Valley, California. It was in California, Costa Mesa to be specific, where he was a barista at Starbucks, and a student at Orange Coast College before arriving at camp for the summer. This past summer Reid was one of two S.A.L.T. Crew leaders, leading and serving alongside multiple groups of high school age kids doing work projects around camp. When asked about this next year as an intern Reid said, “I feel that camp is a place where I am constantly challenged spiritually, mentally, and physically and am encouraged to grow and learn by those that surround me here. I think this year will be a great opportunity, because I think God will teach me a lot, and I will be challenged in many ways. I hope to come out of this internship a more learned man.” A Fun fact about Reid is that he ran in the LA marathon, in the snow, and uphill both ways. We’re not too sure how the “uphill both ways” works, so you’ll have to ask him yourself about that.

This year in the kitchen Jordan “Toxic” Nelson will be working alongside Mike Bothman as the new 2014/2015-kitchen intern. This past summer Jordan worked as a counselor, working with a wide range of kids of all different ages at both Camp Timber Rock and Brightwood Station. Jordan is originally from the same area that Cascades Camp is located, Yelm, Washington. This past summer was his second summer on staff. Before being a counselor, he first worked in the kitchen for a summer. Jordan has not only been on summer staff for two years, but he also participated in the S.A.L.T. program when he was in high school. Before coming to camp this summer, Jordan was working at a Stihl dealership. Jordan is looking forward to a year of being able to focus more so God. Camp has been like a second home to Jordan and he is extremely excited to work in the kitchen. A fun fact about Jordan is that he has a pretty big family. He has four older brothers, a younger sister, and then two older stepsisters.

For this upcoming year Erin “Tiltro” Liden, who is be the new program intern, will be working alongside Claudia Fisher and Tom Eaker to plan upcoming events, and preparing for the upcoming 2015 summer. Erin is originally from Yelm, Washington. Fun fact though, she was actually born in Frankfurt, Germany, where her Dad was stationed while in the army. This past year, before coming to camp, Erin was participating in AmeriCorps. She had an internship teaching environmental education at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge in Cheney, Washington. This summer, here at Cascades, Erin was one of the two program leaders at Camp Timber Rock. When asked about why she feels called to intern at Cascades Camp this year she said, “I feel called to camp to explore the opportunity to combine my passion for camping ministry with my passion for getting kids outside in nature. I grew up going to Cascades as a kid and have worked here for many summers. It is a place I have grown to know Christ and hope to help facilitate that opportunity for others.”

Jessica “Diesel” Nordlie this past summer was one of the five wranglers here at Cascades, at Sunrise Ranch. She is now the 2014/2015-ranch intern, and we are all very excited about it! Before coming to Cascades this past summer, Jessica was working at Fax Valley Veterinary Hospital, Tinny Ackers Stables, and was also, busy showing horses. Her hometown is a place called Harvey, which is in North Dakota. When asked about this up coming year, and her feeling of being call to be the new ranch intern, Jessica said, “I feel called to work at camp because, I love working with horses, and what better place to do it than the beautiful place of Cascades. Here I am surrounded by good christen people that help me grow in my faith. I love to see horses used as a tool to show kids God’s love, and to use it as an opportunity to teach them more about the Lord.” A fun fact about Jessica is that when she is back home, in North Dakota, she drives a 92′ Cadillac, which has mounted to the front of it a pair of three-foot long horns from a Texas Long Horn.

We are all very excited to have these five new interns joining our family for the upcoming 2014/2015 year. Join us in welcoming them all to their new intern positions and our Cascades Camp family!!


Reflection upon the 2014 Summer

posted in BLOG | Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

As I sit and I think over this summer and the events that occurred, I am amazed that it actually ended. This summer felt like time would never end, and I mean that in the best possible way. This summer was incredible.

When June arrived, and I took my first steps on Cascades Camp property, the month of August seemed so far away. We all tell ourselves and “know” that the camping season will come and go before you know it, but when you’re in the go of things, with however many kids and guest around you and building relationships with all the other staff, you tend to forget what you thought you “knew”. You become  focused on how days seem long, but forget that the weeks are short.

It has been incredible these last three months to see how God has moved, and see what God has done and is doing amongst the campers, families, guests, and staff that have come and gone during this time. It has been a truly awesome and awe inspiring gift to have been given the opportunity to be here, and work in such a beautiful and Jesus-centered place.

This year at Brightwood Station (grades 4-6), campers played massive, crazy ‘Around the World’ themed games. They also spent time in their cabin groups doing numerous activities all around camp, including a camp out at Frontier Village, where they slept in teepees. Each night, they heard chapel talks from Fender, the Brightwood Program Leader, about the love and grace that God extends towards creation.

At Camp Timber Rock (grades 7-9), they played loud and exciting games such as ‘The Woodland Games’, where kids were split into teams and the contest raged all week to see what team would be the champion on Saturday morning. Each week a new speaker came to Timber Rock to teach about how our personal story meshes with the entire story of God. Campers learned about how God can take our individual stories and turn it into something unexpected that reflects Christ’s love towards others.

At Sunrise Ranch the campers learned a variety of different skills when it comes to horses. The campers from both Brightwood and Timber Rock blazed trails, had arena classes, learned vaulting techniques, and so much more. The ranch also had two weeks of horse-centric, all horses, all the time camps: Sunrise Ranch Horse Intensives and Classic Horse Camp, where campers were able to further their equestrian skill levels and go deeper into the word of God.

Rainer Kids Day Camp was bigger than it has ever been! The program ran for a total of eight weeks serving and hosting a total of 262 kids. Every day was a new adventure with Rainier Kids as they experienced swimming at the waterfront, going on pony rides, playing big camp games, and most importantly, learned about the love of Christ.

This year the S.A.L.T. (Servant And Leadership Training) program served a total of 97 students and carried throughout the entirety of the camping season! The S.A.L.Ts  dove head first into the Word and into service projects, helping within cabins, and fellowshipping with one another during their time at Cascades. Without them, camp would not have run as smoothly or have nearly the energy that it did. They did an amazing job at leading and learning under the supervision of their enthusiastic and passionate S.A.L.T. leaders.

Our Family Camps this year were filled with the joy of families coming together for both relaxation and fun. Not only did families have fun doing a myriad of activates, but also, they worshiped alongside each other, learning, and growing closer together and with God. This year we served a total of 1095 individuals during our four different family camps.

All in all, the things that have happed this summer were all because of the love and grace of God, whom was and is working among not just the staff, but the guests and campers of Cascades Camp. Thank you all for your prayers and generous support. God has blessed and been faithful in abundant and awesome ways this summer, and we look forward to what will happen in 2015!

- Tom “Hoopla” Eaker