Archive for the ‘Monthly Contact Details’ Category

Leon and Rupert Try The Way Of Jesus Together

The other week I returned to the adventure that is counseling at Bethany Birches Camp. I left the routine of my job as the facilities manager and once again became Counselor Rupert. Our cabin group that spent the week in Robin all arrived together on a bus and were part of the Camp Agape program. I didn’t know who was going to be in my cabin until I walked into the pavilion and saw six middle schoolers and Wade, a long-time Agape volunteer, waiting at a picnic table. We marched down to Robin, bags in tow, and moved into our home for the week. 

The children who are part of Camp Agape have experienced the incarceration of a parent. Most children who experience the loss of a parent have extra hardship in their life. Some of my campers that week used harsh language towards others, told crass jokes, and tried to get ahead whenever possible. It seemed that some of them felt that whoever was physically, emotionally, and socially superior could get others to do things for them and was the top dog.

Monday afternoon during rest time all six campers fell asleep. After the 30 minutes were up two of the campers wanted to go on sleeping. Wade and I got them to get up and go onto the next activities, but by the end of dinner, which took place at another cabin, they were asking to go to bed. I was glad we decided to break from the schedule of games, songs, and activities and Wade took them back to the cabin, because those two boys slept over twelve hours straight through to breakfast the next morning. I don’t know what their lives were like the week before camp, but in the solitude of the Robin cabin, down the hill surrounded by trees, they were able to rest.

One camper, who I’ll call “Leon,” was obsessed with the concept of being the “alpha male.” To him this meant being the superior in a way that allowed him to protect others and also meant he could get others to do things for him. He went about this by declaring feats of strength and challenging other campers in the cabin, boasting about his prowess if he were to get in a fight with someone who might try to harm him or his friends (he often would refer to the other boys in the cabin as “my men”), and by talking about the different girls at camp he was talking to. It almost seemed like a more primitive or tribal way of approaching relationships with others. Leon was never the butt of jokes and always could get others to do his dishes or carry things to and from the cabin. I often had an image of a great lion who lazed about while the rest of the group did everything and could only be bothered if some threat needed to be chased off.

At the beginning of the week I wasn’t sure which approach would be best for working with this cabin of boys. I didn’t think I could change who they were with a few words and explanations and I was pretty sure they wouldn’t respond well to loss of privileges and multiple trips to the director’s office. I made sure they were safe, didn’t harm each other, and kept the insults to each other as in check. I tried my best to take care of any needs they had. I listened when they spoke and asked questions when I could. I had this idea that if I could be an example of a way to act they would see that it was a better way to live and pick up a few things. 

I was trying to follow the way of Jesus. I was trying to lead by serving, build up the people around me, and produce good fruit. The way I was acting seemed to me to be a sharp contrast to many of the behaviors of my campers. I tried to live into what I wanted to believe and told the campers why as I did it. I wanted to treat others as I want to be treated, I spoke calmly and respectfully, and I told them that in order to lead others you must serve them. I hoped the campers would see that how I lived was more life-giving, and also ask what was the source of my motivation.

 By the middle of the week, I felt tired, used up, and I wasn’t sure that what I was doing was making any difference. I was questioning if I should have started the week off differently by enforcing strict rules about language and behavior. I was annoyed at all the little things the kids did to each other and how hard it was to get them to do anything helpful. I was worried that one of the campers would hurt themselves, each other, or a camper from another cabin. Wade was only able to volunteer until Tuesday morning and I immediately felt his absence. I felt I wasn’t living up to expectations.

 I found myself doing a lot of praying. I prayed for strength. I prayed for my campers. I prayed for guidance and assurance. I realized that although I pray often I don’t expect my prayers to be answered. I usually ask God for help, strength, or to work in others, and then I continue on expecting to be able to do it on my own. I got to a point where I needed God and, to my surprise, found I was being provided for. I was able to identify an inner strength and peace that I didn’t think was my own. The other camp staff supported me when I needed it and I started to notice some changes in my campers. 

