Pastor Ashoke Bachew

To Trinidad with Love

It’s hard to believe that a week ago we were flying to Trinidad….and today we are returning to the U.S.  Though it seems like we blinked and the week evaporated, it’s also quite amazing that we got so much packed in to the past six days. I’m sure that comes as a surprise to no one. :)

We arrived in Trinidad late Wednesday night, two days ahead of the marriage conference so we could get an early start to our 40th anniversary celebration. Unbeknownst to me, Paul had clandestinely planned a sweet overnight getaway to Grande Riviere Beach to see the leatherback turtles lay their eggs on the beach at night. One of the few places in the world that this phenomena occurs, nothing could’ve delighted me more. He thoughtfully booked Jen and Javed Bachew to be our escorts on this surprise tour, as he too remembered how traumatized I was two years ago when he drove a rental car on Tobago.  :)  So off we went on the grand adventure, which unfolded in spectacular fashion.  

Arriving in time for a lovely beach walk, the smooth sand betrayed nothing of what would happen at nightfall, save the remnants of turtle egg shells (which had already been found by vultures, dogs, or other turtles digging them up in preparation to lay their eggs) strewn upon the sand. After dinner, we connected with our hired guide and went off to watch one of the most remarkable natural events we’d ever seen.

Like clockwork, the massive leatherback females came lumbering out of the water just after dusk. Dozens of them, emerging from their watery home to commence the hard work of insuring the propagation of the species. Each turtle finds the “right” spot for her and begins a 45-minute process of digging a hole in the sand with her back flippers, one flipper-full at a time, over and over again until she has reached the right depth (which is determined by the length of her flipper). On cue, she begins dropping her eggs in the hole, 50-100 of white, round, rubbery, larger-than-ping-pong-ball-size eggs. When she’s delivered her load, she carefully covers the hole back over with sand and. after “limin’” a bit, makes her way back to the water. It’s clearly very hard work.

We were spellbound. These beautiful reptiles were captivating for sure, but even more amazing was watching them do what they were designed to do. No “doulas” needed for these ladies.  They just did their thing, as God has created them to do, and unless mankind causes their extinction, they’ll continue to do it for centuries to come.

We were super blessed by having a full moon under which to observe this amazing process, especially since no lights (except the infrared light held by the guide) were allowed. According to Jen and Javed, it was one of their best viewings ever. Plenty of turtles made their way right in front of our guest house, so we had easy access, and with the moon, we had plenty of light. God’s gifts are extravagant!! We loved every minute of the adventure.

At 4 am, a huge, unexpected, much-needed rainstorm arrived, wakening us from a dead sleep with thoughts that we were being bombed. Those tin roofs really amplify the noise!! We finally resigned ourselves to not getting back to sleep and walked the beach in the pouring rain. We were rewarded by getting to watch one mama leatherback who was still “limin’” on the beach make her way back into the sea. What a most remarkable experience!

Walking on Grande Riviere Beach

Our first turtle sighting, fortunately just before nightfall so we could capture her with the camera.

Here she is in the glow of the infrared light, with a huge gelatinous salt tear running from her eyes.  The guide explained that this is how they purge excess salt from their system.

After digging for about 45 minutes, she lays her eggs in this 24” deep hole.
Breakfast with Jen and Javed at the guest house prior to making the 2-hour drive back to St. Helena’s.

Wow!! What a great experience. Back to the Trinidad-Tobago Urban Ministries (TTUM) compound early afternoon, we caught a nap before the conference began with dinner at 6 pm. TTUM hosted and underwrote the conference for the almost 50 couples who attended from all over western Trinidad. In the face of crumbling marriages, their vision is to strengthen and encourage marriages in their local churches. This was the second bi-annual such conference and all are committed to keeping the tradition going.

From beginning to end, there was a spirit of openness and receptivity among the attendees. One of the things we love about international work is that the conferees come hungry. They haven’t been over-satiated, over-resourced, and over-fed as many in America are. They eagerly listen, taking it all in, and don’t expect the talks to end before at least an hour and a half has passed. We welcomed their questions and continued conversations during breaks. In between sessions, we were booked for counseling. Our days were full in the best sort of way.

Saturday culminated with a beautiful banquet served at small tables with flowers, while music softly played in the background.  Led by Cindy, the admin for TTUM, the team that put the conference on outdid themselves. Everything was thought of and carried out so well. Every couple who attended felt the “love” of being served and cared for.

At the banquet, we were surprised to be honored for our 40th anniversary. Ashoke gave us a kind tribute and all enjoyed the beautiful cupcake-cake made in honor of the occasion. It was a lovely evening.

The conference ended on Sunday after lunch, and according to Ashoke, the “vibe” was that people felt the weekend was very practical and life-changing. The consensus was to have it every year rather than every other.  :)

All praise is His! We felt very met by Him throughout the weekend.  

