Posts Tagged ‘why camp’

Nevin J. Bender, BBC’s First Camp Director, Joins The Great Cloud Of Witnesses

Ask those who were on staff or came to camp as campers in the 1960s and 70s about their Bethany  Birches experience and they will almost certainly reference the rustic and challenging moments that became so deeply engraved in their memories. Back then, the Bethany Birches experience had to be rustic and challenging. Camp was just getting started and there were minimal dollars being invested and limited machines and tools to use to carve the camp out of a grown-over farm. Those missing dollars and machines weren’t important to Nevin Bender. He and his family were called into action by a sense of vocation, faith, and by Lloyd and Alice Moyer. Quite literally, when the Moyers had the idea to open Bethany Birches they asked Nevin to run the camp. He said yes and was the first camp director serving from 1965 to 1980.

Nevin J. Bender passed away this summer. His willingness to forge Bethany Birches with minimal resources created a lasting culture and while he has recently joined the great cloud of witnesses (see Hebrews 12:1), his mark was made and is still visible today, here at camp. You can see his personality and work in the Core Values of BBC. We named our core values just last year after conducting research with many different stakeholders (over 150). The core values are found in this word picture. Interestingly, in 2010 Marcia Bender (one of Nevin’s daughters) was asked what she felt was important to her father. In her reply she touched on community building, learning to trust each other, nature, building consensus and trying new ideas. Here we see the values she saw in her father’s behavior match some of the camp’s core values. At a dinner in 2008 Nevin was honored at his place of work and his colleague, Will Hairston said of Bender, “Nevin’s passionate faith, intense work ethic and model of service have been an inspiration to all.”

Weaving these two comments we get a sense that our core values are closely linked to who Nevin was. Here at BBC we use the phrase “With Over Watch.” It was coined by Michael Brandwein and is a comment about leadership, influence, and how to have a relationship. You don’t “watch” a 10-year-old from afar and expect to have much influence, or connection with each other, you go to be “with” them! It is by being together that individuals get to know each other, have shared experiences, and influence one another. Nevin was a “with” kinda guy! You see that in Marcia’s comments about her father and the stories that abound of Nevin connecting with others, leading from among the various camper and staff groups. I have met many people who shared about the influence Nevin had in their life.

Here we are today, still working with fewer resources than many organizations have, still cooking over the fire as they did that first year, and still our Directors spend a lot of time “with” people. We see relationships and community building as central to how we go about our mission just as Nevin did. We trust that God enters in the midst of this special camp experience, just as Nevin did. Today we are thankful that God (and the Moyers!) called upon the Bender family and thankful for their service. Nevin, please continue to be “with” us from the great cloud of witnesses!

When Nevin passed, his wife Lourene requested that gifts be made to Bethany Birches in lieu of flowers and gifts to the family. Please join her and many others in giving to the camp in memory of Nevin. Learn more about Nevin at www.bethanybirches.org/Nevin

 

~ Brandon “Tuna” Bergey,
Executive Director

Shifting From Receiving To Giving… Yet Still Receiving

 

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.

 

~ Ryan “Michi” Smith, Assistant Counselor

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 

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

Why Camp Has To Be Challenging

This is an excellent article from American Camp Association!

In summary, it promotes the fact that at the heart of camp are the things that build up people.  Hardships. Failures. Homesickness.  I would add, fun, relationships and the outdoors go a long way in this building of a person.

You simply must read this article:

http://www.acacamps.org/campmag/1311/tried-true

Tuna

BBC Teen Campers to Ethiopia

Campers will teach you just as much as (if not more than) you teach them. I share this mantra with staff often throughout orientation. Staff  and campers prove the saying true for 8 weeks every summer at Bethany Birches Camp (BBC). A few weeks ago I experienced the mantra to be true for myself as well. Three BBC teen campers reminded me of what it looks like to love God and love people.

About 6 months ago at BBC’s 2013 April Connect for Teens, Annie and Katie Soho told me I should join them on a service trip to an orphanage in Ethiopia in August*. The offer was tempting. I perseverated for about 6 weeks until I finally declined. Recently I was browsing pictures from their trip and reading about their stories (I’m still waiting to hear in person) through an article in the Valley News** and I’m wondering why I didn’t join them. The pictures and comments struck me as love in action. Specifically loving the least – children and widows. The campers were carrying out the beliefs I claim and share each summer.