I remember sitting at the table and one of the campers telling the other they were stupid and then another said,”Hey, can we not say they that? It’s not a real cuss word, but it sort of is and it isn’t nice.” He then mumbled something I didn’t hear about wanting to try doing something different for once. The other campers just sort of sat and thought for a moment about what he said. Some of the campers also began to help with the meals, serve the food, and carry things up and down the hill. They also stopped listening to Leon and didn’t want to do what he told them or follow him. Leon started doing things himself and even volunteered to help the cabin carry the food and water a few times. I think maybe they were starting to see a different way to relate to each other. Even more amazing was Friday when Leon got in an argument with another camper concerning a girl Leon was now talking to and the other camper was determined to fight him. Leon walked away. I couldn’t believe it. This was the exact situation he had been talking about the whole week and seemed to be a big part of his identity. Afterwards he was quite conflicted and said he wasn’t sure why he walked away. By the end of the week the insults, language, and yelling over each other to get attention were mostly replaced by conversation and laughter. Thursday evening, the cabin even joined in during fireside linking arms and singing with the rest of camp and then sat through listening to the shepherd.

By the end of the week, I was honestly sad that it was over. I had a lot of great conversations with the kids and felt like I got to know each of them a little bit better. Generally they came from tough situations and coped in a variety of ways. Some would follow whoever was in charge and settle into the role of the victim. Others would seek to dominate their peers and be strong enough to keep themselves safe. Still others wouldn’t say much and never let others get too close. The last few nights before bed were spent sharing life experiences and what we believed in. None of them appeared to have any strong faith in anything though some expressed they believed there was good and evil in the world as well as ghosts, spirits, and such. I told them that God made them, loved them, and wanted to know them and wanted them to know God. I also said that God wanted us to care for each other as we would want to be cared for.

I asked them during our last meal together how they felt about the week and they said they had a great time at camp and looked forward to returning. They also told me I was very nice and did a great job. This made me feel pretty good. They all got back on the bus and were smiling as they waved goodbye. I’m not sure where they are going back to, but I will look forward to seeing each of them again next year. 

After the week I felt drained emotionally and physically but I was content. I realized looking back that the campers were usually respectful to me, even if they weren’t towards each other, and confined their more challenging behaviors to the shelter site.  I realized that I didn’t encounter anything I wasn’t prepared for or couldn’t handle. At the beginning of the week I couldn’t have imagined the tired contented happiness I would feel by the end of Friday. I’m looking forward to the next time I have the opportunity to be a counselor for a week. I know it will be another opportunity to invest in the lives of young people and I will grow as a person through the challenges.

Patrick “Rupert” Graber

Wood Boiler Update

The boiler has been running for a few months now and it can heat (we have burned 6 cords which is all we set aside for this winter)!  These two video updates from Tuna demonstrate the latest.  Summary: the boiler can heat the cabin in addition to the pavilion (if we burn lots of wood).

Two months later, test # 2. Not only can it heat multiple buildings, it doesn’t burn as much wood after some programming changes!

You can see the photo/video album of the project here: https://www.icloud.com/sharedalbum/#B0f5n8hH4GTJMha

Acceptance and learning relationships

One of the founding principles of Bethany Birches back in the 60’s was to “provide a camping experience for youth where counselor and camper together can engage in learning relationships which will prepare them for future responsibilities in life.” As you probably know it’s easier to have a learning relationship with someone you trust and respect.  And it’s easier to trust and respect someone who accepts you for who you are.

During staff training we teach the importance of being with campers in the daily routine of camp; Befriending them, learning to know them, accepting them for who they are. I recently heard from a parent about her daughters experience from this past winter.  Her comments warmed my heart and pointed to an effective season of camps.

This young camper is a strong and talented girl.  She’s pretty and smart and her peers like her.  So I was a little surprised to get this email from her mother:

“Thank you all so much for providing such a wonderful place for [my daughter] to feel love and acceptance. She has been struggling at school feeling like an outcast .  She came home with a great outlook on life again and seemed so much happier. It is with tears that I write this.  Thank you, Dana”

I am thankful for caring staff  that can create this kind of experience.  I am thankful for a God that loves us and gave us examples of love and acceptance. Pray for us as we strive to mirror this blessing and pray that each camper will grow in their confidence and strength as they learn to see God through us.

