The Wheat Still Grows

October 18, 2018

CoverEach morning at Camp Side-by-Side, as families are waking up and visiting the coffee cart for their morning cup, our volunteer team gathers for chapel—a chance to re-focus together on our foundational purpose: to share the love and presence of Jesus with the families we serve.

This year, we reflected on the parable of the weeds and wheat from Matthew’s gospel, chapter 13.  It’s the story of a king who tells his anxious servants they need not pull the weeds that were planted throughout their wheat field by an unwelcome intruder. Instead, he instructs them, “Let both grow together until the harvest.” Not only was this parable befitting of our Farm theme, it also provided great wisdom for how we might respond when an unwelcome intruder invades and turns life upside down.

What kind of intrusion has interrupted your well-ordered life? How have you tried to weed it out?

At Side-by-Side, we see how childhood illness intrudes into the lives of families and wreaks havoc. All we want is to DO something that might help! But this story is not about what we should DO when confronted by pernicious weeds. It’s about who we believe God is, and what we believe God will do. Really, this is a parable about waiting.  Jesus is telling us that the Kingdom of God looks like waiting.

NT Wright describes this kind of waiting: “It’s not like waiting in a dark room for someone at some time to come with a light…it’s more like seeing the sun rise, and waiting for the fullness of daylight.”


Just like the anxious servants, we come to God with our grief and disappointment when our lives have been turned upside down, and a list of ideas about how these intruders should be thwarted. And just like the wise and patient Master of the wheat field, Jesus invites us to hold on…to wait, and to trust. When we are preoccupied by the weeds, Jesus reminds us, “The wheat is still growing!”

And so, we learn to wait. We learn that when we look for weeds, we’ll always find weeds…and when we look for flowers, we can usually find flowers.  We remember that, if Jesus can make water from wine, surely life can be cultivated amidst the most invasive weeds.

Childhood illness is a particularly monstrous and dreadful weed. And, at Camp this summer, we saw the persistent flourishing of strong and beautiful crops of wheat. A three-year-old overcame her fears on the high-ropes course. Moms painted signs on barnwood with words like Laugh and Hope and Family. Kids enjoyed standing ovations for singing the ABC’s and telling knock-knock jokes. We finished the week by raising a barn, inviting campers to paint a family shingle and nail it to the outside. No matter how horrifying the weeds, the wheat will continue to grow…and by grace, hope will flourish with defiant brilliance.


Our Dreamy Buddies

August 8, 2018

Yesterday in chapel, the moms were discussing their dream vacations.  Hawaii.  Bali.  Caribbean.  And buddies.  Dream vacations made even dreamier with buddies accompanying their families.

Our SXS buddies are the best:  willing, able, fun, loving and fun loving.  It’s joyful watching them connect with and host their campers in the art barn, on the play field, in the pool, at meals…  Tonight, while the parents enjoy an adults-only dinner, the kids and buddies will take over the dining hall.  Did you say dessert first?  I thought so!

Life on the Farm

August 7, 2018

“Life on the Farm…It’s kind of laid-back.  Thank God, I’m a Country Girl!”

On Monday, families posed next to this vintage truck while Misha snapped their photos.  Can you believe this cuteness?


The Watering Hole

August 6, 2018

How does one cool off at the farm?  Slide on down to the watering hole.

Camp is a Gift

August 5, 2018

“I’m going down to the Tully’s cart, Mom. I’ll see you at chapel.” This was how the day started. My 11-year old son popped out of bed at 7:30am on a beautiful Sunday. Not for school. Not for baseball practice. But for Side-by-Side.

My name is CJ Fisher and this week I’ll bring you some news from the 2018 Camp Side by Side. In 2003, David Hallgren (former SXS director and lifelong friend) recruited my husband, Lance, me and Michele and Mark Dotson to join the SXS team. We had all spent time together at Camp Firwood as college friends and David knew that we would love this camp, too. He was right. We’ve now spent 15 summers here at Camp Arnold. And, over the years, our kids have joined the crew.


We love sharing these memories: Roosevelt Marching Band at the Amphitheater. The Vikings. “Boost!” Bucaneer Ball. “Lemme Play with Your Look!” Epic Slip and Slides. Barney Crampentoot. Helicopter landing. Glow gym. Flintstones golf cart. Secret Agents hiding in the rafters. The Red Carpet. Trout fishing. Flewis and Flark. Caffeine withdrawals. Apple Crisp.

And these moments comprise many of the reasons why we return: camp is fun and funny. And it’s a gift. It’s a gift for the families who arrive and whom we serve. Yet, we also have the privilege of sharing this gift with them.

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As the week begins, our hearts are full. We are happy to reunite with our SXS crew. We are excited to join the fun. Yet, we sense a deep joy and satisfaction that comes from serving others. And we’re grateful for this community who repeatedly invites us to share in this life-giving and love-sharing work.

