Berea

Only God

Only God

August has flown by, which is consistent with the beat of the whole summer. When the family camp program was canceled at CBS back in late December, we had no idea what the summer of 2017 would look like. We weren’t concerned that we’d be twiddling our thumbs, quite honestly, but we couldn’t have imagined then the opportunities that have unfolded for us. “Only God.” Indisputable.

Fall is FINALLY in the Air




One last sunrise at Campus by the Sea over Labor Day Weekend,
taken as Lisa and I hiked the loop on our final day at camp.



The chill in the air this morning was a welcomed change from the unseasonably warm September we’ve experienced in New England this past month (at least the few days we’ve been here!) and all things Fall suddenly seem within grasp of cold fingers. Leaves will change and flutter to the ground, days will grow noticeably shorter, sweaters and close-toed shoes will be worn as the lingering days of summer quickly become memories of a season well spent.

I love fall. Truth be told, I must quickly admit that I also love winter, spring, and summer as each season brings its own delights and beauty.

But before I can thoroughly embrace autumn, I must wrap up summer (because that’s what the SJ personality does—in Myers-Briggs talk.)

Backing up to the end of August, we returned to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to speak at the 2/42 Community Church’s second annual “Fr-amily Camp”, held at Spring Hills Camp in Evart, MI. It’s always an honor to be invited to speak anywhere once, and it’s at least a double honor to be invited back. We were delighted to again partner with the 2/42 director of Family Ministries, Eric Rauch, who has great vision, enthusiasm, and passion for encouraging and equipping families. This year, besides having the “Birdsongs” again lead in worship and having us speak, he brought in David Laflin, an incredibly talented Christian illusionist from the Denver area. Amazingly, I had met his wife Teesha (who often performs with him) at Mission Hills Church in Littleton, CO, the previous weekend, as she stopped by to chat with me about balancing ministry and family after Paul and I had spoken. Only God . . .

David did a great job of wowing us with his illusionary trickery as well as with the gospel message. Check their ministry out at www.davidandteesha.com

The weekend went really well. Twice the size of last year’s camp, we were reminded of how desperately we need to keep building in to families the hope of the gospel. No one skipped the teaching sessions (it seemed), despite being surrounded by 900 acres of beauty, very fun activities, and plenty of options to distract. We really felt that God met us and the campers in some very powerful ways.

It was especially good for us to have several days with our dear friends, Wai and Elaine Wong and their lovely daughters while in Ann Arbor. We stayed an extra day so we could hang out with them and that made a great weekend even greater.


Hanging out with David Laflin (the illusionist) and the Wong family,
we had some very fun moments on giant swings, ropes courses, and zip lines.
How could you not love this weekend?


The “Birdsongs” did a phenomenal job leading us in worship
before each of the four teaching sessions.


The stillness of the water is found only early in the day, prior to campers discovering the four inflatable “blobs” anchored in this lake.


A special dinner out with the Wongs in honor of Paul’s birthday.


We returned to Boston for 24 hours to repack before heading west for the Labor Day Weekend family camp at CBS. But first, a joy-filled celebration of the birthday buddies, Papa and Brandon, who share an August 29 birthdate. Brandon did ask me this year, “If Papa and I have the same birthday, why aren’t we the same age??”  :)  

Happy birthday, Papa and now 6-year-old Brandon!


After too short a stay (but better than nothing), we headed to CBS for the weekend with Lisa and a terrific group of veteran staff who served the family campers all weekend. This third annual Labor Day weekend family camp was again sold out to a very enthusiastic group of families. Presumably because the time is short, these families dive right in and make every minute count. Thankfully, with the majority of staff who had served together all summer, we were also ready to dive right in with them. It was a full, breathless weekend.

Bob and Carol Kraning served as our resource couple for the weekend and were wildly popular. Bob, who had a very close brush with death a year ago, was stronger than ever and didn’t miss a beat. Our young families were so encouraged to hear from a couple who have been married over 50 years and who have followed the Lord faithfully throughout life. Such richness!

All too quickly the weekend was over and we sang our final rendition of “We love you campers, oh yes we do!” as the boat pulled away from the dock. We followed soon after and headed south for a couple of days before heading east. 

Paul, Lisa, and I arrive to serve the Labor Day Family Camp.


Our terrific program staff served so well,
diving right in to do whatever needed to be done.

Worship was led by Robert Kovacs, Claire Peister, and Seth Heinz—and was appreciated by all.

A large group of kids second grade and under gathered at the front of the Main Deck each morning for the always-favorite devotions created and led by Paul.

Lis and I did one last loop hike on the last morning of camp and encountered this bison, who seemed to own the road. He’s much bigger than he appears in this photo, and the road is much more narrow than it appears. Obviously we lived to tell about it.  :)


Bob and Carol Kraning partnered with us this weekend and God used them to bring a word of both encouragement and challenge. We’ve been together with the Kranings in ministry for most of our married life and we’re so thankful they’ve been a part of our journey.

One last chorus of “We love you campers, oh yes we do . . .” as the final family camp group departs on the Catalina Express.


Off to San Diego we went, after overnighting in Santa Ana with our dear friend Wendy Turney, to spend the next two nights at the Hotel del Coronado. This San Diego landmark hosted us the first night of our honeymoon 40 years ago and this was our first return to the inside of it since. Made possible in part by the kids, who generously gave us a gift certificate for the hotel several years ago, we decided the time was right to put the capstone on our 40th anniversary’s never-ending celebration.  

What a great idea!

We had two wonderful days there, doing little more than walking the beach, laying by the pool, exploring downtown Coronado, and enjoying the beauty of this exquisite hotel. We did sneak away to Petco Stadium with our friends the Hazlebecks to watch the Red Sox beat the Padres one night, but we squeezed everything we could out of the rare treat of staying in this fabulous hotel. We highly recommend 40th anniversaries, if God grants you that many years.

