39 and Counting!

No, that's not my age.  We've just completed our 39th summer at Campus by the Sea and we're just getting warmed up.  :)

I'm writing from Camp Berea on Newfound Lake, where we are hosting our 7th family camp straight in as many weeks. Though "tired" on many levels, I can't think of a summer that ranks higher in terms of God's favor on the staff, the program, the "aha!" moments, the decisions made to be more fully surrendered to Him, and the overall delight and joy of serving in this way.

All summer I've wanted to capture moments in words and have been thwarted by the 24/7 needs of running packed camps and building into our college students who serve as staff.  I find moments to write this morning as the shopping-starved staff spend part of the "change of pace day" at Walmart in the local town of Plymouth. Wild horses couldn't drag me there, but thankfully, they dragged basically the entire staff so I luxuriate in a very quiet cabin overlooking the lake.  Hard to improve on the inspirational quality of the setting. It will be a challenge to distill the noteworthy aspects of the summer, however, as there were so many. Nice problem, yes?

But first . . . we did have a "20" on a scale of "1-10" family reunion/vacation in Vero Beach, FL, during the first week of June, prior to beginning this marathon summer.  With the Johnsons home from Uganda, and the Garcias and Lisa from CA, we landed together in FL for a most memorable and delightful week together at the beach home of dear friends in Vero Beach. It would take a herculean effort to imagine a more perfect setting and/or experience.  Lazy days walking the beach, eating simple meals together, swimming, enjoying 3 little ones as well as 7 big ones . . . we all were exceedingly blessed. One of the highlights was a family photo shoot done by Gabe's cousin Joelle (www.capturedbyJoelle.org).  She spectacularly captured the unity and love of our family in such a memorable and framable fashion.  

The "Fam" in Vero Beach: Derek, Julie, and Nathan on far left,
Gabe, Kari, and Ana next, Lisa next to me and Paul, fronted by Brandon.

Off to Catalina Island we went to begin staff orientation on June 16.  We could tell early on that we had a very special group of college students and that proved to be true in spades as the summer progressed. The difference this summer?  An unusually strong group of "all in for Christ" young men! They lead the team with a contagious fervor for Christ and what a shaping influence that had on the whole team. There was such a concerted effort to honor the Lord by honoring the community and serving the campers, "drama" was noticeably absent as well as any other disciplinary issues.  It's not an exaggeration that Paul and I thanked the Lord every night for bringing together this "set apart" group of young people.

We were also really thankful to have Dave and Vonny Bastedo as our right-hand people this summer. They did a great job of investing in staff and keeping the Little Gallagher's cove healthy and compliant. They also lead the college group for each family camp and were appreciated by many. They were a terrific addition to the team and truly lessened our load significantly.

First day of orientation week, we got off to a great start.

Five weeks later, seasoned and bonded, this amazing group of staff had proved
their commitment to Christ as well as to the campers.

A few of my summer take-aways:

Great worship, lead by Paul Gandy and Lyss Gosselin (and accompanied by Robert Kovacs on the drums.)  Not only musically excellent, but their passion for Christ lit up the stage during every worship set.  

Great speakers.  All summer . . . all six weeks . . . great teaching.  Challenging, Biblical, inspiring, hope-giving. We are so thankful for all six of our speakers and their families for their faithfulness in teaching the Word.

Great family moments.  Gabe, Kari, Brandon, and Ana attended Family Camp 2 and we had many deja-vu moments as Brandon helped Papa ring the bell, eagerly participate in his class, move around camp as if it were his backyard, etc. Wasn't it only yesterday that his mother was that almost-4-year-old, fully embracing the delights of family camp?  Full circle. What a privilege to see the next generation grabbing the baton.  Derek, Julie, and Ana had a brief but wonderful 48 hours at camp just before family camps began and Lisa spent 4 weekends with us over the course of our 7 weeks. All of us agree that there's no place on earth we'd rather be than at CBS. That is a gift in itself. We also had a variety of extended family members come to various camps and we truly love that.