Brandon “Tuna” Bergey

Waiting Lists at Winter Camps!

This past winter has been interesting weather-wise.  Another interesting trend is the uptick in attendance for winter programs.  For the three overnight programs we saw 168 camper days which is 95% of total capacity.  On top of this, there were waiting lists for all three sessions!

As many of you know, winter is so busy for many families in central VT.  We continue to believe that what we’re doing at winter camps is unique and special and that almost all campers would choose it over other activities once they realize how fun and meaningful the weekends are.  It makes mission accomplishment possible if a camper can be here at least once in the summer, once in the winter and one or two other times between.

We are deeply indebted to the many staff and volunteers that make these weekends possible.  Gigi, a college student and long time BBC-er came to be Assistant Program Director three weekends in a row.  A group from PA drove 7 hours each way to help run one of the weekends.  Lots of other staff and volunteers sacrificed rest and relaxation to make winter camp all that it was.

Plan now to join us next year for one of the fun-filled, faith-building weekends as a camper or volunteer in the #BBCsnowGlobe.

Till then,

Brandon “Tuna” Bergey

Backcountry Ski Experience!

Challenges Experienced in Pavi Construction

Greetings all.  I have been somewhat silent lately related to the pavilion project.  I had been hyping it for so long and I was so excited about it… I was always talking about it.  And then we ran into challenges.  And I got a little lost for a time.  And you may not have heard much from me in general nor about the project.  I’d like to use this space to share about some of the challenges we’ve experienced and how things are going now.

Some challenges I’ve experienced as a member of the pavi design team and owner’s representative:

  • Alternative building and contracts model – we received counsel (from a trusted advisor) that money could be saved by utilizing what’s known as an agency approach.  This is different than the General Contractor approach in the sense that the lead contractor receives a fee or salary rather than making their money on markups and changes.  If done well, this provides freedom to alter plans as well as savings.  In our case, it seemed ideal because there are materials donors happy to offer discounts directly to the camp without going through the contractor.  Well, this approach is somewhat new to some on the design team and we are learning.
  • Relationships – human relationships are often one of the most challenging (and rewarding) aspects to anyone’s life.  This has been true in our working relationships as well.
  • Budget – this has perhaps provided the greatest source of stress for me.  Related to the two above challenges, it was a challenge to finish construction documents. Resulting from that was an incomplete understanding of budget.  Resulting from that was a design that was more than we budgeted.  To be clear, the building that has been designed, and is being built, is an awesome building.  It’s exactly what the camp needs to maximize ministry and program.  It’s the building the board wanted and approved.  It’s also more expensive than we wanted it to be (up from the desired $1.4 million to $2 million).
  • Timeline – And almost all of this could have much more easily been overcome if we did not have a tight timeline.  Because the new pavilion was to replace the old in the same exact location and because skipping a summer of camp was not an option, we had only from mid August till the end of May to complete the project.  Doing things fast and well typically costs more than if you can do them slowly and well.  And constructing this building poorly was not an option.

So what are we doing?

We decided to move ahead with the preferred design in the face of budget challenges and look to save in two ways:

  1. Phasing whatever did not have to be completed to use the space for summer 2015
  2. Seeking volunteerism wherever possible

With phasing, volunteerism and a loan of $400,000 we are hoping to complete the building enough to get a certificate of occupancy by the end of May, 2015.  We hope then to finish the building entirely over the following couple years and pay off the loan at the same time.

This is both not what we planned and not uncommon for large building projects (so I’m told).  We knew from the very beginning that a project of this scale would be a great challenge for Bethany Birches Camp.  We knew that using volunteers and keeping a tight budget would add to the challenge.  We even felt at times like it was an impossible project.  And that’s why the name Mission Possible: The Pavilion Project was selected.  It harkens back to something Jesus says in Matthew 19:26: “with God, all things are possible.”  We know this is true and we continue to put our trust in God.

We welcome your gifts of time and money, as God leads. We thank you for your ongoing interest and support of Bethany Birches Camp.   Pray with us that all who use the new pavilion will be blessed and experience God’s love.

Tuna

aka Brandon Bergey

Executive Director

Occupancy Obtained! THANK YOU

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!