An early morning walk on the beach, before the marine layer burned off (which it later did.)

A little sand castle we built in our spare time . . . or at least, that we stopped to admire at the end of our walk.  :)

We left refreshed and renewed, celebrating life and marriage, and ready to face a little bit of craziness.

Arriving home at 1 in the morning on Saturday, Sept. 10, we were overjoyed (if even a bit bleary-eyed) to welcome Dick and Becky (Manley Pippert) Molenhouse to our home at 9:30 am.  Becky had spoken at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary’s Pastors’ Conference the previous day.  So, seizing the opportunity to reconnect our four-decades-long friendship, we welcomed them to our home for the remaining hours prior to their late afternoon flight.

It is so good to be with treasured, lifelong friends. Paul and Becky came on InterVarsity Christian Fellowship staff together in 1972 and that began a deep and mutually respected friendship. Dick and Becky have spent the past 7 years doing evangelism training throughout Europe and are stateside now as their organization, Saltshaker Ministries, produces numerous curriculums and resources for equipping churches to be engaged in evangelistic outreaches. Though some of the time was spent talking about our respective ministries, much of it was focused on catching up with each other’s lives, families, and reflections. It was such a sweet time of fellowship. 

Dick and Becky Molenhouse spent a day with us and we joyfully caught up on one another’s lives.

Shortly after the Molenhouses left, another couple arrived from California for a couple of days—and when they left on Monday, yet another couple arrived from California for a couple of days. We love sharing our home and our lives, and all three of these visits were delightful.  

And just like that, we were back in the saddle of counseling and Patriots studies. Wednesday, Sept 14, the Pats Women’s Study started with a great group of gals. Many of us hadn’t seen much of each other since the season ended last January, so it was a happy reunion. Thursday we did more counseling and launched the couples’ study with a great group of couples. So we’re off and running in our fall schedule!!

“Running” is the operative word . . . as very early Friday morning, I “ran” off to the airport to fly to Pennsylvania to spend the last 4 days of Derek’s trip to Africa with Julie and the kids.  Two weeks is a long time to be apart and to temporarily be a “single mom” and I was so thankful to help fill in the gap.

Oh the fun we had! Taking walks. Visiting farm animals. Playing with play dough. Reading books. Decorating for fall. Snuggling with babies. Learning about Nathan’s new world in pre-school.

Loved. Every. Minute. Even the ones that came in the middle of the night.  :)

With the “boys of summer” on his back,
Nathan visits the pigs at the farm.

Snuggle time (briefly) with Mama.

Go Sox!!  Even Rachel is being trained right.  :)

Oh, and then there’s our most favorite team: Go Pats!!


The days passed quickly (there’s a blessing in that, I know) and Derek returned from Africa, and I returned to New England, just in time to welcome another set of guests, our dear friends Dick and Nancy Beggs. We’ve known each other for our whole marriage, as we met at the first Christian Camping International Conference we attended in 1977 and we’ve been friends of the heart ever since. The Beggs have been associated with Camp Maranatha in Idyllwild, California, for years and we’ve journeyed with them through the joys and challenges of raising families and working in camping. They only spent one night with us, but we made the most of it.

Dick and Nancy Beggs, from Idyllwild, California, joined us for a night of non-stop talking, a few tears, and a lot of laughter.


This past weekend, we did the first ever marriage conference for Oasis Christian Church in Concord, New Hampshire. Fulfilling the vision of Skip and Avonne Jarvis, who seeded the water by leading a marriage class at the church this past year using our study, In Our Image, the day went off swimmingly. The thirty couples who attended gave very positive feedback and a second annual is already in the works as we agreed to return and speak again next September. Especially sweet for us was having four couples attend who have been long time Berea Family Campers (the NH family camp we’ve directed the past 12 years). Many couples expressed that God really met them in the day. All praise is His.

Berea family campers Gary and Kim Walker, Skip and Avonne Jarvis, Dennis and Heidi Lommen, and not pictured is the Lommens’ daughter Jenny and her husband, Jed. A very special group of friends.


Sunday we taught at their two worship services, thanks to their lead pastor Jon Rose who turned the service over to us. We so enjoyed worshiping with this alive congregation and look forward to continuing our partnership with them.


The Jarvis family . . . Skip and Avonne and their four great kids. We shared a 7:30 am breakfast together and had coherent, meaningful conversation with these set-apart young people. So encouraging!!

That brings us up to today. The chill still hasn’t left and I can see leaves changing before my very eyes. It’s time to put on a jacket and take a walk in the brisk fall air, which we hope is here to stay. Finally. 


Sunset over the lake in Wakefield, Massachusetts.

Rocky Mountain High 2

“Be exalted, O Lord, above the heavens . . .”  This photo was taken out of the window of the plane flying from Denver to San Diego. The changing skyscape kept us mesmerized for almost an hour.  It was spectacular.


This August has been different than any other in our married life.  We’ve always done family camps in August, the last 18 of which have been in New England. As we passed the mantle to Camp Berea’s executive director, Nate Parks, at the end of last summer’s camping season, we didn’t know what God would have in store for us. Thankfully, and not surprisingly, He had a great plan (which is still unfolding as I write this) and we are truly grateful for how He has met us during this transitional year.

Usually, as soon as family camps wrap up at CBS, we fly directly to New England to do two more weeks of family camp. 

Not this year.

