Since the last pavi update more progress has been made! A faithful supporter gave $9,000 toward kitchen equipment so we bought the convection ovens and slicer. Huge upgrades! You can see the updated pavilion project punch list below.
Here are the ovens being delivered:
And the ovens in place!
And the slicer:
And here is the punch list. You can compare this to the one from a report this past December to see progress made. Very exciting!
My wife Anna Mae and I recently completed a driving trip from Pennsylvania to South Dakota. We visited our empty-nest daughter Jenelle Miller (a former BBC camper and years later, counselor) and her husband Craig. This trip allowed me opportunity to exercise “out-of-the-box” activity recently encouraged by my health care specialists for management of my mild dementia. It is hoped that this type of activity will help my mind to “connect the dots” of my life’s everyday experiences so I can feel better connected. The challenge of this new dementia-dimension of my life has contributed considerably to my decision to begin my BBC WALK.
During this 13-day trip, my footprint was left on the roadsides of the 8 states we traveled through. In our 2,688-mile round trip travels, I noticed the ability, particularly in the Prairie States, to sight single objects at increasing distances away from the eye. In the final leg of our trip west we were approaching the SW corner boundary of Craig and Jenelle’s farm and we noticed an 80-90 year old scotch pine tree in the distance. Days later, this corner tree was sighted 2 miles away as I walked westward on the county road. The tree can also be sighted 3 miles away from east to west. It has marked the Miller farm for four generations, a “connecting dot” for all their family that they are nearing home. This is experienced by all as change and renewal.
There exists another stalwart tree located in the BBC community. It is known as the tree house which provides shade for flowers, a perch for the birds, and a resting, out-of-the-ordinary place for campers to which counselors take them for an evening fireside and night sleepover away from the hustle and bustle of daytime camp activities. The tree house is built at a height where campers can look down on the flowers, and across at the birds; a “connecting dot” for both campers and their environment.
When Anna Mae and I visited the tree house years ago, we wanted to linger for some time. Just imagine a camp cabin of Warblers and their counselor flocking to the tree house/Nest . . . (new name?) for a sleepover! This BBC “point of interest” provides one of many opportunities for children to be introduced to Jesus, a super “coming home”.
One of the founding principles of Bethany Birches back in the 60’s was to “provide a camping experience for youth where counselor and camper together can engage in learning relationships which will prepare them for future responsibilities in life.” As you probably know it’s easier to have a learning relationship with someone you trust and respect. And it’s easier to trust and respect someone who accepts you for who you are.
During staff training we teach the importance of being with campers in the daily routine of camp; Befriending them, learning to know them, accepting them for who they are. I recently heard from a parent about her daughters experience from this past winter. Her comments warmed my heart and pointed to an effective season of camps.
This young camper is a strong and talented girl. She’s pretty and smart and her peers like her. So I was a little surprised to get this email from her mother:
“Thank you all so much for providing such a wonderful place for [my daughter] to feel love and acceptance. She has been struggling at school feeling like an outcast . She came home with a great outlook on life again and seemed so much happier. It is with tears that I write this. Thank you, Dana”
I am thankful for caring staff that can create this kind of experience. I am thankful for a God that loves us and gave us examples of love and acceptance. Pray for us as we strive to mirror this blessing and pray that each camper will grow in their confidence and strength as they learn to see God through us.
This past winter has been interesting weather-wise. Another interesting trend is the uptick in attendance for winter programs. For the three overnight programs we saw 168 camper days which is 95% of total capacity. On top of this, there were waiting lists for all three sessions!
As many of you know, winter is so busy for many families in central VT. We continue to believe that what we’re doing at winter camps is unique and special and that almost all campers would choose it over other activities once they realize how fun and meaningful the weekends are. It makes mission accomplishment possible if a camper can be here at least once in the summer, once in the winter and one or two other times between.
We are deeply indebted to the many staff and volunteers that make these weekends possible. Gigi, a college student and long time BBC-er came to be Assistant Program Director three weekends in a row. A group from PA drove 7 hours each way to help run one of the weekends. Lots of other staff and volunteers sacrificed rest and relaxation to make winter camp all that it was.
Plan now to join us next year for one of the fun-filled, faith-building weekends as a camper or volunteer in the #BBCsnowGlobe.
This past summer a camp supporter, Yogi, noted that the kitchen was not near complete. He asked me what one of the next steps was to finish it. A week later, a friend of his and camp supporter, Mark, asked him what else was needed at camp on the pavilion project. Yogi told him quite simply, a stainless steel table. This wasn’t just any table, as you’ll see in the photos below. It took design and special manufacturing and would be expensive! The table was envisioned especially to help with the famous BBC fire side cooking. This table is the backbone of the crate packing and storage process.
To make a long story short, Mark mentioned the mini project to one of his friends Wil. Together they paid for the table and got the project under way. Today, during Lynx Winter Camp, the good folks over at Steiger Supply North dropped the table off and helped to set it in place. Campers even pitched in to peel off the annoying protective tape.
For me, this web of people making this small project happen in cooperation and team work is a vision of the community of God.
It is challenging to gauge success when trying to accomplish a mission like Bethany Birches’. We do some surveys after summer and winter seasons to see how we did in a couple different areas. I just LOVE what came from the surveys this past summer.