What happened:

  • 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
  • Bergey’s Electric – giving materials and sending retired veterans
  • Harold & Esther Bergey, Herb & Janet Frederick – the retired vertans
  • Mike Bryan – overseeing the electrical at a discount
  • Many volunteers came to help
    • The Horsts (Earl, Merle, Mike & Clifford Horst)
    • Joanne & Ken Hershey
    • Leon Kratz
    • Andrew Moyer
    • Matt Haritoonian
    • Greg Jenne
    • Gerry Hawkes
    • Kristopher Blanchard
    • Scott Hepler
    • Dave Doria
    • Tom & Gail Smith
    • Mary Jane Crockett
    • Margaret Campbell
    • Diane Root

 THANK YOU!

Some pictures from the first first stage

Some pictures from the second stage:

 

How the lofts look upon completion:

Finished Cabin Lofts - Hannah Shelly (4)

April Monthly Contact

Each month, I write an email to some of Bethany Birches’ supporters.  The topics and content vary.  I share from my heart in these emails, about things that have happened at camp that I just love! A lot of times, I highlight something that one of our campers or staff has written or done.  And, what would a note to supporters be without updates and sharing of needs?!  Expect that too.  Here’s April’s update.

You can subscribe to this update if you’d like right here.

The latest need:

Fire Marshal Visit

This post is about a sad story.  It’s the story of the BBC Cabin the day the fire marshal came to visit.

Bruce and Jay were friendly and clear.  They have concerns about how quickly people could get out of the building in case of fire.  They gave us a conditional permit, which ends April 1, 2012!  After that, no one can sleep in the building until it’s amended to meet Vermont Life Safety Code.

How big of a deal can 8 violations really be?  Apparently a big enough deal to cost $20-$30K (un-detailed estimate) – YIKES!

So I tell the board.  They wisely came to the decision that now is not the time to upgrade the building as we hope to someday.  We must stay focused on the pavilion project.  We’re oh so close to beginning the fundraising effort for that.  So, the vote is that we amend the building as simply as possible in the least expensive way we can.

For those of you who are wondering about these violations, here’s the first draft of a punch list:

Violation Remedy Notes
1.No Egress window main floor bedrooms Install 1 egress windows in each of four bd. rms. Window to be 5.7 square feet
2.Stairwells out of code . upgrade wall material. install 20 min doors. install closure on door. upstairs build wall . 4 stairwells. drywall. doors
None Add heating in loft Need heating because of closure to lofts
3.No exits in lofts Install exit door in each sided (2 total) Need exit stairway from floor to ground
4.loft ceiling Install sheetrock
5. inadequate Co2 detectors Install hardwired Co2 with battery back-up Run wires with smoke detect system
6.No smoke detectors in basement Install 2 smoke detectors in basement Part of total smoke detect overhaul
7. no emergency lighting Install emergency lighting system
8. inadequate fire alarm system Install new fire alarm system with communications Clarify what communications system is
None Painting and other touchups related to construction

And so here we are.  We MUST do the above if we want to use the building this summer in program.  CAN YOU HELP US?  HERE ARE A FEW WAYS TO HELP:

  • Give money!  Just the materials are going to cost over $10K (EDIT on 4/6/12 – materials will probably be closer to $30K!).  Send a check or give online here and give to general operations or where needed most.
  • Give time: we’ll need volunteers to do most of the work.  Consider getting a small crew of experienced people together and come up for a weekend.  A few experienced laborers can make a big dent in just two days.  Call the office or email Brandon.
  • Give material: perhaps you own or have influence in a supply chain that could get us sheet rock, lighting, paint, etc.  If it’s in the above list, we need it.

And so the story of an old camp, that’s doing the best it can, continues.

Something very interesting to me is the fact that I had a two hour emotional cycle after the fire marshal’s visit.  At first I was frustrated and annoyed.  Then, humility kicked in.  So often, when I receive correction, direction, instruction, if I am able to release my frustration, I begin to sense God at work.

God, join us in this endevor and in all of our endevors.  I pray that you will bring the resources and people needed to acomplish this change and that it will not distract from the bigger things ahead.