We've crossed the finish line on the Summer of 2010

Paul and I are sitting at Manchester (NH) Airport, awaiting a delayed flight which will carry us Sacramento hopefully before August 23 is over, so I will happily seize these moments to reflect on the past two weeks of family camp.  As is true for most “finish line” crossings, we are very tired...but once again, happily so.  It’s been a great run overall and we will be processing a lot from these ten weeks for a long time to come.  It’s been a very full summer of experiencing God and of witnessing Him work in unmistakable ways.
A view of Camp Berea before the campers arrive . . . it’s not Campus by the Sea, but it’s so beautiful in a completely different way!

Assembling a full staff team was a bigger challenge than usual.  Many of our CBS staff began school early or had family plans, so we supplemented with some wonderful volunteers, a couple of whom said “yes” the morning before family camp began . . . and flew from California in time to drive to Camp Berea with the rest of the team!  In the end, the Lord provided so that every grade was well staffed and all needs were met.

Staff for the first week of family camp at Berea.

Megan Forbes and the worship team lead “The Butterfly Song” at the opening night, much to the delight of many veteran family campers.

Paul leads the children’s devotions and the two contestants practice self-control successfully, doubling their “take.”
Over forty families attended this sold out camp, many of whom have made family camp a tradition for many years.  This was our 14th family camp in New England and it delights us to see families as passionate about family camp here as they are at CBS. It’s like a huge family reunion!  Many of the families we’ve known since the parents attended Engagement Matters many years ago, and we’ve journeyed with them through their weddings, the births, and the dedications of their children.  What a gift!

David Swaim spoke to the first camp and he was terrific again this year.  Each day he spoke about different aspects of the Father’s Love and was used by God in some very powerful ways.  Since he spoke last summer, he and Michelle have doubled their family size by adopting three teen-agers from Uganda (originally from Congo, but orphaned and displaced to Uganda), and it was a joy to have all of them with us.

David Swaim not only preaches powerfully, he can dance up a storm.  Here he’s pictured with his daughter Angelina, who looks semi-petrified during most of David’s energetic swing moves . . .

 . . . but was all smiles when all was said and done.
On “change-of-pace day” (known as “hike day” at CBS), we spent the day relaxing: jumping at Sculptured Rocks, swimming, and eating ice cream.  It was a great “catch up” day on sleep, which we were all feeling the lack of.  It was a fun and low-keyed day.

Sculptured Rocks is a gorgeous spot not far from Camp Berea - great for picnicking, jumping off a 10 ft. rock into very cold water below, and relaxing.  We had a blast!

We topped off the day with a Shackett’s Ice Cream stop and it’s hard to beat that.
Family Camp 1 culminated with a baby dedication and several baptisms, followed by the banquet that evening.  Each baptism was such a wonderful expression of God’s work in individual lives, celebrated in the context of Christian community.  The celebration continued that evening as person after person shared at the banquet how God was working in their lives and had met them during family camp.  The sharing was deep and meaningful and filled our hearts with joy and gratitude.

Nate and Jeannie King, along with Andrew, Emily, and Camryn, bring Brady to be dedicated at the lake.

Paul baptizes Susie Hirtle, who has grown up at family camp and is now off to a Christian college in Texas.

Joe Yardley also chose to be baptized at camp this summer.  Here he stands with his family: parents Dan and Susan and siblings James, Liz, Tim, and Abbie.

Sam Potter, another long-time family camper, was baptized as well.  His family and both sets of grandparents stand with him.

And just like that, family camp was over and we had 24 hours to regroup and prepare to make our last group of family campers feel like it was our first week of camp.  The weekend was relaxing and renewing in many ways.  Pizza Friday night was followed by a special showing of one of “clean” comedian Brian Regan’s very funny DVD’s, which was followed by watching a disappointing, extra innings loss for the Boston Red Sox.  We got over it by eating yummy homemade waffles the next morning. :)

The weekend was also highlighted by having Aimee, Chelsea, and Danny visit us from NYC.  Yes, it’s the same Aimee who met Christ at CBS during week 2, and the same Chelsea who was baptized at CBS during week 6.  Danny is a mutual friend of theirs who decided to follow Christ after seeing the dramatic transformation in Aimee when she returned from CBS.  Don’t you love the way God works??  They came to Berea to reconnect with the staff and many significant conversations were had during the course of their stay.  God is at work.

The staff were thrilled to have Aimee, Chelsea, and Danny join us for the weekend.  This photo is taken in near the cottage we rented to house some of our staff.  Here everyone takes a break from swimming and playing to mug for the camera “for the blog.”

Family Camp 2 arrived Saturday afternoon, August 14th, with even more campers than week 1.  Our biggest camp of the summer was the last!  Fortunately, we had several additional staff - Liann and Evan Wong, as well as Helen Challener and Taylor Tedford.  They were just what we needed to “fill the gaps” and we were so thankful for them.

Helen Challener joined our team for family camp 2.  She volunteered at CBS in 1978 and 1980 and proved that she hasn’t lost her touch.  She was a terrific aide for the 1st and 2nd grade class.  It was a joy to have her!

A wonderful team of “older than college students” rounded out our staff: Debbie Smith (a colleague of mine from college), Helen Challener, Susan Martis, and Liann Wong all added “years of experience” to the team and were so appreciated by both kids and parents.

