They say the third time’s a charm. No doubt that will be true for Romie! Romie started as the counselor of Hummingbird in 2013. She returned to Hummingbird for a 2nd summer in 2014. She has a unique ability to listen and lead, sing and play and share God in a way that makes sense to each individual she interacts with. When I asked Romie if she’d consider returning for a 3rd summer I was delighted to hear her say, “Yes. I believe I’m not done learning at BBC.” Read on for more on what Romie is excited about and why you should join her this summer at BBC! (It’s very possible that if you join Romie this summer you may hear this as a song…)
The Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) van could be seen in the camp parking lot from April 6-10. Each spring a group of volunteers from Salford Mennonite Church travel in this van to an area that has experienced a natural disaster. The group serves for a week by doing whatever needs to be done to minimize the physical effects of the disaster. This spring there wasn’t an option to head towards a natural disaster on the East Coast so they drove the van to BBC!
A number of the guys in the group joked about bringing the MDS van to BBC. Clearly, this is NOT a site of a natural disaster. And yet something about having the MDS van at BBC last week was so fitting. At times this project has felt like a disaster…
…Attempting to build a large building from start to finish in VT during the months of Sept – June is a bit disastrous…Utilizing as many volunteers as possible to build a commercial building has the potential to be a scheduling disaster…Going 50+ days below freezing when attempting to complete outside construction work feels like a disaster to each worker who can’t feel their fingers/toes most of the day…A spring thaw turning the parking lot into a huge mudpit has the feel of disaster.
The Salford MDS crew did what most MDS crews do. They brought encouragement in the face of discouraging facts. They smiled as they climbed ladders to shingle the roof. They shrugged off the April snow that pushed them to insulate inside. They asked questions about the mission of BBC and worked all the harder. When they finished on Friday the building had more siding, shingles and insulation. The van pulled out early Saturday morning. The parking lot was still muddy. Much of the building is left to be finished. There still isn’t enough money in the bank.
On Monday Ken Hershey, Larry Derstine (Bridgewater, VT), Roy Snell (Woodstock, VT) volunteered time to continue working on shingling and siding. Andy Bird (Bridgewater, VT), Harold Bergey, Will Bergey, Marlin and Neil Bergey (Hatfield, PA) are volunteering all week to continue the rough in electrical work. Today Russell and Nancy Pejouhy (Bethel, VT) came to stain interior boards. Margaret (Lebanon, NH) is here keeping the office in order. A group from Make it Rain will be here this weekend to volunteer their skills and on Sunday a group from Blooming Glen Mennonite Church will start a week of service.
At BBC we normally experience God using people to bring encouragement in the face of discouraging circumstances all summer and this year, all winter. Experience first hand how God does this by volunteering time or giving money to help build the pavilion or sending a kid to BBC this summer!
The MDS Van
Salford MDS Crew
Larry Derstine adds shingles
Marlin and Neil of Bergey’s Electric Volunteer to do the high ceiling work.
She was a camper for years, then an intern. Last summer she was an assistant counselor and this year she’s coming back to counsel for the summer. One of the best parts of being the program director for 10 years is experiencing campers grow into staff and giving a summer to help other youth develop their relationship with God.
I remember the first time Tuna and I met GiGi in the registration line. She asked us if we knew Mike Wenger. She was an energetic member of woodpecker. GiGi hasn’t missed a summer since. She’s continued to ask questions, have lots of energy and be an integral part of BBC summers. We’re excited she’s committed to a summer of counseling before she heads to UVM in the fall.
Read on for why she’s excited to return to BBC this summer and why you should come join her:
“Hi everyone! I am so excited to come back to camp! Last summer was so much fun and I can not imagine a summer without camp in it! I can’t wait to play in the mudpit, sing some great songs and get to learn and share about God. All this is going to be so great, and we have a brand new pavillion so we can have even more fun! Can’t wait to see old friends and make new ones this summer!” -Gigi
Just as Chia seeds are good for your health, Chia is a “good – for – camp counselor”which is why we are thrilled to announce that Chia is returning for another summer! Campers love her. Staff rely on her. And God is evident in her. After volunteering here in 2006 & 2008 and being on staff in 2014 we are glad for Chia to return for the entire summer of 2015! Read on for why she’s excited to come back to BBC and why she thinks you should too!
