Summer and Winter Camps are the focus of Bethany Birches. A lot of people contribute to make camp happen. The BBC Board of Directors (BOD) is a group of 9 folks who think about the broader vision of BBC and where it’s heading into the future. Stacy Selbo is a member of the BOD. What follows are her reflections on how she got involved with BBC and what the Board is currently working on.
Our family moved to Vermont from Atlanta in 2004, and settled in Bridgewater in 2005. While we were active in our Atlanta church, our 3 boys also had meaningful, Christ-centered summer camp experiences from first grade until they could no longer be campers. We didn’t know what our Vermont experience would hold for our family spiritually, but shortly after being in the Woodstock, Bridgewater area, our youngest son had opportunities to visit Bethany Birches camp with the First Congregational Church of Woodstock Youth Group. We were thrilled to learn about this magical and special place just 15 minutes from our home!
Simultaneously, Amber (Cheeks) Bergey and I were involved in a women’s bible study with a small group from a variety of churches. It was a familiar connection and we stayed in touch. Then, I joined the Board in 2015.
The Board is active and meets throughout the year beginning with an annual retreat (January) to review and coordinate the direction of camp with Brandon. As a Board, our main focus is to consider the resourcefulness and sustainability of BBC, which continues to head in a very positive direction. Enrollment is up to nearly record attendance, thanks to proactive marketing and consistent fundraising. In 2017, BBC is debt free which is a remarkable accomplishment, with gratitude to Brandon for driving that goal.
While the Board continually reviews strategies, we are primarily focused and thoughtful about the spirituality that BBC represents and conveys to our campers – living the Mission.
I am especially thankful that an extraordinary camp like Bethany Birches exists here in the secular mountains of Vermont. What a special place for young people to learn about Christ!
This summer was the most attended summer in the history of BBC. Praise God! We had well over 400 camper weeks throughout the seven weeks of summer. These high numbers required that we also have one of the largest staff teams in the camp’s history. Many different marketing events, individuals, and advertisements helped to make this summer’s registration so momentous, but I also believe that campers wouldn’t come (and keep coming!) if it weren’t for the ways camp impacts them.
Camp is uniquely powerful in the lives of children for many different reasons. One of the most important reasons, I believe, is the connection between camper and counselor. During the school year children spend 99% of their time with peers (fellow students) and with older adults (parents/teachers). Peers are easy for them to connect with, but often not much of a role model. Adults can be a great role model, but difficult to make powerful connections with. Young, maturing, 20-something counselors help bridge that gap. They are fun to be with and someone the campers can look up to. Many campers, in fact, realize that they too can grow up to be like these counselors some day. Liesl was an excellent example of that this summer. In the paragraphs that follow she shares her experiences this summer and you can see that while she made a real impact in the lives of her campers God also used BBC to make a real impact in her own life. – Dan “Chick” Laubach, Program Director
Einstein once defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Working at camp involves a lot of repetition, and as someone who generally revolts against rigid routines, sometimes I felt like I was going crazy. But somehow, beyond all my expectations, God met me in the repetition.
I came to camp expecting that I would meet God in some life-redefining way. In fact, that was one big reason I initially hesitated about working at BBC this summer ― I expected that I would meet God in some big way, and I was afraid of finding him like that. Because finding God meant that I would have to own up to a lot of things, and I did not want to spend the emotional energy, I guess. But I did not meet God, not in the way I thought, anyway, which fit in so well with our theme of “Expect the Unexpected.” No, he did not revealed himself to me in some flashy Damascus road moment. Instead, he pulled me gently back to him, one small moment at a time.
Every week, I repeated the same advice to my campers, heard the same Bible stories, sang the same songs, cooked the same food, did the same activities.
I knew what was coming next. In the logistical sense, I knew exactly what to expect.
Now, when you do something over and over again, and know you will keep doing it over and over again, you have two choices: you can either jade yourself to what you are doing, or you can look for new threads of meaning within the repetition.
I found myself handing out the same advice to my girls this summer, different campers, different ages, different situations. I told them how important it is to learn to love yourself, because if you dislike yourself, then loving your neighbor as you love yourself quickly derails into a nightmare. And by the fifth or sixth time that I heard those words coming out of my mouth, I realized, hey, maybe I should give my own advice a try.
And maybe after the 50th morning of singing that all God’s critters got a place in the choir, I could remember that that meant me, someone who has felt on the outside for a while, not sure of her place in the choir or if she wants to sing at all.
And maybe by the seventh time hearing that God’s best friend Moses killed a man would it actually sink in that, hey, God might want to be best friends with me, too, someone who has not killed anything but maybe some mosquitos.
I usually look for God in the strange, unfamiliar places. I can see him working best when I am outside of my comfort zone. I like to go on adventures, push myself, find weird new places to explore, and hope to bump into God along the way.
But this summer, I learned to look for him in the small, quiet moments, in the spider crawling up my leg, in the curious eyes of children, in the encouragement of fellow staff, in the silly song lyrics.