The decision to turn family camps over to Berea came after much prayer and many conversations. Topping the list of “this is right to do now”: first, we were (rightly) convinced that Nate and his crew were “ready” to assume leadership/responsibility for continuing the tradition as they fully embraced and “got” the ethos of family camp and were committed to continuing that, and second, the cost of flying the staff back to run the family camps was escalating every year, making its financial viability more challenging. We were impressed with Nate’s commitment to “getting it right”—which does not mean “doing it exactly as its always been done”—but he pressed to understand the heart, the purpose, the ethos of family camp by careful observation of every component of family camp as well as spending hours asking us the “whys” of each component. We had complete confidence that family camp under his leadership would be different and the same, and it would be good.

We were thrilled and thankful to hear from some family campers who affirmed that very sentiment. It’s very rewarding to have something you’ve poured yourself into and passed on to continue effectively. All praise is His!!

So, since we weren’t doing family camp in New England, the window we needed for our all-family celebration of our 40th anniversary presented itself. Gabe and Kari hosted a small renewal of our vows ceremony at their home in Santa Clarita the day we left CBS. Attended by a small mix of our families and a few chosen family friends, the “ceremony” was conducted by Pastor John Tebay, who was one of the officiants at our wedding, April 24, 1976. Kari, Lisa, and Julie did a beautiful job of putting together a very memorable celebration. It was very meaningful to repeat the vows we had written 40 years earlier and to realize that they really had shaped the ethos of our married life. God has been so faithful.

Here we are: our entire immediate family. Brandon walked me down the aisle after Ana lead the way as the “flower girl.”  Gabe and Derek each read scripture and everyone else did the hard work of making it all happen. It exceeded our expectations.

My dear mama, almost 87, is the only living parent we have and we are so grateful for her health and mobility which allows her to be present at moments like these.

The siblings able to make it included my sisters, (l-r) Sue Hekman, Melissa Collins, and Lucy Silveira, and Paul’s sibs Carol and Wayne Herbst, Beth Helen Smith, and Wayne and Sandra Clark. It meant so much to us to have them there, just as they were 40 years ago.

Pastor John Tebay (and his wife Grace) have been such significant mentors in our lives for well over 40 years and it was such an honor to have John renew our vows. He is a true man of God and he and Grace have been so instrumental in helping to shape our lives.

 
These five weren’t present 40 years ago!  :-)  The next generation, by God’s grace, will carry the mantle of truth in the decades to come.

After a few days with Garcias, we flew home to exchange our CBS wardrobe for speaking clothes and to get our hair cut, paper work sorted, and to check on our house before flying 24 hours later to Denver, CO, where we've spent the last three weekends doing a family and marriage series of sermons for Mission Hills Church. (To watch recordings of the sermons, go to the Mission Hills Church website and click on “Watch Now”)  

What a privilege to serve this way! We loved everything about this “gig.” Mission Hills has had a 75-year history of faithfulness to teaching God’s Word which has well-prepared them for this interim period during which time they’ve been without a pastor for almost 2 years. Danny Oertli (married to our niece, Rayna) is the worship leader at Mission Hills and has filled in a lot of gaps during the interim, one of which has been making sure the pulpit was filled. When the decision was made to do a series on family and marriage, he convinced the staff we would be the best candidates (nepotistic connections help), so the invitation was issued.

It was a huge honor and privilege to serve this congregation. All 4 services (a Saturday night and three Sunday mornings) were filled with eager, receptive, responsive people of all ages. We felt that God really met us each weekend, as well as the listeners—many of whom communicated to us just that. After the second weekend, which focused on marriage, one man told me, “This sermon just saved my marriage.”  Well . . . we know the sermon didn’t save his marriage, but we do know that the Holy Spirit did a work in his heart that morning through the sermon and gave him a vision of hope. There is nothing more exciting/gratifying/humbling than feedback like that.

Between weekends, we played. More exhausted emotionally and physically than we’ve been in a long time, it was a gift from heaven to have two 5-day periods “free.” We had some sweet time with the Oertli family celebrating Jack’s 16th birthday, before flying to San Diego between the first two weekends to hang out with my mom.

Jack’s 16th birthday celebration started with brunch at his Aunt Susie’s house. Such a great time!!

Our days in San Diego were perfect. It’s rare that we get to spend more than 2 days with my mom due to our crazy schedule, so this was gift in so many ways. My mom is easy. Never demanding, never complaining about not seeing enough of us, always thankful and appreciative. That makes our times together so precious. Adding delight, Lisa joined us for two days and Lisa makes everything better.

Goers and doers that we are, we convinced Mom to go to “Night Zoo” at the San Diego Zoo Tuesday and our two-hour stay couldn’t have been better. Perfect temp for enjoying the zoo, we (meaning Paul) wheeled her around and we took it all in. Just after sunset, we all took the Skyfari. My mom never ceases to amaze me.

On a roll, we took her to the “Greatest Generation Ever” memorial on the San Diego waterfront the next night. It was truly moving to see her response to this fitting tribute to her generation. Our days together couldn’t have been improved upon. So grateful!

Along with my sister Melissa, we had a great night at the zoo. The bronzed gorilla is no relation.


The “Greatest Generation Ever” memorial includes a bronzed collection of injured veterans being entertained by Bob Hope, with a continuous loop of one of his comedy routines being broadcast. Pretty remarkable.

The iconic farewell (or welcome home) embrace is one we were well familiar with as “Navy Brats." Right at this harbor, my father’s ships made many departures (full of tears) and returns (full of joy). So many memories are evoked by this incredible statue.

Back to Denver we flew after this lovely week with my mom, and after teaching at all four services that weekend, we spent four days at Twin Lakes in a cabin graciously made available to us by our dear friends, Dave and Kathleen. Off the grid in a big way, we anticipated getting a lot of writing done, but our bodies and souls were in greater need of rest and renewal so we gave in to the call of the mountains and lakes and hiked 6–10 miles daily. It was just what we needed. Having never hiked in the Rockies, we got a crash course in the effects of altitude when we hiked Aspen Mountain. Between thin air and a huge thunderstorm materializing out of nowhere (and breaking just as we made it to the lodge at the top), we had a very memorable hike—fortunately, with a happy ending (we are still alive). After four days of such recreating, we made our way back to Denver, refreshed and ready.

