Archive for the ‘Program News’ Category

Registration Open!

Dear Camp Friends,

The moment has come!  We have done all we need to do to re-situate people and reopen registration.  Thanks for bearing with us!  So go ahead and grab your spot while you can.

I encourage you to register and pay as soon as possible for your best chance at reserving a session for your child.  Please select only one session for the summer per child.  If you select more than one session per camper, we will remove your child from all but one session of our choosing.

As a reminder, we are only taking those living in-state (VT) at this time.  If you live out of state, and would like an exception, please let us know and we can review your situation.

If the session you want for your child is full, I encourage you to sign up and get on the waitlist.  As we know, the pandemic is causing ongoing changes and that is one of the main reasons I encourage you to claim your spot on the waiting list.  Surely some spots will open up.  You will need to make a $50 deposit to get on the wait list and we can refund that $50 if your child does not end up being able to attend camp.

Get signed up here!  Register Now

Check out the pandemic response FAQ page here.  Feel free to ask any questions not answered there.

I pray that you and your family are finding peace and joy, even in these strange times.

Brandon “Tuna” Bergey
Executive Director

Find previous communications about summer 2020 here.

p.s. while some details on what summer camp will look and feel like are in the FAQ page, more are coming shortly!

Updated Summer 2020 Schedule Announced

I write this with reserved excitement.  It is exciting to offer resident camp in the context of the pandemic.  It is also going to be a special challenge for all involved.  Our primary goals are to create a distanced, safe, outdoor oriented program with special considerations for the Covid-19 crisis and to give children and teens an outlet for some of the things that have been missing in their lives lately.

Here are the sessions we know we are able to offer considering the many changes that needed to be made:

We are working daily to make the modifications necessary and get needed supplies.  We will do our best to keep a FAQ page up to date and add more detail as we create it.  Please feel free to call the office with questions – 802-672-5220.  Here is the page for your reference:

If you are currently enrolled and want your child to come to Launch Day Camp A, July 6-10, please reply by this coming Sunday, June 14.  For all other sessions, please reply by Wednesday, June 17.  If you are not currently enrolled, we expect to reopen registration after June 17.

Thanks for joining us in this adventure so far.  I invite you to pray one of the prayers I have been praying lately – God, I thank you for (fill in anything you are thankful for).  God, also, I need help with (fill in anything you need help with).  Thankfulness and acknowledgment of our challenges and needs go hand in hand.

Brandon “Tuna” Bergey
Executive Director

Camp to start July 6 – Coronavirus update 3

Dear Camp Friends,

We know a lot more than we did last week!  Governor’s restart team gave the go ahead one week ago and our board of directors gave the go ahead on Wednesday night of this past week.  Working with our camp doctor and leadership team, we continue to create a modified way of doing camp that minimizes opportunities for virus transmission and utilizes guidance from the VT Health Department, CDC, and American Camp Association.

We are almost finished with our updated schedule.  We will not run all of our scheduled programs and plan to announce that by Wednesday of this coming week.  The first week of camp will be July 6 and will be Launch day camp for ages 6-10.

We know we will have at least four weeks of residential camp and probably two weeks of day camp.  After we share our updated schedule we will be emailing each family currently signed up and work to get you into whichever of the new programs you would like.  The way that process will work is fairly simple:

Respond to a future email indicating preference of session (we will give a deadline).

Pay your balance (by a deadline).

Review the materials we will send and prepare your camper for the modified experience (we will get this to you before the decision and payment deadlines). Noteworthy modifications relate to some new activities and some missing favorites, occasional required face covering for all (like during drop off, bathhouse, and meal prep. times), lots of hand-washing, assigned sleeping spaces etc.  We believe while it will feel quite different, campers will enjoy what we are preparing.

We plan to limit a camper to one session for the summer. Our goal is to serve as many different campers as possible given the reduced capacity (planning for 36 campers at a time so we can best follow guidance and requirements).  Until we help each enrolled family get into new sessions, we will keep registration closed.  After the decision deadline for current enrollees we will open registration back up until all spots are filled.

