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/
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)
A number of weeks ago I got an email from John Stoltzfus, the campus pastor at Christopher Dock Mennonite High School. He wanted to know if Cheeks or I or both would be willing to come share about the intersection of faith and career in our lives. I thought about it for a day and realized that not only would I enjoy being back at my alma matter, I have a deep passion for young people and their search to figure out what to do with their time. It was a stressful journey for me and so I wrote him back and told him I’d love to share with the Dock students!
Here’s what I said. Cheeks worked her schedule out to be able to come also. She was able to share a small part of her story.
On February 8, we hosted a Women’s Breakfast at Blooming Glen Mennonite Church. When planning began last year, the committee decided to ask Amber to share, and she said yes! The committee also decided that donations raised at the breakfast would go to Camp.
The Women’s Breakfast was a huge success! Amber shared stories from the Hill about “Meeting God in Unexpected Places”. She talked about there being room for conflicting feelings in our lives – like strength & weakness, confidence & fear, when we have Jesus. That sometimes both are present, but the love of Jesus allows us to acknowledge and understand the differences in the highs and lows in our lives, without allowing them to define who we are.
This happens to me every year when we come to shepherd for a week at camp. I love the opportunity to be with the kids, getting to know them better in a one-to-one setting. But I am not so comfortable standing before them and speaking during daily Jump Start’s and Fireside’s. The benefits that come from the relationships developed with campers definitely outweighs my public speaking fears, and the grace of God allows me to have enough confidence to get through the hard part of FEAR so that I can enjoy the LOVE of being with kids at camp.
I was privileged to be a part of the planning committee for this Women’s Breakfast. It is a lot of work, but seeing 115 women, spanning several generations, come together for a morning of fellowship, food and rejuvenation through the words shared is such a blessing! And while fund-raising is not the main focus of our breakfast, we are continually amazed at the wonderful ways in which God works. We had several different donors come forward willing to give $5,000 in “matching donations”! This means that they will match all donations given at the breakfast, up to $5,000. In turn, this encourages people to give generously at the breakfast, because then basically every dollar they give is doubled! I am always amazed by the strength of a community when they work together. Who would think that a breakfast could generate this much funding?
And guess what? We collected over $4,500 on that Saturday morning! Praise God! There are expenses to cover and we are still collecting donations this week. Our goal is to raise as close to $5,000, which will then turn in to $10,000 for camp! As of today (Valentine’s day), we are at $9,000! So I challenge you to think of new, fun ways that you can raise money for the new pavilion. To you campers who ski a lot – what about selling hot chocolate slope-side? What about hosting a pancake breakfast before school one morning? Think about it, and don’t let your fears stop you from doing something that will give back to you and your community… YOU CAN DO IT!!
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
Mission Possible All Around: #WithGod all things are possible…
…#WithGod BBC used Mission Possible as the summer-long theme based on Matthew 19:26. Campers were challenged to be #WithGod both at camp and at home. The Mission Possible theme also explored how we can be #WithGod and why it matters. Shepherds invited campers to be #WithGod in all aspects of life.
…#WithGod BBC created a new week of camp this summer: Mission Possible week. Campers were invited on a week-long mission to prove BBC is achieving its mission. Campers participated in the traditional version of their favorite game multiple times and were surprised with MI versions adapted especially for this first time BBC program…
…#WithGod BBC created a new program this summer dedicated to teen campers who want to be at camp more than one week of the summer. Mission Possible Crew week allowed 14-18 yr old campers to come to camp to help with clean up and program while continuing to enjoying the perks of camper life. BBC Crew campers enjoyed setting up and guarding for Mission Impossible games. One crew member enjoyed it because “we got to help make the campers time at camp better while having fun at the same time!” (Erianna, ’13 Crew Member)
…#WithGod BBC is working towards a new pavilion. Each Friday night campers shared with their parents various reasons why camp needs a new pavilion. Mission Possible: The Pavilion Project is building momentum with 1.2 million of the 1.8 million dollar goal committed.
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 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!*
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!
“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.