In a society preoccupied with STUFF consider giving the gift of an experience this Christmas.
PARENTS: planning to send your camper to camp this winter or summer? Consider giving them camp for Christmas! You can use the form on this page to get them signed up easily and will get a card to give your child too: bethanybirches.org/xmas
SUPPORTERS: Perhaps your loved ones don’t need any more things. Give them the gift of knowing a child is being nurtured spiritually, physically and emotionally. Make a contribution using the form on this page (bethanybirches/givecamp) and we’ll email you a Christmas card you can place in a loved one’s stocking Christmas morning!
The Bethany Birches Camp experience teaches many things. Some campers learn how to shoot a bow and arrow, some learn how to cook food over a fire while others uncover gifts God has given them. Learning at camp isn’t limited to campers. Bev Goshow (AKA Grandma Cookie Dough Chaos – that’s her camp name) thought she was coming for one week of serving in the kitchen back in 2010. Seven summers later she is retiring as the camp shepherd for BBC’s youngest campers. Thank you Grandma Cookie Dough Chaos for being open to how God would use you. The following paragraphs are Grandma’s reflections on her path to becoming a camp shepherd at BBC.
~ Amber “Cheeks” Bergey, Volunteer Coordinator & Day Camp Director
As a child I loved attending Camp Sankanac in Spring City, Pa. At that time I was unaware of the seed being planted and nourished. Fast forward to 2010. My husband Dave (aka Woodchip) and I volunteered one week at BBC. I was helping in the old kitchen. When I wasn’t in the kitchen I enjoyed Fireside and soon found myself actively singing with the kids. I’m not sure what happened to me that week. I found myself going down the slip n slide laughing the entire way while campers chanted “Grandma! Grandma! Grandma!”
Before leaving camp, Amber (aka Cheeks) identified one of my gifts as loving children and invited me to be the shepherd the following year. She told me to pray about it. I told her I wouldn’t! I was afraid of what God was calling me to do! My husband Dave felt differently. Dave said right away, “She’ll do it.” He then turned to me and said “You’ll be great at this! It’s right up your alley.”
Preparing for the first year of shepherding brought a lot of anxiety. I had no formal education to do this job. I was just a willing helper. I was fearful the counselors would correct one of my Bible stories! Nothing like that happened. I prayed God would be present and this was for HIM, not Bev. I LOVED my new role!
The highlight of shepherding over the last few years was to share about a loving God and the way of Jesus with 6 to 9 year old campers. I had the total attention of campers when telling them the Bible stories in flannelgraph! You usually could hear a pin drop – even with 84 active kids!
One of the memories that stands out was when I shared the story of Jesus feeding the 5000. Quietly the children filed passed me as I gave them bread and fish (Swedish) and told them Jesus loves them. It was so reverent and peaceful. I cried like a baby as the last child went through.
As a camp shepherd I always had one goal: to plant seeds for children to know Jesus as their personal savior and to nourish those seeds in whatever way possible.
Dot Samsi was a parent/volunteer last summer (2017) at BBC. She agreed to reflect on her experience for the 2017 fall newsletter. Check out family – friendly – no – previous – experience – required – volunteer opportunities for 2018 here.
Camp has been a part of my life since I was a kid in Ohio. Every summer I went away for a week. When I came home covered in mosquito bites, I would write letters to my camp friends and impatiently check our mailbox for their responses. After college I got to work at camp for a summer that turned into a year and a half. My husband and I even got married at that camp and had our reception in the dining hall! Once our kids were old enough, they joined the fun by coming to Mom & Me camp.
Since leaving Ohio several years ago, camp hadn’t been part of our lives but I knew that I wanted camp to be part of our kids’ lives. When we moved to New England, we heard about Bethany Birches from some friends. Then two years ago we made the 120 mile trip to camp for the first time. We dropped the kids off on the mountain for Launch Half. Two days later we picked up exhausted campers who had had a great time!