I am praying a part of Isaiah 40 for each of you.  It’s a prayer that I needed very much this week.  Starting at v. 28: “Have you not known?  Have you not heard?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.  He gives power to the faint, and to those who have no might God increases strength… they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”  Bless you.

Brandon “Tuna” Bergey
Executive Director

BBC Easter Program Live Stream

Greetings Camp Friends

(Reading this after Easter Sunday?  The links below will still take you to the video.  Enjoy anytime!)

He is risen?!  He is risen indeed!  You may or may not be familiar with this Easter call and response phrase.  We say it together on Easter Sunday.  Someone says he is risen and someone replies that he is risen indeed.  Sometimes, I think about the call “he is risen?!” as though it is a question.  As though the asker needs reassurance.  Then the responder affirms very boldly, that it’s true!  Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead!

I digress.  That’s only part of what this email is about… this email is an invite to join us at 7pm Easter Sunday for a ~20 minute reflection and song service.  You’ll hear music from Elvis, Sprocket, Meatball, Tom, and Nugget.  Reflections from Chick, Gigi, and Gwen Groff, pastor at Bethany Mennonite Church.  Join us on Youtube here and on Facebook here That will take you to the respective platforms for live a real-time event starting at 7.  Hope to see you there.

He is risen indeed!

Brandon “Tuna” Bergey, Executive Director

Why you should sign up now for summer camp 2020

Dear Bethany Birches Parents:

The staff are busy preparing for the 2020 summer camp season at Bethany Birches! We realize that these are uncertain times and there may not even be a 2020 summer camp season.  However, we will continue preparing as though there will be summer campFeel confident in signing up for summer 2020 because of 1 and 2 below.  3 and 4 below are in hopes of giving your children something to look forward to while being home for what may be quite some time.

1. Summer cancellation without penalty. If you have signed up for summer camp, or plan to do so, you may cancel with no penalty.  Cancel for any reason and we will keep every dollar on your account for one year.  You could use this at the upcoming winter sessions or the following summer sessions, or for a friend, different child, etc.  Also, if the current crisis causes a limited summer session, there won’t be as many spots. Sign up now with confidence.  As the pace of life slows down day by day you could get your mind in a different space and reserve your child’s summer spot now:  If a session is canceled by us or regulators, same thing applies.  All cancellations must be made 3 weeks before the start of your session.

2. Safety. Our leadership team and medical professionals are upgrading the current health and safety practices we have in place at camp and if summer camp is held this season, we will have robust check-in and quarantine procedures in case of outbreak of any kind, Covid-19 or otherwise.

3. Get the kids out of the house and off the screen. On the topic of slowing pace, Bethany Birches’ property remains open to you.  While indoor spaces will be locked and only used for certain pre-arranged purposes, you are welcome to come and be in the outdoors.  Connect with us to learn how you can be here safely (email, phone, social).

4. Virtual Engagement. While we are staying separate from each other to slow the pandemic in our country, we can still be together in spirit and via internet!  Stay tuned for a few virtual camp experiences. Possibly things like biking with Tuna, crafts with Cheeks and Susie, camp songs with Meatball, Magic with Rupert, chill time with Beehive… the possibilities are endless!  Have a request? Let us know.  In the meantime, if you’re going to give your kiddos screen time, have them check out the BBC youtube channel.


You can help

  1. At this time, we believe the most effective thing we can do to stop the spread of this virus (thereby keeping medical facility traffic to a manageable rate) is to keep physical interaction limited (“social distancing”). Please learn and follow local and federal authorities’ recommendations.
  2. We are still looking for some of those great summer staff. For teens 15-17, consider Counselor in Training or Leader in Training.  For teens 17 and older, consider assistant counseling.  For college students and beyond, consider counseling, maintenance, kitchen, etc.

More to come as more becomes known.  We are praying strength for you and peace that passes understanding.

Brandon “Tuna” Bergey, Executive Director

P.S. Apparently handwashing is a game-changer.  I continue to challenge myself to do it for at least 20 seconds!

