Day Camp this summer was full of tie-dye, friendship bracelets, games, and singing the theme Bible verse at the top of our lugs. More importantly, day camp was filled with a lot of conversations about hospitality. Campers learned what hospitality is, where and whom we should show hospitality towards, and most importantly, how God shows us the ultimate form of hospitality when He invites us to live with Him.
While every week at day camp was a successful week and we saw a lot of campers accept Christ throughout the summer, our week at Plymouth Covenant seemed to be especially fruitful. We had nine campers accept Jesus! While every single one of those decisions deserves celebration and praise, there were a couple in particular where we were able to hear more of their story. One camper had previously had some long conversations with her parents leading up to day camp about what it would mean to accept Jesus. At day camp is then where she officially took the step of accepting Him! Another camper started the week feeling very nervous to come to day camp because she did not know anyone else that would be there for the week. But throughout her four days at day camp she not only accepted Jesus, she also became so excited about day camp that by the last day she wanted to get there an hour early. After her week at day camp, her mom decided that she would begin sending her daughter to AWANA at Plymouth this fall.
I also wanted to write about Plymouth because of one of the volunteers. One of the unique things that Covenant Pines Ministries does well is getting students involved in helping us lead – at the Bible Camp we have an awesome junior staff program and at Day Camp we have teenage volunteers at most of the churches. When arriving at Plymouth, I was very excited to see one volunteer in particular because she had been in my cabin a couple summers ago when I was a counselor at CPBC. While she was in my cabin she decided to follow Jesus for the first time. I can still remember sitting in Chapel with her, both of us so excited that she had taken the next step of claiming Jesus as her savior. At day camp, she was able to take another next step in her faith by sharing her faith and making disciples. By the end of the week she, along with other volunteers, had even expressed interest in helping out in children’s ministry when the school year starts again. Experiencing all of this was a reminder of how God uses camp as a part of his long-term plan for our lives. The work He is doing at the Bible camp impacts the work He does at Day Camp, which also impacts what He is doing at schools and churches throughout the Twin Cities.
We had a wonderful time at every single church, but Plymouth stands out in my mind not only because of the campers that took the next step of accepting Jesus, but there were also multiple volunteers who took the next step of going and making disciples. Our week there was a reminder of the long-term mission God has for us. Important next steps in our faith not only happen when we take the leap of accepting Jesus, but when we take the steps of telling others about Him. Next steps can even take the form of deciding to send your child to AWANA. Our prayer for everyone who experienced Covenant Pines this summer – whether that be in McGregor, in the cities, or in the Boundary Waters – is that camp would help them discover what next step God is calling them to take.
The wisdom of proverbs tells us “above all else guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” It has once again been a special summer at Adventurous Christians where lives have been changed through the good news of Jesus Christ. Our theme was “Next Step” where campers, as they went into the wilderness, were invited to reflect on what next step God might be calling them to in their journey of faith.
The beauty of God’s unspoiled creation, intimate community, God’s Word, solitude, and the absence of technology is the setting in which this invitation was made. As people returned from being on the trail, so many had experienced God in new and fresh ways. One of my favorite times this summer was when the groups returned to camp. After they had cleaned their gear at the drying field, taken a sauna and washed days of BWCA from their bodies they ended up in the lodge sitting around a fire with a hot drink in their hand. It’s here the stories began to pour out. One girl in particular stands out to me because her story was about rediscovering her faith after a season of doubt. That is just one of many Next Steps that were taken this summer. Each next step was as varied as doing devotions, repairing a relationship, leaving perfectionism behind, going to church, praying, limiting screen time etc. In each of the hundreds of next steps that were made, was a decision to guard a heart against things that don’t lead to life. For each decision that was made at camp this summer I am grateful to the God that we serve, and for your partnership in the work of camp.
Silver Beach Family Camp offers a unique opportunity for families to spend focused time together and Experience the Community of Christ. Since 1994 Dennis and Beth Holman have set aside a week every summer to connect and grow with family and friends at Silver Beach. Summer 2017 marked their twenty fourth summer here. We had an opportunity to sit down with them and hear about what Silver Beach has meant to their family. What they said can really be summarized in these simple and impactful ways.
ANTICIPATION- There is an excitement as they pull into Silver Beach that they can’t describe and they talk about for months prior to arrival. Every year brings new excitement for how God will work through what they do, how they spend time together, and the memories that are made. They said coming to Silver Beach feels like coming home to just spend time with each other.
BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS- God works in amazing ways while they are at Silver Beach. Dennis had this to say about how this intentional time is set apart in a new generation, “Families are being torn by so many different diverse opportunities that draw our attention away from each other. Silver Beach gives God the opportunity to reconnect and establish solid connections.”
