Having been a camper at Bethany Birches for six summers (and a Counselor In Training for one), I knew that I wanted to be a counselor eventually, and I finally got that opportunity last summer, as the youngest member of the 2019 summer staff. Camp had always been one of my favorite places in the world. At camp I always felt like I could connect with God. Interestingly, my first staff experience was a lot like what I expected it to be. However, “being on the other side” of camp helped me better appreciate how special Bethany Birches is. Even if I sometimes struggle with my faith while at home, I can always see how God is working at camp.
As a camper, the main feeling that I experienced was joy, regardless of what I was doing. During my time as a counselor, things were more topsy turvy than I remember them as a camper. I enjoy working with kids (one of the main reasons I applied!), and the skill I improved the most over the summer was patience. Whenever I was stressed out, I would take a deep breath and remember: I’m not just doing this for myself. I often remember that when I was a camper, I got a little sad when my counselor went on break. Now, even though I love being with my cabin, I get a little excited whenever I get to take a break, partially because I know that it gives me time to relax, making me better at my job once I go back. The further into the summer I got, I noticed how some of my campers reminded me of my younger self, which gave me great joy. It’s always good to know that whatever you are doing, it can ultimately have an impact on someone — and that’s what I think I enjoyed the most about working at camp. Being a camper was constant fun, every single day, but being a counselor still contained many of the great joys of camp. From the pig trough to hikes to the treehouses, many of my camp experiences remained the same, but being able to lead others made them far more rewarding.
Summer camp is a big part of what we do and here’s what it looks like from a first-time camper’s perspective. Meet Fiona! She is currently 8 years old, and attended her first week of overnight camp with us this past summer. I asked her why she wanted to come to camp at BBC, and what some highlights were from the summer. She said she came because of friends, and was curious about what we did here. She reported loving Messy Monday activities, the Polar Bear Swim, and discovering a family of mice in her cabin. She also liked the fun prayer songs we do (especially the Superman one) and that all the counselors had funny nicknames.
OK cool. Maybe this good stuff wears off after coming back a few times… Meet Riley! He also came to camp for the first time when he was eight years old – but he is now fifteen, and has been to camp seven summers in a row! I asked him what he likes about camp and what keeps him coming back. He shared that “there is nothing that compares to camp!” And while he really enjoys the all-camp game of capture the flag, and said that of course “you gotta love the whizz ball.” The people are actually the reason he returns year after year. He loves that you get to spend your whole day “hanging out with cool and nice people and just having fun together.” He said you just can’t beat that! One of his favorite parts about this past summer was getting to meet a lot of new people as well. He is also looking forward to applying for the CIT (Counselor in Training) program and becoming a counselor here one day. Our staff have enjoyed getting to build relationships with Riley over the years, and think he will be a great addition to our team!
As people grow older and shift from camper to counselor and then beyond, things look different yet again. Dan “Chick” Laubach, program director this past summer shares from his view: No matter how many times I’ve gone into a summer at camp there are always a few knots in my stomach. Will the new staff blend with the returning staff and become a family? Will the kids in each cabin get along with one another? Will the shepherds be able to make connections with the campers that will create real impact in their lives?
Well, staff training went really well, the first group of campers looked pretty awesome, the shepherds I had lined up had done a great job in the past… but as a leader I still worried. These worries were calmed by Tuesday night of the first week of camp. The whole camp sat on the new pond beach singing camp songs and listening to the shepherd, Creek, share about reflections. Creek instructed each cabin, one at a time, to approach the water of the pond and look at his/her own reflection. Campers and counselors together looked down at the full honesty of their outward appearance. Among obvious beauty, many saw zits, scars, smiles, frowns, bags under eyes, worn clothing, etc. Creek challenged campers to look past the negatives that might come to mind when staring at one’s reflection, and focus on a good quality they could see in themselves. Then, each cabin left the pond’s edge and huddled together in the field. They shared with one another the qualities they saw in the other campers in their cabin that represent our being made in God’s image. It was a beautiful and emotional experience, bringing tears to many young middle schoolers who don’t often think about how they were wonderfully made. That evening I saw cabins come together, counselors lead faithfully, and the shepherd make a life-long impact on many kids. Knots in my stomach were untied!
Though this was my last summer as the Program Director at Bethany Birches, I know it’s not my last experience there. Bethany Birches is doing powerful work in the lives of the campers and also the staff. I strongly encourage you to join in through volunteering in the kitchen, maintenance, or shepherding. If you’re in your 20’s, consider becoming a counselor this summer. If your time is stretched thin, consider donating money to the Kids To Camp Fund so that more campers can experience the love of God at BBC. I hope to see you up on the hill and experience together how God is moving in the lives of those at camp.
~ Courtney “Wonder Woman” Hollingsworth, Program Director
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.
Just the other week my father took me to the Deleware bay to fish for tautog. (Don’t ask me what tautog look like… because we didn’t catch any). Unfortunately, our trip was cut short because of a problem with his boat’s engine. We ended up going through three sets of spark plugs throughout the trip and finally decided to head home in fear of being stranded without any more spark plugs! Sitting in the car during our three-hour drive home I thought about how prepared we were for this trip (boat, rods, tackle, bait, etc) and yet the trip was derailed by a faulty engine.
I think summer camp is quite similar. All year long I work hard to prepare campers for an amazing week of camp. I plan fun games, create great schedules, research new activities, etc. And yet, without an “engine” all of that work is totally useless. At camp, our engine is our staff and volunteers: Counselors, cooks, maintenance, shepherds, program, and more. Without these people, camp doesn’t work.
I wanted to share with you some opportunities to be our “engine” this summer. Below is a list of available positions. All of these positions provide real opportunities to love campers, serve God, and grow in life experiences. If you know young adults who would benefit from a summer working at camp please share with them about BBC! This link is a great place to find more information about each of the available jobs.