Hiking to “Interlaken” along the first lake . . . breathtaking!!

Taken from Independence Pass on our way to Aspen, this photo doesn’t really do justice to the incredible beauty—so use your imagination.

Paul, fully recovered from his brush with altitude sickness on the climb to the top of Aspen, stands on the platform upon which he married Wes and Anna Welker four years ago.

One of the most memorable encounters of our time in Colorado was meeting up with Bob and Jeannie Mannes, now 95 and 92 respectively. Campus by the Sea owes a huge debt of gratitude to Bob and Jeannie, who served as the summer directors of CBS from 1956–1970. Their tenure at CBS came to a close due to Bob’s promotion to Dean of Students at USC, which eliminated his professorial “summers free” schedule. They raised their five children at CBS, summer after summer, and Jeannie said, “All of our children believe that their summers at CBS were life-shaping for them.” We had the sweetest visit with them, comparing notes about people we know in common, and we were most impressed with their sharp-as-tacks memories. It’s so meaningful for us to connect with peers of Paul’s parents who have so much history with CBS. What a happy, blessed reunion!

Jeannie and Bob Mannes were most gracious to receive us for a “down memory lane” visit in their home in Denver.

Our last weekend in Denver was packed with great moments with great people.  Elsa Stanley, one of our all-time favorites from CBS (family-camper-turned-staff-member), recently moved to Ft Morgan, Colorado, for a teaching job and spent Saturday afternoon with us following our visit with Bob and Jeannie. Time is always too short with Elsa, but we packed it in during the window we had. After the Saturday night service, we enjoyed fellowship and food with the Oertlis. And Sunday after church, we were thrilled to be part of a CBS reunion of sorts hosted by Joel and Tiffany Ann Johns. The group was a mix of long-time CBS family campers (including Amity Close Wicks and her family and Stephen McLaughlin and his family), and newer CBS family campers (the Formes family, the Becketts, and the Johns), and the in-betweeners (Laura Long), and the never-been-to-CBS-but-new-to-Colorado (the Kyners). It was a lovely afternoon. We were well fed and hosted and they pulled off a sweet surprise “Happy 40th anniversary” CBS-style skit for us, complete with cake and well wishes. We’re still surprised and deeply touched by their kindness.

Elsa and I had a great time together catching up.

A wonderful group of CBS family campers gathered for food and fellowship in Parker on the Johns’ family ranch.


One more sweet celebration of our 40th. 


We also managed to meet up with our niece Kristi Rottschafer Daggett and her family at a local park in Castle Rock AFTER the Johns’ gathering, and then we made one final stop at Danny Oertli’s parents’ home before heading to the airport for our red-eye home. We truly couldn’t be more thankful for our three weekends in Denver, nor could we be more aware of how significantly God met us.

The Daggetts—Kristi, Tim, Isaac, Maddie, and Joel—met us at a park for a wonderful time of reconnection.


Our final social gathering prior to flying home—bbq and s’mores at Danny Oertli’s parents’ home. Delightful!


Refreshed and renewed, it was such a joy to return to Bedford and be greeted by Derek and Julie, Nathan and Rachel, who were awaiting our arrival. After a quick breakfast together, Derek and Julie took off for Maine to celebrate their 5th anniversary, leaving the littles with us for three days. They had a great getaway and we had loved every minute with the grands. Parks, stroller walks, playing games, and observing the simple delights of life through the eyes of a 3-year-old and a 9-month-old filled the days and “took us back.” Since we were playing “man to man” defense, it was very manageable and “easy.” We’re so thankful for the privilege.

We “rocked it” with Nathan and Rachel for three days while their parents got away. Loved every moment.

Derek and Julie returned Wednesday afternoon, glowing, and after a lovely celebration dinner of steak and artichokes a la Derek, Thursday rolled in and the Johnsons rolled out mid-morning for home and we flew out mid-afternoon for Michigan. Just like that.

So I write from Michigan, where the 2/42 Church second annual family camp (Fr-amily Camp) is underway. We’re honored to partner with this very alive, very vision-driven church again this year and were thankful for a strong launch last night. Next weekend we’ll be back at Campus by the Sea for the third annual Labor Day Family Camp and that will officially close our summer.

In many ways, it’s been the shortest summer . . . and the longest.

The best . . . and the hardest.

Energizing . . . and exhausting.

Hope-giving . . . and discouraging.

That’s kind of how life is, though, isn’t it?  Evil, sin, and hardship will interrupt perfection as long as we’re on the earth, but our great hope, encouragement, and perseverance is fueled by our eternal hope in Jesus. He continues to be faithful and gives us energy, hope, purpose, and vision.

And for that, we give thanks from the depths of our souls and we press on towards His heart.

Whether we’re high in the Rockies or not.

Sunrise behind us as the moon sets before us over the Rockies. Such assurance that He goes before us and behind us, always present, always with us. How comforting! All praise is His.

Endings and Beginnings


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.

Mark Barrett’s small group circles around one of their guys who decided to follow Jesus as camp wrapped up. They presented him with a Bible and are committed to praying for him. His decision for Christ follows 14 years of his grandmother bringing him to family camp. 
One of the 14 baptisms in Newfound Lake . . .
. . . with some of the witnesses celebrating this meaningful declaration.

Guy Steele, “Mr. Banner Man,” explains the tradition of families making banners as a memorial of their family camp week, as 18 banners, all made by the Glen and Barbara Franks family over the past 18 years, are paraded across the stage.  How cool is that???
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.

