The exclamation point was put on the end of the Summer of 2015 with our Labor Day Family Camp. Spanning the past twelve weeks, we ended where we began the season: at Campus by the Sea . . . but managed to travel 8,000 miles and do family camp in two other states in between.
Our 18-year run of family camp in New England officially concluded on August 16 with the family camp closing banquet. This marked our 10th year of running two week-long camps at Berea in Hebron, New Hampshire, and we are so thankful to have ended on the high note of handing over a healthy family camp program to Nate Parks and his crew at Berea, who have a vision and passion for continuing these legacy-building camps.
|We are so thankful for Nate (executive director of Berea) and Heidi Parks to whom we have passed the mantle of family camp.|
This year, our two weeks at Berea didn’t begin 24 hours after our final camp at CBS like it has the past 3 summers (thank you, Jesus!) which enabled us to accept the request of Paul Gandy and Alyssa Gosselin to perform their wedding in Newport Center, Vermont, the day before camp began. What a joy it was to celebrate with these two, who over the past 3 years have wisely and honorably prepared for their life together. Their wedding was a true celebration of all that is good, and we loved being a part of it.
|What a joy to perform the marriage of Paul and Alyssa Gandy in Newport, VT.|
We came straight to camp from the wedding, meeting up with a “half staff” from CBS and a whole lot of questioning our own wisdom in deciding to team up with a “half staff” from Berea, along with hopes of a successful transition of family camp from H.I.M. to Berea. It had sounded wise and good last November when we devised the plan, but I’ll admit I had more than a few misgivings as we made the drive to camp. What if our teams didn’t mesh? What if the program would be compromised by having half a staff who knew nothing about what the other half had been doing all summer at CBS? What if . . . ? Many concerns swirled in my head, until several hours later we had our first meeting together.
As it turned out, we loved the “half staff” from Berea and I’m so thankful to say that our teams meshed and the program went off without a hitch. What a huge answer to prayer.
Of course, having the key positions and lead teachers filled by veteran CBS staff made a big difference. Shelby Dreves led the elementary program and Mark Barrett led the jr/sr highers, and their leadership was effective and respected. Ryan and Kelly Plosker knocked it out of the park with the college students.
|Two “half staffs” combined to make a powerhouse “whole staff” at Berea. This is the week one staff . . .|
|. . . and this is the week two staff.|
Both weeks were so full of grace and hand-of-God moments. We know of at least two decisions for Christ during the first week. Fourteen were baptized. Several families who in past summers were hanging on by a thread were in much better places. Some made hard decisions during camp regarding relationships, lifestyle choices, etc. There was no mistaking that the Spirit of God was present and penetrating hearts.
The overwhelming response of family campers was that they were met by God, encouraged by community, and refueled and recharged for the year ahead. What a privilege to be a part of all of this!
|Staffer Erik Anderson leads his group of guys. During the second camp, we had 64 students 4th grade and below . . . and 51 of them were boys.|
|Kelsey O’Keeffe, serving for the sixth summer at Berea, finds a creative place for her high school girls’ small group time.|
|One of the 14 baptisms in Newfound Lake . . .|
. . . with some of the witnesses celebrating this meaningful declaration.
We worked hard, and put in lots of hours, but we also played hard and made many great memories together.
|Jumping into frigid water at Sculptured Rocks|
provided an afternoon of fun.
|Daily hikes along the lake front renewed our minds and worked our bodies. Mark was joined by several other staff guys after this photo was snapped.|
|Howard Clark, who was our speaker for both camps, holds court with the staff during a riveting Question and Answer session.|
|Our final staff photo after the week two banquet. Parting is such sweet sorrow.|
In an unprecedented fashion, Paul and I took off moments after this photo was taken because we had to catch a flight from Boston to Detroit a mere 7 hours later. All I can say is that we felt God’s leading in saying “yes” to the invitation to speak at the inaugural family camp for the 2/42 Church in Ann Arbor, so we did.
We again second-guessed that decision as we arrived home at 1 a.m. to re-pack, and were picked up at 4 a.m. to leave for the airport. But 3 days later, after our final session at the 2/42 Church’s first-ever family camp, we had no doubt.
Held at SpringHill Camp in Evert, Michigan, we spoke at four sessions: two inter-generationally, and two to adults only. The campers were receptive, engaging, and so appreciative, especially after the sessions on marriage and parenting.
SpringHill is not CBS. :) Zip lines, blobs, horses, “the gusher,” giant swings, ropes courses, gymnasiums . . . You name it, they had it. Their housing included a plane (re-purposed as a dorm) and 4 railroad cars (on a track), also re-purposed . . . and, a tram service connected the events spread over their 900-acre facility, giving it a distinctly Disneyland-esque feel.
|Standing in line for the zip line at SpringHill camp with the Wong family. We loved it!|
|SpringHill is a beautiful place!!|
In spite of all those wonderful experiences (and potential distractions), the teaching sessions were well attended and we had many great conversations. It’s pretty cool to “just speak” at a family camp—a very different experience from running them!!
