In a society preoccupied with STUFF consider giving the gift of an experience this Christmas.
PARENTS: planning to send your camper to camp this winter or summer? Consider giving them camp for Christmas! You can use the form on this page to get them signed up easily and will get a card to give your child too: bethanybirches.org/xmas
SUPPORTERS: Perhaps your loved ones don’t need any more things. Give them the gift of knowing a child is being nurtured spiritually, physically and emotionally. Make a contribution using the form on this page (bethanybirches/givecamp) and we’ll email you a Christmas card you can place in a loved one’s stocking Christmas morning!
The Bethany Birches Camp experience teaches many things. Some campers learn how to shoot a bow and arrow, some learn how to cook food over a fire while others uncover gifts God has given them. Learning at camp isn’t limited to campers. Bev Goshow (AKA Grandma Cookie Dough Chaos – that’s her camp name) thought she was coming for one week of serving in the kitchen back in 2010. Seven summers later she is retiring as the camp shepherd for BBC’s youngest campers. Thank you Grandma Cookie Dough Chaos for being open to how God would use you. The following paragraphs are Grandma’s reflections on her path to becoming a camp shepherd at BBC.
~ Amber “Cheeks” Bergey, Volunteer Coordinator & Day Camp Director
As a child I loved attending Camp Sankanac in Spring City, Pa. At that time I was unaware of the seed being planted and nourished. Fast forward to 2010. My husband Dave (aka Woodchip) and I volunteered one week at BBC. I was helping in the old kitchen. When I wasn’t in the kitchen I enjoyed Fireside and soon found myself actively singing with the kids. I’m not sure what happened to me that week. I found myself going down the slip n slide laughing the entire way while campers chanted “Grandma! Grandma! Grandma!”
Before leaving camp, Amber (aka Cheeks) identified one of my gifts as loving children and invited me to be the shepherd the following year. She told me to pray about it. I told her I wouldn’t! I was afraid of what God was calling me to do! My husband Dave felt differently. Dave said right away, “She’ll do it.” He then turned to me and said “You’ll be great at this! It’s right up your alley.”
Preparing for the first year of shepherding brought a lot of anxiety. I had no formal education to do this job. I was just a willing helper. I was fearful the counselors would correct one of my Bible stories! Nothing like that happened. I prayed God would be present and this was for HIM, not Bev. I LOVED my new role!
The highlight of shepherding over the last few years was to share about a loving God and the way of Jesus with 6 to 9 year old campers. I had the total attention of campers when telling them the Bible stories in flannelgraph! You usually could hear a pin drop – even with 84 active kids!
One of the memories that stands out was when I shared the story of Jesus feeding the 5000. Quietly the children filed passed me as I gave them bread and fish (Swedish) and told them Jesus loves them. It was so reverent and peaceful. I cried like a baby as the last child went through.
As a camp shepherd I always had one goal: to plant seeds for children to know Jesus as their personal savior and to nourish those seeds in whatever way possible.
Dot Samsi was a parent/volunteer last summer (2017) at BBC. She agreed to reflect on her experience for the 2017 fall newsletter. Check out family – friendly – no – previous – experience – required – volunteer opportunities for 2018 here.
Camp has been a part of my life since I was a kid in Ohio. Every summer I went away for a week. When I came home covered in mosquito bites, I would write letters to my camp friends and impatiently check our mailbox for their responses. After college I got to work at camp for a summer that turned into a year and a half. My husband and I even got married at that camp and had our reception in the dining hall! Once our kids were old enough, they joined the fun by coming to Mom & Me camp.
Since leaving Ohio several years ago, camp hadn’t been part of our lives but I knew that I wanted camp to be part of our kids’ lives. When we moved to New England, we heard about Bethany Birches from some friends. Then two years ago we made the 120 mile trip to camp for the first time. We dropped the kids off on the mountain for Launch Half. Two days later we picked up exhausted campers who had had a great time!
This past summer I didn’t want to miss out on all the fun. I asked if camp might need a volunteer and heard back from Amber that Bethany Birches loves volunteers! Yay! And it turns out, BBC can use plenty of volunteers. My daughter invited 2 friends and one of their moms, Amy, volunteered also. We all arrived ready to stay for the 2-night Launch Half program.
Amy and I both volunteered in the kitchen where Sparkles and Sharkbait put us right to work. Within a few minutes, we had gloves on our hands, bandannas on our heads, and we were serving dinner to hungry campers! We washed dishes, mopped floors, packed meal crates, and made huge amounts of apple crisp. We even got to make a grocery run for pig trough supplies!