God knows what we need more than we know for ourselves. He knows I can be skittish, he knows I am stubborn, but he also knows how much I delight in small moments of beauty, and he used that understanding to give me what I needed: a gentle push in a better direction that, with enough encouragement, will eventually lead me home.
As I have settled back into the repetition of my life away from camp, into my college routine, I catch myself thinking about camp a lot. I find I am craving the outdoors, craving rain showers and cast-iron griddles and grease fires and charcoal hand prints on my legs, craving the company of children, craving the peace I found on the hill ― these things that separately I can replicate anywhere, but that all together create something beautiful, something powerful, something unique to Bethany Birches.
I am so thankful for the opportunity to work at Bethany Birches, and I am looking forward to returning next summer, ready to embrace the unexpected from day one.
I’ve been reflecting on summer highlights lately despite the recent cold temps and skiing at nearby recently opened VT resorts and the 3 weeks of Day Camp was definitely a highlight.
Are there parents who will drive their kid to BBC each day for a week? Are 5 year olds old enough to cook meals over the fire and run around outside most of the day? Are there any past counselors who want to volunteer a week at day camp? Will daylong program aid in reaching BBC’s mission of helping young people develop their relationship with God?
The answers to the first 3 questions above seem to be a resounding YES! And hopefully as the years go on we’ll find the answer to the last question to be yes too.
Day camp returned to BBC in 2016 after a 12 year hiatus! 18 campers attended over the course of 3 different weeks. In 2017 that number climbed to 35 campers over the course of 3 weeks. Parents are willing to drive their kids up Lynds Hill for a daylong experience. One camper dad commented that he loves the fact that his son gets to spend all day outside. Another mom mentioned hoping this experience would prepare her son for overnight camp. A different camper parent was psyched she could jump start her son’s BBC experience as she has fond memories of her own BBC experience. And still another camper parent values the faith-based emphasis she always finds at Bethany Birches.
Each day camp week included traditional favorites at BBC. First time campers were exuberant to be eating ice cream out of the pig trough. Others enjoyed being launched on the trampoline or taking their first stab at kayaking. Campers also enjoyed activities that encouraged them to make new friends (silly songs and teambuilding games) and soak in the creation around them (cooking over the fire and swimming in the pond). Each week had a different theme (A Bug’s Life, Making Music and Holiday Roundup) to help focus the activities and lessons for the week.
All of the above contributed to fun for day campers but it’s the staff that determines the experience for the campers. Part of the successful return of day camp must be attributed to veteran staff volunteering to return to counsel the youngest of BBC Campers. Max “Nye” Halik who has served in the role of camper, counselor, volunteer and assistant program director over the past 10 years describes why volunteering at day camp made sense to him.
“As a counselor Mini Week (Launch half) was always my favorite week of the summer partially because you find that five-year-olds tend to be happy to do just about anything outside. One of the harder parts with that Mini Week was the “overnight” part – comforting little kiddos that found it difficult to get through nights without parents. When I heard that I could volunteer at Day Camp, I thought it would be an awesome opportunity to hang out with kids that still have that same enthusiasm for literally *every* activity, but could engage in bite-sized portions that wouldn’t be overwhelming. I’ll come back for Day Camp week any time – particularly as a volunteer it’s easier to take off a week of work knowing that I’ll be able to have fun-filled days with the happiest children you can imagine, with calmer evenings to plan out how we can share the word of God with his littlest children.”
Three sessions of day camp are in the line up for Summer 2018 with the hopes that more parents will drive up the hill each day to give their kids an outdoor, faith based experience with veteran BBC Staff.
The first (small) snow fell yesterday at BBC! The snow fell on leaf cleared grass, newly built pallets and freshly felled trees. Saturday Nov 4th was a busy day at BBC. Thirtyish folks came from Rutland, Bethel, Woodstock, Plymouth, Bridgewater, Brandon, White River, Randolph, etc to help BBC get ready for winter. A big thanks to all you from Calvary Bible Church who came and joined the fun!
Volunteers brought different skills. All brought smiles. Volunteers were different ages with different familiarity with BBC. Some were at BBC for the first time. Others were campers who were attending their first work day. And still others have been coming to BBC in some capacity for the last 50 years! Over the course of 6 hours the group raked ALL the leaves, cleared the garden, built a number of pallets and fell trees to clear space for pallet storage and pond beach expansion.
Each October I try to focus on the beauty of the changing leaves but always find myself distracted by the knowledge that all the leaves will drop. And then need to be cleared. And how exactly will that get done? Along with all the other pre winter work 100 acres of forrest requires?
And each fall a group of people show up to help. This year was no different. This year people joined in the leaf raking, pallet building and falling trees. God continues to bring people to do the work of God and I am grateful to be part of that.
Just when you thought pavilion progress was over…2017 started off with pavilion door painting! A group of 8 Seniors (+ 2 adults) from Dock Mennonite Academy spent Jan 3 – 8 doing a lot of painting. The interior doors of the pavilion are clean and colorful thanks to their service.