Winter Family Fun Day Cancelled – rain forecast

This Saturday’s event is cancelled (Dec 14). We’ve been holding out, hoping that we could still run the event.  And well, we could, but, it would be in the rain according to forecasts!  40 degrees and rainy in Dec. doesn’t feel like the right way to host our friends and community outside highlighting our best activities.  At this time, we do not plan to schedule another Winter Family Fun Day.  If you think we should, reply to this message with a date that works for you!

But You Can Still Come To Camp

Here’s how:

  • Birthday Party’s here at camp.  If your child has come to Bethany Birches before and you will invite your child’s friends, let’s find a date that suits!  More info here.
  • Summer Family Fun Day: save June 13, 2020 on your calendar.  More Info.
  • Winter Camp: It’s that time of year.  The ice is poured, staff are pouring in and hopefully there will be very little rain!  More info.
  • Rent one or more of the buildings to host your own event.

Are We Accomplishing Our Mission? Beyond Anecdotes.

Over the last few years Bethany Birches has been committed to partnering with academic organizations researching the benefits of Christian Summer Camps. Last year the Hope Study (University of Oklahoma) measured whether campers experienced increased hope as a result of their camp experience.  The Hope Study 2018 found “The results of this report continue to provide support for the positive impact the participating Christian camps are having on the boys and girls attending those camps, not just in terms of Hope and Well-Being, but also in social connectedness and interest in their Faith.” Fifty-six percent of campers had increased hope scores after coming to camp. This was most closely correlated with making friends and having developed some faith.  

This year The Power of Camp study (POC) has given us preliminary data about campers’ engagement with faith, relationships with peers, and connection to staff as a result of their camp experience. Based on early data from this summer all of the parents surveyed said their child made friends at camp and 67% of campers said they were strengthened in their faith. Only 24% of parents reported reading the Bible with their children and 87% of parents felt we were “effectively teaching Christian faith.” All of the parents surveyed said they would send their child back to camp and 90% of campers ranked “the entire camp experience” as their most enjoyed part of camp. The initial data we have received from this summer is very encouraging and points toward significant mission accomplishment. We are excited that 100% of parents surveyed were pleased with our “system of addressing bullying/ conflicts.” We see Jesus’ teachings of “Love your enemies” and “treat others as you wish to be treated” in this statistic.

2019 was the third summer in a row in which our seasonal staff participated in The Power of Camp.  POC was conducted by Wheaton College looking at how staff of summer camps are affected by the experience. We have received data specific to our staff’s experiences and are able to compare this with the average of camps participating in the study. Participating in these studies allows us to quantitatively identify our areas of strength as well as opportunities for improvement. For example, between the 2017 and 2018 staff studies we saw a significant increase in how staff felt supported by their supervisors. We improved from being on par with other camps with a 4.1 out of 5 rating to a 5 out of 5 average rating from the staff. Also improving in the same period were the percent of staff who experienced growth in the teamwork and emotional intelligence areas assessed by the study. These and others had been identified as areas for improvement by camp leadership and the following year increased by 22.5% and 21.5% to be on par or higher than the average camp in the study. Between the summers 2017 and 2018 we improved parts of staff training, intentionally sought ways to provide more support for staff, and had better and more frequent meetings to improve communication. These improvements have been continued this last summer and we look forward to the forthcoming 2019 research study results.  

It is encouraging to have data to inform our decisions and confirm what we are doing is consistent with our mission. We were able to see that staff was improving in areas of spiritual growth, leadership, and resiliency similar to other camps and pinpoint what we could improve the next year. We feel both affirmed by the research and able to identify potential areas for improvement next year. We will continue pursuing these research opportunities because they have been and will continue to be part of making Bethany Birches Camp better at achieving our mission to help young people develop their relationship with God.


