Family Camps from Coast to Coast

Flying to Boston from Los Angeles just over 24 hours ago, I was rather stunned to hear the flight attendant cheerily announce, “Summer’s almost over.” Over???? It was a sobering reminder that I’m long overdue on making a blog entry. :( Our summer has been full and fast, and isn’t over for us yet as we begin our last two weeks of family camp at Camp Berea in New Hampshire.

Opening night at HIM Family Camp at Camp Berea.
“If I were a butterfly . . .” is happily sung by the children.

I last wrote from Campus by the Sea during our third week of Family Camp. David Hegg, senior pastor of Northpoint Evangelical Free Church of Corona, challenged us to “live beyond ourselves” and profoundly said, “Everything either feeds our pride and starves our souls, or feeds our souls and starves our pride.” That’s worth pondering.

We always love partnering with the Heggs; David’s teaching is of the highest level and their love for people is evident as they engage and invest in them. David also made it possible for Paul to fly to New England for a 36-hour window to conduct Forestine Cole’s funeral by gladly and competently filling his role. Paul was grateful to be able to honor Forestine and Claude and was aware of God’s providence in the timing of her death, at least as it facilitated his ability to be there.

Paul returned to a “golden calf” fashioned not with jewelry but by a creative camper who tied in our summer study of the life of Moses with Paul’s absence. It was a very funny moment and a subtle affirmation of Paul’s leadership at Family Camp.

David Hegg and Paul Friesen with the “golden calf.”

Each week of family camp was full of evidence of God at work through the speakers, the staff, and the experience. We feel truly blessed to be a part of what happens at Campus by the Sea. What a joy to see the fruit of faithfulness through the generations from our now 32 years of involvement there. Our passion for this ministry runs deeper than ever.

It’s hard to sum up all that contributes to the potency of ministry at CBS. It’s a wonderful combination of the place, the people, and the staff. The setting is hard to beat: beautiful sunrises and sunsets; eagles in flight; cavorting dolphins and seals; 72-degree Pacific Ocean water; miles of spectacular hiking; no “access” road—all making it truly a set-apart place. Most of the distractions of life are non-existent at this little desert island cove, which makes it ever more valuable in every way as the pace of life speeds up and technology continues to encroach. Simplicity and tranquility frame the CBS experience, making it “a quiet place to get some rest.” (Mark 6:31)

Sunset at Campus by the Sea on Catalina Island, California

Add to the setting about a thousand campers over the six weeks, who arrived open to being met by God, and things begin to happen. The sharing at the Friday night closing banquets gave testament to the work of the Holy Spirit as camper after camper related how God had touched them. We don’t remember a summer in which more testimonies were given! Most affirmed that their marriage and family were being changed by the hand of God through the ministry of family camps at CBS. Wow! What a gift to be a part of impacting eternity for these families.

And the staff, particularly this summer, were a sheer delight to serve with. The best staff experience we’ve had in years, to be honest. And to think that in May I was panicking over this group. God so faithfully reminded me that He’s got in under control. It’s hard to describe what made this team so special, but it had a lot to do with their hearts of submission to authority and their desire to truly be discipled along with serving. Paul developed an effective six-week staff discipleship training program which was very well received. Each week, in keeping with the “set-apart” theme, he highlighted a different focus of being set apart (in living by God’s Word, faithfulness, lifestyle, theology, authority, and relationships.) He would launch the theme by preaching on it Sunday a.m. at staff worship, which would be followed Sunday night by small groups for which he developed related questions. He wrote five days of Quiet Time material consistent with the theme, and finally, on Thursday night, the family camp speaker would address the staff on the topic. It worked to unify, disciple, and teach the staff.

The summer staff will be remembered for both what they did and for what they didn’t do. They did serve above and beyond, making them quite extraordinary, and they lived respectfully within the community standards, which means they didn’t break curfew, cross opposite-sex relationship boundaries, or need to have their iPods confiscated. The summer was delightfully free of breaches in community standards, which contributed to the healthiest staff (physically, spiritually, and mentally) we’ve had in a while.

Breaking a long-held pattern of the staff leaving with the campers on the last day of Family Camp 6, we kept everyone together through Sunday noon and ended the summer well. Fun was had Saturday night as the staff entertained one another at the CBS Coffee House, and a very meaningful worship service was held Sunday morning. Paul preached briefly before opening it up for sharing, and almost two hours later, we had to close it in order to catch our boat. The staff shared from their hearts very deep and personal ways they had been changed by serving the Lord together that summer and their commitment to being difference-makers as they returned to their campuses and communities. It was a fitting end to a phenomenal summer.

CBS staff surround Lisa Friesen to pray with her before she leaves to start graduate work.

Paul and I spent the week between the end of CBS family camps and New Hampshire family camps at Forest Home in Southern California, speaking for their family camp. It was truly an honor to partner with Kent and Robin Kraning, directors of family ministries there. We had a tremendous week of ministry—both of ministering and of being ministered to. Richard Dahlstrom, senior pastor of Bethany Community Church in Seattle, Washington, was the nightly Bible teacher, and he was phenomenal. Add to that John Stothers as the worship leader, and it doesn’t get any better than that. We spoke on family each morning and loved interacting with a great group of enthusiastic adults. Julie spoke with us the last morning and was hope-giving for many weary parents of teens. It was a really great week.

And now, 24 hours into Family Camp 1 at Camp Berea, we’re off to a great start. The camp is full and the campers are expectant. And we are sure God is going to meet us all in some significant ways. I’ll let you know just how in the next entry.

Blessings from New Hampshire!