On Saturday October 15, Covenant Pines Ministries held its first annual Board Alumni Breakfast. About 25 former board members gathered to reconnect, hear updates about CPM and ask questions about our ministry. Familiar faces gathered together around coffee and pastries – it felt like a mini reunion.

This gathering had people who attended the first ever summer camp at Covenant Pines, former full time staff members, representatives of the transition Committee from Adventurous Christians, the first woman to ever serve on the Covenant Pines Board and more. It was a great morning together.

The purpose of this event is to gather people who have a vested interest in our ministry. We recognize that when you are on the board, you are used to being up to date on details and happenings at CPM. Once you transition off the board, it can feel like you are “cut off” from all the information! Plus, you create friendships around the board table and it is always fun to reconnect. This was our first time doing this event, and we plan to hold it annually.

If you have served on the CPM Board and would like to be included in future board alumni events, please reach out to Director of Marketing and Off Site Ministry, Holly Abramson. 

Summer is the heart of our ministry, and as each summer comes to a close we take time to reflect. Summer trail guide, Trisha Haugen shares her thoughts on what it was like leading canoe groups through the Boundary Waters this summer.

Since re-entering society after a summer as a trail guide at Adventurous Christians, I have been asked many times what my favorite part was. This question is a difficult one to answer, since it’s hard to consider all at once and rank what seems like a lifetime of moments, each precious in different ways. It is easy for me to explain the night I spent watching the northern lights from the dock with my fellow staff, tell of the day I saw four moose on the Frost River, or recount a portage entirely covered in the largest wild blueberries I’ve ever seen. It’s slightly more difficult, but still manageable, to share more abstract achievements, such as discovering new territory, building relationships, and seeing myself and students become physically and spiritually stronger. It’s confusing to people who haven’t experienced it when I say I loved paddling in the pouring rain, crying with a camper on a difficult portage, capsizing in rapids, and getting lost in a swamp. While all of these things were wonderful, I don’t think any of them truly claim the title of “the highlight of my summer.” I think the best part of my summer was a state of mind and a feeling more than anything else. It was the experience of being close to Christ in mind, heart, and body through the work I was doing and the unexplainable sense of purpose, fellowship, and peace that it brought.

Day-to-day life on earth is full of challenges, regardless of who and where you are or what you’re doing, though most people spend most of their time and energy trying to limit and eliminate challenges. Canoe camping is funny in the sense that it’s a conscious choice to lean into challenge. When you strip a day down to eating, packing up, moving from point A to point B, setting up, praying, and sleeping, it simultaneously gets so much simpler and so much more difficult. Making your bed does not just mean pulling your covers back up; it involves rolling up a sleeping bag, deflating a sleeping pad, putting bags in bags in bags in bags, and tearing down your temporary house. Cooking pasta doesn’t mean just putting a pot to boil on the stove; it involves foraging for sticks and birchbark, starting a fire, canoeing out for water, and ultimately results in scrubbing soot off a pot at the end of the week. These little challenges make the sleep all the sweeter and the pasta all the tastier. They also build confidence, teach us about ourselves, and make us appreciate the privileges of life in society all the more.

Some challenges are still more than you bargained for. One in particular from this summer stands out to me. I was on trail with a group, and it was our second to last day. We had experienced a couple good days of travel before and were enjoying a tailwind which pushed us toward our destination of Seagull lake faster than we intended. When we arrived though, we found that the wind had created 2’ waves on the large lake and had driven groups to settle into sites earlier than normal. Our group feared that we would not find an open site on the busy lake and opted to shoot the center in hopes of finding rest and lunch sooner. Out in the middle, though, I began praying as the whitecaps proved to be more than I anticipated. Sure enough, one of our canoes tipped, putting two of our crew members and gear in 100 feet of water. I didn’t fear for their safety, as they were wearing life jackets and the wind would eventually blow them to our destination, but emotions ran high throughout the group as my canoe tried to turn around to rescue them, and the rest of our group got to an island a ¼ mile away and watched on helplessly, praying for an angel to come save us. Sure enough, God delivered. As my canoe partner and I fought the wind back to our soggy comrades, another canoe launched from an island behind them. Three friends camping nearby had heard the commotion and came to help. They helped us pull our friends into canoes and dragged the swamped boat to shore where it could be safely turned over and reloaded. No one was hurt and no gear was lost except for a baseball cap. When thinking of the event, it’s easy for me to stew on what I could have done differently to avoid the situation, but I am also struck by the ways that God used it for good. While it was stressful for everyone in the group, in processing it together later, it was incredible to hear how God taught different lessons to each of us. From discovering God’s active presence, to contemplating the roles God has called them to, and recognizing the power of prayer, I saw many members of the group take next steps in their faith journeys, big and small. This is a challenge I never wished for the group, but it’s the one that God gave us, and for that, I am grateful.