Mini-golfing—what fun. 

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!

One of the Best

The sun sets on another summer at Campus by the Sea.


The rhythmic sound of the tide coming and going over the rolling rocks has been replaced by early morning loons calling from the placid waters of Newfound Lake, and we know we’re not at Campus by the Sea this week. Just like that, seven weeks of living at “a little piece of heaven by the sea” is history and we’re off and running at Berea for two weeks of Family Camp.  

We begin these weeks at Berea with hearts overflowing with gratitude for the incredible ways God met us and showed His faithfulness at CBS. The summer theme of “Living to the praise of His glory” taken from Ephesians 1 set the bar. That theme was woven through the curriculum, the worship, and the devotions. We challenged our staff (and ourselves) to process all decisions, thoughts, and actions through the rubric of “Will this help me live to the praise of His glory?” It showed. Consistently the staff chose to serve whole-heartedly, to embrace the opportunities unique to an “off the grid” discipleship community, and to live honorably in the community by submitting to the community standards. It was a delightfully productive, drama-free summer, marked by deep solidarity and growth. Nothing but gratitude.

We served together, learned together, grew together, played together, hiked together, laughed together, cried together. We chose to honor one another by loving well, encouraging each other, and helping each other grow.  As masks came off during our 49-day community experience, we chose to accept idiosyncrasies and challenge ungodliness. We learned to love those we found hard to love. We rediscovered how good it was to have real time conversations face-to-face, and we regained oodles of hours normally eaten up by Facebook, video games, texting, etc.  We helped each other “live to the praise of His glory.”  It was a rich, growth-producing summer.

Since a “picture paints a thousand words,” I’m posting numerous photos representing staff life, Summer 2015.

The entire staff team: facilities, program, and year-round staff.
The program staff.

The “staff only” annual shore hike . . . pausing at Frog Rock.

For the first time in a long while, the 4th of July fell on Saturday,
so we rented the "Blanche W” and took the staff in to watch the fireworks in Avalon Harbor, followed by a flying fish tour.  Such a fun night!

Every Saturday night the staff enjoyed Paul’s freshly baked
chocolate chip cookies—much to their delight.
The annual tea party for staff women was delightful.

In a most unusual twist, Family Camp 5 arrived in RAIN, and in order to keep our campers as dry as possible, the our staff cheerfully got drenched.

The annual staff-only hike to Lone Tree took place during Family Camp 5,
and though it didn’t draw a large crowd, those who went had a great time.
The “Staff Coffeehouse” was resurrected this summer, featuring some great acts as well as some great desserts.  “Pavlova” a la Vonny was the biggest hit.

Into town for our “staff appreciation dinner” to celebrate our seven weeks of serving together.

Dave and Vonny were our “right hand people” serving as the “deans” of the staff cove,
Little Gallagher’s, as well as leading the college group.
Vonny also directed the elementary program.  So thankful for them!

All six weeks of family camp were full of great teaching, incredible fellowship, and numerous moments of being showered by God’s grace. Decisions were made for Christ. Hope was given to struggling marriages. Baptisms were celebrated. Parents and children were encouraged to work together as a team. Milk jug boats were entered in the “Annual Boat Race.” Square dancing on the basketball court was repeated six times, but was never tired of. The game show, “Go for the glory,” was wildly popular. Worship under the stars, around the campfire ring, followed by s’mores . . . unbeatable.  

The host and hostess of “Go For the Glory” . . . stylin’!!

We were also beyond thankful to have our whole immediate family at camp, as well as many of our extended family.  What a joy to have our grandchildren loving the program, singing the “Butterfly Song”, and hanging out with Papa and Gigi.  This feels like it’s coming full circle.

The “fam” minus Gabe, who had returned to the mainland to lead 
the college missions trip from his church.

Nathan helps Papa ring the bell for announcements.

A bunch of Friesens, Herbsts, Rottschafers, Clarks, Oertlis, Millers, and Stucks.
So fun to have them all at camp!

The original 3: Kari, Julie, and Lisa.


Some big changes within our family happened during these seven weeks. Julie, Derek, and Nathan have moved stateside from Uganda, settling near Lemoyne, PA (outside of Harrisburg), to spend the foreseeable future working at the CURE headquarters. Derek’s new role will be in development and long-term sustainability. Though it was very hard to leave all they love in Uganda, they are looking forward to their new life in Pennsylvania, especially as they await the birth of their second child in early November.

Lisa has resigned her position as head athletic trainer for UCLA women’s basketball and on Aug. 17 will assume the position of Associate Professor at California Baptist University (CBU) located in Riverside, CA.  She’ll teach two undergrad and two master’s level athletic training courses and is looking forward to a more normal schedule, with improved work/life balance.  She’ll leave a large portion of her heart at UCLA with the student athletes she has served and loved so well, as well with her athletic training colleagues. We’ll continue to follow the Lady Bruins with support and love.

We’re still finding it hard to believe that our summer at CBS is over . . . but it will surely go down in history as one of the best.





A Lifetime Ago

Re-reading my last blog post (March 22, 2015), it does seem like a lifetime ago.  The snow is now gone and signs of (a very late) spring are beginning to surface.  We’ve traveled 22,628 miles and spent almost 50 hours in the air since then.  We’ve been home 5 days since mid-March, and most of those have been filled with counseling or speaking locally.

No wonder our arrival in Uganda feels like a lifetime ago!

Before we hit the air again (in just over 30 hours), I’ll try to catch up with myself by reflecting on this “lifetime” in a few short paragraphs.

Perhaps what makes it seem so “epic” is that 3 of the past 4.5 weeks were spent in Africa.  It’s not only geographically far away, its culture and lifestyle are even more “far away” from our middle class American life.  The sights, sounds, and smells are constant reminders that we’re a long way from home… that is, until we reunited with our daughter and her family awaiting our arrival at Entebbe, and then, amazingly, we instantly felt “at home.” It’s amazing how relationships always transcend place.

