November is a time when we remember to be thankful – in between stuffing ourselves with a delicious feast and watching football! What would it look like to be thankful each day? Ask anyone who has been to camp and they would probably agree that being at Bethany Birches Camp makes it a little easier to be thankful. The atmosphere surrounding camp makes it impossible to ignore our miraculous God.
Around seven years ago I was introduced to camp. I went to visit a staff member (who later became my sister-in-law) and went back the following year to become a counselor. I spent eight weeks in the mountains in Vermont. Every week presented different challenges but looking back the lessons and blessings that I experienced will last a lifetime. I am so thankful for every moment I spend at BBC!
Bethany Birches gives me the opportunity to be myself and to teach campers about Jesus. God takes our efforts and our abilities and multiplies them more than we can ever imagine. When it’s time to leave camp it feels like a part of me never leaves, and I always try to take a little bit of camp with me.
If you have never experienced BBC I strongly encourage you to find a way to help out. Everyone is welcome at camp, all have a talent, skill, or ability that can be used to further the Kingdom of God.
As you enjoying thanksgiving allow me to leave you with this passage: Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name. For The Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 100: 4,5
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
This post is about money and time. These are two scarce resources. By the end of the post, I hope to have made a great case for why you might like to accept my invitation to come and give time to camp, or give money, or both. In the giving of these two scarce resources, you will be happier!
I stumbled upon two blog posts this past week, both dealing with the data that shows giving things away (especially money and time) make people happier.
One post was sent to me by my brother (thanks Bryce). It’s here. In it, author Arthur Brooks writes:
In 2003, while working on a book about charitable giving, I stumbled across a strange pattern in my data. Paradoxically, I was finding that donors ended up with more income after making their gifts. This was more than correlation; I found solid evidence that giving stimulated prosperity.
He’s not talking about tax loop holes… he’s talking about the way that giving stimulates us. He goes on to explain:
Psychologists, I learned, have long found that donating and volunteering bring a host of benefits to those who give. In one typical study, researchers from Harvard and the University of British Columbia confirmed that, in terms of quantifying “happiness,” spending money on oneself barely moves the needle, but spending on others causes a significant increase.
I have seen this over and over again. I’ve been working for Bethany Birches for 10 years now. One of my primary responsibilities is to reach out to supporters and would-be supporters and share the power of camp with them. It’s amazing. When people are here, at camp, they meet and impact young people. Often they catch a vision of a better world. They are inspired to adjust aspects of their own lives, encourage young people and give to the camp. It’s magical… or perhaps a better word is mystical. Mystical is a better word, I think, because it makes room for the possibility that in this process of relationships and service (giving of ourselves and our resources), God enters.
The second post is from a blog I subscribe to called Generous Matters. In her post, Rebekah Basinger references Brooks’ post and adds some of her own words.
Here’s the problem with all this. It sounds suspicious. Until you experience the joy that comes from giving your time and money away, especially to those who need it (like young people at camp), you can’t quite believe that it can provide meaning and happiness.
My camp name is “G” from Goliath. I am from Indonesia and I came to US with MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) in the International Volunteer Exchange Program (IVEP) in September 2012. BBC was my second placement during a year with MCC. Working at BBC was so meaningful to me because I worked in nature a lot! I really felt God working through nature and camp activities. The summer theme “Mission Possible” fit with me, since in the US I worked as a volunteer far from my real “world”, but I finished the assignment because it was possible #WithGod.
Working at BBC really opened my heart and mind to God. I enjoyed both work as a maintenance support and counselor assistant. In my sight, I believed that kids were not wasting their time at BBC, surrounded with good counselors, staff that are really energetic and full of passion in sharing about God’s love. I was excited to play guitar at fireside when I was there, hear the kids and all staff singing together to make a joyful noise and powerful praise to our God.
But, back to this post – some of you know Dale’s Homes in White River Junction. Dale and Darlene Snader are the owners and have made significant contributions to the camp… one of those contributions was the Director’s Residence that Cheeks and I currently live in (pictured here):
Well, earlier this week Dale came up to help with the Cardinal cabin. It’s foundation needed work or else campers couldn’t stay in it! While we’ll have to do the excavation in the fall, he was able to secure it for the summer. Thanks Dale!
As he was taking time out of a busy season and crawling around in the mud, I started wondering about what causes someone to give something as significant as a house? What causes someone to give a few hours of their time to crawl around in the mud to help protect children? In Dale and Darlene, I have experienced a generous spirit… the kind of spirit that is enabled by the knowledge that all we have received is a gift from above (including our birth).
Join me in hoping and praying for a summer filled with God’s love and service Dale style.
A lot of snow + campers + BBC= SNOW CAMP!! Undoubtedly campers love going to camp: to see friends, to see the staff, and at BBC- to learn more about God. We (a group of volunteers) had a great time with the campers in a non-stop action packed weekend, but the focus wasn’t necessarily on snow – It was on God.
