Summer Wraps Up and Fall Launches

Family Camp speakers David and Cherylyn Hegg “pose” in Patriots’ shirts.

Whew! Twelve weeks after leaving for Campus by the Sea in June, we’re back home in Bedford, sorting through piles of accumulated mail, sweeping out multiplying dust balls, and changing out summer clothes for sweaters and long pants. Ten weeks of family camps dominated our summer, culminating at Camp Berea with the second of two New England-based camps. As we reflect on the summer, we are truly grateful and very aware of God’s mercies which were new every morning . . . and of His faithfulness, which was impossible to miss.

Our last week of camp was like the “cherry on top.” Beautiful weather, energetic and enthusiastic family campers, a phenomenal program staff team as well as a supportive and easy to work with operational team, and many spoken testaments of “God moments” contributed to our summer ending on a high note. There were many highlights, but the most significant for us was the baptism of Macain Weipert, one of our California staff, who chose to have this memorial moment in pristine Newfound Lake, performed by one of his mentors, “Papa Paul.”

Macain Weipert is all smiles at his baptism.

Family Camp is such unique blend of traditions and innovations. At Camp Berea, some of the time-honored traditions include the corn roast/night swim, the Rocket Blasters Battle, the evening of line and circle dancing, the ice cream shop, the bookstore run by dear Ruth Campbell who generously grants Berea Bucks for scripture memorization by young campers. Changes this year included a camp-wide time of worship around the campfire followed by s’mores for all and an all-new game show, which generated good-hearted competition and many laughs.

The multi-generational nature of Family Camp is warp and woof to the unusually high value of these weeks. From babies to grandparents, young parents to empty nesters, and everything in between, the generations teach each other in an arena uncommon in our very segregated culture. Together...laughing, listening, learning, playing, worshiping, serving, eating, partnering. So much health is experienced within the community during the week, which passes far too swiftly in spite of providing a much slower pace of life.

Maybe the best part of Family Camp is that it is relatively free of the distractions which so often rob us of connecting relationally within our homes and communities as well as with God. The absence of TV’s, computers, earplugs hooked in to iPods, and long “to-do” lists frees campers to focus on each other and on the Lord. It’s amazing how much easier it is to hear God when the constant barrage of noise is silenced.

At the end of the day, all of our work and preparation are meaningless eternally unless God does a work among us, and we affirm with all our hearts that in each of the ten weeks, there was plenty of evidence that He was present and that His spirit was at work. Teens were receptive to challenges given by authentic college and post-college staff who are walking the talk; those with troubled marriages were given hope; parents were encouraged to not give up; families were empowered to “walk as those called out of darkness into His wonderful light” (I Peter 2:9, the summer’s theme verse). By God’s grace, family campers of all ages left with a renewed vision for living more Christlike lives, having tasted how good it is to be “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a people belonging to God.”

As our marathon season of family camps came to an end, we are more deeply aware than ever that God uses family camps in a strategic, life-changing way and that we are very privileged to spend our summers serving in this form of ministry. We are blessed!

“Papa Paul” instructs the staff in the fine art of negotiating at the Farmers Market.

From Camp Berea, the staff spent Friday evening celebrating the end of the summer at a wonderful barbeque hosted by the Bilazarian family. They treated us like royalty and for those who had served faithfully and endlessly all summer, it was lovely to have the tables turned and be served so lavishly. The next morning, the Nielsen family served up a delicious brunch, complete with their own pure maple syrup. The staff felt well loved and appreciated. Paul and I spent the balance of Saturday and all day Sunday showing the California staff some of the delights of this area. The swan boats in the Public Gardens and the Freedom Trail were enjoyed by all, and after working up an appetite, we introduced them to great pizza in the North End, capped with Modern Pastry’s fresh cannolis for dessert.

California kids get their first introduction to “Make Way for Ducklings.”

Sunday we drove them to Kennebunkport, Maine, and then worked our way down the coast. It was a first for all these staff to be in New England; they were duly impressed that we were in three states in such short order.

I flew to California at the end of our day in Maine, where I was picked up by our daughter, Julie, and thus began our 9-day, 3,000 miles, 16-state road trip to move her home for the fall. We had a memory-making blast as we sped through gorgeous country enroute to Harrisonburg, Virginia, to check out daughter Lisa’s new life as a graduate assistant in Sports Science at James Madison University. Our time with her was full of getting a glimpse into her new world of friends, work, and recreation.

Lisa and Julie Friesen pose with Lisa’s “new” yard sale bike for “green” transportation in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

From there, we spent a lovely weekend with my parents and sister and brother-in-law before making the final leg to Bedford, where we’re now getting re-settled after a long and full summer.

Two days after returning, Paul and I spoke at the first ever Evangelical Armenian Couples’ Conference at the Newton Marriott. Couples from Montreal, Toronto, New Jersey, Rhode Island, California, and the greater Boston area gathered, undoubtedly with some level of apprehension regarding the unknown nature of such a venture. God was faithful and we had a wonderful time of fellowship and of learning together. We at least temporarily entertained the notion of changing our name to “Fresian” after being with these delightful people.

Paul and Dawn Amico with baby Lucy at her dedication Sunday, September 7.

Straight from the conference, we drove to Danvers to participate in the baby dedication of Lucia Ruth Amico. She is the third Amico child Paul has had the privilege of dedicating and we were so honored to join with her parents, Dawn and Paul Amico, and brother Wiley and Hadden, for this significant ceremony. The Amico children are so blessed to have parents who are so committed to raising them for Christ.

I’ve been trying to get this blog posted all week, and am determined to finish the entry today. We’ve had a houseful since Sunday night, with eight house guests coming and going. What a joy to be able to open our home! Stan and Angie White, directors of Forest Home Christian Conference Center, and their sons, Kyle and Ryan, spent several nights with us and we exchanged good natured banter with these LA Angels fans. They admitted that their two evenings at Fenway Park opened a spot in their hearts for the Red Sox. We also had two college students from San Luis Obispo (friends of a friend of our daughters!) who needed beds for a few nights on their six week road trip, and we were happy to have them. And from Tubingen, Germany, our friends Uwe and Elfriede Maier arrived for a tour of New England beginning with five nights with us. Everyone was delightful and we so enjoyed everyone’s insights and contributions to community life. Life is so much richer when meaningful exchanges are made with others.

So today we resume chasing dustballs, sorting mail, making a dent in housekeeping chores neglected for the past three months, and catching our breath. Yes, we’re tired . . . but happily so. It’s been a really, really good summer. Our praise to God!