And so began the fulfillment of our long-held dream to have our whole family experience Julie, Derek, and Nathan’s world together.  Our arrival on March 17th was followed by Gabe, Kari, Brandon, and Ana’s on the 18th, and finally by Lisa’s on the 19th.  No small miraculous feat in itself…accomplishment by Paul who spent countless hours booking and re-booking flights for this trip.  Thankful for safe air travel for all, we continued traveling as we piled in vehicles and drove 5 hours to Mbale, the town in eastern Uganda that houses the CURE Pediatric Hospital where Derek serves as the executive director.  

Our first day in Mbale, visiting the CURE Children’s Hospital.


We had 10 days all together in Uganda and we made the most of them given the “constraints” we had given that 3 of the 10 family members were age 4 and under.  Bless those little ones!  We may have gotten no rest were it not for the napping and early-to-bed needs of such company.  

Our days in Mbale were divided between visiting the babies and mamas at the hospital (the highlight for everyone), playing in the Johnsons’ yard, taking walks in the neighborhood, eating fabulous meals a la Derek and Julie, and grabbing an occasion cup of cappuccino at the Endiro Coffee Shop.  We did venture on a “field trip” to Sipi Falls one day and enjoyed a short hike to a beautiful waterfall, but other than that, our world existed within about a 3-mile range between the hospital and their home.  Paul and I did one whole day of teaching on marriage for JENGA during the time we were all together, but otherwise we majored on the delight of being together as a family and we immersed ourselves in the Johnsons’ world.

Auntie Lisa and Brandon visit a sweet mama and her baby.

Gabe, Kari, and Ana went from bed to bed, talking and praying with the mamas.

Our day trip to Sipi Falls was wonderful and all made the hike
except Derek, who was nursing a knee injury.

Daily walks in the neighborhood gave us exercise and insights into the life and culture of Mbale.

The JENGA crew who spent the day with us being trained in Biblical marriage.

We loved every minute of it.  It was re-inspiring to view their life anew through the first-time eyes of the Garcia family. Brandon was beside himself with excitement to see Chiko II (the monkey that has been hanging out in the Johnsons’ yard for the last several months) swinging in the trees in their yard as well as the herds of Ankole cows ambling down the dirt road in front of the Johnsons’ house every morning and night.  Ana loved the Johnsons’ dogs, their son Nathan (who is just 2 months older than she is, and they did have some competitive moments of non-sibling rivalry), and all the babies at the hospital. Gabe and Kari were impressed by the mission and work of the hospital as well as by the realities of living in a developing country for the Johnsons. It’s hard to grasp what that means until you experience it firsthand.  Our awareness of the sacrifices and challenges of their life were heightened.

We also had an early 30th birthday celebration for Julie. We were all so happy to get to honor her in person for this milestone.

Chiko II pays us a visit during our outdoor breakfast.

The “cows come home” after a day of grazing.

We celebrated Julie’s 30th a bit early at the Endiro Coffee Shop.


After a week in Mbale, we headed northwest to Murchison Falls Game Park to go on a safari.  In spite of lots of rain, we had a fabulous time viewing the incredible creativity of God as seen in giraffes, elephants, Cape Buffalo, a female lion and her cubs, deer, antelope, wart hogs, hippos, crocodiles, eagles, and more.  We drove for about 5 hours through the savannah and then took a 3-hour “cruise” on the Nile up to Murchison Falls.  It was an unforgettable day and one we hated to see end.  

After a very long and bumpy 8-hour drive, a very happy crew arrives at Bwana Tembo,
our lodging for our safari.

Brandon was enthralled with every sighting, and was especially captivated by this giraffe that followed us for awhile.

On the Nile River cruise, we enjoyed watching these elephants frolic in the water.

We think it’s a friendly smile...

With Murchison Falls in the background, we get a family shot on the Nile.

What all good mates do: carefully groom their spouse.

Continuing our family tradition, we circled up to pray before parting ways.


We parted ways the next morning, with the Garcias and Lisa driving to Entebbe to fly home and Johnsons and us heading back to Mbale.  Paul and I had many great ministry opportunities the next week:  we did an all-day pastors’ conference focusing on marriage training, we spoke for a couples’ date night for Pearl Haven Christian Center, we spoke at the Easter Convention and for a pastor’s prayer breakfast, we did a bit of counseling, we hung out at the hospital, and we spent time with several missionary families.  We had the joy of celebrating Easter at Pearl Haven and were so lifted by the worship of our uninhibited African brothers and sisters.  Glorious!

We spent a day training these local pastors in marriage ministry.

Pastor Wilberforce and Sarah Okumu, who lead the fellowship at Pearl Haven Christian Center, attended the couples’ date night dinner.

We spoke at the Pastor’s Prayer Breakfast during the Easter Convention.


We also spoke to the whole Easter Convention after the prayer breakfast.


Nathan and his good friend Faruke, whose father John is the groundskeeper for the Johnsons.  Faruke is a wonderful, motivated young man who will be sorely missed
when the Johnsons return to the States this summer.

April 7 we left Uganda to begin a very long trip home, which thankfully went without hitch, landing us in Boston late afternoon on the 8th.  No time for jet lag recovery as we counseled all day the 9th and ran our annual “Worth It” purity family conference all day the 11th.  