INTERGENERATIONAL CONNECTIONS- As the Holmans enter their twenty fourth summer at Silver Beach, their family looks a lot different than it did when they first came up. They now enjoy several generations, all connecting with each other. This year, two-year-old grandkids were experiencing a lot of “firsts.” They went fishing and tubing, they tye-died a tshirt and braved the rope swing all for the first time. The parents got to share in these moments and look back on their first time doing those same things.
NEXT STEP- We asked the Holmans how Silver Beach has encouraged their family take some Next Steps over the years. They pointed to the opportunity to see God in his creation; the daily sunsets, the stars in the night’s sky, the gift of the beach and beauty of the lake. They said it’s easy to see God’s fingerprint at Silver Beach. It is also clear to this family how he moves in the community of friends that become family and how God works behind the scenes in these relationships. Their time at Silver Beach has left marks in their family legacy!
When we asked why this week continues to be a priority for them, the Holmans answered, “God’s working in our family, our kids, our grandkids, and that is what continues to make a week at Silver Beach a priority.” The Holman testimony reflects just one family’s story. There were many families blessed by Silver Beach and the community God forms and brings together. It has been a true blessing for us this summer to be apart of the plans He has!
Camp is fun. Camp stretches kids. Camp is about experiences with God in community. Camp takes kids out of their ordinary normal routines and introduces them to Jesus in creative ways. Camp asks each camper to consider what their current life looks like and to take a next step toward following Jesus more fully.
Each summer as we begin our staff training I make sure to tell our summer staff these things. My goal and camp’s mission is that each person here would take a next step in following God. I tell our summer staff that I can’t promise that they will have a fun summer, but I can promise if they are willing to step out in faith and trust God, they will have a summer filled with growth and they might just see God move in ways they never imagined.
“Every time I think I know what our summer ministry will look like, God has a funny way of reminding me that despite my best plans and intentions, He alone is in control.”
I tell this to our staff and I believe it, but sometimes it feel like God goes out of his way to remind me as well. Every time I think I know what our summer ministry will look like, God has a funny way of reminding me that despite my best plans and intentions, He alone is in control.
As we planned and prayed for the summer I knew it would be busy. I knew it would include the birth of our third child. I knew it would include searching for a new program director as we would be saying farewell to Holly Abramson after five wonderful years. I knew there would be times of great joy and there would be times when I’d need to have a hard conversation with a camper or staff member. After 20 summers, I thought I knew what to expect.
But, I didn’t know that we would start the summer with a few less staff than we anticipated. I didn’t know that in a 48 hour period during our first week of camp two of our full-time staff members would leave. I didn’t know that I would get a phone call during our last week of senior high about the tragedy at Minnehaha Academy.
The danger in ministry and in life in general is to think that we have it all figured out, because it subtly allows us to leave God out and assume that we can do things on our own. Though each of those situations was unexpected, God continued to show up through each one throughout each one and remind me of His provision and care. My mindset was one of scarcity, but God was going to show me just how abundant His resources were. To meet our staffing needs he provided gifted volunteers and people from outside our community to fill empty roles. He also provided people from within to fill the void from those who left and as we look toward the fall I’m excited and grateful for these staff who with continue to shape our ministry into the future.
As we mourned with the campers and staff members from Minnehaha who were here at camp, God was faithful. It was incredible to see the ways that campers and staff supported one another. It was a testament to the wonderful Minnehaha community and also to the powerful work that God can do despite tragedy when people are open and seek His face. God has been present with me and our larger community through each of these circumstances. He has continued to show his faithfulness and his love. He has done it in big ways to groups of people and in smaller ways to individuals as well.
“He talked about camp being a safe place to experience God’s love. It’s become a safe place for him to grow in his faith.”
One particular story is Levi’s. Levi had been coming to camp for a number of years. He enjoyed all of the activities, but he said that he had never completely given himself over to God. Levi shared his story going all the way back to the very beginning of his life. With a mom on birth control and a father in and out of prison, Levi claims he should have never been born. Despite the deck being stacked against him, God brought him into this world. Growing up he would come to camp and have a ton of fun playing on the playground, participating in games, or whatever else the kids were doing. He shared about camp being a safe place for him to experience God. Throughout his life, his dad was rarely present, he would enter his life, but inevitably he would leave, often ending up back in prison. As Levi shared his story he talked about finding God, finding a loving Father despite the example set by his earthly one. Ultimately he talked about camp being a safe place to experience God’s love. It’s become a safe place for him to grow in his faith. He went on to talk about his desire after this past summer to continue to read his Bible more and to share more about the God who has forever changed his life. Shortly before this summer at camp he met up with his Dad for the first time in a while. Because of the grace God has shown him, Levi told our staff that he wants to show that same grace to his father and work to rebuild their relationship.
