Author Archive

Conversation with Martin Excavators

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.

However, Mission Possible: The Pavilion Project is cramping my normal style.

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.

Mission Possible: Giving Presence

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.

#WithGod.

Celebrating Christmas at Camp with Presents - Summer 2013

Celebrating Christmas at Camp with Presents – Summer 2013

BBC Teen Campers to Ethiopia

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.

 

 

The BBC Cabin has Something for Everyone in Winter

Cheeks trying to stay ahead of the raking

Cheeks trying to stay ahead of the raking

The other day Tuna posted this picture of me trying to stay ahead of leaf raking. Mowing leaves reminded me of plowing/shoveling snow. My heart sunk as I remembered how much harder it is to both shovel snow and drive in snow compared to leaves! Then I remembered the beauty of winter, the memories I’ve created while skiing down East Fall, giggling the whole way down the BBC tube run or heading deep into the quiet woods on my snowshoes. BBC is a winter wonderland. Consider coming to check it out!

The Bethany Birches Cabin is a great spot to enjoy every aspect of winter…
…Head to the nearby mountains for some of the best skiing in the northeast.  (Killington Mountain or Okemo Mountain)
…Tube down BBC’s 1/5 mile tube run on tube park quality tubes for a memorable adventure
…Strap on snowshoes or cross country skis and explore the 100 acres of camp.
…Snowmobile the VAST trail which runs through camp property and can take you anwhere in the state of VT.
…Or simply watch the snow fall from a cozy cabin.

No matter the type of adventure you enjoy – BBC is a cozy, affordable place to stay. The cabin is kid friendly and a great place for groups of any kind to gather!*

Take 20% off a week long rental. Inquire about midweek/3 night rental specials. For more details on rates click here. Or click here to check the availability. To reserve the cabin click here.  Or give us a call! (802-672-5220)

If you’re coming to ski – don’t’ miss out on Killington’s early bird deals ($58 Weekend Tix/$38 Mid Week Tix offered through 10/17) Keep in mind, Killington is open until May and skiing in April can be just as fun as skiing in Feb!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Non Profit Youth Group Discounts ($15/person)

Stay at BBC to enjoy the BEAUTY of Fall Foliage

It’s beginning to look a lot like…FOLIAGE SEASON! The fall foliage season in Vermont has been described as:

“The unbearably beautiful American time and place. Brilliant yellow birch-covered hills slope down to glowing green meadows. Every sugar maple along every country lane combusts in scarlet and gold. The intensity of the season so overpowers the senses that autumn cannot be remembered one year to the next, so its splendor always comes as a shock.” – Charles Kuralt

There is no better place to view the bursting colors than the BBC Cabin!

– Share the beauty with your family and take in the colors while playing on the playground, kayaking in the pond, or exploring the forest. Make memories while having an adventure at a nearby attraction be it hiking, shopping or eating!

– If you’re in need of a quiet, peaceful retreat after a busy summer and a chaotic back to school season come to camp to enjoy the colors from a quiet hill top.

– Or come to BBC simply to support the camp’s mission of helping youth develop their relationship with God. All the while you can enjoy God’s surrounding creation and renew your own relationship with God.

No matter what the reason we want to share BBC’s view with you!

Reserve The Cabin

 

Use the links below or call/email the BBC office for help in planning a memorable, breathtaking fall getaway! (camp at bethanybirches.org/802-672-5220)

 

Killington Area (~20 min from BBC):

Killington Hay Festival, Killington Gondola Rides, Hiking, Golfing

Woodstock Area (~ 30 min from BBC):

Billings Farm, Craft Fairs, Hiking, Flea Markets, Great Food!

Ludlow Area (~20 min from BBC):

Hiking, Farmer’s Markets, Train Rides, Antique Car Shows, Golfing

 

Additional pics of foliage beginning around BBC:

Foliage Begins near Bathhouse

Foliage Begins near Bathhouse

Foliage Begins near the Parking Lot

Foliage Begins near the Parking Lot

Why Camp Counseling Is One Of Your Best Resume Builders

“It’s a good thing they hire 20 yr olds because they are the only people crazy enough to do it!” A current friend of mine and a former BBC counselor was recently referring to the job of camp counseling. It is a crazy job. At BBC counselors care for kids 23/5.  Counselors are responsible for cooking meals for campers, sharing Jesus with campers, consistently increasing the fun quotient and creating community among a group of young people who have just met each other. Talent, patience and a desire to keep learning are required for this type of job. Each summer BBC recruits high quality young adults to serve as camp staff. No wonder I miss them so much when they leave!

