Island Living

The 2010 CBS Summer Staff team, ready to welcome another group of family campers.

The 2010 Family Camp Program Team: front row (l-r) Olivia Parrish, Jackie Dressler, Shirlee McCoy, Megan Forbes
2nd row:  David Hathaway, Mitch Makinson, Holland Stewart, Leslie Johnston, Kady Broman, Erin Esten, Whitnee Sherman, Christy Johnston
3rd row:  Andrew Price, Adam Wood, Megan Mulles, Kaitlyn Clark, Kelsey O’Keeffe, Heather Thiel, Hannah Early, John Thiel
4th row:  Lisa Friesen, Jairus Wong, Scott Johnston, “Nature Nate” Smith, Taylor Tebay, Virginia “Mama V”  Friesen, Paul Friesen 

It’s Sunday afternoon and in two short hours, we’ll welcome Family Camp 5 to Campus by the Sea.  Summer is evaporating!  We can hardly believe that in two weeks, we’ll be heading eastward to prepare for two weeks of Home Improvement Ministries Family Camps at Camp Berea in Hebron, New Hampshire.

For now, though, we’ll continue to drink in the beauty of this very “set apart” place and experience God’s faithfulness in very tangible ways.  Each Sunday morning as we wrap up our staff worship service, we reflect on what God has done among us in the preceding week and we’ve had much to celebrate.  During every camp, there have been new “births” as well as many “rebirths.”  One young 23-year-old woman who decided to follow Christ during Family Camp 2 wrote this after she returned to her home in New York City:

My goodness coming back to New York was soooo hard!  It still is hard and I am struggling every step of the way (although every moment seems slightly easier than the one before).  That first foot out of the airport and onto the grimy New York concrete was more than devastating to my soul but my heart and mind was filled with all the love, support, and knowledge I received from everyone.  Plus I returned with God.
I’ve secluded myself (in a good way) and spent my first nights at home reading and conversing with God.  We are going through what He said to me one night was my “disinfecting” process.  I like that idea.  The first couple days back, I kept saying to myself “when is this going to get easier” and then I realized that the beauty of God and living like Jesus is found in the struggle…I need to enjoy the struggle.  I also realized I should start talking to myself less and to him more.  :)  He gives much better advice!  I’ve really had to slow down which feels impossible in a place that refuses to let you. 
I’ve been reading and carrying my Bible everywhere with me (along with notes of support from CBS staff and a rock I took with me from the beach).  Just feeling the weight of it in my bag has been giving me that physical reminder that Christ is holding my hand and telling me to just walk slower and keep my eyes open.  I don’t recognize anything anymore…everything looks new.  People, stores, cars, food, trees…myself.  It’s such a mind boggling experience to be walking on the same streets I have been walking on everyday for 5 years and feel like I’ve never ONCE set foot in this place.  I’m uncomfortable…definitely…but my new skin feels so much better on me and it’s also the skin that God blessed me with and is allowing/helping me to clean.  I will learn to love it. 

I’ve reread her words many times since receiving this email, as they indicate such a genuine transformation towards Christlikeness.  Please pray for her and several others who have put their faith in Christ this summer.

This is why we do what we do!  We love being part of kingdom building at CBS and are truly overwhelmed with gratitude that we are in the midst of our 35th summer here.

Family Camp 2 was rich with Howard Clark’s teaching and a full complement of wonderful families.  We had many first generation, young Christian families in camp that week and it’s just so refreshing to witness their hunger and thirst for truth and practical, Biblical wisdom.  It was also a very special joy for us to have Grant and Emily Williams and their three precious daughters with us at family camp for the first time.  After years of invitations, they made it — all the way from St. Louis — and they’ve told us since that they’ve already recruited several families to return with them next year.  I’m not sure what is more exciting to us than introducing dear friends to Campus by the Sea — and having them love it, too.

Grant and Emily with Madeline, Sarah Elizabeth, and Meegan, on the pier at CBS.

All too quickly, we said farewell to this group of campers and welcomed Family Camp 3.  With 216 campers squeezed into camp, we had a “full house” and we had full energy to go with it. Ray Johnston, who lacks no enthusiasm or vitality, was his usual dynamic, motivating self and it was great to have him as our speaker.  It was extra joyful this year as three of his kids are on staff and they make him look really good.  :)

To camp this week came a long time family who had just “taken in” two 18-year-olds who needed a home.  One young man had been living with his grandmother, who had passed away two weeks earlier.  He agreed to come to camp with them, and after many conversations through the week and much wrestling with God, he made a decision to follow Christ on Saturday morning before heading back to the mainland.  Paul and Ray prayed for him in front of the whole community at our final session and then we sent him off with a new Bible and several books to help him on his journey.  It was a powerful expression of God’s grace among us being worked out in incredible ways.

The week ended with Paul and Ray baptizing all four Johnston young adults, which was another powerful expression of God’s redemptive grace.  We dedicated three of them on the veranda of the Lighthouse 18 years ago, so it was such a great picture of God’s faithfulness in their lives to celebrate their baptisms here.

Leslie, Carol, Ray, Scott, Mark, and Christy Johnston celebrated their baptism at the Rock Jetty during family camp and Lisa, Paul, and I shared their joy (along with the rest of the staff.)