This past summer I didn’t want to miss out on all the fun. I asked if camp might need a volunteer and heard back from Amber that Bethany Birches loves volunteers! Yay! And it turns out, BBC can use plenty of volunteers. My daughter invited 2 friends and one of their moms, Amy, volunteered also. We all arrived ready to stay for the 2-night Launch Half program.
Amy and I both volunteered in the kitchen where Sparkles and Sharkbait put us right to work. Within a few minutes, we had gloves on our hands, bandannas on our heads, and we were serving dinner to hungry campers! We washed dishes, mopped floors, packed meal crates, and made huge amounts of apple crisp. We even got to make a grocery run for pig trough supplies!
As far as lodging, we brought our sleeping bags and we were ready to rough it, but we ended up staying in a really nice house up the street. It was more like glamping than camping and we had a good time getting to know the other volunteers. Looking for adventure, Amy and I slept out in the hammocks the last night. When we weren’t in the kitchen, we got to see some of the activities (now I know what a pig trough is all about!) and hear some of Grandma Cookie Dough’s firesides. We also got to do a little hiking. (The treehouses are amazing! I think that there may be a treehouse sleepout in my future!)
Volunteering at camp was such a welcome change of pace. The positive atmosphere, the beauty of God’s creation and the joy and enthusiasm of the campers and staff were so refreshing. Even with all the hard work, I came away feeling refreshed. I’m so glad that my family has found Bethany Birches. We can’t wait until next summer!
-Dot Samsi, 2017 Summer Camp Volunteer
Volunteers surround camper enjoying the pig trough
Greetings this Thanksgiving holiday! I am thankful for you and for all the ways God prompts people to engage at camp. I am thankful for the ways God can be seen here. One way I’ve seen God this past year is in the ongoing growth at camp. Allow me to give a handful of examples.
Our program director, Chick, continues to grow and learn and seems to not weary of the learning process. This is a great model for all of us to push through the challenges that come with the learning process.
I am experiencing similar growth. As camp grows I am stretched to get better at strategic and future thinking. 1 Cor. 13 comes to mind, that famous passage about love. Picking up at vs. 8 “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” This is relevant to me right now. I am growing up, yes. I am also increasingly aware of the need for love. Over doing a good job. Over getting it right. Over everything.
On the topic of growth, this summer was the most attended in our 53 year history. I chalk this up to the movement of God’s spirit in three people, among others.
Jane Glick, school nurse at Rochester who asked the school board to promote the camp among all the students. After getting their permission, we offered BBC’s tiered pricing as well as additional subsidy from Taftsville Chapel. Over 30 new campers attended camp this past summer through her efforts.
A second woman named Beth Ann Maier, leader of Camp Agape (CA), made a way to send CA campers too old for the CA program to the BBC sessions that would be age appropriate. That accounted for 30 additional attendees.
A third person contributing to the attendance growth this summer is a young camper named Nick. He hosted his birthday party at camp in January. Facebook ignited after we posted a video of the party and 20 registrations were received the three days after the posting of that video.
It’s partners and champions like this that fill camp with people. I believe each of these three are responding to inner promptings they experience from God. To be clear, I am not trying to promote a type of prosperity gospel, but rather an image of a God who longs for our presence and desires each of us to be in tune with Himself.
Join me in sitting still for a moment this holiday. Consider meditating on how God might be prompting you.
Friends, it’s the holiday season! Here at camp that means hunting, opening of ski resorts, Christmas break, and snow camp preparation. The end of the calendar year for many also means generosity. Unless you’re feeling Scrooge-like. If that’s the case, come to camp soon so we can help melt your heart! If you are feeling generous and interested in learning more about camp’s needs I wanted to make some known.
We are still looking for some funding of the annual budget. Specifically, $50,000 toward kids to camp and general operations (these are bills like insurance, facilities, and stuff we don’t ask campers to pay for). You could give to Kids to Camp through the Christmas program and if you’re a parent you can buy a session of camp through the Christmas program.