Yes, that was a very fast transition….and the Lord met us with amazing strength and energy.  We were thrilled to have a packed house for Worth It, which featured New England Patriots Nate Solder and Matthew Slater (with his wife Shahrzad), retired Patriot Don Davis, Camp Berea Director Nate Parks, UCLA head athletic trainer for women’s basketball Lisa Friesen, Grace Chapel Wilmington youth minister Adam Rowe, and LCA Creative Arts Director Christopher Greco and his wife Dorothy.  All spoke with power, clarity, and conviction regarding the goodness of God’s design for our sexuality and relationships.  


The “Worth It” speaking team — such a great group!!!  So thankful for them.

Calvary Christian Church in Lynnfield hosted our annual “Worth It” conference
and the house was packed.

No rest yet: on Sunday Paul preached both services at Hope Community Church in Newburyport and that evening we returned to the church to speak for a Couples’ Dessert Night.  This was an event which had been snowed out in February and we were so glad we had a day to reschedule it.  We thoroughly enjoyed partnering with this alive church.

We rested on Monday, April 13th, as we flew to California.  :)  Tuesday and Wednesday we partnered with Grace Baptist Church of Santa Clarita, speaking at a mom’s event Tuesday morning and doing training for their Care Ministry teams on Tuesday night, Wednesday morning, and Wednesday night.  It was great working with Dan Broyles, their Director of Care Ministries.

Thursday was all about the Garcia grandkids: visiting the fish and turtle pond at the mall, eating at Chick-Fil-A, playing baseball in the back yard, building Legos creations, baking Gigi cakes, having “wrestle time”, and taking walks.  What’s not to love about grandparenting?!!

A favorite destination . . .

. . . and this is why!  Quite mesmerizing to watch these turtles and koi.


On to Tehachapi, California, on Friday to do a marriage conference for the Tehachapi Mountain Vineyard. This church plant of the Desert Vineyard in Lancaster is thriving in this small mountain town under the shepherding of Barry and Saundra Galloway.  We were enveloped by their love and grace from the moment we arrived Friday evening until we left Sunday afternoon. The well-attended marriage conference Friday night and Saturday was vibrant and alive. We were very encouraged by the receptivity and teachability of the attendees. We spent Saturday evening talking with their ministry staff about balancing ministry and family, and then taught at both of their Sunday morning services on “Living to the Praise of His Glory.”  It was a very well-spent weekend.

Barry and Saundra Galloway shepherd the flock at Tehachapi Mountain Vineyard
and are impossible not to love.

A Campus by the Sea family camp planning meeting took place in the afternoon, followed by the UCLA women’s basketball banquet, and then a red-eye home.  Whaaaat???  Gluttons for punishment, perhaps, but it feels like we somehow gained a day, especially when flying west to east.  Our bodies aren’t fooled by such trickery, however, so we weren’t very productive after getting home early afternoon Monday.

Lisa, Head Coach Cori Close, and I get a photo prior to the Women’s Basketball Banquet.
Though it’s only been a month, it still somehow seems like a lifetime ago since I last wrote.  We are beyond thankful for all that’s gone down in this last month and are cherishing memories that will last a lifetime.  

I Must Stop Blinking!

Three short weeks ago we were wrapping up our 7th week at Campus by the Sea and today I'm 4 days in to recovering from my ventral hernia repair surgery, which took place Tuesday, two days after we got all of our New England family camp staff to the airport, ending our nine-week-straight-out-ministry-packed summer. I must stop blinking!!

If ever we have been more aware of God's gracious and generous hand of provision and protection upon us, I'm not sure when it would be. Arriving in New England on Sunday, Aug. 3, after red-eying it out from California just hours after wrapping up Family Camp 6 at CBS, we were concerned: about health, strength, integrating the supplemental staff who would be joining our very cohesive pre-existing team, the weather (something we never worry about at CBS!), etc.  

We prayed.  And prayed.  That God would supernaturally meet us . . . and He did. In spades.

Both weeks at Berea were exceptional. Beginning and ending with the staff, who became a team very quickly and served tirelessly and cheerfully.  We all agreed that it would help no one to talk about how tired we were, so at our first staff meeting that Sunday afternoon, we collectively pronounced, "We're tired!" and decided that was all that needed to be said. Naps during the first two afternoons and observed bedtime helped close the gap, and thankfully we all made it.        

We can't really say enough about the delight of working with this group of "cream of the crop" kids. They served well, modeled Christlike character, invested in the campers, honored the community, and had a blast together. Pulling together the "right" staff is always a challenge and God provided for all of the needs, some of which we didn't know we had until we had them!

Staff team for HIM/Berea Family Camp Week 1
Staff team for HIM/Berea Family Camp Week 2


Ashoke and Stephanie Bachew from Trinidad were our resource couple for the two weeks.  Ashoke's testimony—of coming to Christ from his Hindu background when 14 short term missionaries from Michigan did a Backyard Bible Club in his town forty-six years ago—was inspiring.  Only 7 children came to those meetings, but all met Christ and the six young men all went in to full time ministry (including Ashoke and his brother Kiki) and the young woman served in the education department of the Trinidad government and is credited with introducing Religious Instruction (RI) into the schools.  What incredible fruit!

Ashoke and Stephanie Bachew joined us from Trinidad for our two weeks of family camp at Berea.

Ashoke's story-telling teaching style was real, down-to-earth, honest, and passionate, reflecting the depth of his heart for the Lord.  Stephanie sang a solo at each session which was ministry in itself. They made themselves available throughout the weeks and many campers took advantage of meeting with them individually. They served well and were so appreciated. They were accompanied by their son Joshua, who took delight in serving whenever and wherever he could.

There were many unforgettable moments during the two weeks of family camp. During camp 1, eight youths were baptized and each articulated their faith journey with clarity and boldness. Four adults chose to be baptized during the second camp in the presence of a community they've come to know and love.

Newfound Lake provided the perfect setting for baptism for these eight . . .

. . .  and during week 2, these four adults.