“Hello BBC Campers!! I am super excited to be coming back to BBC for a second summer! I was a counselor last year and absolutely loved it. I love being able to spend a summer with a community of friends who love God, who love others, and love His creation. I really enjoyed getting to know each one of my campers and have so many fond memories from my times with the girls in Woodpecker! I can’t wait to try some awesome new activities, and have new adventures with my campers this summer. I also can’t wait to return because I feel like God is not done with me at BBC … I hope to get to know the campers I had last summer better, and form new relationships with new campers this summer! I’m excited to share my story of what God’s been doing in my life, learn from my campers, and of course, have fun! I can’t wait to see you this summer and hope you’ll come back to camp 🙂
Chia Commits to Summer 15
Chia and Campers at ’14 Shin Dig
Chia and Azul post Zip Line
Chia Sharing with Kids at ’14 Annual Sunday Service
Waking up to snow this morning reminded me that this is the winter that just won’t quit! And what a winter it has been. Lots of people were on and off the hill to help with the building but my favorite groups continue to be THE CAMPERS! During the month of Feb there were 3 great weekends of winter camp! I recently spoke with a camper who was at snow camp who said she enjoys snow camp even more than summer camp.
The 2015 Snow Camp Season included Bobcat Camp for grades 3-6, Lynx Camp for grades 5-7 and Polar Bear Camp for grades 7-9. Each camp had unique activities like cardboard sled races, snowball olympics and popsicle stick collages. Each camp had different staff and campers. Despite the uniqueness of each weekend all 3 snow camps included time outside enjoying the beautiful (and cold) winter wonderland, learning and asking questions about faith, great food (thanks to many volunteers) and lots and lots of fun!
See the BBC Snow Camps for yourself at these different links and then mark your calendars to join us next year or tell your friends to join us for exciting weekends of camp in the snow!
As winter winds down (slowly) we are anxiously awaiting Summer! This summer marks BBC’s 50th summer and the first summer in the new pavi! Don’t miss these exciting milestones at BBC! Sign up for SUMMER CAMP now at http://www.bethanybirches.org/summer-camps/
NYE is coming back for the summer! He’s been at snow camps, he’s volunteered at summer camp and for the first time since 2012 he’ll be at BBC for the entire summer. Read on for why he’s returning and why you should too!!
“I CAN’T WAIT to come back to camp! I’ve been busy stewing my creative juices in my time away from BBC- and I can’t wait to see how having a brand new ENORMOUS pavilion will let us create new games and activities. I can’t wait to do all of my old favorites- the Mudpit, Mission Impossible, Gold Rush- and I even have ideas for awesome NEW games! But I won’t give them away here- come join us at camp this summer to find out!
I can’t wait to worship God, play in the sun, and see you all this summer!
Sometimes the task ahead of us looks too big. Monumental. Insurmountable.
When completing a thesis became a requirement for graduate school I wondered if I would pass. (I did.)
When driving over the Killington Pass in the snow became necessary to go home I wondered if I should rent an apt in Rutland. (I didn’t.)
When a group of new summer staff shows up each June and many campers are registered to join us I often wonder to myself, “hmmm, how will this go?” Each summer has gone well, with plenty of lessons along the way. (Except for 2009, that summer was really hard!)
When Tuna told me we needed to have the pavilion packed up, prepared for tear down and host a party the day after 8 weeks of summer camp ended, I laughed. Usually, the day after summer camp ends, I sleep. For a very long time.
The task seemed too big. Monumental. Insurmountable.
Then a large group of people showed up. People of all ages, sizes, backgrounds, and camp connections came to help.
I started to realize the day was going to go differently than I expected when one of the Musser Woodcutters (a group of men who have been coming each November to cut firewood for camp for the past 15+ years) walked into the pavi just before 2pm with his wife. They live in central PA. After hugs and greetings they both asked, “what can we do?” Lynette got to work in the kitchen and Merle hauled stuff from the pavilion to various places on the gator.
