Above: Lynx snow-campers enjoying the cabin before we got the bad news. What great fun a weekend of camp in the winter can be!
When I (Brandon) started at Bethany Birches in 2004 there was a Director’s Residence in the works. By the spring of 2005 I was living in that residence. Shortly after that we as an organization began to think about the challenges the pavilion presented for emerging programs as well as the support of our key program: summer camp! We’ve been moving very cautiously on that project, simply because we weren’t exactly sure how to proceed. And now we are putting together the Resource Development Team in order to begin the fundraising.
As we were making decisions about the pavilion replacement project with our chosen consultant, Design Group International, the Fire Marshal paid the cabin a visit. Not surprisingly he had concerns! We can’t use it this summer unless we complete certain work by then and obtain a temporary occupancy permit. For more on the cabin, see “Cabin Update”.
On top of all this facility update, we’re planning to finish the basement of the Director’s Residence this summer thanks to Austin Landes of IT Landes and Souderton Mennonite Church among others. And so here we are, in the middle of one major project (Cabin) planning for an even bigger project (Pavilion) and planning for a minor project (finishing basement at Directors Residence). All we really have is a prayer, a lot of excited, willing and generous people and the cash that’s in the bank (less than $100,000). We’re thankful. Thankful for the opportunity to walk with a God who calls us beyond the completion of a project, beyond nice buildings or buildings at all, beyond program and all the great, fun things that happen at summer camp. A God that invites us to be part of the greatest community of love there ever was. Thankful for some people who responded to the vision God placed in their heart many years ago. Thankful for those that are responding to the needs of Bethany Birches now. And thankful that we can begin this crazy time with at least some cash!
Surely this is The Church in action. All working together so that young people will come to know the One That is Good. For stories about how the vision of Bethany Birches is working out, check out this video: Stories of Camp from Blooming Glen – Brandon Bergey
“Hi, could I talk with the owner?” It’s early on a Tuesday morning in March. I respond, “Uhh, our ownership is comprised of about 60 households… I’m not sure how you could easily reach them all.” So the voice on the other line responds: “Well, this is Jay with the state department of public safety – I’m a fire marshal. I found your building online and would like to come take a look at it. You rent it out to guests, right?” Me: “Yes, we do. Sure, I guess you can come look at it.” Him: “OK, how about Monday morning next week. 9:30 OK?” Me, looking at my calendar, noticing I’m in the office Monday morning, but not sure I should say yes… thinking that maybe I should just hang up the phone for fear of what would happen Monday morning when Jay comes to visit: “Uhh, sure. Yea, 9:30 on Monday is fine.” Him: “OK, thanks. See you then.” Click goes the phone. Gulp goes me. I think, is this OK? What’s going to happen?
Next week comes. The fire marshal comes to do an inspection on the BBC Cabin (Bruce and Jay). We talk for about a half hour about the various fire hazards in the building. They leave with concern about the safety of the building. I leave with a report showing 8 violations of the life safety code and a temporary occupancy permit. Gulp!
I first get frustrated. Then scared; nervous; concerned. After a little reflection, I feel calm. I begin to sense God’s spirit near. I remember what good has come in my life during times of challenge, struggle, correction, outside direction. I wrote a note on the camp’s Facebook page. I wrote a blog post. I wrote an email. Within two days, people were asking about the situation, offering help and supplies and all sorts of things. I was surprised and amazed at the immediacy and generosity! And it continues – AM Goshow and Son have donated windows. Goodro Lumber is offering discounted materials. Robert Buchan (Architect) and Paul Derksen (Turning Leaf Housewrights) are doing lots of work on the project for deeply discounted rates. A camper gave $10. First Congregational Church of Woodstock gave $23,500. Dave Beidler, Andrew Moyer, Matt Harootunian, Mike Horst and others are giving generously of their time. Bergey’s Electric is coming to install the smoke detection system (free of charge) under the supervision of Mike Bryan (electrician). It’s like the early church in Acts… so that no part of camp had need (Acts 4:32-37).
