Many of you know Cheeks. She’s been the Program Director at Bethany Birches for many years (this will be her 9th summer). She also happens to be my wife. We got married after working here at camp together for a few years.
To me, Cheeks has been a gift from God. Let me explain:
Many days I realize this through various circumstances. Today, I realized it again. This time it was related to the fact that she doesn’t get distracted by stuff (you could even say she doesn’t care much about stuff). Seriously. She doesn’t like to spend a lot of money on stuff. She uses stuff until it breaks down entirely. If she looses something, she shrugs it off and mentions that she didn’t really need it anyway. Take her purse/bag for example. Right now, there’s a hole in it and one handle has broken off. She’s still using it. If it broke entirely, she might never get a new one. She might use another bag in the closet or fill her pockets.
I am quite different. I like stuff. I like high quality stuff and I like when it performs well. If it gets scratched or damaged, I like to repair it. Take my bike for example. I rode it today and it was wet. When I got home, I hosed it off and set it in front of a fan to dry. I washed it so the chain was free of grit and used the fan so that nothing would rust.
Here’s the thing. We only get so much time on Earth. Old people tell me that it goes fast. Researching, getting and taking care of stuff takes a lot of time. And, those of us who care about our stuff can at times be on the verge of caring too much for it. This is part of why Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell his stuff.
Back to me and Cheeks. She is a constant example of what it looks like to care less about stuff. With her attention not focused on stuff, she tends to focus on people… and she’s very good at considering others! Not only is this a blessing to me, it’s a witness.
I hope you find a way to bless those you live with today like Cheeks blesses me. When that way is unclear, look to Jesus. He will show you.
The winter of 2013 was a busy one at BBC. Campers, staff and volunteers all enjoyed the endless snow, adventure and excitement that filled the hill from December 2012 – April 2013.
Polar Bear is Back: Polar Bear Camp returned as the third weekend long snow camp this winter. The weekend was exclusively for 6th – 8th graders. Jr. High-aged campers enjoyed being together for their own weekend with Middle School specific activities and topics.
The Game of Seasons: The benefits of hiring an assistant program director for the winter were numerous! One of the benefits included a creative new game that intertwined education about animals’ different needs during different seasons, utilized the space of the cabin and connected to our theme of changing seasons for the weekend. Lynx campers reaped the benefits of this new game and were requesting it be brought back for summer!
Valuable Volunteers: Each snow camp requires significant volunteer input for the weekend to run smoothly. The Franconia Mennonite Church Young Adult Group came to meet all the volunteer needs for the Polar Bear Camp. One young adult served as the shepherd, others cooked and others played the role of counselors. Together they made a great team, brought a ton of fun for campers and served as great role models of service for each of us. We hope they’ll be back!
Summer 2013 Theme: Mission Possible. Matthew 19:26 says “With God all things are possible.” The theme this summer will aim to teach campers how to be WITH GOD and why this is the only mission worth pursuing.
NEW WEEK! Mission Possible Week! Every summer campers ask to play Mission Impossible more than once in a week. We finally caved. This week is all mission impossible all the time. The week requires campers to work together to solve the week long mission! Campers must have played Mission Impossible prior to this week in order to attend.
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:)
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.
Summer 2012 is officially over. Actually, it’s long past official, it’s history! The temps are dipping lower and lower, the counselors and campers have been gone for months. The pond is empty of the summer toys. The swings are still. The water to the bath house is off. Now is the time of year when BBC looks ahead to next summer, summer 2013. It’s been a challenge to move on this year partly because the theme from last Summer continues to be real all around me. Inside Out is be evident each day. I continue to see these ideas around me and experience them in my life.
The most visible example of late was the foliage season. The brilliant colors of the leaves changing bring the mountains to life. Everywhere is bustling and busy with tourists and crafts. Life is vibrant. But the reality is, regardless of all the life and color that comes with the changing leaves, it’s a symbol of dying. The leaves change color because all the nutrition and oxygen is removed. The trunk of the tree holds onto all the life giving material so the tree as a whole can survive winter. This allows pigments in the leaves that have always been there shine through. The displays of red, orange and yellow are beautiful. The colors are beautiful symbols of the death to follow. Beauty precedes death. The dying of the leaf allows the tree to survive the winter. The current leaves die and fall so the tree can live on through the winter. From death comes life. It’s Inside Out.
I’m sure the Inside Out theme will continue to abound around me, even now that all the leaves have fallen. I’ll continue to enjoy recounting the experiences and events of the summer of 2012. As I remember the relevance of the Inside Out theme, I’ll seek to uncover a theme with the same amount of relevance for the upcoming winter camps and the Summer of 2013. Stay tuned!
Tuna and Cheeks enjoying foliage with new friends Dave and Kathi Peters of GlobalStory2 in October 2012.
I love the sun! For a few days in April I got to experience plenty of sun. The weather at camp was warm, sunny and felt like summer! I was ready to invite campers to the hill and get camp rolling. When the sun is out I want the hill to be full of youth and staff running around outside enjoying the wilderness. When the sun is shining and temperatures are above 65 I can think of nothing I’d rather do than roam around 100 acres exploring the wilderness with others.
Then came the rains. The past few weeks have been damp, rainy and cool. My shoes get wet each time I go outside. My body gets chilled when I have to get something from the pavilion or the craft hut. I have nightmares of campers who run out of socks. The more it rains the more I frantically search for indoor pavilion activities. A counselor who worked here in 2004, 2005, and 2006 told me she just recently stopped having nightmares about camp in the rain!