Board members arrived ready to get their hands dirty. Shoot, they even brought their spouses and kids!
Rouke’s Mom and Dad arrived at the start and took apart the water fountain, the kitchen and some of the walls! Campers from past and present came with their families and cut trees, cleaned out the craft hut, organized and boxed up the nurse’s station, moved kitchen supplies, put the craft hut on trees, and all the while smiled and asked what else they could do to help.
Volunteers who have been around since the start of camp cleaned out the recycling shed (which had not been fully cleaned out for an embarrassing amount of time), took apart electrical things and continued to ask, “what else can we do?”. Sharkbait’s (assistant cook ’14) family spent time moving the cubbies to chickadee and organizing items in their temporary homes. Chad Yoder and Austin Landes started in well before 2pm, moving the ball box, taking apart the mural, and dismantling the sound system. Jeff Rosenberger and Dale Snader drove their trucks and trailers around camp property moving heavy kitchen appliances. They too, did all this work smiling and always asking what else can we do?
Local carpenters salvaged pieces of the old pavilion to sell at the upcoming benefit auction. Althea and Jane inventoried, bagged up and organized the camp store supplies. Phil, Denise and a crew of helpers provided everyone with a great meal, sans kitchen!
It wasn’t long until I had no answer to the continuous question, “what else can we do?” And it has taken me too long to say THANK YOU to each person who came to help with the Pavi Teardown Hoedown.
And now, as various challenges with each step of the building process arise, the task of replacing the Pavi seems too big. Monumental. Insurmountable.
Then I remember the Pavi Teardown Hoedown. I also remember the volunteers who come to help each summer. I remember what BBC shared with campers for the duration of Summer ’14: God will build God’s people up by using God’s people. That is the story of Bethany Birches. God uses God’s people to build a community of love. Bring on the task of building a new Pavi. Only with God are all things possible. May God inspire you to help build the new Pavi.
#We would be building #withGod
Pavi tear down volunteers gather to say goodbye
Camper parents send parts of the pavi to the top of the barn
On the day of pavi demolition my mom proved how well she knew me by asking: “How is Amber (Cheeks)? She does not like change.” Normally I try to avoid change until it’s too late and then move forward with whatever is in front of me. Even though I know change is necessary and good, I’d prefer to avoid the process.
Exhibit 1: Right now instead of a pavilion there is a large hole in the ground with a growing pile of dirt next to it.
Exhibit 2: Behind the hole, in front of the bath house, sits pavi .50 (the roof of the former pavi sitting atop 2 storage bins).
Exhibit 3: The craft hut has been moved towards Frisbee Golf Hole #2.
Exhibit 4: There are ‘blasting mats’ in the parking lot and a consistent stream of very large machines.
Exhibit 5: Each day a few people are at camp who are not college age staff or local youth but instead builders, excavators, and architects, who are mostly men, none of whom seem to have interest in singing silly songs or swimming.
This time the process that comes with change is unavoidable.
Despite the process of change happening at camp, 3 guys this morning didn’t seem to notice. Martin Excavating (Nope, Bruce, Andy Blanchard) is here getting the site ready for a new building. I arrived at camp about the time of their morning coffee break (I enjoy a slower pace after camp…). The first comment I heard from these strangers were “…remember hiking down to the cold pond for swimming…when I was here we stayed in army tents…Is Nevin Bender still alive?…I sat on that rock many times…Remember playing softball in the field across the road?…I bet I sat in this very spot before!” Each of the 3 excavators working on site today attended camp as young people before BBC had a ballfield, pond or basketball court. This morning they didn’t seem to notice how things have changed or are changing. Instead they shared great memories and laughs. They seemed completely comfortable and happy to be back. They ended their coffee break with laughter and reminiscing and I started my day with laughter and excitement for the good stuff that happens here – past, present and future.
The change in building is unavoidable. The memories created here and the experience people have here doesn’t seem to be changing.
