When I first came to Bethany Birches the summer of 2013, I remember thinking that the fog on the hills looked like God blowing on His knuckles on a chilly morning. This should have been a clue as to what this place would soon mean to me—a signpost pointing toward a God so vast and tangible, so close and so Other. However, all I could focus on at the time was loud and crazy kids, trying to learn how to start a fire, and an intense and wonderful friendship I was developing with a person who happened to live an hour away from me back in Texas. He was pretty cute, too.
That first summer quickly transformed into something palpable and golden. I found community like I’d never experienced, my bosses became mentors and friends, and my understanding of God was rocked and ultimately revolutionized. That cute boy also became much more to me. Maverick and I returned to BBC repeatedly and soon realized that each journey back marked a radical transition in our lives—dating, engaged, and finally getting married at the place we met. Each time we returned to camp we found a startling reawakening of the things we strive toward and the God who holds us. We dedicated our marriage in part to creating a place of peace for others like the place of peace we found in those Vermont hills.
The last time we journeyed back to Bethany Birches was this past February for Winter Camp, immediately before our biggest transition yet. We were about to leave everything we knew and drive across the country to start a new life in Oregon. We came to camp carrying the weight of a hard few months filled with the devastating loss of a friend, hard goodbyes, and so much uncertainty. To be honest, we weren’t sure how another intense and emotional season of growth at camp would treat us.
What we found was unexpected.
Instead of the slip n slides, mud pits, and constant barrage of camper voices, we found a forest blanketed in heavy white stillness. We found silent walks around the trees we cherish, a cabin big enough to make room for normalcy to return to our lives, and talks with old friends that rejuvenated us daily. God showed up every weekend when we got to practice loving children and building epic snow-forts with them, but even more so, we found Him in the in-between times. That winter we met the God of every season–always different, always willing to be seen, always ready with peace. Once again, a few months on the hill introduced us to God in a way that is real and new.
Tonight I look at different hills on the other side of the country—mountains really, violent and purple with a classic Western sunset. They look almost nothing like those foggy Vermont hills yet I feel God in them too. Still vast, still imminent, but in such a different way to such a different me. I can see so clearly how my experiences at BBC and my encounters with re-recognizing God built this story for me, like different distinct stars in a constellation that begins to resemble something whole. Maybe God orchestrated those stars. Maybe God resides in the ability to perceive the overall shape and story. Either way (or both ways) I am grateful for each point of light. BBC is a point of light for so many, be they 6, 26, or however old. For me that light leads me toward hope, toward purpose, and toward authentic introductions to God.
-Jamee “Tex” Puccio, Winter Camp Program Manager 2017/18