This summer God continued to show me more and more about His love for us. It’s not always easy working with high schoolers. I mean usually they’re wonderful, but (like people) sometimes they’re distracted, clumsy, tired, defiant, timid, or dramatic. Despite their humanness and my own frustration with it at points, I found that I cared so deeply for all the students I met and got to lead. When students struggled to steer, I gave them more direction, not because I was mad at them for steering wrong, but because I wanted them to succeed. When I allowed students to do difficult tasks without my help, it wasn’t because I was lazy, but because I wanted them to have independence and space to grow. Through these interactions, God continued to show me his care and heart for me as my ultimate guide. When I require correction or am moving through a difficult season that causes me to grow, His actions towards me are not rooted in resentment or condemnation, but in love and guidance. It may not always feel good to be called to trust His plan when the way seems unclear, or to be entrusted with responsibility I didn’t ask for, but He is teaching me that He does these things for my good and for the good of those around me, because He loves His kids.

When I think of this summer, I think of Aslan’s lesson to Lucy in the Chronicles of Narnia: “It is hard for you, little one, but things never happen the same way twice.” Last summer on staff at AC was absolutely incredible, and I had hoped for another summer just like it. I prayed so hard that God would let me come back and was so grateful when He did. This summer brought many new challenges that I could not have anticipated, but it also brought new joys and growth. I am so grateful that God allowed me to walk with Him again in this ministry and for all the experience, confidence, and love I received through it.

Our mission at Covenant Pines Ministries is to encourage campers to take a next step in Christian faith. At our four  ministry centers, we get the privilege of interacting with students, families, individuals and groups who share ways that they are taking their own next steps. After another full summer of ministry, we are excited to share with you the ways campers at Covenant Pines Ministries have taken some next steps.

Covenant Pines Bible Camp

This summer we had a little over 1300 campers attend camp at Covenant Pines Bible Camp. After two summers of either canceled or limited capacity camps, it felt great to be back in action at CPBC. As campers returned to play big games, have fun as a cabin and enjoy all the camp activities –  the highlight of camp continues to be worship in Big Chapel. One camper shared, “on Next Steps night, my counselor helped me through the best way to start reading scripture and journaling on a regular basis.”

 

Adventurous Christians

One of our highlights every summer at Adventurous Christians is our Adventures In Leadership Canoe Group. This group of high school students are nominated by their youth pastors as students who have shown leadership potential within their youth groups. Nothing puts that leadership to the test like a week on trail! After leadership training with conference leaders, the students head out on trail. While out in the BWCAW, one student reflected that “Sometimes I need to slow down and think about the people I’m leading rather than the task at hand.” This is a valuable lesson in life and leadership that takes many people years to figure out! We trust that this lesson in leadership will impact this young man’s faith in tears to come.

 

Silver Beach Family Camp

A week at Silver Beach is a highlight for many families. Not only is the week rooted in tradition and fun, but it presents an opportunity to grow as a family together. Time around the fire, watching the sunset, an evening out fishing on the dock…all of these moments lend themselves to opportunities for rich conversation. One family reflected on their time at Silver Beach by saying, “We turned off the outside world to focus on time together and time with God, which is so valuable to us as a busy family.”

 

Covenant Pines Off Site 

With the relaunch of the Next Steps Campaign, a lot of the focus of Covenant Pines Off Site has been on fundraising. In the past few months, it has been very encouraging to see donors take a next step by giving generously to build a new worship center at CPBC. Not only that, but we know these gifts will allow us to continue to encourage campers to take their next step in Christian faith for years to come!