Exhibit 1: No Pavi, large hole, growing dirt pile
Exhibit 2: Pavi .50 (towards the back of the photo)
Exhibit 3: The craft hut in a new temporary location.
Cheeks taking on the change (as long as some things stay the same)
BBC has chosen a theme for summer 2014! There has been a pattern developing the past few years. A theme for the upcoming summer is chosen and at the same time the prior summer’s theme is STUCK in my mind. For the past 6 weeks we’ve contemplated the summer theme for 2014 and I’ve had Mission Possible (summer 2013) on the brain!
Over the next few weeks perhaps I’ll share some of the ways I’ve seen Mission Possible come alive outside the realm of summer camp. I could share how Mission Possible has morphed into a relevant way to experience God everyday. For now, here’s one example:
I love presents! Some people know this about me. Some people may not. I love to OPEN presents and I love to GIVE presents. The look on someone’s face when they first view the present they didn’t even know they wanted but are so glad to have is priceless! Giving someone joy makes me near giddy. The anticipation of uncovering what is underneath the wrapping paper is the best suspense I’m aware of! I love presents.
This year is different. I can’t decide what to wrap for the people I love most. What do they want? What do they need?
This year is different. Both sides of my family have decided to exchange names which means less giving/receiving of presents.
This year giving presents has felt nearly impossible. And then I received the following in an email:
“This time of year, I’m particularly aware of the importance of presence. Not presents, but presence… The gift of their (family) presence has been truly the most rewarding gift I have ever received. Just knowing that they are there for me gives me confidence to do whatever my heart desires. And that is a great gift. In this season of presents, it’s easy to get bogged down in the commercialism and gift buying. I would like to encourage you to give someone your presence this holiday season. It will mean a great deal to the giver and the receiver. ” (Michelle Cummings, Training Wheels CEO)
Suddenly both giving and receiving seems possible. And exciting. I will give my presence. I will enjoy the presence of others. Together we will experience God’s presence.
Celebrating Christmas at Camp with Presents – Summer 2013
Campers will teach you just as much as (if not more than) you teach them. I share this mantra with staff often throughout orientation. Staff and campers prove the saying true for 8 weeks every summer at Bethany Birches Camp (BBC). A few weeks ago I experienced the mantra to be true for myself as well. Three BBC teen campers reminded me of what it looks like to love God and love people.
About 6 months ago at BBC’s 2013 April Connect for Teens, Annie and Katie Soho told me I should join them on a service trip to an orphanage in Ethiopia in August*. The offer was tempting. I perseverated for about 6 weeks until I finally declined. Recently I was browsing pictures from their trip and reading about their stories (I’m still waiting to hear in person) through an article in the Valley News** and I’m wondering why I didn’t join them. The pictures and comments struck me as love in action. Specifically loving the least – children and widows. The campers were carrying out the beliefs I claim and share each summer.
For the past 10 summers I’ve shared God’s 2 most important commandments: Love God and Love People. As each summer concludes the post summer blues inevitably sink in. I miss the excitement and energy of young people at camp. I miss the staff. I feel like the beauty of camp is wasted on the emptiness. I wonder if any campers heard anything this summer that will change their lives. Over the course of their summers at BBC – Annie, Katie and Flossie heard something. These 3 girls have been hearing this message for a long time from camp, from their churches and from their families. These BBC campers not only heard a message to love others but put the message into practice. They sacrificed 2 weeks of their summer to serve in Ethiopia. Campers continue to teach me.
Annie, Katie (and their mom Sandy) and Flossie inspired me. Following their journey to Ethiopia and back again has inspired me to not just stay on the hill of a lonely camp but to move into the world (or invite the world to me) to love God and love people. I don’t know that I’ll be heading to Ethiopia anytime soon but right now I’m inspired by these 3 BBC campers to consider how I can live out now what I share all summer. How do I love the love and serve the people around me now? I’m learning more from these campers than they are from me.
*Selamta Family Project is an organization that seeks to place orphans in forever families. Find out more here.
**I waited too long after the article to post this. You can’t seem to get to the article anymore online. If you’d like to read it in full let me know, I think I can get my hands on a copy.