Ashoke and Stephanie Bachew, founders of TTUM, are some of our dearest friends and ministry partners. 

The beautiful cupcake-cake for our anniversary celebration.

We were humbled to be so lavishly feted by these dear brothers and sisters in Christ.

A not-great shot of most of those who came to the conference.

After the conference ended, we drove to the little village of Campoo where, with our family missions team in 2001 and 2002, we founded a church. In a primarily Hindu and Muslim village, there was no evangelical church until this one and it was so encouraging to see that the church is still going. Though small, the band of faithful members continue to hold services and outreach to the community.  

Standing with the charter members of the church in Campoo, it was great to see them pressing on with the gospel.

Paul preached Sunday night at church on the compound and then completely surprised me with a renewal of our vows at the end of the service. He had converted the audio tape recorded at our wedding to a CD and we stood face to face, hearing our very young, forty-years-ago voices reciting our original vows. I was blown away. It was a very sweet and memorable moment. He thought of everything!!

Monday, our last day in Trinidad, we drove with Stephanie and Ashoke and Diane to Maracas Bay to walk the beach and eat Bake N Shark. A tradition with the missions teams, we have nothing but great memories of each trip to Maracas Bay . . . and we now have more.  On a picture perfect day, we walked the beach, found sea glass, and then, out of the blue, Paul fell to one knee, claiming injury, but recovering quickly, still on bended knee, he asked me to marry him again. Instead of re-proposing with a metal washer (as he had done back on Dec. 15, 1975—but it was only temporary, for those of you concerned, and quickly replaced with a beautiful solitaire diamond), he presented me with a gorgeous antique diamond ring.  Happy 40th!!  I was again blown away.

Walking on the beach at Maracas Bay.

After a yummy-beyond-description lunch of Bake N Shark (a Trinidadian version of fry bread, topped with freshly caught and fried shark, and then loaded with a large variety of condiments), Stephanie served “Tea on the Beach” for the ladies before packing up and driving back to the compound. A lovelier day couldn’t be imagined!

The smile on Paul’s face tells it all.

Stephanie’s “Tea on the Beach” was a perfect ending to an unforgettable day.

The grand finale of our time in Trinidad was having dinner out with both Bachew couples. Our laughter and talking was unabated for two hours as we confirmed how “in sync” we all are. It was a fitting ending to a great week.

Stephanie and Ashoke and Jen and Javed are “salt of the earth” folks and we are so grateful to have them in our lives.

The restaurant added to the celebration with this special dessert.

We rose earlier than the sun this morning in order to get to the airport on time, but she made her appearance in the eastern sky as we awaited our flight. Though we’ve loved all of our trips to Trinidad, this one is definitely in a league of its own. We hadn’t intended to be speaking on our 40th anniversary weekend originally, but several dates had to be changed in order to accommodate a postponed wedding (due to military deployment) and this is how it ended up going down. At first it seemed like it would be sacrificial to be serving on our 40th, but the blessing was actually ours. We’ll never forget the milestone anniversary we celebrated with the Trinidadian body of Christ.  

Trinidad. The destination of many family missions trips. The place to which both Julie and Kari led college missions trip. The place where Paul found his “brother from another mother” in Ashoke Bachew. The place we had the privilege of planting a church. The place we overcame American inhibitions and boldly went door to door inviting children to Backyard Bible Club. The place we learned about “limin’” and slowing down. The place we fell in love with steel pan drums, worship that moves, doubles and roti and everything curry, and Bake N Shark.

And now the place we proclaimed the goodness of marriage to 50 couples, who celebrated our 40 years of marriage generously.

Trinidad has become a place of memorial for us and our hearts will always be deep for this beautiful Caribbean jewel.  

Our final sunrise in Trinidad on this trip.


Today, April 20, we fly to Port Au Spain, Trinidad, to speak at a marriage conference for Trinidad and Tobago Urban Ministries. Our partnership with TTUM spans 17 years, starting when we took a group of families to serve on our second family missions trip for Grace Chapel. We “clicked” with Ashoke and Stefanie Bachew and their vision for these little islands and have been fast friends and ministry partners ever since. What a welcomed opportunity to return this week for their second bi-annual marriage conference—and how different it is to be going “alone” and not traveling with a team of 25-30, and not hauling hundreds of pounds of supplies for Backyard Bible Clubs! Paul’s sentiments: “This is a whole lot easier!!"

Backing up to Easter, we had a most delightful time hosting friends in our home for Easter week. We had a blast together and learned some new games, including “Tenzi” and "Jousting with Peeps” (use your imagination). We laughed a ton, had deep ponderous discussions, and thoroughly enjoyed every moment shared. Easter Sunday morning, we all attended church together and were most surprised when one of those being baptized related in her story that she had been a young African girl born with “knocked knees” and seemingly relegated to a life lacking mobility until she was sponsored to be surgically repaired at the CURE Hospital! I could barely contain my excitement as these worlds . . . church in Arlington and CURE in Africa . . . intersected in such a life-giving way. A bonus moment on Easter Sunday! The celebration continued in our home as eleven of us gathered around our table, connected by our love for the Risen Lord as well as our love for one another. It was a great day.