~ Patrick “Rupert” Graber,

Office Coordinator and Facilities Manager 

Annual Benefit Auction 2019

I am constantly surprised and sometimes overwhelmed by the generosity of the community that supports Bethany Birches Camp. A past board member and spouse, who was a long time camper, do lots of preparation for the auction each year and even work hard starting early the day of the event.  After that they sit down and bid as high as they can.  This is just one snapshot of those who are passionate about this place and work.

Another snapshot from Saturday are Sandy and Vernon, the auctioneers.  Some years they bring their wives, other years Sandy has come alone.  Well this year, Sandy and Vernon left in Vernon’s Prius at 12:02am Saturday morning.  They pulled into the camp around 6am to catch the sunset and a couple Z’s.  By 8:30 they were out having coffee.  They did their usual excellent and entertaining work, and after lunch got back in the car to head home to Pennsylvania.

I have so many snapshots like this from Saturday.  Those images range from young Counselors In Training helping with food service to bidders who bid high and traveled from near and far to some of our youngest campers eating LOTS of popcorn.  It is all of you, who give of your time, energy, and money who make it possible to provide camp to all.  Our unique tier pricing both provides this possibility and also requires significant fundraising.  The auction goes a long way toward those fundraising goals.

As you may know, each year we try to include some sort of program in addition to the rest of the festivities.  It’s usually something simple.  This year, we were curious which Mennonite breakfast treat would be more popular.  So, we set out pieces of Old Fashioned Shoofly Pie and pieces of Funny Cake (all donated by Landis Supermarket).  Participants placed a ticket in one of two jars signifying their preference.  Get THIS!  It was a tie!  28 votes for Shoofly and 28 votes for Funny Cake!  One of the auction committee members commented “that is so Mennonite.  We wouldn’t want to cause any conflict or bad feelings.”

While the preferred breakfast treat may not be clear, we do know that this year’s auction raised a whole bunch of money for campers who need it.  Initial tally shows more than $54,000!  Here’s the list of items with winning bid prices. We are humbled by this result and deeply grateful for each person in the room that day as well as those who bid from afar.  Mark your calendar for the end of September next year.  We hope to see you there!

On behalf of the camp board and auction committee,

Brandon “Tuna” Bergey

Executive Director

That First Summer

In October 1965, Pastor Nevin Bender, Bethany Birches Camp Director from 1965 to 1980, submitted a report to friends and supporters of the camp about the very first camping session held during the summer of 1965. “The primary purpose of the camp” Bender wrote, “is to provide opportunity for children and youth from Vermont to participate in camping that has a Christian emphasis. This year a total of 83 boys and girls, ages 8—15, participated in the camp life. Bender listed three objectives for the camp that year: “First … to provide a good time for these children…;” “Second, to strengthen their ability to cooperate with each other…;” “Third, to undergird the entire camp program with a spiritual emphasis…” Bender ended his report with this request: “Pray for the continued work of the camp.”  Today, we continue to ask for your prayers for Bethany Birches Camp, the staff and, most important, the campers. “We’re not that far away from 1965,” said Steve Moyer. The Camp’s mission is still the same—helping young people develop a relationship with their creator.

1965-1980: Nevin J. Bender, Camp Director

It is not possible to think of the early days of Bethany Birches Camp without thinking of Nevin J. Bender, the first Camp Director. Those who worked with Nevin at Bethany Birches Camp or attended services at Bethany Mennonite Church, where he served as pastor, hold many different memories and images of Nevin. But, when we think of all the good work that Nevin did, a passage from Isaiah (Chapter 58:12) comes to mind. “…you shall raise up the foundations of many generations…”

Nevin was born in Greenwood, Delaware and graduated from Eastern Mennonite College with a degree in Education (now Eastern Mennonite University). Nevin and Lourene (Godshall) Bender were married in June 1961. He started seminary at Eastern Mennonite Seminary but before he finished, the conference contacted him about going to Vermont to preach, so he left without completing his degree. Nevin and his wife Lourene came to Vermont in 1963. In 1968, Nevin and Lourene moved temporarily to Hartford, Connecticut where he studied at Hartford Seminary for a year in order to finish his degree and, at the end of the year, earned a Masters of Divinity degree.

