Family Camp 2017 Reimagined

And just like that, our plane from Tel Aviv, through Brussels, landed at Dulles Airport in northern Virginia on Saturday, July 15,  and we were off to the Outer Banks for a mini-family camp with Derek and Julie and their children, Nathan and Rachel, and Lisa.  My parents have owned a condo in Kitty Hawk for almost 30 years, but we haven’t been to it since 1992 (when we enjoyed a few days there with my folks on the way to Rod and Heather Fletcher’s wedding in South Carolina)!  Our summers have been very full for a very long time.

We had a wonderful week there this summer!! It was a true beach vacation: lazy days, walking the beach, jumping in the 59-degree water (Whaaaat?? Not expecting that!!), hanging out in the pool, slathering ourselves with sunscreen, eating sand-infused snacks when unavoidable, ice cream cones, seafood, late mornings, early evenings . . . We had such a relaxing time, celebrating the gift of our family as we relished the gifts of the sea.  With two “Littles” (20 months and not quite 4), our low-key agenda was determined, and with three of us just off the plane from two intense weeks in the Holy Land, there was no argument. It was a great “recovery” week for us in the best possible way.

  Sisters introducing the next generation to DD. (Dunkin’ Donuts)

Sisters introducing the next generation to DD. (Dunkin’ Donuts)

  Sun, fun, and water…what more do you need?

Sun, fun, and water…what more do you need?

  Nathan feeling very secure holding Papa’s hand as they study the sea.

Nathan feeling very secure holding Papa’s hand as they study the sea.

  More sun, sand, and fun…starting with a beautiful sunrise.

More sun, sand, and fun…starting with a beautiful sunrise.

  Where’s Derek? Why doesn’t this ever get old??

Where’s Derek? Why doesn’t this ever get old??

  A few special-people moments worked their way into the week… We celebrated my second cousin “Sis” on her 90th birthday, and had a great time with Phil, Christi, and Zoey Herbst who drove up to spend a day with us.  Zoey and Nathan became BFF’s very quickly.

A few special-people moments worked their way into the week… We celebrated my second cousin “Sis” on her 90th birthday, and had a great time with Phil, Christi, and Zoey Herbst who drove up to spend a day with us.  Zoey and Nathan became BFF’s very quickly.

A beach holiday is never long enough, but we were so grateful that we had a whole week together. We drove home to Boston via Burke, VA (where we spent a night with my sister Laura and husband David—always a good time), and Mechanicsburg, PA (where we spent the night with Derek and Julie, also always a good time!). And then home late on the 25th, for the first time in a month. We are very thankful for a very dear neighbor who carefully watches our house during our travels!

Our two days at home were packed with sorting mail, doing laundry, getting the house ship-shape, and repacking for our next month-long journey which commenced July 27. Though it was really strange to be at home at all in July, the fullness of the days didn’t permit much dwelling on that!

For the first time in our 14 years of “being on the road” with Home Improvement Ministries, we missed a flight. Scheduled out at 6:30 pm on Thursday the 25th, we left 2.5 hours ahead…and arrived 30 minutes ahead of flight time. Fortunately there was a flight leaving for San Francisco two hours later; unfortunately, it’s arrival was too late to make our connecting flight to Reno, so we had to overnight in SF and catch a late morning flight to Reno, which caused us to arrive 4 hours late to the family camp we were speaking for.

We considered it some enemy warfare . . . to thwart the plans of the weekend, and the conference planners, who had met with numerous obstacles in the weeks leading up to the four-day family camp, agreed with our assessment.

Fortunately, the enemy didn’t win. What unfolded was a very successful, meaningful, memorable family camp for 170 people who attend Calvary Chapel of Chico, California.

Cameron and Andrea Kovacs (longtime CBS family campers, who have provided several exemplary staff for us these past few years) took the lead in directing the weekend and they did a fabulous job. They thought of everything, including inviting 10 CBS family camp staff to serve along with us.  