33% of survey respondents (parents) rated their child’s experience a 10 or “the best time imaginable.”33% more rated their child’s experience as a 9. And 24% an 8. Half of all survey respondents said their children “seem more loving or kind” after their week at camp. As I read through survey’s from camper parents post summer I saw this report from a mother about her two campers:
“They both came home singing great pre-dinner songs like, “thank you God, for giving us food!!!!” We loved learning these songs and still sing them before meals! They also learned about how to be a good friend, and how to work well with others. They learned how to do their own dishes which made me very happy!”
I think that part of the reason most campers loved it here last summer (ratings of 8, 9, 10) is because they felt loved, accepted and cared for (fun, great people and great activities didn’t hurt either!). “Proof” that we are creating the type of atmosphere required to accomplish our mission. I also take great encouragement knowing that half of the parents surveyed said their children “seem more loving or kind.” This reminds me of Jesus’ teaching to love God and to love people. We must become a person filled with God’s love and love for those around us to accomplish this. If parents are noticing their children becoming “more loving or kind” I bet it’s because what happens at camp is helping people live out this teaching of Jesus and develop a relationship with God.
Backcountry skiing? What’s that? Well, basically, it’s when you get some skis and go into the mountains and ski… it’s beyond the resort. It takes human power (your legs) to get yourself up the hill. And then it takes gravity to get you down. The going up looks a little like this:
And my favorite part, going down, looks a little like this:
So what’s happening this winter at camp? We are doing backcountry skiing! We have some good areas for this. The hill above the pond (wide open, steep, safe). Nearby hills that are similarly open. If the snow is fast (i.e. icy), we’ll ski on flatter terrain in a more cross country style. If the snow is slow (i.e. powder) we’ll go all over the place and make turns!
Your child will learn basics of skiing and attempt telemark turns. They will get plenty of exercise and take skiing to a new level and beyond the resort.
You can sign up for this unique program within our winter camp program when you register for winter camp. There is no extra charge for backcountry skiing. Each session is an hour and a half and fit within the normal schedule. Your child will still be able to tube, skate and do all the other good stuff winter camp has to offer.
The seasons of camp come and go, like the leaves and the snow. Brandon, Dan, the staff, and board of directors work hard in between seasons to fulfill the mission of Bethany Birches Camp. Although summer and winter camp programs reflect our primary seasonal focus, much of the planning and fundraising occurs during the spring and fall as evident at the Benefit Auction. There is no better place to observe the dynamic seasons of camp life (and nature) than in Plymouth, Vermont.
First we reflect on our successes, our challenges, our opportunities, and the impact we’ve made on the lives of those the camp serves. We review our finances, meet with donors, review camp policy, analyze and benchmark ourselves against similar organizations, and make changes as needed. Then it’s time to plan for the next season, recruit volunteers, and repeat the process all over again.
It is a laborious, yet fruitful exercise in teamwork; a labor of love, all for the purpose of helping campers experience God’s love. As one of the “newbies” on the board, I have come to appreciate the passion and dedication that lie within each member. We are a diversified group of people who love the camp, all with our own unique gifts and abilities to share.
Our common link is a fierce desire to see Bethany Birches Camp make an impact in the lives of the children in the community we serve. And so we repeat the process again and again, like Vermont’s changing of the seasons.
It’s been exactly 3 months and a day since I left Bethany Birches. I’d really like to say that the time has been flying by, but it hasn’t. I think since this past summer my life has become so fixated on looking forward to possibly serving next summer, that I’m still reliving every day as though I never left.
Apart from the fact that the faces of my fellow staff members are splattered all over my social media timelines, I realise that camp made an indelible mark on me. And no, it wasn’t the fact that there were bears rummaging through the garden I worked so hard on (ok well, one bear), or Susie-sized* rabbits hopping around Hummingbird and scaring my campers (because I refused to scream and embarrass myself), or even the fact that I had to pretend to be strolling through the Garden of Eden [to stay motivated] with every trip to every facility on the campsite because every direction was a 10-minute hike. I can’t say either that it was the rock-farming or getting stuck in the bathroom whilst waiting out a thunderstorm at 3am. But what I can say is, before Bethany Birches, I had never really found somewhere that I felt like I just ‘fit in’.
I was different in so many ways—my culture, my heritage and even the way I worship had nothing in common with Bethany Birches, and I never got a lot of the jokes either; yet, I found my place there. And despite the fact that I almost froze to death on occasion, or got trapped in almost every ‘Mission Impossible’, I can’t say I’d ever change any of my experiences. I have felt my heart literally bursting with love and acceptance of not only so many others, but even myself, and I think that has been the most rewarding thing about Bethany Birches for me. It isn’t often that one literally finds themselves by wandering off into the ‘unfamiliar’ (never do that at camp by the way)…But this summer did that for me. Coming from Jamaica to cold VT wasn’t comfortable but it helped me become more me.
RaeChelle-Faith “Artsy” Hamilton, BBC Counselor
*Susie is the director’s daughter; 1 year old this past summer
That’s right. A local church is in the process of installing solar for the energy needs of the church and is installing twice as much solar as they need. Heather Hawkes of Taftsville Chapel in Vermont says “the project specs for an 11.66kW solar array. We estimate that we will use about 5.3kW to meet our current energy needs at Taftsville Chapel.” The church has intentionally built an array almost twice as big as they needed so they could give green energy. Heather explains the choice like this: “We see caring for and restoring God’s good creation as a way to love God and love our neighbors.” The green movement is not just a social movement to the church but one of faith as well.