On the last day of each camp, Paul honored Bill and Ruth Campbell.  "Salt of the earth" servants for Christ, these two are deeply loved by all who come to Berea.  Ruth's domain is the camp store, where selling merchandise is second to reinforcing Bible verse memorization.  Ruth rewards any camper who recites verses from scripture with "Berea Bucks,” currency honored in the store. She is loved by all.  Bill superintends the rifle range, besides maintaining the grounds, washing dishes, serving in the buffet line, or doing whatever else is needed.  They are rare gems who are exchanging "retirement" for full-on Kingdom work and are such an inspiration! From each family camp, Guy Steele made a banner for family campers to sign and express appreciation to the Campbells for all they do for and mean to family camps. It's always such a delight to honor such well-deserving partners.

Bill Campbell accepts the signed banner from Paul during our closing session.

Berea Family Camp traditions are so beloved.  The all family "finger blasters" battle is always a favorite. Inter-generational and all-out, the gym is the scene of unmitigated enthusiasm, competition, and laughter as the (mostly) harmless "finger blasters" are aimed at the opposition. The rules are ignored as are “hits," but everyone, from the youngest to the oldest, has a blast. Paul and I had our annual "shoot-out" each week and we both walked away with a win. Which makes it a "win-win." 

The staff have their own finger-blasters battle after the campers have cleared out . . .
one of the many perks of being on staff here.  :)

Another beloved tradition is having worship and s'mores at the fire ring.   Following the game night, this is such a highlight of each week. Perhaps it's being in the great outdoors, in the cool crisp night air, with the expanse of the heavens providing the backdrop...but worship is always so robust, heartfelt, and joyful in this venue.  And interacting with family campers serving s'mores is a blast. Love this night!!

MaryAnn Bastedo, Melissa Kovacs, and Josh Bachew join me in serving s'mores at this station . . . 
. . . while Shelby Krueger, Jessica Hopkins, Naomi Frey, and Elissa Johnson
keep customers happy at the other station.

The amphitheater was packed for our outdoor worship evening and
perfect weather enhanced the whole experience.

Long after most campers had left the amphitheater, Kelsey O'Keeffe, Kayla Krogh, and Scott Johnston kept the singing going with this little crew of siblings and cousins.  Endless worship!!!

Speaking of worship, throughout both weeks, it was stirring and unifying. Paul Gandy did a great job leading a whole new team at Berea; they didn't miss a beat from the opening session to the last. I love this picture of some of our almost 70 junior high and high schoolers during week 1's closing session.  

The final worship set for week 1.  I love this shot of some of the
70 junior/senior highers at camp this week.  They were tight!


Paul Gandy, Kelsey O'Keeffe, Dakota Baker, and James Yardley lead worship for both camps.  During camp 2, they were joined by Glen and Zachary Powell.  Worship was inspired.


Another highlight for most is being honored by a creative skit if your birthday or anniversary happens to land during family camp.  Directed by staffer Rachel Weeks (who did an incredible job all summer producing skits), this "attack of the ninjas" skit was wildly popular.  She never lacked for willing "actors and actresses" from the staff team to pull off these unique and personalized tributes.

The ninjas await their cue for the birthday skit.

All summer we pray for protection and safety, both physically and spiritually. And for 39 summers, we've been spared any really serious, life-threatening incidents. This summer could've changed all that when during the second week of camp at Berea, one of our campers had an accident doing a back flip at Sculptured Rocks.  Only the hand of God protected him from either death or a paralyzing injury, and after an ambulance ride and hospital visit, he walked away with stitches in the back of his head.  I almost didn't include this account, but God used this "near miss" dramatically in the life of family camp 2, so it would be an omission to not mention it.  Everyone was affected:  the forty or so campers who witnessed the accident (and who all, in some way, became a part of the rescue effort) and everyone else who became a part of the prayer/support team in the aftermath.  When he returned to camp with a relatively minor injury, no one believed it was due to anything less than the intervention of God Himself, who spared us incalculable  trauma and sorrow.  The impact was felt by all.  Person after person testified at the banquet about how God had met them through this near tragedy.  We have not stopped giving thanks to the Lord for this incredible expression of His grace and mercy.


Family camps are a lot of work, for sure, but there are moments of renewal and refreshment along the way.  These are a few glimpses into staff life "outside of the classroom."

Each week, the staff had an audience with Pastor Ashoke,
who taught on full surrender and relationships.

A trip to Sculptured Rocks was fun and cold as each brave staff
jumped into the frigid snow melt pooling river.


Twice-daily staff meetings were punctuated with occasional treats. 
This basket of candy bars from Kelly Plosker brought smiles to all.

Creative rain gear (modeled by Jessica Hopkins and Shelby Dreves) was in order on Wednesday of camp 2 when a huge thunderstorm visited the area from early morning ’til late night.  

Our California staff were amazed that even with such a deluge,
life goes on as though nothing were happening.

In place of the daily Scar hike at CBS, this staff takes a daily 4-mile roundtrip hike
to the lighthouse, followed by a refreshing swim in the lake.

This is it.  Final night . . . after 9 full weeks for most, and 2 for some,
we join arms in the gym to celebrate the faithfulness of God.



And the next morning, after an all-camp photo, we sing "We love you campers, oh yes we do!"
to our loved, departing family campers.


After all that, we spent Saturday, August 16, in Boston, touring and eating and enjoying all that is good in Christian community, before we went in many different directions very early the next morning. And just like that, I blinked, and the summer of 2014 ended.

One last hug before the team began to disperse.  So much love.  Such full hearts.

So there you have it.  A very quick peek into a hall of fame summer.  A summer full of grace, hope, learning, service, pleasure, growth, encouragement, exhaustion, renewal, and community.


Among the many lessons I'll take with me, one will be "do not blink."

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.