We are also working to hire more assistant counselors than ever before! These positions provide older high school students a chance to grow, mature, learn about working with kids, and learn about God. It also makes a great statement on college applications!
Lastly, if you are looking for a way to serve this summer but are only able to work one week, please check out these volunteer opportunities: Shepherd, Nurse, Kitchen, or Maintenance. If you have any questions about these volunteer opportunities, please email Amber at firstname.lastname@example.org
“During my summer at Bethany Birches, I made close friends, I got to know myself better, and most importantly, I got to know God better.” ~ Scoop
Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you up on the hill this summer!
The last 3 years she’s been our competent life guard trainer.
Right now she’s on her way to becoming a veterinarian at St George’s University in Grenada.
Quincy started to coming to camp at a young age. She completed the BBC internship in 2010 to fast track her to BBC staff as a 17 year old assistant counselor in 2011 and returned as a counselor in 2012 and 2013. She’s also been back to volunteer numerous times since being on staff. Quincy is a top quality person and we are thankful for her service to the youth of VT. We have great confidence she will provide wonderful care to animals just as she did to campers. And if she’s back in the area and a camp pet is sick, we’ll know just who to call.
Can’t wait till we see you on the hill again Quincy!
It’s been exactly 3 months and a day since I left Bethany Birches. I’d really like to say that the time has been flying by, but it hasn’t. I think since this past summer my life has become so fixated on looking forward to possibly serving next summer, that I’m still reliving every day as though I never left.
Apart from the fact that the faces of my fellow staff members are splattered all over my social media timelines, I realise that camp made an indelible mark on me. And no, it wasn’t the fact that there were bears rummaging through the garden I worked so hard on (ok well, one bear), or Susie-sized* rabbits hopping around Hummingbird and scaring my campers (because I refused to scream and embarrass myself), or even the fact that I had to pretend to be strolling through the Garden of Eden [to stay motivated] with every trip to every facility on the campsite because every direction was a 10-minute hike. I can’t say either that it was the rock-farming or getting stuck in the bathroom whilst waiting out a thunderstorm at 3am. But what I can say is, before Bethany Birches, I had never really found somewhere that I felt like I just ‘fit in’.
I was different in so many ways—my culture, my heritage and even the way I worship had nothing in common with Bethany Birches, and I never got a lot of the jokes either; yet, I found my place there. And despite the fact that I almost froze to death on occasion, or got trapped in almost every ‘Mission Impossible’, I can’t say I’d ever change any of my experiences. I have felt my heart literally bursting with love and acceptance of not only so many others, but even myself, and I think that has been the most rewarding thing about Bethany Birches for me. It isn’t often that one literally finds themselves by wandering off into the ‘unfamiliar’ (never do that at camp by the way)…But this summer did that for me. Coming from Jamaica to cold VT wasn’t comfortable but it helped me become more me.
RaeChelle-Faith “Artsy” Hamilton, BBC Counselor
*Susie is the director’s daughter; 1 year old this past summer
After 3 summers (2013 – 15) of being an integral part of the BBC Summer Staff and 4 years of studying at Messiah College, Julia “Romeo” DeNardo is heading to Namibia with the Peace Corps.
Romeo will go down in BBC history as an MVP Counselor. Based on how much she was loved by campers and staff we have no doubt she will be loved in Namibia as well. Romie – we can’t can’t wait to hear about your adventures the next time you’re on this side of the ocean!
Click here to read the article on Romeo’s work with the Peace Corps in Namibia.
For the third straight summer Benji will be behind the camp camera! If you’ve seen any BBC Videos over the past 2 summers you know we are fortunate to have her back. Since last summer she’s spent a semester in LA, taken plenty of selfies, graduated from Gordon College and is still psyched to be back at camp. Read on for more details on why she’s glad to be here and why you should come join her!
“Rahn (aka Benji) is BACK for a third summer! I am SO excited for…everything! Building fires, playing games, swimming in the pond, eating baked oatmeal, hanging out with cabins, and making videos! Oh, and avoiding the mudpit 🙂 I’m also excited to learn more about God (God is everywhere here!), and share about God with all the campers. Speaking of campers…I am most excited for campers to get here!! Camp is waaaay more fun when you guys are here- three weeks can’t go by fast enough!”
After being a camper (many summers), an intern (’11), an assistant counselor (’12) and the counselor of Partridge (’13) and taking a summer off (’14) Frodo is returning to try out a different staff position: Floating Counselor! Each camper will get to have Frodo as a counselor at some point during the week. Read on for why she’s glad to be back at BBC and why you should come too!
“Look out summer of 2015, this is going to be like one you’ve never seen! Who is ready for some crazy fun times up at BBC this summer? I know that I am! I am back on staff this summer and I can’t wait to share wonderfully fun times with friends new and old! It will be a grand time at camp this summer soaking in the sun, running around in the woods, singing praises to our precious Jesus (and silly songs too!), and who knows what crazy new adventures we will all be having together! I know I am looking forward to swimming in the pond and working in the garden (maybe we can even cook some of our camp-grown food!). More than anything else I am excited to get hugs from you all and spend a week- or two!- doing all sorts of fun things together!” – Frodo
They say the third time’s a charm. No doubt that will be true for Romie! Romie started as the counselor of Hummingbird in 2013. She returned to Hummingbird for a 2nd summer in 2014. She has a unique ability to listen and lead, sing and play and share God in a way that makes sense to each individual she interacts with. When I asked Romie if she’d consider returning for a 3rd summer I was delighted to hear her say, “Yes. I believe I’m not done learning at BBC.” Read on for more on what Romie is excited about and why you should join her this summer at BBC! (It’s very possible that if you join Romie this summer you may hear this as a song…)