If you’d like to help, there are various ways to do so – we still have the second phase of this work to pay for. If you’re a carpenter or have experience with building trades, come work! We’re working the last two weeks of May (21 – June 1), each day. We need 2-4 people each of those days. We expect to begin work on an addition in August that will gain us permanent occupancy (you could call or email for specific dates in June or July). The fire marshal is working with us and has set limits we must meet before we are able to use the building for summer program and then some additional things we need to do to make it even safer. We’re so thankful for the understanding and kindness Bruce and Jay and their office have shown us and their understanding of both our need to make the building safer as well as our need to do it in a manner that saves money by including volunteers.
Above: Winter Family Fun Day was great, well.. FUN!
My vision for BBC includes this sacred space being a place for all children to become their potential through building healthy relationships with other children that are culturally different from themselves, developing a deeper relationship with their Creator, and recognizing possibilities in themselves that remain untapped. Bethany Birches Camp has been a place where children are safe to observe and explore nature, develop their spirituality, and become their potential. It has also been a place for young adults to develop their leadership skills, healthy relationship with others, and deepen their relationship with God. These are principals that I hope we will continue to uphold going forward.
As a board we recognize that the facility needs to provide space for this to occur. We want camp to be a place for children to relate to nature and develop healthy relationships with others and their Divine Creator. The last several years the board has been looking at what a reasonable amount of dry space is for indoor activities in the summer and winter. We are grappling with how to insure children spend as much time outdoors as possible while recognizing the need for larger group space in inclement weather. We continue to use Robert Buchan’s architectural expertise to assist us in the practical aspects of these ideas. As a board we continue to ask what impact will changing facility have on the financial future of the camp? Historically, as an organization, we remained solvent by having minimal overhead. We continue to look at facility and the direction of the camp in regard to financial sustainability with continued focus on children growing toward wholeness.
Lynx snow-campers displaying one of their tracks - part of an excercise in considering what or who we follow
We are also looking at policies that will drive how program and camp should function now and in the future. In the near future we will have access to cell service on “the hill”. This will impact the ability of children to use technology and, how staff will monitor its use. Like other institutions we need to remain thoughtful about the use of technology.
I continue to volunteer as a board member because of my strong belief that when children and youth are provided an environment that supports their potential they will develop into healthy adults.
If you make a gift of $400 a camper who literally could not come to camp through any other means will get to come. Even if you can only give $10, give it! 40 people giving $10 each will send a camper. You’ll receive a letter from a camper who got to come to camp as a result of you sharing your resources. If you’d like to give on a monthly basis automatically, you can do that by logging into your donor account through our website. If you have given before but don’t know your login, simply fill out the form on the page to receive your login.
The sky is the limit. The possibilities are endless. With 100 acres of wilderness and a week’s time the options for activities, discussion, events and experiences at camp are endless. The limitless options can sometimes make planning a summer camp program overwhelming! How does one choose what to do, what to talk about and what to focus on? Over the last 8 years our answer to this question has been THEMES! Wet N Wild Wednesday; Messy Monday; Tidy UP Tuesday; Theater Thursday and Fun Filled, Fire Free, Favorites, Farewell Friday. Each day has a theme and this helps us stay focused in this ADHD day-in-age and gives campers something to look forward to.
Themes also help us in our mission to help young people develop their relationship with God. Each summer has an overarching theme that gives counselors and shepherds a platform for sharing about God’s love and the life of Jesus with campers. The hope is that campers will relate to and remember their experience with God more readily.
Inside Out is the theme for 2012. After using highly specific nature themes for the past few years (Out on a Limb (Trees); Rock Solid (Rocks); Aglow (Fire); H2O (Water); etc) the theme Inside Out will focus on how God’s Kingdom AND the natural world around us often seem inside out from what might be expected. With the beatitudes as our guide (Matthew 5) campers will examine the life and teachings of Jesus. How did Jesus live differently from the world around him? Why would people live differently than the status quo? How does a tall tree grow from a small seed? How can life come from death? What does a life following Jesus look like? These are some of the questions campers and counselors will ask together this summer. Can’t wait!
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