Tuesday, May 30, 2006 • Janesville Bible Camps going on 26 years of tradition

Publisher’s note: This story originally appeared in the Tuesday, May 26, 2006, edition of the Lassen County Times.

Janesville Bible Camps will be celebrating 26 years of ministering to children this year.

Janesville Bible Camps was co-founded by Doc and Norma Laraway or as many people knew them, Grandma Norma and Grandpa Doc.

The Laraways’ daughter, Becky Thompson, now serves as camp director.

Thompson said her mom wanted to utilize her property on Upper Christie to start a ministry for children.

“Mom loved to plant trees and flowers and wanted to share the outdoors with the kids,” Thomson said.

Joan Archer helped start the camps. Archer said Laraway asked her if she would provide the music if Laraway would tell the Bible stories and provide refreshments.

“Grandma Norma liked to tell Bible stories to kids,” Archer said.

Her ultimate goal was for children to know Jesus and she did that by telling Bible stories, said Archer.

The first camp was held in the summer of 1980 for children in the fourth through sixth grades.

Archer said the children listened to Bible stories and sang songs and said she provided games and arts and crafts.

A couple of weeks later another camp was held for the younger siblings of those who attended the first camp.

As the need arose and the camps became more popular, Archer said more camps were added.

Eventually, there were seven camps for ages 3 through high school.

Andrea Singleton, a camp leader, said she attended the first camp.

She said her favorite memory is all of it, from building trails and being outside and getting dirty.

“Everyday was a fun adventure, everyday something new was planned,” Singleton said.

Singleton said Laraway was incredibly creative and the Bible lessons were always fun.

“She was such a visionary to make that kind of a camp,” Singleton said.

Students in junior high and high school had the privilege of staying overnight, participating in hikes to Castle Rock or a voluntary hike to Thompson Peak.

Other activities included bon-fires, sleeping beneath old Army tents and horseshoe tournaments.

Currently, camps for high school and junior high are not available due to lack of leadership.

Camp leader Loretta Ellis said it is a goal to start the junior high and high school camps again.

During the day, campers participate in a four-hour day packed with activities.

Children participate in camps named marshmallow camp, peanut butter camp, lollipop camp, busy bee camp and pathfinder camp.

Each camp is located at a different site and is designed with age-appropriate Bible stories, songs and outdoor crafts.

Campers also participate in hikes through the mountain, running the obstacle courses and making new friends.

Supervision is provided by volunteers. Thomson said these people range from high schoolers, parents, grandparents and teachers and make a wonderful team.

There are many traditions at camp including the emerald hunt, or finding the watermelon in the woods, catching butterflies and making bug barns.

Singleton said campers still find rock pets, a tradition consisting of finding a rock and painting it.

The camp ends with a family potluck on Friday evening and awards are given to each camper.

Being around 26 years old, former campers are now bringing their children to participate.

Archer said, her daughter-in-law attended the high school camp and has brought her daughter to several of the sessions.

Singleton said her children now attend.

“They love it,” she said.

Singleton said her four-year-old has been asking her, “How much longer until my camp?”

The camp has become a tradition for some and had touched many lives.

Archer said, “Grandma Norma had a dream and she used her resources and went after it. Her dream has touched hundreds of children’s lives and they still have fond memories of it.”