Painting doors wasn’t their only accomplishment. The group of seniors prepared the mudroom to hang/stack/organize winter gear including skates and skis. Others in the group spent time repainting the floor and walls of the cabin basement. Now the basement of the cabin matches the new bathrooms upstairs. Both are shiny, clean and fresh! The group rounded out their week with various odds and end jobs and finished the week having some fun on the tube run and ice rink!
Why would a group of 8 seniors from PA come to BBC to paint, clean, sand and scrub? Dock Mennonite Academy requires each senior to participate in senior experience week. Seniors have the option to job shadow a professional in a field they have interest in or spend the week serving. We are thankful this group chose to spend the week helping at BBC.
The next time you’re in the cabin basement as a renter or snow camper or the next time you walk through the pavilion door as a parent, renter, camper, staff or volunteer you might be thankful for their work also!
We’re hoping to see some of them in the future while camp program is in session. In fact we hope the same for you! 2017 has opportunity for folks of all ages to experience BBC (including freshly painted doors). Check out summer and winter options. Hope to see you on the hill soon!
The last 3 years she’s been our competent life guard trainer.
Right now she’s on her way to becoming a veterinarian at St George’s University in Grenada.
Quincy started to coming to camp at a young age. She completed the BBC internship in 2010 to fast track her to BBC staff as a 17 year old assistant counselor in 2011 and returned as a counselor in 2012 and 2013. She’s also been back to volunteer numerous times since being on staff. Quincy is a top quality person and we are thankful for her service to the youth of VT. We have great confidence she will provide wonderful care to animals just as she did to campers. And if she’s back in the area and a camp pet is sick, we’ll know just who to call.
Can’t wait till we see you on the hill again Quincy!
Snow covered the ground. The temp was rainy and cool. People were few. A lovely day had by all. All good descriptions of Sat Oct 29th at BBC.
A group of 12 folks worked at getting the grounds ready for winter and tearing out the cabin bathrooms. The volunteers who braved the blustery weather took down tarps at shelters, put away picnic tables, stacked wood, set up sand barrels, cleaned up the garden and disassembled the volleyball net and nine square in the air. The volunteers inside tore apart the cabin bathrooms. In Larry Derstine’s words, “I don’t really like bathroom renovations.” Well I don’t either but they were in sore need of help.
I was outside a lot of the day. At first I was slightly discouraged by the weather but when I saw Nick Champine’s look of sheer glee as he rode around the gator with Dan “Chick” Laubach I felt much better. A little later Caitlyn “Judith” Laubach and I and enjoyed laughing about cleaning up the garden while it was under snow. I was struck with the odd contentment that accompanies serving alongside others. I got to know people better, help the camp and enjoy yummy lunch with all who were present. I’m reminded Jesus doesn’t encourage us to serve as another set of rules to follow but as a way to experience contentment that is otherwise hard to find.
Volunteers joining us on work days is also what allows BBC to keep costs low for campers. It’s a win-win!
Stay tuned for details for other service opportunities at camp (and if you want to come up now, we’re still working on the bathrooms)!
It’s the time of year when we need to get BBC ready for winter. Can you help us?!
On Oct 29th we’ll do work around camp from 9-3. We’ll break for lunch around12:30. Come for the whole day or come for part.
There are jobs for skilled and non skilled folks. Come alone or bring the family.
Skilled labor for remodeling the BBC Cabin bathrooms. (If you’ve used them in the last few years you know this is long overdue.)
Non skilled labor for all the other miscellaneous tasks: blowing up snow tubes, putting the garden away, leaf raking, wood stacking, taking down shelter tarps, pulling in the floating dock, etc)
The bathroom renovation will take more than 1 day. If you’re available any day from Oct 29 – Nov 3, we could use your help. If you’re traveling from a distance and want to make a long weekend out of it, we’ll have a place for you to stay!
After 3 summers (2013 – 15) of being an integral part of the BBC Summer Staff and 4 years of studying at Messiah College, Julia “Romeo” DeNardo is heading to Namibia with the Peace Corps.
Romeo will go down in BBC history as an MVP Counselor. Based on how much she was loved by campers and staff we have no doubt she will be loved in Namibia as well. Romie – we can’t can’t wait to hear about your adventures the next time you’re on this side of the ocean!
Click here to read the article on Romeo’s work with the Peace Corps in Namibia.
Summer programming starts in a month! We want to have occupancy to the pavilion by the end of the month. Can you help?!
Join us on Saturday May 28th from 9am – 3pm for Spring Work Day! Jobs will include (but not limited to) .Painting the upstairs of the pavilion .Turning the pavilion from a construction zone to summer camp zone .Putting away/Cleaning up winter camp equipment .Preparing Shelter Sites for Summer .Preparing grounds for summer camp
We’ll have jobs for all skill levels and lunch for everyone, too! Russell “OWO” Pejouey will be on site to cook a delicious lunch.
Lodging is available here at Bethany Birches for anyone who wants to come from a distance or make a weekend of it!
Email amber at bethanybirches.org to let us know you can help or respond on the BBC Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/568154376678577/