Family camps are underway!

We blinked and orientation week and family camp one were over.  And family camp two hit the halfway mark today.  It seems as though the pace of the summer will keep time with the months preceding it.

Before we got to the island, I spent a few days in San Diego with Julie and my parents.  The days passed quickly, but were fairly productive as we got their wedding invitations in the mail, celebrated Father’s Day early with my dad, and went to a bridal shower for Julie given by her professors and classmates from physical therapy school.  It was so sweet to hear them speak so supportively of Julie and her influence on them.  I felt very privileged to be there.

Dinner out in honor of Father's Day with my parents was lovely.

First thing Monday morning, June 13, we drove to Long Beach and took the ferry to Catalina with our summer staff.  We could tell even then that the Lord had brought together a great group of college students as we gathered at the terminal.  That first impression has been fulfilled during these few weeks.  We have a terrific staff.

We were thrilled to reconnect with Bob and Carol Kraning at the boat terminal.  They delivered two of our staff, Kory and Johnie (who also happen to be their grandsons), to catch the boat.

During Orientation Week, the staff creatively worked to develop the curriculum and decorate their classrooms.  We spent time every day building community as we built curriculum.  For the first time ever, we had 7 on the program staff who had never even been to CBS.  Very unusual, but understandable: three of the new staff have great siblings on year round staff, two of them came from Kari and Gabe’s ministry and had been mentored by them (and Kari and Gabe are batting a thousand on all the staff they’ve sent us the past four years), one grew up at our family camp in New Hampshire, and one has a sibling who was on staff  3 years ago.  So though they hadn’t stepped foot on the island prior to June 13, they were all exposed to CBS by reliable sources.  It did create a steep learning curve for them and reminded us of how foreign this well-known-to-us culture is to some. Thankfully, they’ve all adjusted beautifully and have brought a freshness to our team. We’re also thrilled to have Dennis and Susan Mansfield with us this summer as the “Dean and Deana of Little Gallaghers” (the little cove in which our summer staff are housed). Additionally Susan is serving as our children’s program director and crafts coordinator, and Dennis is filling in many gaps.  We’re loving having them here for many reasons, but especially for their maturity, depth, and love for the staff.  After being family campers for 28 years, they’re experiencing camp in an entirely different way.

Holland, Taylor, Claudia, Johnny, and Katie work on decorations for their classrooms.

Not all the team, but many, pose after lunch on their way to more preparations during orientation week.

Though we are truly thankful for each staff member God has brought here, we’re still pinching ourselves to believe that Gabe, Kari, and Brandon are part of that team.  As it became increasingly clear to them that God was moving them on from their positions at Bayside of South Sacramento, they talked to us about serving at CBS this summer. Really??? It quickly became clear that their gifts in working with college students could be used to lead the college studies for family campers as well as to develop training material for our summer staff, so we said YES!!!  Oh, and, we'll gladly help care for the little guy.

So here we are, in the midst of a historical legacy visiting the next generation.  Paul’s parents, Mel and Helen Friesen, started camp in 1951 and their only son, Paul, learned to walk in the Main Deck that first summer.  In 1981, Paul (who was in the midst of his tenure as the Camp Director 1975–1991), watched his eldest daughter Kari learn to walk in the Main Deck that summer.  Thirty years later, Kari’s eldest child, Brandon, is trying to learn to walk in the Main Deck (and feeling lots of pressure as a 10-month-old to uphold the tradition.  :)  )  Really?  We feel blessed beyond belief that we’re part of God's amazing faithfulness through the generations.

Gabe, Kari, and Brandon Garcia are a great addition to the staff team this summer.

Brandon loves his new and different bathtub, as well as living in community with more loving arms and smiles than ever.

Truly a huge part of the richness in serving at CBS comes from the relationships we've developed over the past 35 years.  Each family camp is full of people who mean so much to us. We've journeyed through decades of life together, through the highs and the lows, the thick and the thin, the family milestone moments of life, marriage, deaths, disappointments and triumphs.  Each week we reconnect with friends who return to camp with three generations in tow - some of whom were young parents in the late 70’s, now at camp with their grown up kids and grandkids.  We love the intergenerational framework of CBS family camps. And we love the newer families, who bring fresh perspective and experience to the table. Our passion for this ministry has not abated at all, but actually continues to grow each summer as we see the hand of God doing His good work among us. We are so blessed.

