Posts Tagged ‘God & Jesus’

Be Still And Know That I Am God…. even in the chaos

Hi. I’m Flora, or at camp I’m Gigi.

This summer I’m the Day Camp and Leadership Training Director. Every summer I’ve worked here I’ve seen God clearly in the campers, in nature and the community among the staff. This summer I’ve seen him in each of those places, but I’ve also been challenged by the scripture- “Be still and know that I am God” in Psalm 46. If you’ve never been here when there are campers, still is not the word you would come away saying. Camp is great with campers, and it’s energetic, and loud and a little crazy. Not still. During orientation Cheeks had us do a practice where we found somewhere quiet and repeated “be still and know that I am God”, then reduced the phrase to “be still and know that I am”, and then “be still and know”, slowly removing words until we were just repeating “Be” to ourselves. I really enjoyed this practice, but had trouble thinking about how that scripture could be true for me this summer. This scripture kept coming up for me the next couple weeks, friends would send it to me or it would come up in my devotionals but it didn’t seem possible. When I decided to listen to a sermon from my home church in Burlington, VT, and the sermon scripture was “be still and know that I am God” I felt like God was yelling at me to obey that scripture.

That sermon changed my idea on what being still looks like at camp. My pastor talked about the Hebrew word Rapha, which he described as a calm confidence in God. Being still became more attainable to me as he described peace coming from posture of Holy awareness, instead of what had been in my mind, which was being alone and finding long periods of time for God, which this job doesn’t always allow. Since then I have been able to find Rapha in some of the least still moments of the summer, by expanding on the scripture. During the many times when it feels like my patience is running low when I’m with campers who may require extra attention I remind myself to be still and know that God is God who provides patience and love. I don’t need to be all those things, because God is for me. And on the days when I get woken up by the radio in the night and don’t get the sleep I need to make it through the day I am reminded to be still and know that God is God who has energy and is the life in me. When I’ve had this posture I’ve seen myself being more full of what I should be empty of and more aware of God giving me what I need.

This summer I had the opportunity to lead a three day backpacking trip with seven campers, and two other staff. The morning we were leaving for the trip I woke up at 4am with every worst case scenario running through my head. Thunderstorms. Medical emergencies. Behavioral issues. No logic could solve the stress I was feeling. I had solved these problems when I was planning the trip earlier that summer; we had extra tarps, I have wilderness medical training, and I know how to deal with campers, yet I was still stressed. I was physically still in bed, but my mind was not still. As I laid in bed I knew what I needed wasn’t more backup plans, but rather the peace of Christ. That week as we hiked along the Long Trail I experienced God not just in the stillness of nature, but in the conversations and riddles that kept us hiking. As I led with a calm confidence in God I found myself knowing that He was there, and providing for each need of each person on that trip.

Flora “Gigi” Dewar

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

Staffing crises point to the Body of Christ

Greetings friends!  Been a while since you’ve heard from us via the blog.  That’s because in April, our Program Director, Courtney, fell ill and could not continue her duties!  Please pray for her health and healing.  Where did that leave us at camp?  Restructuring!  In terms of the summer camp leadership team, the restructuring seems to have worked.  We were able to shift leaders around and call Amber “Cheeks” Bergey back into service as Camp Director.  She is mentoring some newer leaders including the Day Camp Director and Resident Camp Director.  All are learning and growing and doing good work.

Come June, it started to feel like we were going to make it through the summer excelling and hosting the many campers as good as always.  As that feeling set in, a second crisis struck in the male counseling team.  We lost an assistant to a broken leg, another to a change in heart.  We lost a male counselor to anxiety and another to a concussion.  We are still down all four of those guys.  How could we go on?!

Many summer staffers talked with friends and one of those friends came to BBC for the first time and did a great job the first week of camp (and will be back twice this summer).  We reached out to other Mennonite Camps and uncovered two brothers who were trusted counselors and could give us a few weeks.  A long time counselor said he could return for a week or two.  Our facilities manager who used to counsel, said he could counsel as needed.  Things are starting to look up!  I was reminded of the “Body of Christ” and how together we can function as a cohesive community and in so doing Jesus would meet us and help meet our need for “daily bread” (in this case, having qualified counseling staff for each camper).  Keep an eye on our youtube channel this weekend for how we made the picture of a body at the top of this post.