So, when our children profess their deep love of this place, we’re grateful for their many years of collected memories. We’re also grateful for the clear ways that Side by Side shows them how it is to love Jesus as a serving community. It involves time, sacrifice and vulnerability. It involves worship and prayer. It involves friendship, laughter, and acts of kindness. What memories will we collect this week? I’m glad to share some of them with you in this space.

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Farm living is the life for me!

August 3, 2018


The cows have been milked, the horses have been fed, the eggs have been collected from the hen house…we are officially ready for Camp Side-by-Side 2018!

This weekend, we’ll kick-off our 19th summer of Camp Side-by-Side at Larson Family Farm (a.k.a. Camp Arnold), the home of what used to be the preeminent and peerless patented proprietary Peruvian purple-peeled potato, which made the very BEST potato chips of all time. Unfortunately, with the rise of other salty snacks like Cheetos, Funyuns, and Pork Rinds, the potato chip industry declined, and Larson Family Farm has fallen into disrepair.  The farm has been for sale for years, with not a buyer in sight…until now. Tony Tayterhayter, a slick-talking city boy, seems all-too-eager to buy the farm from Barney and Marnney Larson, the twin sibling owners and keepers of the farm…but are his motives pure? Will he restore the farm to its former glory, or are his plans nefarious?

Don’t miss one moment of the action this week as more than 150 Side-by-Side volunteers share a week of laughter, rest, and togetherness with 24 families who have a child with cancer.

Our Newest Venture…

October 18, 2017


In October 2015, Side-by-Side Associate Director Marla Malone met with a mother of two-year-old triplets (yes, two-year-old triplets!) who had been referred to Side-by-Side for Family Support. This mom was going through the unimaginable, single-handedly caring for two busy toddlers while her third child was hospitalized for organ failure. Needless to say, she was exhausted. Marla returned to the office and collapsed into her chair, overwhelmed for this family and others like them. She sighed, “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a preschool for the families we serve?”   

Seattle Children’s Hospital (SCH) offers world-class medical care, Seattle’s Ronald McDonald House (RMH) expertly supports practical needs like housing and food, and the Hutch School provides a specialized K-12 school program designed to meet the needs of families who are visiting Seattle for medical treatment. Dozens of other organizations provide gifts, special experiences, and additional resources, including the various programs of Side-by-Side. However, this family helped us identify one significant area of need which is currently neglected: a preschool tailored for families who have relocated to Seattle for long-term pediatric medical care.

Emboldened by the generous enthusiasm of our supporters, we started to imagine sharing hope with families by starting a Side-by-Side preschool program. We gathered a group of trusted partners and advisors to explore this idea, including staff from RMH, social workers from SCH, educators from the Hutch School, and key SBS volunteers. We’ve researched, surveyed families, scouted locations, and gathered a team to pray and discern with us. We are eager to see what God has in store!

In September 2017, we welcomed the phenomenally talented Kelly Hampton to our staff as the Associate Director for Preschool Services. She brings thoughtful perspective and institutional knowledge as a long-time volunteer at Camp SBS, years of experience as an all-star preschool educator and director, and a joy-filled enthusiasm like you’ve never seen. She is the perfect person to help shape this exciting new endeavor!

In November 2017, we will launch a preschool playgroup on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings in the playroom of the Ronald McDonald House. We are eager to learn more about the unique emotional, medical, and developmental needs of the kids and families we will serve. As time goes on, we plan to expand this playgroup into a more robust preschool program, providing developmentally-appropriate support for preschool kids whose families are dealing with serious illness.

We can’t do this without you.  Here are some ways you can get involved today:

  • Check out our Amazon Wish List and help us gather all the supplies we need for crafts, games, and educational activities.
  • If you have preschool education experience, or if you’d like to help coordinate snacks, plan crafts and activities, or provide administrative support, please contact me at
  • If you’d like to stay up-to-date as this project grows and develops, visit to join our Preschool Program mailing list.

Thanks for your partnership!

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August 11, 2017


Throughout the kingdom of Arnoldia this week, you could hear and feel the buzz of “Huzzah!”  There are so many causes of delight this week:

  • 22 fabulous families
  • 147 committed volunteers
  • surprises
  • lavish treats
  • moments of rest and creativity
  • friendship
  • stories and adventures

We’re grateful for all the ways we’ve experienced God’s great “Huzzah!” in our lives at Camp Side by Side 2017.  Thank you for participating with us.








August 11, 2017


To celebrate the Queen’s decision to allow dragons to live peacefully in her kingdom, she threw an extravagant feast.  The citizens were also knighted for their commitment to kindness, friendship and bravery.  Merriment filled the air.  Long live the Queen!






Firemen to the Rescue

August 11, 2017


With temperatures settling in the high 80s this week,  the queen’s fire department arrived to cool things down. Her citizens appreciated the gracious relief.