Halfway Point of CBS Family Camp

Paul leads devotions at the morning worship time.

And now, three weeks of Family Camp are history and we are holding on for dear life as the summer of 2009 progresses at lightning speed. I’m writing from the air as we fly to Portland, Oregon, to speak at a Coaches Time Out (CTO) conference, sponsored by Pro-Athletes Outreach. It seemed fairly innocuous when we said “yes” almost a year ago to this invitation, rationalizing that accepting one of the five invites extended to us from them this summer would “work.” After all, we’d depart after the banquet Friday night and we’d be back in time to welcome the campers on Sunday. I’ll confess, as much as we love working with PAO and believe in their work, leaving camp last night before the wrap-up this morning was really hard. We are trusting that God is in this and that, for reasons possibly only known to Him at this point, we’re supposed to be a part of this conference.

At the conclusion of the Coaches Time Out conference in Portland, Oregon, we pose with Norm and Bobbe Evans, directors of Pro Athletes Outreach.

The past two weeks have been unbelievably full of the goodness, presence, and power of God. There really aren’t adequate words to convey how grateful we are to be serving at Campus by the Sea for the 34th consecutive summer (minus the summer of ’91 when we were on sabbatical.) We love the place, the people, and the program. Our passion for all of it is greater than ever.

We are especially grateful that all of our family camps are sold out this summer. We see that as a hand-of-God affirmation the He is with us. With the economy as it is, no one would’ve been surprised if attendance had dropped. We feel blessed.

Staff dive into the remnants of the ice cream social Wednesday night; (left to right) Lisa Friesen, John Thiel, David Hathaway, Nathan Smith, Alton Green, Gabe and Kari Garcia, and Scott Johnston (in front).

Another staff privilege: the loop hike by full moon happened July 7 in perfect conditions. Twenty-five intrepid staff made the 4.5 mile hike.

Each week of family camp is uniquely wonderful. The tenor of camp is influenced largely by the speaker and having Ray and Carol Johnston speak during week #2 infused the camp with a ton of energy and verve. We loved having all six Johnstons with us for the week, as it is very validating for the campers to see the consistency between the talk and walk of the speaker’s family. Ray’s messages were, as always, inspiring and challenging. We feel so fortunate personally to “feast” on great teaching all summer, which definitely “fills our stores” for the rest of the year when we’re speaking more than we’re listening.

Ray and Carol Johnston join us for the banquet at the closing night of family camp.

It was a blast to hang out with Ray and Carol and reflect on the over twenty years we’ve partnered together in ministry and journeyed through life as friends.

Every week is special because the boat brings in 200 wonderful campers, many of whom have become dear friends over the years. Family Camp #2 was extra special for us because my sister, Melissa, and her son Corey’s family were campers. Corey and Claire have expanded their family since last summer, so we were very happy to meet Jael, our great-niece. It was great having them in camp.

We loved having my sister Melissa's family with us for Family Camp #2.

This week was also especially poignant and meaningful as we had several large extended family groups, which is more and more common as the years progress. The children at camp from the 70’s and 80’s are now parents and returning to camp with three generations. The Stenzel-Fischinger-Shaffer clan attended camp 2, some continuing a long tradition of family camps at CBS, and some for the first time. They gathered to honor Mark Fischinger, the now deceased husband of Lisa and father of Ben, Luke, and Joel. Mark loved CBS more than any other place on earth, and when his body succumbed to the long-term effects of radiation given him as a 20-year-old to eradicate cancer, the family carried out his wishes to have his memorial service at CBS over Thanksgiving weekend ‘08.

The reality of his death hit us when his family disembarked without him this summer. I immediately flashed back to last summer, and I thought of his emaciated, feeding-tube-fed body making its way around camp. He had endured surgery just weeks before to remove a tumor from the area around his ear. He wouldn’t hear of not being at camp with his family, in spite of the fact that his very weakened body would’ve probably preferred staying in the comfort of his own home and bed.

Each time I spoke with Mark during that week, he sported a huge grin and affirmed that he was so thankful to be at camp. No whining, no complaining, no “feel sorry for me”, no “I’m glad to be here, but I’m miserable.” Just gratitude.

That is how I will always remember Mark Fischinger. Just two months later, he left this earthly life so prematurely as a young forty-something-year-old with three kids still in the nest, and yet his impact is greater than many who will outlive him. His legacy will live on, because he chose to cultivate and model gratitude rather than bitterness. Mark was appropriately honored at Family Camp #2’s closing banquet as many gave tribute to his life, and though Mark’s days at CBS are over, his presence will be felt as his family continues the tradition of annually sojourning at his favorite place on earth.