A chain saw that was in service for a long time has bit the dust. Do you have an extra one or one you don’t use much? Send it over here!
Also a canoe trailer! Have one? Know someone who does? We could use one for at least 6 boats (8 would be better).
If you haven’t heard about the camp’s path toward net-zero energy use we are currently tackling the heating portion of that through wood burning. The process is under way. In fact, here are some photos. We need to raise about $40,000 more at time of writing to finish this project.
You probably know that camp relies heavily on volunteer labor. In fact, there’s a group here right now from Towamencin Mennonite Church. Thanks guys! It looks like we have almost enough volunteers for the upcoming winter camps which is great. We are currently looking for help for summer camp 2018! Maintenance, Kitchen, Shepherds, Nurses: would you consider giving a few days or a week? If you have a family it can make for a meaningful (and cheap) family vacation as food and lodging is included. Learn more here.
Since we’re on the topic of summer camp, I should add that we need help finding male counselors. A Bethany Birches counselor is someone who has connected with God in their heart, listens to others, enjoys being outside and can lead the way in having fun! If you know a young man who meets this description please tell them about camp! All the summer job opportunities are here.
Feel free to write, text or call any time. Wishing you and yours the very best as this year ends and a new one begins. May you find God in the passing of the years and the newness of each day.
Summer and Winter Camps are the focus of Bethany Birches. A lot of people contribute to make camp happen. The BBC Board of Directors (BOD) is a group of 9 folks who think about the broader vision of BBC and where it’s heading into the future. Stacy Selbo is a member of the BOD. What follows are her reflections on how she got involved with BBC and what the Board is currently working on.
Our family moved to Vermont from Atlanta in 2004, and settled in Bridgewater in 2005. While we were active in our Atlanta church, our 3 boys also had meaningful, Christ-centered summer camp experiences from first grade until they could no longer be campers. We didn’t know what our Vermont experience would hold for our family spiritually, but shortly after being in the Woodstock, Bridgewater area, our youngest son had opportunities to visit Bethany Birches camp with the First Congregational Church of Woodstock Youth Group. We were thrilled to learn about this magical and special place just 15 minutes from our home!
Simultaneously, Amber (Cheeks) Bergey and I were involved in a women’s bible study with a small group from a variety of churches. It was a familiar connection and we stayed in touch. Then, I joined the Board in 2015.
The Board is active and meets throughout the year beginning with an annual retreat (January) to review and coordinate the direction of camp with Brandon. As a Board, our main focus is to consider the resourcefulness and sustainability of BBC, which continues to head in a very positive direction. Enrollment is up to nearly record attendance, thanks to proactive marketing and consistent fundraising. In 2017, BBC is debt free which is a remarkable accomplishment, with gratitude to Brandon for driving that goal.
While the Board continually reviews strategies, we are primarily focused and thoughtful about the spirituality that BBC represents and conveys to our campers – living the Mission.
I am especially thankful that an extraordinary camp like Bethany Birches exists here in the secular mountains of Vermont. What a special place for young people to learn about Christ!
We are very excited to be hosting the Jr and Sr classes of Woodstock Union High School this spring. Marcia Bender, director of the school’s Yoh Theater suggested this. After looking through some pictures and taking a tour the students and faculty decided it was a great idea! Imagine the prom here:
Lots of other folks have used the camp’s facilities too. From weddings and ski trips to family reunions private groups and families have made good use of the camp. Organizations and churches have been running their own camp programs here for decades. With Dale’s Lodge and the BBC Cabin you can even use the space as a small group of 2 or 4 or more. Consider utilizing the camp in this way. The pricing is hard to beat.
Einstein once defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Working at camp involves a lot of repetition, and as someone who generally revolts against rigid routines, sometimes I felt like I was going crazy. But somehow, beyond all my expectations, God met me in the repetition.