My friend and I are not the only ones to notice the high quality of camp counselors. An article in Time Magazine reports that “many educators have come to recognize that summer camp, and specifically being a counselor, fosters precisely the skill that we value so highly in young adults: taking responsibility.” The article suggests camp counselors should receive more notice and benefit because “the camp-counselor experience prepares successful young adults through teamwork, empathy, cross-cultural understanding, ability to work with subordinates and superiors, creativity, working under pressure and managing with limited resources.” What other experience packs this type of learning and development?

After reflecting on this past summer at BBC I find myself so thankful for the staff who spent 8 weeks helping the youth around them develop their relationship with God and who continue to develop themselves into people who will surely spread God’s kingdom here on Earth.

Read more from the Time Magazine Article here: http://ideas.time.com/2012/07/10/aummer-camp-can-it-make-kids-more-responsible/

 

 

5 Reasons to Join us for SNOW CAMP (from the campers)

Last weekend the cabin was bustling with Bobcat Campers. This weekend the cabin will be bustling with Polar Bear Campers. And next weekend the cabin will be bustling with Lynx Campers! Each weekend includes a great line up of snowy adventures on the tubing run and ice rink, unique BBC all camp winter activities, stellar staff and a theme to help us each understand how much God loves us. We asked a few Bobcat Campers what they liked most about snow camp and compiled their response into:

TOP 5 REASONS to come to SNOW CAMP (from a camper’s perspective):

1. The Tubing Run is AWESOME

2. Broomball Tournaments are fun!

3. Lots of Laughter

4. The Indoor Game Room (Air hockey, foosball, ping pong, etc)

5. Making Creations

There are many other reasons to come but you should join us on the hill to find out why! Lynx camp still has openings for any 4th – 8th grader. Register online here or email the camp office with questions: camp@bethanybirches.org

Click here to see a slideshow of Bobcat Camp Pics

Bobcat Campers enjoying the snow

Bobcat Campers enjoying the snow

Summer Dates are Final!

Despite the snow on the ground and the fast approaching winter camps we are gearing up for another summer of fun, God, friends and nature. We’ve finalized the dates for SUMMER 2013, added a few programs to mix it up and will be ready to accept registrations NEXT Friday (Jan 18). Keep in mind, if you register within the first week of registration opening you’ll receive a $50 discount!

See the sessions and dates below and stay tuned for opening of registration, updates on new programs and the announcement of 2013 summer theme! Summer’s coming, are you?!

Pioneer – Ages 7-9; July 7-11
Pilgrim – Ages 9-11; June 23-28
Friendship – Ages 6-8; July 7-9
Voyager – Ages 10-12; June 30 – July 5
Voyager Extended – Ages 10-11; June 23 – July 5
Discoverer – Ages 11-13; July 14-19
Discoverer Extended – Ages 12 -13; July 14 – 26
Explorer – Ages 12 -14; July 21 – 26
Sojourner – Ages 14-18; July 28 – August 2

New to Summer 2013:

  • Mission Possible Week – Ages 11-14; August 4-8: It is exactly what it sounds like. A week where we play the favorite game Mission Impossible MORE THAN ONCE! This week is for returning campers who love the game, love camp and want to learn more about completing the mission that is LIFE. More details to follow.
  • W.O.W (week of work) – Ages 15-18; August 4-8: A week of work for any returning teen camper who wants to spend more time at BBC. Opportunities to help in various ways will abound along with plenty of time to hang out with friends and experience God in new ways through serving those around you. More details to follow.
  • Shortened Pioneer Session (ages 7-9)

There’s not better place to be during the summer than BBC! Hope to see you on the hill:)

Tracks in the Snow

The hill is finally snow covered. Actually, camp is snow buried.  For those of you that have seen me at a snow camp, what I’m about to write might surprise you. My heart sinks when the snow starts falling. There’s no arguing the snow is beautiful. Clothed with adequate warm weather attire I love to go tubing, snow shoeing, skiing, snow painting or falling in the snow to make a snow angel. What I hate about snow is driving in it! I hate the fact that the roads I drive daily become unpredictable and dangerous. The additional travel time is detrimental to a chronically tardy person. I don’t enjoy the increase of blood pressure and white knuckles that are my body’s response to driving in the snow.