The 4th of July falls on a Saturday on average just once every 7 years, and when it does, it affords the CBS staff an opportunity to celebrate it as most Americans do–with a barbeque and fireworks. Greg and Wendy Jones spearheaded a gala which included chartering the “Blanche W” (a fabulous antique wooden open vessel operated by the Santa Catalina Island Company) for a fireworks and flying fish tour. In perfect conditions, with clear skies and an almost full moon, our very enthusiastic staff boarded her at 8:30 p.m. (after feasting on a beachfront bbq which included corn on the cob), watched a spectacular pyrotechnic show over Avalon harbor, and enjoyed a coastal cruise down to Seal Rocks in search of rather elusive flying fish. It was a great and very special way to celebrate the 4th.

The 2009 Program Staff Team - a great group of people!

Family Camp #3 arrived the next day, and we had a speaker we had never heard speak before. Rather unusual for us, but we had great confidence that David Tebay would fit right in with the caliber of speaker we are committed to having at CBS. Though we hadn’t heard David speak, we have known him since he was a teenager, and his parents, John and Grace Tebay, have been our primary mentors in life since we got married. John has a long history of speaking at CBS since the early 70’s and they assured us that David would not disappoint. And they were so right. Teaching from the book of Nehemiah, David opened God’s Word to us each day with wisdom and practical application. His teaching was humble, sincere, gracious, and “in your face” (which means that he didn’t shy away from being politically incorrect by taking unpopular stands that few in the pulpit take publicly.) God used him powerfully.

God also used the generational legacy of the Tebay family to give hope to the many first generation Christian families in camp. With three generations of the Tebays in camp, their family reflected the faithfulness and graciousness of God to the generations who sincerely seek Him. That was such a great encouragement to so many, and especially to us personally.

Paul, Lisa, and I stand on the pier at CBS with John and Grace Tebay (far right) and an assortment of Tebay progeny.

The week was full of so much goodness. Barbara Steele flew in from Boston to spend the week with us (and to wrap up details for our two weeks of Family Camp in New Hampshire in August) and we always love having Barbara at CBS. She is always so gracious and “easy” to have, and this year was extra special because her adopted family, Brian and Heather Dietz and Abby and Lydia, are spending their first summer at CBS. Abby temporarily forgot about everyone else she loves at camp once Aunt Barb arrived. :)

We're loving having Brian, Heather, Abby and Lydia Dietz with us at camp this summer.

Another bonus of the week was having Gabe and Kari arrive Wednesday afternoon for their annual trek to camp. How we love having our kids with us anywhere, but especially at CBS since it’s such a significant part of our family history. Beside catching up with the fam and getting some much needed R & R, they are checking in with their two BOSS interns, Alton Green and Taylor Balian, who are serving at CBS this summer. Gabe and Kari are batting a thousand on their recruitment for CBS staff, and we are so thankful for their wisdom, discernment, and investment in these phenomenal staff members.

Kari and Gabe with their interns, Taylor Balian and Alton Green (separated by Christy Johnston), and sister Lisa.

We’ve continued to delight in unexpectedly having Lisa with us for this two-week period. She has just gotten word that her thesis proposal has been approved, so she heads back to Harrisonburg this week to begin collecting data. We’ll hate to see her go, but are focusing on being very grateful for the time we’ve had her with us.

After five wonderful days with Barbara Steele, we send her off to return to Massachusetts.

She will actually fly to Virginia via Massachusetts in order to meet Julie this Monday night, the 13th, who is returning from Mbale, Uganda. It’s hard to believe that 5.5 months have passed since we launched her into an unknown world. The unknown has become known, and she leaves her heart in Mbale as she returns to the states. Pray for her re-entry and for her as she immerses herself in an online organic chemistry class for the next two weeks. She’ll be in San Luis Obispo as she completes the class, since her science tutor is there. She hopes to serve with us at the two New Hampshire family camps before moving to San Marcos, CA, where she’ll spend the next 30 months working toward her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from the University of St. Augustine.

Well, it’s now Sunday afternoon, and we’re on the boat back to Campus by the Sea. The CTO conference was an absolute delight. We loved partnering with Norm and Bobbe Evans, directors of PAO, and their team. The conferees were so receptive and many post-session conversations affirmed that God was at work through our speaking. It was confirming that God was in the “yes” months ago and that He was with us.

We should arrive in camp about an hour before Family Camp #4 arrives. We are so thankful that everything has gone so smoothly on this trip, and are especially grateful to Bob Balian for getting us to LAX late Friday night, and to Gene and Teri Engle for getting us back to the Long Beach terminal today (and having an In-N-Out Burger lunch for us). We are so blessed!!

As we look forward to the remaining three CBS family camps, we expect they will go as quickly as have the first three. It’s greatly comforting to know that God is faster than lightning speed and that He’ll go before us, making a way to accomplish His purposes in and through us. Whew!