 

On Sunday July 3rd, Covenant Pines Bible Camp hosted a Summer Staff Reunion for all former summer staff members. It was a joy to worship, share stories and enjoy being at camp together! We had roughly 50 staff members spanning over 60 years of summer staff! It was a great day of fellowship and connection. 

Though the weather was rainy, it did not damper the camp spirit of these former staff members. Former staff enjoyed a chapel service, complete with a message from former staff member Dave Nesburg, which immediately kicked off the walk down memory lane. The smell of the chapel, the walk up to the craft hall, eating burgers outside – these moments instantly bring back the best memories and reminders of years at camp together. Seeing the current summer staff do dishes, lead worship and engage with campers filled these former staffers with a sense of pride and nostalgia – it is so fun to see the “torch passed on.”  Families enjoyed participating in all the camp activities, but truly the highlight was all of these staff members being together at a place that has had such a spiritual impact on them. People lingered in conversation around camp reflecting back on the  years spent together at this special place.

While staffers were there, they had the opportunity to hear about the plans for the New Worship Center. Former staff were able to do a Q & A with Executive Director, Dave Cairns, while also walking around the site of where the New Worship Center will be. Click here to learn more about this project!

We had summer staffers present from 1960-2019. The generational impact of Covenant Pines Bible Camp is amazing and continues to live on. If you missed the reunion, don’t worry! We will plan to invite all former staff to the dedication of the New Worship Center and hope to do more staff alumni events in the future.

Below are some photos of the summer staff that were at the reunion. What a great day!

Photo 1: All Summer Staff and families in attendance

Photo 2: Summer Staff from 2010s and 2020s

Photo 3: Summer Staff from 1990s and 2000s

Photo 4: Summer Staff From 1960s, 1970s and 1980s

The Big and Small of Adventurous Christians

Camp is a sacred place – a place that has been set apart by God for spiritual growth and nourishment. Many people feel a wash of calm and security when they first step foot onto camp grounds. All around camp though, there are little spaces that have become sacred to people. Spaces that have had profound spiritual impact, where people have encountered God and made next steps in their Christian faith. Today we will be highlighting why Adventurous Christians in and of itself, is a sacred space.

Lauren Berens, who was a trail guide at AC in 2011 had no previous connection to camp. The impact, however, that AC had on her spiritual life was significant. She says her summer at AC was truly the most impactful and formational experience she had in her life up to that point.

Throughout her time at Adventurous Christians, she lists a few spaces that felt especially sacred to her which include “trail leading back to boreal, the rocker next to the fireplace, the trail room and the dock to name a few, but a sacred space is a space in which we encounter God’s presence and I have felt and relied on God in every space at AC.” She goes on to reflect on these big and small space at Adventurous Christians to say, “When I think of AC I think of wilderness, open air, big water and hard work, but I also think of the smallest things – my favorite mug, the wooden rocker, specific trees on the trail back to boreal, which screen doors slam, I could go on with these details forever.”. These memories are so deeply ingrained in Lauren’s  mind because AC is a place where you get to slow down enough to notice God, listen for Him and let Him change you. Whether it’s packing out, doing dishes, splitting wood or time on trail, God uses AC to reveal Himself in incredible ways.

While reflecting on the summer spent at AC, Lauren goes on to share, “During my summer guiding at AC I was challenged in ways I had never been before. I experienced the greatest fear and humility I had ever felt in my life up to that point and, for the first time in my life, found myself relying solely on God. I also experienced the purest and most powerful provision and joy and my faith grew in ways it never would have without that experience.” For those of who have been on trail at AC know this feeling intimately. The dependence on God is so powerful – and these moments, and places become sacred memories ingrained into the spiritual formation of our lives.

This is the impact of Adventurous Christians – the big moments on trail when we are faced with challenges and humility, but also the small, slow moments on a rocking chair in the lodge or the deep breath in the trail room. Both of these things exist within each other at AC, making the experiences significant and so meaningful. The strength and the reliance but also the serene and slow…these are the reasons we love AC.

We are thankful for the place of camp that God has set aside for these moments, and the spaces within it that allow people to experience Christ fully. If you have a sacred space story to share at Covenant Pines Bible Camp, Adventurous Christians or Silver Beach Family Camp, we would love to hear from you! You can email holly@covenantpines.org to share and learn more.

Read the first piece on Sacred Spaces here.

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