Staff team for Family Camp 2
One of the traditions and highlights at Camp Berea is the all generations “finger blasters” feud.  The “harmless” nerf rockets are “fired” at the opposing team and mayhem breaks loose in the gym.  It is really fun and thoroughly enjoyed by all.  The grand finale of this family camp was having a shoot-off between Paul and me.  Much to the delight of the very competitive and vocal men, Paul “shot” me.  :)  I lost this year . . . but there’s always next.  :)

Paul is the victor in the “shoot-off” with me.  Here we’re posing with “refs” from our staff team:  Heather Thiel, Kyle Becker, David Hathaway, and Nathan Smith.

During the second family camp, we drove the staff up to the Mt. Washington Hotel so they could experience some of the unique beauty of New England and tour this fabulous hotel . . . and then on to Amonusuc Falls to do some big rock jumping.  Compared to Sculptured Rocks, the jumps are MUCH higher and the water MUCH colder - but fun was had by all.  We picnicked on the rocks, did a fair bit of jumping, and then drove back to Shacketts for more yummy ice cream.  It was a great day.

The staff enjoyed touring the Mt. Washington Hotel . . .

 . . . but probably enjoyed the delights of jumping into this frigid water more.  :)
We were back at Camp Berea in time to conduct our last dance night.  We had a blast in their spacious gym doing the Chicken Dance, the Hokey Pokey, the Barn Dance, the Virginia Reel, Slappin’ Leather, the Cotton Eye Joe, the Rain Dance, and finally swing dancing.  Kelsey O’Keeffe and Andrew Price did a fantastic job all summer leading the dances and this was no exception.  I love this night for many reasons, but topping the list is seeing the integration of the generations on the dance floor.

Megan Forbes and Vincent Swaim work some swing moves while Alton Green teaches his sister Danielle how to slide in the background.

Jay Abramson spoke for this week of family camp and he did a wonderful job of tying his talks in with the prodigal son story. Jay’s teaching is authentic and passionate, and it engages both the head and the heart. Jay and Liz are always such a delight to partner with.  They make themselves so available as they invest greatly in campers outside of the speaking sessions.

Jay and Liz Abramson were appreciated by the campers during Family Camp 2.

Our final family camp culminated with powerful sharing at the banquet and a wonderful time of worship at the campfire.  We heard testimony of marriages on the mend, parent-child relationships improving, and many tales of personal sanctification.  No one could deny God’s hand in changed lives.

For the final time in the summer of 2010, we had our closing session featuring worship and wrap-up. One last “Butterfly Song,” “Days of Elijah” and the memory verse song . . . One last all-camp photo. One last giant farewell to a wonderful summer.

Kelsey O’Keeffe plays one last round of “gaga” with some of our smaller campers.

We were packed up and out of Berea in record time on Friday and the real end of the summer celebration began.  Pizza in the small town of Bristol sustained us until we were feted with an unbelievable surf and turf (lobster and steak) feast at Doug and Julie Macrae’s house.  We arrived mid-afternoon and enjoyed their pool and their huge backyard-turned football field before indulging ourselves beyond reason.  It rivaled the finest restaurants in Boston.  We all felt very pampered.

The Macraes’ backyard provided a great party site for our “end of the summer” celebration.

Full and happy . . . we take one more photo for the blog.  :)
But is doesn’t end there.  Saturday topped the charts - starting with a yummy brunch, a tour of Boston, a great meal at Fire and Ice, and then an extravaganza at Fenway Park.  The Macraes had arranged for all 22 of us to tour Fenway and then to watch the Red Sox beat the Blue Jays in extra innings.  :)  Really?  Does it get an better than that??

We’re on the field during our tour of Fenway Park.

During batting practice, Kevin Bron and Andrew Price snagged balls, while Heather Thiel, Monica Wong, and Hannah Early celebrate with them.

It was our first visit to Fenway this year and we enjoyed it at least as much as the kids did.

With very little sleep, we got most of the staff to the airport for early morning departures Sunday . . . and the summer officially ended.  Though we are really, really tired, we are much more thankful.  It has been a most unforgettable summer (for mostly good reasons!!!) and we are praying that the seed that fell on fertile soil will thrive in the year ahead.  We can hardly believe we’ve now crossed the summers-at-camp finish line 35 times, but we consider that a huge gift from the Lord.

And now, the countdown begins in earnest for the arrival of grandson #1.  His due date is a week away and we’re so thankful that he didn’t decide to make an early entrance.  We’ll be in Sacramento for the next little while with Gabe and Kari as they begin this new season in their lives.

Other family news: Julie has successfully finished her first year of physical therapy school and is enjoying a much needed break with her boyfriend, Derek, who is “home” from Uganda for several weeks.  We’ll see them in Sacramento this week.  Lisa is off and running with her new job.  She has been going non-stop since starting on August 1, and is loving it so far.

Thanks for standing with us and for praying for our lives and ministry.  “When you’re working out of your passion, it doesn’t seem like work” is an apt statement for us.  We know we’re blessed to be able to say that.

If a picture says a thousand words, then this one that Barbara Steele snapped last week at Camp Berea overlooking Newfound Lake expresses what’s in my heart that can’t be expressed in words.  Savor His faithfulness along with us.