With 26 hours between Family Camps 1 and 2, we relaxed with the staff (some great pool time, dinner in Ventura on the beach, and hanging out in a coffee shop in downtown Ojai) and then prepared for the second camp. We were very ready when the campers began arriving at 4 pm on Sunday and we were so happy to welcome them with cold water bottles and ice pops, help them register, and walk them to their “home away from home.” Everyone was checked in by dinner time and we were off and running.
We were so grateful for the reinforcements who joined the staff team for week 2, as a number of our week 1 staff had to return to work. God graciously brought together a phenomenal group for camp 2 and we quickly jelled as a team.
Opening night set the tone for the week, which was full of the expectation of being met by God among these mostly veteran family campers, who continually expressed how thankful and happy they were to be together again after a two-year lapse. Of all the families attending, only 3 hadn’t been to a prior CBS family camp and they were warmly folded right in to the community.
The week followed the same schedule as week 1 and all of the favorite traditions of family camps for decades delighted everyone. Since “a picture paints a thousand words…” I’ll let the photos do the talking.
And so camp ended on August 10th. We had been richly taught on the life of David by Tim Theule, who along with his wife, Susie, served as a resource couple for the week. We had worshiped. We had played. We had rested. We were disconnected. We were met by God.
We were community.
Genuine community created by a commonly-held commitment to become more Christlike.
The very heart of family camp.
Some reflections of the campers:
All praise is His!!
There were few if any dry eyes during our final session Saturday morning as the staff sang “The Benediction.” Family Camp was over for 2019. And though no one knows yet where we’ll be in 2020, we’re committed to continuing the tradition wherever God will open the door.
Here’s an amazing video produced by some of our campers:
With three weeks of family camp in our rear view mirror and with hearts full of gratitude and thanksgiving for the incredible ways God had met us in those weeks, we took some time to invest in our own family. First to Santa Clarita, where we got to watch Brandon’s last game of his summer basketball program and hang out with the rest of the family for about 18 hours before driving down to San Diego to spend a few days with my mom. We cherish each of the days we get to spend with her and we enjoyed getting her out on "field trips" each day we were there.
I flew home mid-week, and after 10 hours, felt it was time to fly again—so off we went to Denver on a spur-of-the-moment, spontaneous, but oh-so-meaningful trip. If you read part 1 of this blog post, you will remember the Chalay family, who all made commitments to follow Christ at Family Camp 1. They called us on the 12th, and invited us to come to Denver that weekend to help them celebrate their son Kenny’s 10th birthday.
But not “just” any old 10th birthday. They explained that on Kenny’s 9th birthday, things had really hit the fan with their marriage and family and the events that transpired that day (which included the threat of divorce) made it, in Kenny’s words, “My worst birthday ever.”
With the invitation, they explained they wanted to make this Kenny’s best birthday ever. As new believers, they are now committed to their marriage and to replacing their very chaotic, broken relationships with living like Christ. They wanted us there to celebrate not just his birthday, but the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ which had replaced their despair with hope. They wanted to obliterate the remnants of his “worst birthday ever” and replace it with the joy of their new life in Christ which would allow him to have the “best birthday ever.”
And so . . . we did. Literally 10 hours after I had flown in from San Diego (Paul had returned two days earlier), we were on a flight to Denver and we had a happy reunion with the Chalays.
The birthday celebration on Friday, August 16, was great, and so full of joy, happiness, and hope.
But just as great (and in the long term, probably greater) were our efforts to connect them with the body of Christ in Littleton, Colorado. We had so many “only God” moments in those four days!! We were able to introduce them to Howard and Kathy Clark, who live about 10 minutes from them and who are very willing to help disciple this family who are hungry to get the truth of scripture into their hearts. We can’t think of a better theologian for them to have access to than Howard Clark!
We connected them to Dave and Kathleen Sherman and their kids Kaylee and Jake Gosselin, who live one mile from the Chalays’ Cafe du Coco (their family European tea house, which you should go to if you live near Littleton!). The Shermans have already started a Bible Study with the family.
We all attended Mission Hills Church together and were able to connect them with Danny and Rayna Oertli (our niece and nephew-in-law who serves as the worship director at MH). Who doesn’t love Danny and Rayna? It was an immediate connection. And did I mention that Mission Hills Church is about 8 minutes from the Chalays’ home and they drive past it every time they go to their tea house?
Our four days in Littleton were full of reminders that God is faithful and oh so good. All five Chalays are reading their new Bibles and are growing by leaps and bounds. Their daughter Annelieke, who chose to not be baptized at family camp with the rest of her family, asked Paul to baptize her in their backyard hot tub and we shared such sweet fellowship and time of worship around her baptism.
A highlight for me was spending Sunday with Gerrit and Natasha at the tea house. Part of the time I was “working” and I loved every minute of it, and part of the time I was enjoying the beautiful high tea they serve. It was a most lovely day.
As “out of the box” as the trip was, it was exactly the right thing to do with those days. What a privilege it is to come alongside a whole family of baby Christians and walk with them, life on life. The Chalays have quickly worked their way deep into our hearts and have become not just spiritual family, but chosen family.
Again, all praise is His.
So home we flew on the 20th, full of great memories and even greater hope.
The past two weeks have been a mix of time with friends, doing projects around the house, having Lisa with us for 4 days while she attended a conference, making meals for friends with new babies or post-surgery, and generally trying to get caught up on things neglected the past six months due to our very intense travel schedule. We’ve made some progress, but we still have a long ways to go.
It’s been good to slow down a bit as summer winds to an end. Our souls have been refreshed by long walks around Walden Pond, a few lazy days at the beach, and most recently a few days in the Jamestown, Rhode Island, vacation home of friends. That replaced a week-long planned trip to Vero Beach, Florida, which was canceled due to hurricane Dorian, and it was a lovely replacement. The closing shot of the sunset was taken there, on the same day that the opening sunrise photo was taken.
Is there anything that proclaims His glory more than these incredible skyscapes?
They are “love letters” from Heaven, eagerly received, reminding us that He is sovereignly over all. Every day we’re aware of pain, injustice, disappointments, hopelessness, and hardships—as they touch us, our family, our friends, our clients. No one escapes some level of brokenness.
How thankful we are that our hope is in Him. Alone.