During Family Camp 3, I made a quick one day trip to the mainland to attend the funeral of David Engel, the elder brother of Gene (and Teri) Engel, long time friends and family campers. “Uncle Dave” came to CBS every summer with the Engels and we grew to love him deeply.  Though he had some mental disadvantages, he taught us so much about what really matters in life as he loved life and lived with great contentment.  Gene and Teri Engel, and their kids Matthew and Krista (and David Hart) — with whom Uncle Dave lived — also taught us so much about living sacrificially and pouring yourself out in service for others. The service, lead by Gary Gaddini, was a great celebration of a life well lived and of our hope in the eternal truth of the gospel. Though it’s always hard to leave during family camp, it was a day well spent.

And then came Family Camp 4, and along with it a full contingent of extended family as well as immediate family.  We were thrilled to have Gabe and Kari and yet unborn grandson spend the week with us.  :)  “Baby Boy Garcia” did really well at camp and seemed to enjoy the food, the worship, and even the ocean as his mother took him floating.  Very fun.

David and Cherylyn Hegg were with us to teach and David’s messages, which always inspire, were challenging and thought provoking as he taught on the subjects of the Christian and politics, ecology, health, and the church.  The MP3’s are on the CBS website (or go directly to the audio file page) and are definitely worth listening to.  A highlight of the week was having Danny and Rayna Oertli do a concert for the whole camp and as always, they did not disappoint.

David and Cherylyn Hegg were as engaging in the Crows Nest during their teaching sessions as they were outside, on the beach, as they engaged with many family campers.

It was such a personal joy for us to have quite a few of Paul’s family with us.  Sandy and Wayne Clark, Paul’s oldest sister, faithfully attended family camp all the years of raising their four children, and now their four children are raising their children here.  We love that.  Additionally, Paul’s sister Beth, who was widowed in April, came back to camp for the first time after a long absence, and it was great to watch her enjoy snorkeling, hiking, and family camp in general.  Carol and Wayne Herbst, his youngest sister, made it out from their home in Avalon for hamburgers at the beach, along with nephew Brian Rottschafer and his family.  We loved every minute we had with each of them.

Lisa, Kari and five-weeks-from-due-date grandson, and Gabe, enjoyed the banquet Friday night.

Our extended Friesen family ready for the banquet at Family Camp 4.

Lisa, Beth Friesen Smith, Kari, and Gabe enjoy the waterfront.

And if that wasn’t enough, we were thrilled to have several “chosen family” friends from Boston come to camp for the first time.  Tom and Michele Sweeney and their four children joined Carter and Tracey Welch and their sons at CBS.  Both families have been faithful family campers in New England at our H.I.M. Family Camp and pretty quickly noticed that they weren’t on Newfound Lake any longer.  :)  The Welches recently relocated to Santa Rosa, CA, but we still count them as Bostonians.  :)  Those two families along with Doug and Julie Macrae, who were making their third trip to CBS, made a huge statement on their self-declared “Red Sox Appreciation Day” by donning various hats and shirts bearing the Red Sox logo.  The Angels fans, who were quite prolific, extended courtesy but no support.

The Welch family, Doug and Julie Macrae, David Hathaway (CBS staff from Andover, MA), and the Sweeneys (Caroline not pictured) enjoyed a week of family camp together on a much bigger “pond.”

One more highlight to mention: Alton “Biggie” Green, staff from the past two summers, joined our staff to serve Family Camp 4 and by popular request, did an encore performance of the “bunny song.”  The history of this fabled performance began many years ago, when Imogene Davis first performed it at the weekly talent show.  “Biggie” apprenticed under Imogene two years ago and has since performed it without her at most family camps.  Imogene, who turned 85 at Family Camp 1 this summer, entertained us with her rendition earlier in the summer, and Biggie succumbed to peer pressure and agreed to perform at the closing session.  Unfortunately, the bunnies couldn’t be found, so at the last moment, a snake and a chicken filled in and Maggie Oertli began her apprenticeship.  It was four minutes of hilarity and a memorable end to the week.

“Biggie” Green and Maggie Oertli improvise their props for the Bunny Song.

Once again, we were shocked by how quickly the end of family camp came, and as many shared at the banquet, we celebrated the work of God among us through the week.  Family after family declared the importance of CBS in their family’s spiritual life. Family camp is consistently described as a touchstone place; a mile marker; the center of their family calendar year; the safest place on earth; the only “distraction-free zone” in their world; the only place every one in the family can agree on to go for vacation; a true vacation with a purpose; the place where God meets them.  What grace to be a part of this amazing work in this glorious place!

During the break between camps, we hang with the staff and experience great community moments.  This past Saturday night, Paul organized an all-staff sports competition which included knock-out, volleyball, and ping-pong.  It was a blast and virtually everyone was involved.  The festivities culminated with Paul’s world famous chocolate chip cookies made into ice cream sandwiches.  We’ve so enjoyed great unity as a staff and have bonded well as a team.

The staff dig into Paul’s cookies turned ice cream sandwiches after the sports night competition.

Only two weeks left at CBS.  With joy, we’ll continue to serve and experience God in this amazing place called Campus by the Sea. Thanks for your prayers and partnership.  We are blessed.