I came to camp expecting that I would meet God in some life-redefining way. In fact, that was one big reason I initially hesitated about working at BBC this summer ― I expected that I would meet God in some big way, and I was afraid of finding him like that. Because finding God meant that I would have to own up to a lot of things, and I did not want to spend the emotional energy, I guess. But I did not meet God, not in the way I thought, anyway, which fit in so well with our theme of “Expect the Unexpected.” No, he did not revealed himself to me in some flashy Damascus road moment. Instead, he pulled me gently back to him, one small moment at a time.
Every week, I repeated the same advice to my campers, heard the same Bible stories, sang the same songs, cooked the same food, did the same activities.
I knew what was coming next. In the logistical sense, I knew exactly what to expect.
Now, when you do something over and over again, and know you will keep doing it over and over again, you have two choices: you can either jade yourself to what you are doing, or you can look for new threads of meaning within the repetition.
I found myself handing out the same advice to my girls this summer, different campers, different ages, different situations. I told them how important it is to learn to love yourself, because if you dislike yourself, then loving your neighbor as you love yourself quickly derails into a nightmare. And by the fifth or sixth time that I heard those words coming out of my mouth, I realized, hey, maybe I should give my own advice a try.
And maybe after the 50th morning of singing that all God’s critters got a place in the choir, I could remember that that meant me, someone who has felt on the outside for a while, not sure of her place in the choir or if she wants to sing at all.
And maybe by the seventh time hearing that God’s best friend Moses killed a man would it actually sink in that, hey, God might want to be best friends with me, too, someone who has not killed anything but maybe some mosquitos.
I usually look for God in the strange, unfamiliar places. I can see him working best when I am outside of my comfort zone. I like to go on adventures, push myself, find weird new places to explore, and hope to bump into God along the way.
But this summer, I learned to look for him in the small, quiet moments, in the spider crawling up my leg, in the curious eyes of children, in the encouragement of fellow staff, in the silly song lyrics.
God knows what we need more than we know for ourselves. He knows I can be skittish, he knows I am stubborn, but he also knows how much I delight in small moments of beauty, and he used that understanding to give me what I needed: a gentle push in a better direction that, with enough encouragement, will eventually lead me home.
As I have settled back into the repetition of my life away from camp, into my college routine, I catch myself thinking about camp a lot. I find I am craving the outdoors, craving rain showers and cast-iron griddles and grease fires and charcoal hand prints on my legs, craving the company of children, craving the peace I found on the hill ― these things that separately I can replicate anywhere, but that all together create something beautiful, something powerful, something unique to Bethany Birches.
I am so thankful for the opportunity to work at Bethany Birches, and I am looking forward to returning next summer, ready to embrace the unexpected from day one.
Liesl “Kiki” Graber
2017 BBC Summer Counselor
This summer was the most attended summer in the history of BBC. Praise God! We had well over 400 camper weeks throughout the seven weeks of summer. These high numbers required that we also have one of the largest staff teams in the camp’s history. Many different marketing events, individuals, and advertisements helped to make this summer’s registration so momentous, but I also believe that campers wouldn’t come (and keep coming!) if it weren’t for the ways camp impacts them.
Camp is uniquely powerful in the lives of children for many different reasons. One of the most important reasons, I believe, is the connection between camper and counselor. During the school year children spend 99% of their time with peers (fellow students) and with older adults (parents/teachers). Peers are easy for them to connect with, but often not much of a role model. Adults can be great role models, but difficult to make powerful connections with. Young, maturing, 20-something counselors help bridge that gap. They are fun to be with and people the campers can look up to. Many campers, in fact, realize that they too can grow up to be like these counselors some day. Liesl was an excellent example this summer. In the paragraphs that follow she shares her experiences this summer and you can see that while she made a real impact in the lives of her campers God also used BBC to make a real impact in her own life.
I’ve been reflecting on summer highlights lately despite the recent cold temps and skiing at nearby recently opened VT resorts and the 3 weeks of Day Camp was definitely a highlight.