Dick and Nancy Beggs, who directed Camp Maranatha in Idyllwild for many years, have been dear friends since the beginning of our marriage.  It's always such a joy to have them pop into camp for an annual visit, to celebrate what God is doing in our lives and in our families, as well as to affirm our deep hearts for each other.

So, after a week or orientation and preparation, the boat loaded with over 200 family campers pulled up to our dock on Sunday, June 19.  With a mixture of emotions running the gamut from excitement to at least a few fears (how will the program go, etc.), the staff enthusiastically welcomed the campers and the 2011 family camp season at CBS was launched. The most touching moment of the week was experienced right off the bat, when Hayden Whelan, a precious 13-year-old who has Down’s Syndrome, arrived at camp after a year’s hiatus.  She was unable to come last year because she was undergoing treatment for a malignant tumor, and after a torturous year of chemo, radiation, hospitalizations, etc, she was recovered enough to return to camp and to her beloved “Paul.”  Hayden has had a thing for Paul since she was tiny, and she told her mom before arriving that she couldn't wait to see him.  She ran up the ramp and threw herself in his waiting arms, and there wasn’t a dry eye to be found.

Hayden is welcomed by Paul and the whole staff, who painted her a “Welcome Back, Hayden!” sign.

Six days later, Hayden gives Paul a farewell hug as she leaves camp.

That was the start of a great first week of camp.  Though we had the normal challenges of the first week, and some abnormal ones with so many new staff, it was a surprisingly smooth week programmatically.  Tim and Susie Theule were our resource couple and as we've come to expect, Tim’s teaching was challenging, instructive, and inspiring.  He’s truly one of the best teachers we’ve heard.  We’ve also grown to love their family over these six years that they've been on our family camp team, so having a week with them was a treat.

Our theme this summer is “The Fully Alive Family” using Psalm 23 and John 10:1–10 as our texts.  We’ve been so struck by the reminder that the sheep follow him because they know his voice and that they won’t follow the stranger because they don’t know his voice.  Our prayer is that we’ll become so attuned to the voice of the Good Shepherd that the stranger won’t pull us off course.

Tim and Susie Theule bring so much to camp, not just through Tim’s excellent teaching, but also through their healthy, beautiful family of six.

The week progressed through all the  beloved traditions - the game “Gender Defender” (some say it's the best ever!); all family worship and s’mores at the beach around the campfire; the hike to Avalon; the dance night and ice cream social; the boat race; the banquet; banner making; and tons of inter-generational interaction around dining tables, in the fairway, and on the beach.  What makes this place and experience so unique is the intergenerational community that is naturally woven into all waking hours.  So much health “happens” when the generations are laughing, playing, and learning together.

The week flew by and before we knew it, we were singing the traditional “We love you campers...oh yes we do!” as the boat pulled away from the dock in the early afternoon of June 25.  It was  especially poignant for us, as we were saying good-bye to many relatives who had continued their tradition of attending family camp.  Paul’s oldest sister, Sandra, and her husband, Wayne, once again brought their four married children and all their grandchildren to camp so we had feasted on the delight of being with family we love so much.  That meant many late nights of laughing and talking with one another, which was not great for our sleep needs, but an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.  Danny and Rayna Oertli are part of that clan, so we were treated to a concert by Danny one night during which he debuted a number of songs just released on his newest album, Just Beyond the Door.  We love this album and would highly recommend it.

The Friesen relatives who attended family camp 1.  Great time with all!!

No real reason for this photo, except that it’s an adorable one of this possible future lifeguard.  :)

Family is the theme...and we’re so blessed to have all of our gang with us at the moment. Lisa safely returned from Israel after her 2-week missions trip with FCA and came back bubbling over with enthusiasm for her experience there.  She’s working at camp for three weeks, joining the high school team. Julie is managing to make it up for the weekends and we’re loving that. The countdown to the return of her fiance Derek to the states has begun in earnest.  It's now less than a month.  :)  And we're loving having the Garcias here 24/7.  Besides the joy of having them with us, they’re doing a fabulous job with our staff and with the college-age family campers.

The girls and Gabe, left to right: Kari, Julie, Lisa

We’re also having an amazing summer of wildlife sightings as well as gorgeous weather. Buffalo have been hanging out in camp regularly and the bald eagles and pods of dolphins have been seen multiple times.  We’re delighting in all of it.

A buffalo finds dinner next to our volleyball court. 

Brandon helps “Papa” with announcements at many meals.

Our program staff are ready for a new day.

Do pray for us as we run 4.5 more weeks of camp.  God is doing amazing things among us already and we are humbled to be a part of it.  All praise is His!!!