We drove back to Ann Arbor with Wai and Elaine Wong and family Sunday afternoon, exhausted but oh so thankful for the clear ways that God had met us and confirmed the “rightness” of being there.
|To celebrate the end of family camp and Paul’s upcoming birthday, the Wongs took us to “Black Rock Steak House” for dinner and it was great!|
We then went back to Ann Arbor to “play” with the Wongs for a couple of days. Walks around the lakes, amazing meals, pedicures for Elaine and me, followed by some “great deals” shopping. A sweet visit with our niece, Heidi, and her 3 kids. Baking cookies and scones. Having competitive ping pong matches. Playing games. Eating custard. Wonderful moments and memories.
|Brunch at the Wongs': great food, but greater company.|
|Our niece, Heidi Rottschafer Lemmerhirt, and her 3 came for a visit that was enjoyed by all.|
After recuperating for a couple of days with our precious Wong family, we spoke for a couples event at the 2/42 Church Tuesday night. We really loved partnering with Eric and Stacey Rauch, the pastor to families for 2/42, who set up both the family camp and the couples night. They have a great vision for equipping and encouraging families in their fellowship and it was a privilege to be a part of it.
|Eric and Stacey Rauch stand with us before we spoke for the couples event.|
All too soon our Michigan days were over and back to Boston we flew on Wednesday, Aug. 26. We spent 9 hours between Thursday and Friday doing a "mini-intensive” counseling for a couple who flew in from the south with hopes of saving their infidelity-ravaged marriage. We felt God really met us and them and it seems He used those days as a turning point for them. All praise is His.
Off again: on Aug. 29, we flew to California to celebrate Paul’s 65th and Brandon’s 5th in Santa Clarita. What fun!! A Brandon-designed day of mini-golfing, go-karting, swimming, bbq-ing salmon, and eating strawberry pie made for a perfect celebration and we enjoyed every minute of it. We spent the next 3 days catching up with ourselves and hanging with the Garcias before driving to Riverside to spend a night with Lisa in her new world.
|With temps reaching 106 degrees, it was really refreshing to jump in their pool.|
|The grand finale: strawberry cream pie a la Kari.|
Lisa has officially begun her role as an associate professor at California Baptist University in Riverside, CA. She is teaching 5 athletic training courses, 3 of which are undergrad and 2 are master’s level (she’s co-teaching those.) She’s renting a little CBU-owned house on the edge of campus and has happily traded her onerous commute for walking to campus. She’s rediscovering the joys of good work-life balance and is super impressed with the Christian commitment of the president and faculty of CBU. We were so happy to get to experience her new life.
|Standing in front of Lisa’s new rental at CBU!|
Off to CBS we went on Thursday, the 3rd of Sept., to make final preparations for the 2nd Annual Labor Day Weekend Family Camp. Blessed with a largely veteran staff, and a full-with-waiting-list camp, we had great expectations going into the weekend.
And they were exceeded.
The program team worked together seamlessly. Cheerfully. Willingly. Flexibly. In a Christlike manner. It was truly a joy to partner with this crew, and as we told them, we’d work with any of them anytime.
The Labor Day Family Camp program staff team . . . a stellar group!
Though short, we manage to pack a lot in to the weekend and for the more than 50 family units who came, it worked for them. David and Cherylyn Hegg were our resource couple and David’s two morning talks were received well. Paul and I spoke one evening on “living to the praise of His glory in your marriage” and the campers seemed to appreciate it. We danced on the basketball court “under the lights” and worshiped around the campfire before having s’mores. Beautiful weather made the water so inviting and the kayak trip to Willow Cove was packed out. Early morning tubing, commencing in the dark-turning-light, was very popular.
|A full camp enjoys worship led by Christian Hushaw, Alea Peister, and Seth Heinz.|
|Dancing under the lights and the stars. Very, very cool.|
|Late-night staff gathering around Paul’s cookies and stories of engagements. Great bonding time.|
|David and Cherylyn Hegg served as our resource couple for the weekend. We always love spending time with them.|
The weekend couldn’t have gone better. We had nothing but thankful hearts for God’s faithfulness as we sang the boatload of campers back to the mainland.
We sailed off the island that afternoon, concluding a long, wonderful summer of family camps. Our passion for family camps only deepens year by year. We continue to believe it’s one of the most impactful venues we invest in. It’s the place where “the worlds’ greatest need and our deepest passion” meet. So so grateful for the opportunity to continue to serve in this way.
After two days in San Diego with my mom, we’ll begin to settle in to a full fall in New England. More beginnings always follow endings. We are anticipating great things, at this point known only by God, but comforted by knowing He goes before us.
|What a perfect ending to a wonderful visit with my mom!|