Personally, this pair of crises stretched me and my family quite a bit.  I found early morning wake ups common, some tears in talking with God, and challenges at home as the kids got used to their nanny (so thankful for her and my strong wife, Cheeks, who is leading the program team in her third pregnancy!).

I find myself stretched, challenged, thankful and looking forward to uncovering who the next camp director will be.  If you know someone who would be a good fit, tell them of the opportunity to live and serve in the Green Mountains!

Brandon “Tuna” Bergey

Living Water

Thanks to Erin “Tye Dye” Dye for this guest post.  Tye Die is the camp shepherd this summer:

Thursday evenings this summer have been an opportunity for holy moments. Counselors have gotten to know their campers really well by the 5th night, campers submerse in good vibes from the week and excitement to go home, and for our worship times, this evening is a chance to have an “a ha” moment with the theme and how it relates to their own lives. During our Thursdays the last four weeks, we have looked the story of the woman at the well and her unexpected conversation with Jesus. When Jesus offers her living water, he shows us that he cares for everyone, even the unlikely people (a woman frowned upon by society as well as a Samaritan). As refreshing as the idea of living water sounds, this is an abstract concept of cleansing aspects of ourselves that we can’t pinpoint or see. In efforts to visualize the invisible, campers and staff participated in a demonstration to see the implications of receiving Jesus’s living water. Participants had an opportunity to pour something into a communal cup of water to make it cloudy (ketchup, mustard, pepper, etc.), and share something that personally clouds or weighs down their own spirits. Then as a group we enjoyed the visual of pouring overwhelming amounts of clean water (representing Jesus’ living water), flooding the cup and pushing out all the junk that we put in and that weighs us down, leaving us refreshed and free of burden. Campers consistently reported enjoyment of this activity and deeper appreciation of God’s desire to help us carry and bring relief for our burdens. It’s been a beautiful catalyst moment for the spiritual component of camp.

Campers have shared experiencing God at many different points throughout the summer.  One of those experiences I was fortunate enough to witness as God worked through our high school campers. After one of our small group times, the girls of this particular cabin had heavy hearts over the things they shared and put in the cup during the demonstration. In an effort to put their minds at rest before going to sleep, the cabin counselor opted to pray for each girl of the cabin out loud and proceeded to highlight the delightful characteristics and joys each girl brought to the cabin. At the end of the counselor’s prayer, I had planned to pray similar things for the counselor leading the prayer. However, I never got the chance because the moment she paused one of the campers jumped at the opportunity to pray and pour encouragement on their counselor, and when she finished another camper took a turn to pray for me! This moment was not only pleasant to be prayed for, but more so to witness campers receiving God’s love through our program all week and a strong desire to return the experience. This also meant our campers felt comfortable enough to pray out loud in front of their peers, unprompted, and live out the example Jesus calls us to in encouraging and building one another up in our faith. Although the work of camp is long and challenging at times, it is certainly not without reward!

~ Tye Dye

Mission Success

It is challenging to gauge success when trying to accomplish a mission like Bethany Birches’.  We do some surveys after summer and winter seasons to see how we did in a couple different areas.  I just LOVE what came from the surveys this past summer.

33% of survey respondents (parents) rated their child’s experience a 10 or “the best time imaginable.”  33% more rated their child’s experience as a 9. And 24% an 8. Half of all survey respondents said their children “seem more loving or kind” after their week at camp. As I read through survey’s from camper parents post summer I saw this report from a mother about her two campers:

“They both came home singing great pre-dinner songs like, “thank you God, for giving us food!!!!” We loved learning these songs and still sing them before meals! They also learned about how to be a good friend, and how to work well with others. They learned how to do their own dishes which made me very happy!”