I love hearing Levi’s story of faith and reconciliation. It’s wonderful to hear him describe just the sheer joy that camp gave him and how it was where he first said yes to Jesus. In some ways I’m surprised by Levi’s journey. It really does seem like the odds have been stacked against him. At the same time I need to stop being surprised when I see God at work, whether in my own life or someone else’s. That is simply who God is and what He does. As I sit here at the end of the summer, I’m thankful that that is exactly who God is. God is the one who surprises us with his matchless grace and love. He is sufficient for all of our needs; mine, yours and Levi’s.
The Ogren family has been coming up to Silver Beach Family Camp for the past few summers. A few months ago we asked them to write a little bit about what Silver Beach means to them. Sandra wrote back about her experience as a wife and mother:
I’ll never forget the first time we came to Silver Beach in 2014. We booked a week in one of the new Lakeside Cabins. We arrived to discover not only was the cabin new but we were one of the very first guests to stay in it! In fact, they were moving in furniture when we arrived. And then we met the Silver Beach director, Angie, and her family. We knew we had found not just a great vacation spot, but a very special place for families to know and grow in Christ.
“One of the greatest blessings to us as parents is the fact that the kids can run and play and have freedom to explore and test their limits and abilities and we can watch them grow in their abilities each year.”
Our week at Silver Beach has become the highlight of our family’s summer. It is the place of so many firsts for our kids. Henry caught his first Bass off the dock when he was 6. He also got up the nerve to go down the water slide for the first time overcoming a huge fear of his. Will climbed the tower or the first time last summer when he was 5 and did crate stacking like the “big kids” too. Each summer they look forward to another “first.” Maybe this will be the year they try the Big Swing or the Zipline or even the blob or black light dodgeball. There is always something new and exciting for them to try. One of the greatest blessings to us as parents is the fact that the kids can run and play and have freedom to explore and test their limits and abilities and we can watch them grow in their abilities each year.
When we leave camp each summer we take home more than just memories! Our breezeway is littered with brightly colored rocks that the boys have made in the craft hall each summer and they won’t let us get rid of a single one! We recently had an exchange student ask our family why our whole family had so many brightly colored T-shirts. We had a chance to tell her all about our vacation each summer to a special place called Silver Beach and the fun we have making tie dye shirts together as a family (although I do think I may have enough now!) I love having these reminders in our home, they make me smile as I remember being with the boys at camp.
“We have become friends with the family who rents the cabin next door to us each year and look forward to catching up with them each summer.”
Growing up as a camper at Covenant Pines I knew all about camp, however my husband didn’t have the same opportunity. Now, thanks to Silver Beach, Bill and the kids get the chance to experience what I did as a kid but we get to do it as a family! From the minute we start packing to go, the kids can’t stop talking about all the things they are going to do, how many survivor bracelets will they make or what will be the new craft this year? Who is going to get the highest in crate stacking and will mom PLEASE try it this year! 🙂 What snacks will there be in the Fun Shack and how many T-shirts will they get to make. Silver Beach offers not just a place to stay, but a rich Christ-centered experience for everyone.
Last summer we had the chance to spend some great time fellowship with the other families who were staying at Silver Beach. We have become friends with the family who rents the cabin next door to us each year and look forward to catching up with them each summer. The improvements that have been made to Silver Beach have been great, the fire pit outside the new cabins truly became a gathering place for families in the evening. It was so nice to meet around the campfire, sharing food and stories and laughter while the kids made a mess with s’mores! We made some new friends and renewed past acquaintances.
Families have lots of choices for a lake/resort vacation in Minnesota but Silver Beach offers a unique, affordable vacation experience for our family of 5. Nowhere else would we have such great access to an awesome beach with all the water toys and boats, a luxurious cabin with everything you need plus enough activities to keep the kids busy if you’d like or the freedom to do nothing at all! Plus, you get Angie and her staff who are always there to answer questions, chat about your day, offer prayer for your week, take you to chapel or drive the Hayride to Dairy Queen!
When we leave camp each summer, my son always cries. He has had so much fun that he doesn’t want to ever leave! I feel the same way, camp does that to you. Camp is a place where I went as a child and met lifelong friends, mentors and ultimately my savior Jesus Christ. It is my prayer that Silver Beach will be that for my children and for many years to come!
Sandra, Bill, Henry, Will and Liliana