Camp in the rain can be fun, but I prefer the sunny skies. Dampness at camp is easily cured by a warm fire, but I prefer warmth from the sun. One of our former staff/campers recalls her favorite memories of BBC during rainy days in the pavilion. Campers don’t always notice the rain. I do.
Last week as I sulked about the rainy days and lack of sun I noticed the grass turning a darker, luscious shade of green. I noticed the flowers by the steps of camp shooting higher out of the ground. The rhubarb in the garden is much closer to picking! I remembered a counselor who took her campers puddle jumping. I appreciated the warmth of the woodstove. I enjoyed the sound of the rain dripping off the trees.
The rain brings the beauty. I like the sun much more than the rain. I like the beauty surrounding me most. I wouldn’t really like a world without rain. So much beauty would be missing. It’s inside out. What we don’t like brings the beauty we do!
It’s amazing what you find when you look for it! More themes of inside out continue to run through every day life.Last weekend I found a sampling of the inside out theme in Pennsylvania. Tuna and I made a quick trip south for a bridal shower for my soon to be sister in law. We had a great time catching up with family, hearing the latest news and telling lots of people about the latest happenings at BBC!
My favorite part of the weekend was sitting next to my almost 5 year old niece in church on Sunday morning. After the service it dawned on me yet again why God calls us to be like children. It doesn’t make sense. We spend our entire lives growing out of our childhood and yet Jesus states that we should become like little children. On Sunday, sitting next to my niece who was learning how to sit like a 5 yr old in church (Butt on the bench or feet on the floor), I was reminded again why Jesus values children:
She was quietly coloring for most of the service. It seemed like she was paying zero attention to the message the pastor was sharing. But every so often she’d look up at me and ask something related to what the pastor was saying. “What’s doubt?” The pastor had just mentioned Thomas’s doubt. So I tried to whisper an answer she’d understand and she went back to coloring. A few minutes later she looked up at me and said “what’s the least?” The pastor had just mentioned how God was always using “the least.” Again, I tried to put myself in her shoes and give an answer that would make sense. A few minutes later she asked, “Did anyone else die on a cross?” So I told her that other people had been punished that way. She responded with, “Did they come back to life?” I just shook my head. After looking at me for a few moments she went back to coloring.
All the questions. All the inquiries. Asking about whatever we hear. I believe God wants us to do more question asking and more clarifying. Jesus invites us to spend more time with children and be like them. It doesn’t make sense for us to be more like children or to accept children the same way we do adults. But after hanging out with a 5 year old in church, I’m reminded yet again of the goodness of a young spirit and am excited to spend time with kids all summer long!
I know summer is getting closer when I start to see the summer theme everywhere I look. Easter weekend was an obvious display this summer’s theme: Inside Out. We celebrate the death of Jesus on Friday. This death then leads to life. It doesn’t make sense. Death is supposed to be the end of life, but in the Kingdom of God, death always leads to new life. Weird.
This theme of death leading to life is also present in the natural world around us. One of my favorite stops on the BBC nature trail was developed a few years ago by Katie “Scoop” Gehman and myself. We were walking along the nature trail and we saw this incredible pile of dirt. You see, the pile of dirt was actually the uprooting of a tree, but from our perspective you couldn’t tell, it just looked like a random, huge pile of dirt! We thought it was worthy of being a new post on the nature trail. However, the first time we took the staff on the revised nature trail, they knew immediately that the pile of dirt was an uprooted tree! (needless to say we were disappointed in their lack of amazement!) I walked the nature trail the other day. Currently, when you walk by this pile of dirt, you see new life springing from it. Grasses, ferns and moss all growing on the pile of dirt formed from the uprooted roots of the tree. The death of the tree is bringing new life to the forest.
As I reflect on various things in my life that are ending (or have ended) I look forward to the new life that lies ahead, including whatever Summer 2012 will bring!
Last week this time I was walking the streets of Paris. It was excellent. It was great to be in a famous city on the other side of the world with REALLY GOOD FOOD, but even greater was the time I spent with my in–laws. Back in November Tuna’s mom (some of you know her as Mama Tuna) invited me and her 2 other daughter-in-laws to Paris. Just the 4 of us, no Bergey boys. We went overseas without our common thread: our husbands!
I was hesitant at first, traveling to another country is a big deal and I’ve heard you should be careful with whom you take on that adventure. But in talking with a friend, she said:
“Perfect! You’re mother in law is brilliant. There is nothing to do but bond in another country!”
And that is exactly what we did. I loved the streets of Paris and especially analyzing the streets of Paris with my newest family members. I loved the French cuisine and more than that, learning what my sister-in-laws loved. I loved trying to learn the French language, but I loved even more the acceptance of my mother-in-law and sister-in-laws as I butchered the words time and time again. As I was reflecting on this I was struck with the undeniable fact that this is what happens at camp.
Well, not exactly. We do not take campers to France. I don’t even think we have anything that could be considered French food at camp! What does happen at camp happened to me in Paris. People are in new environments. People are in situations where they can’t help but bond together as they explore new activity and relationship. Campers and staff alike explore new ideas, games and experiences together, in nature, and make memories. Campers bond with others who are experiencing new things. Veteran campers bond with rookie campers as they work together and each brings an experience.
As summer approaches and my time gets tight I’m reminded partly of the reason we do camp. Jesus taught through community and BBC does the same. Don’t miss the opportunity to bond with a community. Whether you come to BBC this summer (or next!) or head overseas with your in-laws, don’t miss the opportunity to share an experience with others in a different place. I believe it’s a taste of God’s kingdom here on Earth.