Our houseguests from California brought a lot of life and energy to our home during Easter week, starting with Easter Sunday breakfast.

Joyce was born and raised in Africa, and her “knocked knees” were surgically repaired at a CURE Hospital in Africa. Years later, Easter 2016, she was baptized in Arlington, MA.

Our delightful gathering on Easter Sunday, with much talking, laughter, and fellowship.

Between March 4 and April 9, we’ve hosted the H.I.M. marriage conference, Engagement Matters, and Worth It. I guess you could say we’ve been on a relationship roll.  

The weekend following Easter, April 2-3, our Engagement Matters conference was held in Andover, MA, at the home of Seth and Melanie Bilazarian. As always, stimulating conversations and probing questions were exchanged in an attempt to help these couples sort through important matters which will have an impact on their married life. We always tell the couples at the beginning of the weekend, “There are at least three potential outcomes of this weekend. One possibility is confirming that you are right for each other and that your timing is good to move ahead towards marriage. A second possibility is that you’ll decide you’re headed in the right direction, but you could benefit from more time before you decide on marriage. The third possibility is that you’ll decide you are not right for each other and though that’s a painful discovery, it’s far less painful to decide that on this side of the altar than the other.”  Our belief is that some marriage problems can be avoided with good pre-marriage work.

We are so thankful for our Engagement Matters teammates Ryan and Kelly Plosker, Carl and Cathy Blatchley, and Melanie Bilazarian. We are all kept very busy through the weekend, interacting with the couples formally and informally. We all have such deep hearts for each of them to make wise, God-honoring decisions.  

Most of the couples who attended EM April 2–3 . . . though some had already slipped out before this photo was snapped.

After one of the mildest winters in a while, the last thing we expected was that a snowstorm would cause the cancellation of our speaking to the Park Street Church Union group on Monday, April 4. Very fortunately, it was able to be re-scheduled for Thursday, the 7th, and we spoke to a packed room of young marrieds on the subject of marital sexuality. We were very impressed with the thoughtful questions submitted after our presentation, which were answered in the remaining 45 minutes of the evening. We were reminded that as pervasive as “sex” is in our culture, few seem to have a place to go with their questions, especially if seeking Biblical guidance. It was a great evening . . . 

. . . and, an appropriate lead-in to the following weekend, “Worth It!”  Our annual purity conference (the pre-engagement, pre-marriage conference we host), geared for families, was beset with challenges this year, from speaker availability to logistics. Our “normal” line-up of NFL couples had scheduling/family conflicts of all sorts, reducing our “headliners” to Don Davis (retired) and Matthew and Shahrzad Slater. At the ninth hour, the Slaters had to cancel due to the funeral of his aunt in Mississippi (though they kindly recorded a message to the attendees which we showed during the conference), so Don carried the NFL ball alone this year.  He was up to the task!  He also was accompanied by a stellar line-up of Nate Parks (executive director of Camp Berea), Paul Friesen (director of H.I.M.), Kate Wylie (wife of figure skating Olympic Silver Medalist Paul Wylie), Lisa Friesen (professor of athletic training at California Baptist University), Chris and Dorothy Greco (speakers, writers), and Adam Rowe (youth pastor for Grace Chapel Wilmington). All of the speakers led both plenary sessions and workshop sessions, and they all truly knocked it out of the park. 

Hosted by Trinity Baptist Church of Nashua, the packed crowd was fully engaged in the day as the “gospel” of relationships was proclaimed. The audience, made up of parents and teens, was delighted with the clarity of the messages, especially against the back drop of a culture whose confusion regarding these subjects only increases. There is such relief in hearing truth spoken.

Here are some of the comments written on evaluations at the end of the day:

"Excellent speakers.  All of them.  I took something from each talk.  Thank you!!”  (15-year-old male)
"I appreciated that nothing was sugar-coated.  It helped me realign my thoughts on what really matters in life.”  (15-year-old male)
"I loved attending with my teenage daughter.  It opened up opportunities for us to discuss topics we had not, and gave me the way to do it.  I wish I had known these things when I was a teen.”  (female parent)
"I recently asked God to please show me someone that was going through the same struggle of staying pure.  I am so happy this conference exists and I am thinking of so many people to bring next year.  This conference helped me get closer to God.”  (17-year-old female)
"Really appreciated the candor and vulnerability of the speakers.” (male parent)
"Getting to spend the day at 'Worth It' reinforced what we have been attempting to teach them about relationships.”  (male and female parents)
"The things I learned today will change the things I do in the future.”  (14-year-old female)
"Most of the speakers were fun so it helped teens who were not thrilled to attend.”  (female parent)
"You guys fit so much into one day! Well done. Thank you so much for your ministry!  God bless!”  (female parent)

We all agreed that it was one of the best “Worth It” conferences ever, and for that, we say “Thank you, Jesus!”  All praise is His!!