Are there parents who will drive their kid to BBC each day for a week? Are 5 year olds old enough to cook meals over the fire and run around outside most of the day? Are there any past counselors who want to volunteer a week at day camp? Will daylong program aid in reaching BBC’s mission of helping young people develop their relationship with God?
The answers to the first 3 questions above seem to be a resounding YES! And hopefully as the years go on we’ll find the answer to the last question to be yes too.
Day camp returned to BBC in 2016 after a 12 year hiatus! 18 campers attended over the course of 3 different weeks. In 2017 that number climbed to 35 campers over the course of 3 weeks. Parents are willing to drive their kids up Lynds Hill for a daylong experience. One camper dad commented that he loves the fact that his son gets to spend all day outside. Another mom mentioned hoping this experience would prepare her son for overnight camp. A different camper parent was psyched she could jump start her son’s BBC experience as she has fond memories of her own BBC experience. And still another camper parent values the faith-based emphasis she always finds at Bethany Birches.
Each day camp week included traditional favorites at BBC. First time campers were exuberant to be eating ice cream out of the pig trough. Others enjoyed being launched on the trampoline or taking their first stab at kayaking. Campers also enjoyed activities that encouraged them to make new friends (silly songs and teambuilding games) and soak in the creation around them (cooking over the fire and swimming in the pond). Each week had a different theme (A Bug’s Life, Making Music and Holiday Roundup) to help focus the activities and lessons for the week.
All of the above contributed to fun for day campers but it’s the staff that determines the experience for the campers. Part of the successful return of day camp must be attributed to veteran staff volunteering to return to counsel the youngest of BBC Campers. Max “Nye” Halik who has served in the role of camper, counselor, volunteer and assistant program director over the past 10 years describes why volunteering at day camp made sense to him.
“As a counselor Mini Week (Launch half) was always my favorite week of the summer partially because you find that five-year-olds tend to be happy to do just about anything outside. One of the harder parts with that Mini Week was the “overnight” part – comforting little kiddos that found it difficult to get through nights without parents. When I heard that I could volunteer at Day Camp, I thought it would be an awesome opportunity to hang out with kids that still have that same enthusiasm for literally *every* activity, but could engage in bite-sized portions that wouldn’t be overwhelming. I’ll come back for Day Camp week any time – particularly as a volunteer it’s easier to take off a week of work knowing that I’ll be able to have fun-filled days with the happiest children you can imagine, with calmer evenings to plan out how we can share the word of God with his littlest children.”
Three sessions of day camp are in the line up for Summer 2018 with the hopes that more parents will drive up the hill each day to give their kids an outdoor, faith based experience with veteran BBC Staff.
The first (small) snow fell yesterday at BBC! The snow fell on leaf cleared grass, newly built pallets and freshly felled trees. Saturday Nov 4th was a busy day at BBC. Thirtyish folks came from Rutland, Bethel, Woodstock, Plymouth, Bridgewater, Brandon, White River, Randolph, etc to help BBC get ready for winter. A big thanks to all you from Calvary Bible Church who came and joined the fun!
Volunteers brought different skills. All brought smiles. Volunteers were different ages with different familiarity with BBC. Some were at BBC for the first time. Others were campers who were attending their first work day. And still others have been coming to BBC in some capacity for the last 50 years! Over the course of 6 hours the group raked ALL the leaves, cleared the garden, built a number of pallets and fell trees to clear space for pallet storage and pond beach expansion.
Each October I try to focus on the beauty of the changing leaves but always find myself distracted by the knowledge that all the leaves will drop. And then need to be cleared. And how exactly will that get done? Along with all the other pre winter work 100 acres of forrest requires?
And each fall a group of people show up to help. This year was no different. This year people joined in the leaf raking, pallet building and falling trees. God continues to bring people to do the work of God and I am grateful to be part of that.