Posts Tagged ‘Cheeks’

BBC Teen Campers to Ethiopia

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 BBC Cabin has Something for Everyone in Winter

Cheeks trying to stay ahead of the raking

Cheeks trying to stay ahead of the raking

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!*

Take 20% off a week long rental. Inquire about midweek/3 night rental specials. For more details on rates click here. Or click here to check the availability. To reserve the cabin click here.  Or give us a call! (802-672-5220)

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Non Profit Youth Group Discounts ($15/person)

Why Camp Counseling Is One Of Your Best Resume Builders

“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.

Read more from the Time Magazine Article here: http://ideas.time.com/2012/07/10/aummer-camp-can-it-make-kids-more-responsible/

 

 

Living with Cheeks is a gift! Spiritual Saturday

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.

Tuna Cheeks Thumbs UpHere’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.

Tuna

Newsletter 2013: Snow Camp Synopsis & Summer Highlights

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!
Mission Impossible Pose

Summer Highlights:

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.

Cheeks

Tracks in the Snow

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:)

Animal Tracks by the Tipi_Jan 13

Happy New Year from BBC

Happy New Year from Bethany Birches!

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.

– Cheeks.

Boating on the ice!

We didn’t take the dock out until nearly thanksgiving! Here’s how that went:

Inside Out Lives On!

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.

Inside Out: Beauty from Rain

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!

Rain coming off the Pavilion