As far as lodging, we brought our sleeping bags and we were ready to rough it, but we ended up staying in a really nice house up the street. It was more like glamping than camping and we had a good time getting to know the other volunteers. Looking for adventure, Amy and I slept out in the hammocks the last night. When we weren’t in the kitchen, we got to see some of the activities (now I know what a pig trough is all about!) and hear some of Grandma Cookie Dough’s firesides. We also got to do a little hiking. (The treehouses are amazing! I think that there may be a treehouse sleepout in my future!)
Volunteering at camp was such a welcome change of pace. The positive atmosphere, the beauty of God’s creation and the joy and enthusiasm of the campers and staff were so refreshing. Even with all the hard work, I came away feeling refreshed. I’m so glad that my family has found Bethany Birches. We can’t wait until next summer!
-Dot Samsi, 2017 Summer Camp Volunteer
Volunteers surround camper enjoying the pig trough
Friends, it’s the holiday season! Here at camp that means hunting, opening of ski resorts, Christmas break, and snow camp preparation. The end of the calendar year for many also means generosity. Unless you’re feeling Scrooge-like. If that’s the case, come to camp soon so we can help melt your heart! If you are feeling generous and interested in learning more about camp’s needs I wanted to make some known.
We are still looking for some funding of the annual budget. Specifically, $50,000 toward kids to camp and general operations (these are bills like insurance, facilities, and stuff we don’t ask campers to pay for). You could give to Kids to Camp through the Christmas program and if you’re a parent you can buy a session of camp through the Christmas program.
A chain saw that was in service for a long time has bit the dust. Do you have an extra one or one you don’t use much? Send it over here!
Also a canoe trailer! Have one? Know someone who does? We could use one for at least 6 boats (8 would be better).
If you haven’t heard about the camp’s path toward net-zero energy use we are currently tackling the heating portion of that through wood burning. The process is under way. In fact, here are some photos. We need to raise about $40,000 more at time of writing to finish this project.
You probably know that camp relies heavily on volunteer labor. In fact, there’s a group here right now from Towamencin Mennonite Church. Thanks guys! It looks like we have almost enough volunteers for the upcoming winter camps which is great. We are currently looking for help for summer camp 2018! Maintenance, Kitchen, Shepherds, Nurses: would you consider giving a few days or a week? If you have a family it can make for a meaningful (and cheap) family vacation as food and lodging is included. Learn more here.
Since we’re on the topic of summer camp, I should add that we need help finding male counselors. A Bethany Birches counselor is someone who has connected with God in their heart, listens to others, enjoys being outside and can lead the way in having fun! If you know a young man who meets this description please tell them about camp! All the summer job opportunities are here.
Feel free to write, text or call any time. Wishing you and yours the very best as this year ends and a new one begins. May you find God in the passing of the years and the newness of each day.
I have some great news about the pavilion project: we have no debt! Thanks to Bob’s walk and a very generous donor we were able to pay off the last $100,000 of debt this fall. That allows us to focus resources directly toward program again and also start working toward the miscellaneous parts of the pavilion project we decided to phase to save money and time during the initial construction. Those remaining parts include a climbing wall, air exchangers, kitchen equipment and a wood boiler. The wood boiler is our focus right now.
Why a wood boiler? It can provide zero-dollar and net-zero emissions heat! Here in Plymouth, VT winters are cold! We also have lots of trees on the property. One of our foresters estimates we could cut 70 cords per year at a sustainable rate (in other words, the forest grows that much new wood each year). We estimate we will use 15 to 20 cords total for fireside cooking, other camp fires and heat. If volunteers continue to cut wood as they have for many years we can provide all the fuel needed to heat the entire facility for almost zero dollars (we’ll have to buy diesel for the tractor and gas for the chainsaws of course).
Utilizing plumbers, engineers and the latest trends in the wood burning industry we have designed a central boiler system that will heat the pavilion, cabin and a third building of our choosing at about 85% efficiency. By comparison, many wood heating systems operate from 50-70% efficiency. Not only will this system be very efficient when it’s operating, the wood we’ll burn will take very little energy to process (from tree to fire will take only two handlings, very little transportation and fossil fuel). On top of that we will be able to gently harvest the trees in our forest that are dying or in poor health meaning we get to use the carbon stored in the tree just before it dies and that carbon gets released anyway. In short, our process for burning wood can be considered carbon-neutral or net zero.
If you can’t tell, I’m very excited about this (and totally geeking out… sorry if you’re bored). For those of you who are excited with me, please consider giving toward this project. Our estimated cost for the infrastructure including foundation, shed, underground pipes to pavilion, boiler etc., utilizing a lot of volunteers, is $50,000. It would cost additional to install in the cabin and a third building. Any donated materials make this number smaller of course. Heating the pavilion with wood will save us about $7000 per year assuming propane price of $1.60. As prices rise and/or we heat more spaces our savings will grow. That means a pay back on the system of less than 7 years.