I think that part of the reason most campers loved it here last summer (ratings of 8, 9, 10) is because they felt loved, accepted and cared for (fun, great people and great activities didn’t hurt either!).  “Proof” that we are creating the type of atmosphere required to accomplish our mission.  I also take great encouragement knowing that half of the parents surveyed said their children “seem more loving or kind.”  This reminds me of Jesus’ teaching to love God and to love people.  We must become a person filled with God’s love and love for those around us to accomplish this.  If parents are noticing their children becoming “more loving or kind” I bet it’s because what happens at camp is helping people live out this teaching of Jesus and develop a relationship with God.

Mission Success!

Brandon “Tuna” Bergey

Matthew 25: BBC Style

 

Matthew 25:34 reads: ‘When I was in prison you visited me, when I was hungry, you fed me, when I was stuck on Lynds Hill Road, you pulled me out…’

Actually that last phrase isn’t in the Bible. But the phrase does describe how the Bible came alive last week at Bethany Birches Camp.

I was getting ready to feed Susie when I heard a knock on the sliding door (a common mission impossible destination for many – knocks are not uncommon!).  A man I did not know stood outside our door, looking cold and tired. I opened the door a crack.

“Hello, can I help you?”

“Uh, yea,” the man replied. “I’m from VTEL, I’m stuck down the road. Could I use your phone to call a tow truck?”

“Oh, I’m sorry. Yes, you may use the phone, come on in.”

“Do you have the number for a local towing company?” The stranger asks sheepishly.

“Uh, sir, you’re in Plymouth, VT. the middle of nowhere. Nothing is local… Let me call my husband at the camp up the road, he’ll know who to call.”

” Oh, just up the road, I can walk up there.”

And after a bit more conversation the cold, tired man trudges up the road towards camp.

About 15 min later, I see Chick on the tractor and Tuna and the stranger in our car driving down the road.

15 min later I see the tractor, the car and a mini van come up the road. The stranger gets out and gives Tuna a hug. The man gave Chick the certificate pictured here.

He wasn’t naked, hungry or in prison. He was stuck. And Chick and Tuna helped him get unstuck.

The words of Jesus continue to come alive at Bethany Birches Camp. Join us on the hill (work days, winter camp, summer camp, volunteering) to experience Jesus for yourself.

-Cheeks.
Towing Certified

The Benefits of Breakfast

On February 8, we hosted a Women’s Breakfast at Blooming Glen Mennonite Church. When planning began last year, the committee decided to ask Amber to share, and she said yes! The committee also decided that donations raised at the breakfast would go to Camp.

The Women’s Breakfast was a huge success! Amber shared stories from the Hill about “Meeting God in Unexpected Places”. She talked about there being room for conflicting feelings in our lives – like strength & weakness, confidence & fear, when we have Jesus. That sometimes both are present, but the love of Jesus allows us to acknowledge and understand the differences in the highs and lows in our lives, without allowing them to define who we are.

This happens to me every year when we come to shepherd for a week at camp. I love the opportunity to be with the kids, getting to know them better in a one-to-one setting. But I am not so comfortable standing before them and speaking during daily Jump Start’s and Fireside’s. The benefits that come from the relationships developed with campers definitely outweighs my public speaking fears, and the grace of God allows me to have enough confidence to get through the hard part of FEAR so that I can enjoy the LOVE of being with kids at camp.

I was privileged to be a part of the planning committee for this Women’s Breakfast. It is a lot of work, but seeing 115 women, spanning several generations, come together for a morning of fellowship, food and rejuvenation through the words shared is such a blessing! And while fund-raising is not the main focus of our breakfast, we are continually amazed at the wonderful ways in which God works. We had several different donors come forward willing to give $5,000 in “matching donations”! This means that they will match all donations given at the breakfast, up to $5,000. In turn, this encourages people to give generously at the breakfast, because then basically every dollar they give is doubled! I am always amazed by the strength of a community when they work together. Who would think that a breakfast could generate this much funding?