When Lloyd Moyer first came to Nevin with the idea of donating land to start a summer camp for children, Nevin apparently jumped on the idea and was off and running. According to his daughter, Marcia, the camp was Nevin’s passion. There are many records from the early days at Bethany Birches which indicate the tremendous amount of work that Nevin and Lourene put into organizing and running the camp in those first years. Thought had to be given to facilities, however rudimentary they may have been, program, camper meals, as well as volunteers to help run the camp. At the same time, Nevin was shepherding the Bethany Mennonite Congregation, while he and Lourene were raising two very young children.

In the beginning, the idea and the reality of Bethany Birches Camp came together fairly quickly.  In an article entitled “Camp and Servanthood, Vermont-style,” Richard L. Benner wrote: Bethany Birches Camp, sponsored by the Bethany Mennonite Church, Bridgewater Corners, was conceived in a handful of adventurous minds only in April, 1965*. From the generous hand of one of these, Lloyd Moyer, came the grounds, from some others came both reservation and enthusiasm, and from the pastor, Nevin J. Bender, Jr. [came] lots of plugging and sweat.” (Mission News, September/October 1965, page 6)

*Four months later, on a hot, humid August morning, the first week of camp began with 35 girls in attendance.

To help carve the camp out of a grown-over farm was no easy task. The help received from a Mennonite Youth Fellowship work camp from the Salford Mennonite Church in Pennsylvania was invaluable. The group worked for a week to clear away waist high brush, build a fireplace, construct an eating area and build tent platforms. In addition, the group worked on a volleyball field as well as building a latrine. One member of this group recalls her memory of Nevin Bender.

“Along about 9:30 every morning Nevin Bender, pastor of the Bethany Mennonite Church, would appear with his Rambler, bumping toward our campsite. While the scheduled crew got breakfast cleared away, we all headed in the direction of our tent for Bible study materials.” (Notes from Barbara Landis, Harleysville, Pennsylvania, published in the Franconia Conference “Mission News” September/October 1965.)

Clearly, Nevin was a “well rounded” director. “He could do a bit of everything,” said Steve Moyer. He was involved with worship, recreation and fireside programs; in rainy weather he walked around to every tent site to make sure campers got their camp fires going. There’s even a report of Nevin operating a bull dozer, loaned to the camp by the Jenne family, when work started on construction of the old pavilion. He and many others laid down the original outlines for the camp which are followed to this day. We are not that far away from 1965, as Steve Moyer said.

In a 2010 interview, Marcia Bender commented on her father’s work. Responding to the question: “What was important to Nevin?” she cited the following themes: community building and learning to trust each other, people and relationships and nature, building consensus, and trying new ideas. All of these themes can be seen in a report Nevin sent to the Franconia Mennonite Board of Missions & Charities (September 1966) in which he reports on the second year of Bethany Birches Camp.

“We feel greatly encouraged as we see the day-to-day working out of plans and are convinced that God planned this camp long before we became involved in it. We were better organized this year and provided a program of hiking, swimming, nature study, other recreation plus Bible study and campfire services. Some encouraging attitudes have been registered by community persons who talk about this camp as “Our” camp rather than the Mennonite camp. They are eager to identify with it.”

“Nevin was very civic-minded,” said Warren (Bud) Jenne of Bridgewater Corners. Bud and Nevin were contemporaries in Bridgewater, both involved in their [respective] church work and both involved in community activities. Bender served as the Chair of the Board of Civil Authority and Bud was a committee member. “Nevin was a very nice man,” Jenne said, “He’d do anything for anyone.”

In 1983 the Benders left Vermont and returned to Virginia where Nevin went to work for EMU on the grounds crew. He retired from that position in 2008 and, along with five others, was honored at a recognition dinner in April of that year. His colleague, Will Hairston said of Bender, “Nevin’s passionate faith, intense work ethic and model of service have been an inspiration to all.” (From Eastern Mennonite University website, EMU News, posted April 30th 2008).

Excerpt from Stories From The First 50 years, Volume 1