Something that stands out in my mind from the weekend was a conversation that a couple of us (volunteers and campers) were having. I remembered one of the campers – he has a brilliant mind but had a hard time processing the existence of one almighty God. He and his family tended to be polytheistic and as we talked about the story of Elijah found in 1 Kings in the Bible, he asked some really good questions – like, “Why did Elijah call upon Baal to bring fire down when that wasn’t Baals ‘gift’ or ‘power’? He wasn’t the god of fire so of course he won’t be able to send fire down on the altar.” Hmm, good point. We continued to go deeper, yet at some point he seemed to reach an impasse, to which he said, “I’m a skeptic…” as if he thought that by saying that I would stop asking questions. We pressed on. He said that it would take a REALLY BIG miracle to prove to him that the God of Abraham is real.
It was a blessing to be a part of that discussion. He was processing the Christian story. He was asking good questions. He has a deeper knowledge now than he had before – whether that translates into a trust in Jesus and eventual service of God’s Kingdom is yet to be seen. At least a weekend at camp filled his heart and mind with knowledge of the truth. Sometimes these conversations can be a challenge, but they’re the ones that can also bring about the most change and can give us the most encouragement to keep going, to keep proclaiming the message of the gospel to a world that so desperately needs to hear it, see it, feel it, experience it – and Bethany Birches IS all of those things to EVERY camper!
It’s that time of year! When the Bethany Birches Association gathers here at camp. In short, we work together, eat lunch and transact business. This year, however, our business transacting will be cut short by two very important things:
A “walk-through” of the pavilion we intend to build in 2014. More on that later.
Family Feud (or Jeopardy) as Annual Report. We did this for the first time last year and it was a hit.
So please, mark your calendar and plan to join us. Even if you’re not an association member. The day is open for all!
Here’s the schedule:
9:00 am – work begins. Total agenda not finalized, but may include: water tramp, clean kitchen, carpentry in shelters, trail maintenance.
12:30 pm – lunch!
1:30 pm – meeting begins (see above for most of the agenda)
4:00 pm – if it’s nice, play a round of disk golf… or just go home!
Can you make it? Drop me a line at brandon @ bethanybirches.org
Last night I had a very fun experience. I had a 3 hour meeting with a bunch of cool people. Here’s the thing – it was all via Google Hangout (a free video conferencing tool). There were 7 of us on the conference in 4 locations. What makes this more interesting to me is that the meeting was about and for Bethany Birches – a wilderness camp in a rural location. On top of that, the age range of people in the conference was 25-50. I was surprised that it felt relatively easy to engage with each other and in the content of the meeting.
While this is a non-traditional way for a Christian, wilderness camp to operate, let’s think about some benefits:
7 people representing 3 different states would have to travel a LOT to get together physically
That travel costs:
A lot of money (auto or plane expenses plus lost time at work)
A lot time (1 day instead of only 3 hours)
A lot of carbon (we still haven’t main-streamed travel without fossil fuel)
Everyone got to finish out the evening in a way they chose rather than driving home.
In short, I’d say it was a worth while way to have this meeting, even for a camp!
I love when an organization invites me to volunteer in a way that maximizes my time and includes me in the right part of a process. I have a hard time when an organization invites me to give my time before there is an effective way to use it or before there is clarity around the objective.
Our hope here at BBC is that everyone will consider volunteering here in some capacity and that we will find meaningful ways to plug you in. It’s not too late to make plans to volunteer this summer!
It’s true. Occupancy for the Bethany Birches Cabin has been granted. Here’s the proof, in fact.
This post is about the people who made it happen and what happened. THANK YOU!
About a year ago we were informed we’d need to stop using the cabin April 1, 2012
The board and I struggled to find a way forward – including how to pay for the upgrades
Many people gave of their financial resource generously. Without these folks, we couldn’t have done it: First Congregational Church of Woodstock, Doug and Becky Clemens, Dave and Beth Anders, Blooming Glen Mennonite Church, Bernard Sippin and many others.
$75,000 poured in over just a few months.
$65,000 has been spent and we’re done meeting the requirements! We expect to use the “extra” toward a few details in the cabin and any additional toward the upcoming Pavilion replacement. Please do write to me (Brandon) if you’d prefer your gift to be allocated differently.
The fire marshals were kind and flexible and helped us create a building that is much safer in case of fire.
Some of the people: (THANK YOU)
Robert Buchan – helping with permitting and lending knowledge
Paul Derksen & Dave Beidler – carpenters working at a discount seeing the project through
I am encouraged at the speed with which Dave Beidler is moving along in the cabin. Larry Wilfong joined in to help him recently and they’ve been putting the ceiling in the lofts.
Fire Marshal stopped by yesterday to have a peek. He was pleased.
I continue to be thankful for the many folks who gave to make this necessary project possible. The cabin is going to be an even better, inexpensive location to host your ski trip in the Green Mountains.