And guess what? We collected over $4,500 on that Saturday morning! Praise God! There are expenses to cover and we are still collecting donations this week. Our goal is to raise as close to $5,000, which will then turn in to $10,000 for camp! As of today (Valentine’s day), we are at $9,000! So I challenge you to think of new, fun ways that you can raise money for the new pavilion. To you campers who ski a lot – what about selling hot chocolate slope-side? What about hosting a pancake breakfast before school one morning? Think about it, and don’t let your fears stop you from doing something that will give back to you and your community… YOU CAN DO IT!!

Flo

(aka Beth Goshow)

 

Click here to listen to Amber’s sharing!

Click here for photos from the morning.

Get a New Perspective

God is on the move at camp! I write this because there is so much happening and a lot of it seems very good.

As I reflect on this, I think about how we experience things we like, we can easily attribute those feelings to God’s goodness and gifts. Similarly, when we experience things we don’t like, we can easily attribute our feelings to God and say God is against us (sometimes this may be but often, we simply need to re-calibrate our understanding of what is good, or rather, who is good).I really like the fundraising that’s happening at Bethany Birches Camp (BBC) right now. For example, the 11th Annual Benefit Auction that happened at camp in late September raised $60,000. It’s easy to feel a sense of blessing in the wake of that fundraiser. Or, consider the current status of Mission Possible: The Pavilion Project. $1.2 million has been committed to date. These two numbers are historical for BBC.On the other hand, this coming weekend we’re hosting a teen connect. Only 15 are signed up right now. On a bad day, it’s easy for me to feel like God has not blessed this event.

It helps me in the face of what I perceive as wild success and annoying failure to remember a couple things from Scripture. First, in Isaiah 55, God exclaims “I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work.” Second, from Paul in Philippians 4 we learn that it’s possible to be content whatever our circumstances. And third, from Jesus, we come to understand that God’s blessings pour out on the righteous and unrighteous and that often things are reversed (the beatitudes illustrate blessing in tough situations and it’s hard for wealthy people to enter the Kingdom).

Join me in praying for the camp and the many people it serves. Pray for blessing, for effectiveness in ministry, for those of us in leadership to stay near to Jesus and for many campers to experience God’s love.

When you’re done praying, check out a few of these interesting webpages:
All about the Pavilion Project
All about the Auction
Winter camps coming up
Sign up for MP campaign text updates
Sign up for camp update emails

Newsletter 2013: Snow Camp!

A lot of snow + campers + BBC= SNOW CAMP!! Undoubtedly campers love going to camp: to see friends, to see the staff, and at BBC- to learn more about God. We (a group of volunteers) had a great time with the campers in a non-stop action packed weekend, but the focus wasn’t necessarily on snow – It was on God.

Something that stands out in my mind from the weekend was a conversation that a couple of us (volunteers and campers) were having. I remembered one of the campers – he has a brilliant mind but had a hard time processing the existence of one almighty God. He and his family tended to be polytheistic and as we talked about the story of Elijah found in 1 Kings in the Bible, he asked some really good questions – like, “Why did Elijah call upon Baal to bring fire down when that wasn’t Baals ‘gift’ or ‘power’? He wasn’t the god of fire so of course he won’t be able to send fire down on the altar.” Hmm, good point. We continued to go deeper, yet at some point he seemed to reach an impasse, to which he said, “I’m a skeptic…” as if he thought that by saying that I would stop asking questions.  We pressed on.  He said that it would take a REALLY BIG miracle to prove to him that the God of Abraham is real.

IMG_7573It was a blessing to be a part of that discussion. He was processing the Christian story. He was asking good questions. He has a deeper knowledge now than he had before – whether that translates into a trust in Jesus and eventual service of God’s Kingdom is yet to be seen.  At least a weekend at camp filled his heart and mind with knowledge of the truth. Sometimes these conversations can be a challenge, but they’re the ones that can also bring about the most change and can give us the most encouragement to keep going, to keep proclaiming the message of the gospel to a world that so desperately needs to hear it, see it, feel it, experience it – and Bethany Birches IS all of those things to EVERY camper!

Scott Kratz, Volunteer