2009 Summer Ministry Finishes Well

It’s early Saturday morning, August 22, and I’m sitting in a very quiet house as the very tired staff attempt to make a deposit against their sleep deficit. The day ahead will be spent exploring Boston before entering the hallowed narrow pathways of Fenway Park to join Red Sox fans who are desperately hoping to cheer the hometown boys of summer to victory over their no-love-lost nemesis, the Yankees. This amazing thank you gift to the staff (thank you, Doug and Julie Macrae) will be the exclamation point at the end of a wonderful summer.

It came to an end yesterday morning, in Camp Berea’s gym, as Brian Dietz led us in one final rendition of “If I Were a Butterfly.” The closing session was a celebration of so many things. Nine weeks of serving together in a discipling community, seeing God work in the lives of our campers as well as in our own lives, was coming to a close. Our emotions ran the gamut from great joy as we reflected on how powerfully we had been met by God, to great sadness as we grappled with the reality that our team would be scattered come Sunday. Such is the cycle of life for every summer staff team, but it never gets easier.

The packed out family camp had many children who were eager to be on stage doing “The Butterfly Song.”

Family Camp 2 at Berea was phenomenal and we are so thankful. The people, the preaching, the program...all came together to pack a powerful and positive punch which encouraged families and marriages. Again, the almost endless testimonies at the banquet affirmed that God had indeed done a great work among us.

Jay and Liz Abramson from Valley Community Baptist Church in Avon, Connecticut, served well as our resource couple for the week. After forging a friendship with them over the past three years of speaking at their Pastors and Staff Conference, we had confidence that they would fit well with the “morphe” of H.I.M. family camps, and they did. Jay’s preaching during the morning sessions was powerfully used by God to challenge all of us and to bring several to Himself by week’s end. (MP3s of the weeks’ talks are available here.) Jay and Liz also invested in the campers by being very available and many were touched by their lives over a meal or in a side-bar conversation. It was a joy to partner with them.

Jay and Liz Abramson, Julie, Virginia and Paul Friesen pause together on the dock at Camp Berea and give thanks for a wonderful week.

God blessed us with perfect lake weather (which translated means hot, especially for any who weren’t perched on the water’s edge), so recreational opportunities were fully exploited. The waterfront was the most popular destination, with constant activity on the blob, the Orbit, and the raft. Some did make it to the rifle range and archery, and the two softball games organized by none other than commissioner Skip Jarvis were enjoyed by many. The slip-n-slide was the destination of choice Wednesday afternoon. Sculptered Rocks was a favorite cooling off spot on Tuesday, the “family day off.” The staff used that day for refreshment and recreation by hiking up to Lonesome Lake and enjoying a dip in the cool-enough-water-to-be-refreshing. And the traditional corn roast Wednesday night was as popular for night swimming as it was for corn. Fun was had by all.

The program staff enjoy a day out of camp by hiking to Lonesome Lake and taking a dip.

The highlight at the waterfront, however, topping even the highest blob launch, was the baptism of Billy Fredericks. Billy placed his trust in Christ last fall and chose to be baptized at Camp Berea, in Newfound Lake, at the end of family camp. Many of the family campers gathered on the shore to witness this sacred, symbolic ceremony and to share the joy felt by Billy and his family, all of whom are in their first year of journeying with Christ.

Paul and Billy emerge from the baptism waters as the family of God witnessed his public profession of faith.

Just when you think it couldn’t get any better than that, Jay Abramson, who through his teaching had been calling people to Christ all week, had the privilege of praying with Dan and Cara to receive Christ after the banquet ended Thursday night. There was rejoicing not only in heaven, but throughout Camp Berea when the news was shared Friday morning at the closing session.

As is true anywhere in life, as wonderful as the overall experience of family camp was, the reality of grief and loss was among us as well. Leon and Lorna Tyrrell’s family and extended family gathered at family camp (continuing a long-standing tradition) to celebrate the ebbing life of their precious 7-year-old daughter, Naomi. Naomi was diagnosed with “Niemann Pick Disease Type C” five years ago and the initial prognosis was that she’d not live past 5. Naomi turned 7 at camp on Tuesday and was feted by the phenomenally creative staff with a dramatic and costumed performance of her favorite song, “If I Were a Butterfly.” Though there were many tears in the room as Naomi was so honored, just a huge smile adorned Naomi’s face throughout the tribute. Her presence in camp touched everyone and reminded us that life on earth is but a vapor and a dress rehearsal for heaven.

3-month-old Zemira Brooks and Naomi have a sweet moment together on the last night of camp.

Friday morning came all too soon. At our final staff meeting of the summer of 2009, we reflected on God’s amazing grace shown to us all summer long. It’s hard to put words around what we experienced and how we experienced God, but we’re all dispersing to our unique venues different than we were in the middle of June. “Transformed” was the theme of the summer, and we’d all agree that to some degree, that word is an apt descriptor what happened to each of us as a result of serving and living together in Christian community for over two months. “How great is our God!”

Leaving Camp Berea in our rear view mirrors, we headed south for some celebrating. Doug and Julie Macrae graciously and generously hosted the entire staff for a lobster bake, complete with homemade fish chowder, fresh corn on the cob, surf and turf, and fresh apple crisp. From beginning to end, it was a “foodie’s” dream come true and thoroughly enjoyed by all. Saturday was spent touring Boston followed by the 14-1 romp over the Yankees at Fenway. Doesn’t get any better than that!

The staff enjoy an evening of pool fun and fine dining at the Macraes’ Weston home.

I’m finishing this blog from Harrisonburg, Virginia, in Lisa’s apartment. Julie and I left Saturday (hence missing out on all the Boston fun) to begin our road trip, making it to my folks’ home in Alexandria, Virginia, around 9 p.m. After a lovely Sunday with them and with my sister Laura and her husband David, we arrived here Monday night in time for dinner. Early tomorrow morning, we’ll set out for California, hopefully arriving at Kari and Gabe’s house in Sacramento by Saturday night. Pray for us!

So it’s with great thanksgiving that I write this last blog of the summer ministry. We are more than grateful and more aware than ever of the amazing grace of God which transforms our lives. We’ll savor the memories of this summer for years to come and for all eternity, really. What a joy and a privilege to be part of something so potent and purpose driven. We are blessed.