It was a slice of heaven.

It was the closest thing to being at CBS this summer, as they replicated the family camp program we’ve developed through the years. Name tags, schedule, family devotions lead by Paul, the memory verse set to song by Jacob Kovacs, birthday skits creatively developed in 5 minutes, a program for all ages, led by the staff . . . They did an amazing job of creating a very worthwhile weekend. Though it was the second year of doing family camp for CCC, this was the first time they had a college staff lead the non-adult program and all the other nuances of a CBS-style family camp and they LOVED it. They especially appreciate the staff team who did their usual excellent job of serving and mentoring.  What a joy it was for us to be with them, serving together, doing what all of us love to do.

  Our welcoming committee—smiles and tears.

Our welcoming committee—smiles and tears.

  Claire, Robert, and Jacob lead “The Butterfly Song."

Claire, Robert, and Jacob lead “The Butterfly Song."

We loved the people of CCC, and we especially loved partnering with the Kovacs, for whom we have deep hearts of love and respect. 

In every way, the weekend was an “out of the park” experience and we left full and overflowing with gratitude and joy, and singing a new memory verse song all the way down the mountain.

  Birthday skit . . . very creative!

Birthday skit . . . very creative!

  Morning devos for the kids

Morning devos for the kids

  Afternoon hike to the crystal mine

Afternoon hike to the crystal mine

  Cameron and Andrea Kovacs, camp directors and treasured friends

Cameron and Andrea Kovacs, camp directors and treasured friends

  Beautiful Pilot Lake

Beautiful Pilot Lake

  Just before we parted ways . . . more smiles, even more tears.

Just before we parted ways . . . more smiles, even more tears.

  The departing committee, singing: “We love you Friesens, oh yes we do!”  Mostly tears.  Lots.

The departing committee, singing: “We love you Friesens, oh yes we do!”  Mostly tears.  Lots.

  Sunset over Pilot Lake

Sunset over Pilot Lake

Our next stop: Morro Bay! Lisa picked us up at LAX Monday night, July 31, and we drove to Morro Bay to join with Gabe, Kari, and their three Littles for our second mini-family camp. Because of the generosity of dear friends, we were loaned a 3-bedroom condo a couple of blocks from the water and it was absolutely perfect for our west coast memory-making week.  

Morro Bay is pristine and since we have never spent much time there, we joyfully discovered its beauty daily. Early morning beachcombing with Brandon and Ana (whose internal clocks never allow them to sleep beyond 6 am) was rewarded with quiet stillness and a motherlode of sand dollars.  When we discovered the tide pools on the south side of Morro Rock, we were addicted to finding starfish, sea anemones, hermit crabs, and other interesting sea creatures. We walked the beach, flew the kite, went whale watching, saw the elephant seals at San Simeon, tried to stay warm on the beach and in the 59-degree water (sound familiar??), and soaked in the natural therapy of the beautiful ocean environment.

Papa led devotions and we sang the new memory verse song. We enjoyed leisurely meals and played games at night.

It was everything we could’ve wished for and when it came to an end on the 5th, none of us were quite ready to say good-bye to our heart-replenishing mini-family camp.

  Whale watch!

Whale watch!

  “Bean-boozled” — Game night!!

“Bean-boozled” — Game night!!

  Sunset walk

Sunset walk

  The girls minus one

The girls minus one

  A sunset captivates even Littles

A sunset captivates even Littles

  Gabe and Kari . . . glowing after a wonderful week.

Gabe and Kari . . . glowing after a wonderful week.

But we did, taking with us incredible memories, full hearts,  a lot of sand dollars, and possibly even more sand in our clothes, towels, and cars.

God has been so faithful!  We never doubted He would be, but we’ve been humbled by how He has been.  We have been tenderly loved and cared for in so many ways these weeks. For this summer 2017, we gladly receive “family camp—reimagined.”  Only He knows what 2018 holds….but we know He holds us.