The other day I was lamenting all of the above as I watched Tuna drive away in inches of snow towards Killington. It’s so natural for Tuna to drive in the snow. As I pondered the many differences between us small indentations in the snow caught my eye. The indentations led straight to a tree. My gaze then caught another set of tracks. These were much bigger leading from the road to the woods. I was suddenly reminded that I am not the only one adversely affected by the snow. As the snow gets deeper moving around the woods becomes more challenging for some animals. The whereabouts of animals become more easily detected after a fresh snow fall. Despite the increased challenge, God gives these animals adaptations to make snow survival more possible. I was reminded of the adaptation God has given me in an AWD Subaru to get around in the snow. Despite my fear, I can usually get where I need to go in the snow.

I hope that someday I become more comfortable traveling in the snow but after 5 winters of white knuckled driving on the hill I’m not so sure I will.  At camp we often look around us to attempt to learn from nature. Seeing animal tracks in the snow reminds me that despite increased challenge, fear and adversity God gives each creature the resources required to live. (Philippians 4:19) God provides us with whatever we need to make our mission possible.

Come see for yourself, join me on the hill this winter for some animal tracking:)

Animal Tracks by the Tipi_Jan 13

Happy New Year from BBC

Happy New Year from Bethany Birches!

I (Cheeks) took a few minutes to reflect on the past year. 2012 was another year full of learning and challenge. The various challenges and uncertainty left a lot of room for God to work. As God moved and worked here on the hill I learned a lot about prayer. All summer long we tell campers to pray when they are in trouble, when they are thankful, before meals and any time they want to connect with their Creator. We teach them a variety of ways to pray. We encourage them to pray for each other. Staff pray for campers all throughout the year. And yet this topic has alluded me of late. But as I reflected on 2012 the resounding theme was ANSWERED PRAYER. I was so aware of God answering prayers consistently throughout the year. Read on for my recollection of the top 5 answered prayers of 2012:

Bobcat Campers enjoying the snow

1. SNOW for SNOW CAMP: The week before Bobcat snow camp there was a vital ingredient missing: SNOW! I called my mom and told her we had no snow on the ground for snow camp and asked her to please pray for SNOW. I started planning for a snowless snow camp while praying snow would come. We could see grass on Thursday afternoon, but by Friday afternoon the hill was covered and night time sledding was a blast! I don’t know if God changed the weather pattern specifically for a BBC Snow Camp, but I learned to trust more in God as the snow covered the ground.

Lynx snow-campers with Marlin and Guppy in the middle. (This was just before we got the bad news from the fire marshal.)

2. SHEPHERD for SNOW CAMP: Two weeks before the 2012 Lynx Snow Camp camp was shepherdless. Person after person turned down the offer to come teach Jr High campers about Jesus. One night after exhausting the last person I knew to call I prayed – “God who will shepherd these campers?” The next day Marlin and Guppy called up saying they wanted to make room in their life to drive 12 hours both ways from VA – VT to help at a snow camp – did I still have any needs? YES! Marlin and Guppy shepherded for Lynx Camp and a good time was had by all. I continue to learn that God will bring people to do God’s work.

3. FIRE MARSHAL RALLY: You may have heard the story of the cabin upgrades required by the fire marshal in March (If not, scroll back to earlier blog posts). The whole fiasco was so discouraging at times. And yet, in each discouraging scenario we prayed. Prayed for God to bring funds. Prayed for God to bring volunteers. Prayed for God to bring materials. And each time God answered. One time God answered with a generous donation from the First Congregational Church of Woodstock. Another time God answered with 2 of Tuna’s Aunt and Uncles coming for a week to do all the electrical work. Another time God answered with camper parents who were willing to volunteer their carpentry skills. Another time God answered prayer with a 10K check from an individual supporter. God answered each prayer and I learned to trust him for all my needs.

Summer 2012 Staff

4. STAFF SHORTAGE: Going into March there were only a few applicants to counsel for summer 2012! We had recruited at colleges. We invited past staff to return. I had sent out emails. And still, the applications did NOT come. Finally, I committed staffing to prayer. Every day I diligently prayed for young adults to be drawn to BBC. By the end of March we had an excess of male and female counseling applicants. God does not always answer prayer on a timeline that I’m comfortable with but I’m learning timelines are overrated!

MORE CAMPERS: We can only have camp if campers come. When it comes to camper attendance, “the more the merrier!” is always true. Since the end of Summer 2011 I had been feeling like camp should have more campers. At the beginning of 2012 I started praying for more campers. God, bring more campers to camp! And God did. One week God answered by having one camper family invite their entire basketball team. A worker at a social services agency used to attend BBC as a kid so she sent every camper she could. Word got out. BBC was the place to be this summer. Camp saw over a 12% increase in camper attendance during the summer of 2012. God brought more campers and through each one, more of himself.

Join me in praying for BBC in 2013. Don’t be surprised when God answers.

– Cheeks.