Derek and Julie head out on a hike with Nathan in the backpack and Ana on front.

Sisters and babies . . . such fun!!!

All the family minus Gabe (who was leading a missions trip)—
We shared many happy moments at camp.

Brandon helps Papa with devotions.

Paul's oldest sister, Sandy Clark, and her gang, plus sister Beth
and nephew Brian Rottschafer and his family joined us for camp 5.

Great hikes.  The "Staff Only" special hikes were all highly successful. Twenty-five of us hiked the "loop" under the Super Moon on July 19 and enjoyed perfect conditions. Thirty-five hiked the shore to Avalon on a Wednesday morning when the tide was lowest, and again had an "as good as it gets" experience. Our third hike to "Lone Tree" separated the "true" hikers from the crowd and 17 made this annual trek under a full morning sun. All three hikes built into our camaraderie and connectedness as a staff. Additionally, our daily routine of hiking the Scar Loop at 4 pm and ending with a swim to the line and back was good for physical and mental health.

The 6 am departure for the shore hike didn't discourage many as 35 staff made this annual trek.

Happy staff hikers conquer Lone Tree once again.

Great fun.  The annual game show, this year's rendition named "The Ology Show", was wildly successful and the hosts were dashing. Everyone participated, row by row, which provoked lots of laughter and fun for the whole family each Tuesday night. Worship at the fire ring under the stars followed the game show and s'mores put the exclamation point on that evening. Stand-up paddle boards, kayaks, tubes . . . dancing on the basketball court . . . hamburgers on the beach. Lots of summer fun was had by all.

The hosts of "The Ology Game" were joined by swashbuckling Brandon.

S'mores anyone?  Brandon enjoys one with his "Boo" Lyss.

Great moments of seeing God work.  We heard stories of God changing hearts, healing hurts, breaking down walls, giving hope. We witnessed commitments to follow Him more fully, to be more Christ-like, to proclaim His truth more boldly, and to be "fully surrendered." The testimonies shared at each closing banquet were so moving, as person after person affirmed the work of the Holy Spirit among us. All praise is His!!!

Great challenges.  In an unprecedented fashion, two of our registered and long-time family campers had to cancel just days before camp due to accidents which left the dads of each family with broken vertebrae. By God's grace, neither experienced paralysis but both face a long road of recovery ahead. Another precious young family came to camp in spite of huge challenges with the debilitating effects of the dad's stage 4 metastatic colon cancer diagnosis. It was so moving to see this young family (married only 3 years, with a 2-year-old son) press to be at camp in spite of enormous amounts of pain, etc.  Many more came to camp with internal challenges, struggling marriages, rebellious children, financial difficulties, health issues, etc. We were privileged to see God meet so many in some pretty dramatic ways while at camp.

Great protection.  As a staff, we were very aware of God's mercy on us in so many ways, but particularly in the area of health. Though a stomach bug visited one camp, no one on staff got it. One staff member had strep throat and that was it. One and done. Three staff members had a staph infection, and only three. We truly felt that God supernaturally spared us from these illnesses spreading.

Great hope.  We consistently heard campers express their gratitude that God had renewed their hope in Him and in His promises during the week. There can be no genuine hope apart from Him, since He is the author of hope, and that message was reiterated throughout the summer.

There's so much more I could say, but we're in the midst of family camp at Berea so time is scarce. For now, know that we are deeply grateful for your prayers, your support, your encouragement. We couldn't do what we do without a "village" around us and we are humbled to have you in our village. Pray that we'll finish strong. HIM/Berea Family Camp 2 begins Saturday and ends Friday, Aug. 15th. If you do the calculations, you’ll know that means we left Campus by the Sea on Saturday, Aug. 2, started HIM/Berea family camp on Aug. 3 after red-eyeing it to New England, and will go 13 days here without a break. We are depending on the strength and power of the Lord to get us through with health and effectiveness.

By His grace, many years will be added to the 39.