For the past 10 summers I’ve shared God’s 2 most important commandments: Love God and Love People. As each summer concludes the post summer blues inevitably sink in. I miss the excitement and energy of young people at camp. I miss the staff. I feel like the beauty of camp is wasted on the emptiness. I wonder if any campers heard anything this summer that will change their lives. Over the course of their summers at BBC – Annie, Katie and Flossie heard something. These 3 girls have been hearing this message for a long time from camp, from their churches and from their families. These BBC campers not only heard a message to love others but put the message into practice. They sacrificed 2 weeks of their summer to serve in Ethiopia. Campers continue to teach me.

Annie, Katie (and their mom Sandy) and Flossie inspired me. Following their journey to Ethiopia and back again has inspired me to not just stay on the hill of a lonely camp but to move into the world (or invite the world to me) to love God and love people. I don’t know that I’ll be heading to Ethiopia anytime soon but right now I’m inspired by these 3  BBC campers to consider how I can live out now what I share all summer. How do I love the love and serve the people around me now? I’m learning more from these campers than they are from me.

 

*Selamta Family Project is an organization that seeks to place orphans in forever families. Find out more here.

**I waited too long after the article to post this. You can’t seem to get to the article anymore online. If you’d like to read it in full let me know, I think I can get my hands on a copy.

 

 

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

 

Les Miserables & Camp: Tuna Tuesday

So Cheeks and I watched Les Miserables on video the other night.  It’s a classic story and the most recent version done on video is very good.  As I was watching the scene when Javert decides to drown himself, I realized one of many reasons to learn to love our enemies – so we don’t drown ourselves!

Here’s what he says in the song that made me think of this:

Da.ned if I’ll live in the debt of thief
Da.ned if I’ll yield at the end of the chase
I am the law and the law is not mocked
I’ll spit his pity right back in his face
There is nothing on Earth that we share
It is either Valjean or Javert!

Full Lyrics


In short, he can’t handle the fact that his enemy, Jean Valjean, loved him enough to help him in his time of need (Valjean gains permission to release him from behind enemy lines – he would have been most likely killed had Valjean not done this).  He can’t stand this kindness so much that he decides to drown himself.

An article from Wikipedia explains the narrative this way:

“Javert wanders the streets in emotional turmoil: his mind simply cannot reconcile the image he had carried through the years of Valjean as a brutal ex-convict with his acts of kindness on the barricades. Now, Javert can be justified neither in letting Valjean go nor in arresting him. For the first time in his life, Javert is faced with the situation where he cannot act lawfully without acting immorally, and vice versa. Unable to find a solution to this dilemma, and horrified at the sudden realization that Valjean was simultaneously a criminal and a good person—a conundrum which made mockery of Javert’s entire system of moral values—Javert decides to resolve the dissonance by drowning in the river Seine; his body is later found.”

Here’s my point – Jesus’ teaching to love our enemies is for our own good.  Whether we drown ourselves in an actual river or a metaphorical river, hate causes deep inner turmoil.

One of our goals at camp is to build a community of love each week, each summer and over the lifetime of the camp, with all who participate.  This helps each of us learn to love those we otherwise might not get along with.  In learning to love those hard to love, we become free from hate.  Just one of the many things Jesus saves us from.

Tuna

Kids Need Summer Camp

Kids need summer camp

“America needs to send all of these kids to camp this summer before this generation loses the values that have driven our country since the beginning,” says author Marc Joseph, CEO and founder of DollarDays International Inc. In a Huffington Post blog entry, Joseph points out that Generation Z (children born since the late 1990s), has never known life before Internet and online connections. Many of these children communicate by text messages more than talking; they spend little time outdoors and have a very different worldview than the generation before them.

Joseph urges parents: “We need to get these kids out playing and communicating and winning and losing so they can take our place in getting this country back to leading the world in economic and ethical ways. Help send these kids to camp this summer.”

You can read the entire article here.

Source: HuffingtonPost.com