Paul Friesen opens the day with passion and humor, instantly helping all attendees relax.

Kate Wylie uses some volunteers to illustrate how hard it is to have a foot in both worlds.

Lisa Friesen challenges the teens with the question, “What is your BRAND?” (Belief, Reason, Accountability, No, and Dream)  As our “token” single, she was winsome in affirming her trust in a very personal God who continues to meet her as she trusts Him for her future mate.

Adam Rowe addressed the issue of media and technology, hitting hard on the destructive nature of pornography.

Don Davis wrapped up the day with the good news of forgiveness and the hope of redemption.

In the absence of the rest of the NFL crew, Paul creatively had a DVD made of interviews with the couples who would’ve been there. The DVD featured Benjamin and Kirsten Watson, Danny and Stacia Woodhead, Matthew and Shahrzad Slater, Ryan Wendell and Meridith Bartman (who are engaged to be married in July), as well as Don Davis.  It was really well done (thanks to the creative work of Jake and Kaylee Gosselin) and was a great addition to the day.

It takes many helping hands to put on such a conference, and once again Jim and Sue Martis and their able team pulled it off with excellence.  The day went like clockwork and we are deeply grateful for the many who helped make it so.

The aftermath . . . cleaned up and packed away . . . these folks stayed ’til the end. So grateful for them!

The dust had barely settled on “Worth It” before Lisa and I flew to California on Sunday while Paul happily stayed home to work on a myriad of house and writing projects. I had the joy of spending the week with Kari, Brandon, and Ana, while Gabe was with his pastoral staff team from Grace Baptist Church, Santa Clarita, attending the “Together for the Gospel” conference in Louisville, KY.  Oh what fun it was to have five delicious days with Brandon and Ana (and their mama, of course.)  Brandon and I had “sleep overs” every night, ensuring that the day would close with reading some childhood favorites. Baking, going to the park, playing “Candyland” and doing some special outings filled up the days and all too quickly I was boarding a plane for Raleigh, NC, where I joined Paul who was officiating the wedding of Parker and Katie.  

The cuties I spent a week with in California. I can never get enough of the grands!

The wedding was a celebration of so many great things, and we enjoyed every minute of it. We’ve shared many important moments with this family through the years and it was such an honor to share this milestone event with them. Every time Paul does a wedding, he’s flooded with responses from those unfamiliar with a Christian perspective. He most often hears, “I’ve never heard marriage spoken about that way. You’ve given me something to really think about.”  What a privilege to proclaim God’s good design for marriage to a world that desperately needs to hear it.

Held at the beautiful Carolina Inn on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill, the ceremony was a declaration of the gospel of marriage.

Not wanting to miss an opportunity to encourage marriages, we welcomed the opportunity to do a mini-marriage conference for the Trinity Park Church.  Connected by Corrado and Penny Grieci (former New Englanders and long time friends), we spent the morning with a very receptive and warm audience.  It was a bonus to catch up with the Griecis as well.

Friends from Trinity Park Church attended the marriage seminar on Saturday, April 16.
After the wedding festivities ended, we spent Sunday reconnecting with James and Joe Yardley, both who attend UNC-Chapel Hill. After church, at which Joe was playing keys, we had a lively conversation over lunch. It was so encouraging to catch up with these two college students (who we’ve known since they were 1 and 3 years old) whose hearts are for the Lord. Next visit, my 88-year-old second cousin, Sis, who is a lifelong Raleigh-ite. Impressively spry and a delightful conversationalist, our time with her passed far too quickly. We rounded out the day with Roy and Jenny Kelly, beloved friends who used to live in New England. It was great to catch up with them after not having seen them face to face in such a long time. More important relationships!

Back home, briefly, for a day of counseling, and now we’re off to Trinidad for a week.

Forty years ago today we were counting the final four days until we would be united as husband and wife. We’re both finding it hard to wrap our minds around 40 years! While thousands of memories swirl in my head as we anticipate reaching this milestone on Sunday, April 24, the overwhelming sentiment centers on the faithfulness of God. We sang “Great is Thy Faithfulness” at our wedding and believed that “morning by morning new mercies we see.” We have clung to “All I have needed Thy hand has provided” and we affirm, “Great is Thy Faithfulness, Lord unto me.”

Humbling. Blessed. So loved. The most important relationship of all: He loves us and promises to be faithful. That’s the key to our 40 years together. All praise is His.
Our wedding party . . . sooo late 70’s. Love it!

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."