Please consider making a gift toward this important project. At time of writing $10,717 has been given toward the project. You could make a one time gift, or, perhaps you would consider making a monthly contribution for a year or two years. If 55 people would give $30 per month for two years, the project would be paid for! Consider it one way you can help the environment and young people at the same time.
This year brought the 15th Annual Benefit Auction. This particular Saturday was abnormally warm. A perfect match for the abnormal generosity at the auction. We started out with Larry’s syrup. Each quart sold for $400! That’s abnormal.
Did you know that in the first 14 years of the auction the event has raised $400,000 to help make the Bethany Birches Camp experience accessible to all? This year’s event continued that trajectory! $51,042 was the total given during the auction this year thanks to many generous donors (both items and dollars) and a friend of camp who matched item #50 (Camperships) with $10,000! You can see the live bidding items and sale amounts here.
People coming out to the auction included friends as close as a stone’s throw from camp and more distant attendees from VA and PA and other nearby states.
One of my favorite things was seeing a few campers so excited to help that they waved items they were displaying and even danced a bit!
Please mark your calendars now to attend the 16th Annual Benefit auction scheduled for September 29, 2018!
Thanks to Erin “Tye Dye” Dye for this guest post. Tye Die is the camp shepherd this summer:
Thursday evenings this summer have been an opportunity for holy moments. Counselors have gotten to know their campers really well by the 5th night, campers submerse in good vibes from the week and excitement to go home, and for our worship times, this evening is a chance to have an “a ha” moment with the theme and how it relates to their own lives. During our Thursdays the last four weeks, we have looked the story of the woman at the well and her unexpected conversation with Jesus. When Jesus offers her living water, he shows us that he cares for everyone, even the unlikely people (a woman frowned upon by society as well as a Samaritan). As refreshing as the idea of living water sounds, this is an abstract concept of cleansing aspects of ourselves that we can’t pinpoint or see. In efforts to visualize the invisible, campers and staff participated in a demonstration to see the implications of receiving Jesus’s living water. Participants had an opportunity to pour something into a communal cup of water to make it cloudy (ketchup, mustard, pepper, etc.), and share something that personally clouds or weighs down their own spirits. Then as a group we enjoyed the visual of pouring overwhelming amounts of clean water (representing Jesus’ living water), flooding the cup and pushing out all the junk that we put in and that weighs us down, leaving us refreshed and free of burden. Campers consistently reported enjoyment of this activity and deeper appreciation of God’s desire to help us carry and bring relief for our burdens. It’s been a beautiful catalyst moment for the spiritual component of camp.
Campers have shared experiencing God at many different points throughout the summer. One of those experiences I was fortunate enough to witness as God worked through our high school campers. After one of our small group times, the girls of this particular cabin had heavy hearts over the things they shared and put in the cup during the demonstration. In an effort to put their minds at rest before going to sleep, the cabin counselor opted to pray for each girl of the cabin out loud and proceeded to highlight the delightful characteristics and joys each girl brought to the cabin. At the end of the counselor’s prayer, I had planned to pray similar things for the counselor leading the prayer. However, I never got the chance because the moment she paused one of the campers jumped at the opportunity to pray and pour encouragement on their counselor, and when she finished another camper took a turn to pray for me! This moment was not only pleasant to be prayed for, but more so to witness campers receiving God’s love through our program all week and a strong desire to return the experience. This also meant our campers felt comfortable enough to pray out loud in front of their peers, unprompted, and live out the example Jesus calls us to in encouraging and building one another up in our faith. Although the work of camp is long and challenging at times, it is certainly not without reward!
Summer is under way and we are excited! Summer 2017 is shaping up to be Bethany Birches’ most attended summer in our 53 year history. You can see the current capacity of camp that remains open and which sessions are full on the 427 page. If you see a session you’d like to attend and see that it’s full, it may be worthwhile putting your child on the waitlist (as cancellations do happen). To do that, just sign up like you normally would.
To those of you who helped spread the word about Bethany Birches Camp and our rustic, relationship and skills developing, faith-building camp program, thank you! Please continue to share with your friends all that Bethany Birches has to offer: from unique and awesome summer and winter camp programs to weddings and other facility rentals. It takes a village to raise a child and we need all of you to help in that work. If you’re reading this and don’t have children camp age and don’t have use for the facility, consider sponsoring a camper this summer. Give to the Kids to Camp fund or join us at the annual benefit auction to make it happen.
Pray with me that this summer will be like all the others before it – that God’s presence will be experienced and that each person will be filled with God’s love, mercy, hope and joy. Come see for yourself as a volunteer.
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”.
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.