Though summer is often our busiest time of year, ministry still continues as we transition into our retreat season. And this past September, we had one of the busiest transitions yet. Starting after Labor Day, Covenant Pines had mid week groups at camp each week through the first week of October, including 3 school groups on school retreats.
It has been exciting to see these school groups utilize camp as a way to create memories and build relationships for their students. It is also exciting to see these new partnerships emerge with these schools and continue to create experiences for students in the retreat season. We were delighted to have Hope Academy, Lakeview Christian Academy and Minnehaha Academy join us this fall. This is in addition to the day retreats we have been hosting for the McGregor Schools BARR program!
We also were fortunate to have the Covenant Retired In Ministry Retreat as well as our first ever Pickleball Retreat as midweek groups in September. Adventurous Christians led a half day of leadership experiences at Stella Marais School in Duluth in September as well.
Between Covenant Pines Bible Camp and Adventurous Christians, CPM served nearly 1400 guests and served close to 7000 meals so far this fall. That is just about how many campers Covenant Pines would serve in one summer! Our staff is tired, but fulfilled! It is great to see churches, colleges and school groups use camp as a way to further their ministries’ mission, and to see their organizations thriving with robust attendance at their retreats.
Our retreat season is off to a busy start and will continue to be so! It feels great to have a flourishing retreat ministry. Today we welcome over 100 high school students and 25 leaders for our Sr. High MEA Retreat at Covenant Pines and we just wrapped up a staff retreat for Lake Beauty Bible Camp at AC, with a guest group arriving tonight as well. Keep Covenant Pines Ministries in your prayers as you remember!
At the end of each of our canoe trips at Adventurous Christians, participants fill out what we call a “Summer Trip Reflections” form. Participants are asked to rate certain parts of their experience and are then asked a series of reflective questions. While looking through these trip reflections, whether it was from a 7th grader or a woman in her mid-50s, I noticed an overwhelming theme: “I didn’t think that I could do it, but I did. I can do hard things.”
When discussing promoting and marketing canoe trips at Adventurous Christians, we really do try to help people understand what they are signing up for. A week on trail through the Boundary Waters, though beautiful, is challenging. Each day our canoe groups are faced with making sure their needs are met – eating, sleeping, getting from one place to another…often at the mercy of the weather while carrying packs and portaging canoes. Sometimes after a long day of paddling and portaging, cooking a meal in the rain is the last thing you want to do – but, you have to do it.
These moments are difficult, but they are transformational. One student wrote on their trip reflection, “I learned on my canoe trip that I am able to have fun while also doing really hard things. I learned to stay positive and have fun with my friends, even if I was uncomfortable.” Reflections like this bring us so much joy. Moments on trail are hard, but the attitude participants choose is key.
This year we offered a canoe trip for adult women. The group was a mixed group of ladies ranging in ages and backgrounds. One trip reflection read, “I learned that I can still do challenging things, even at my age. It may take longer, but it still gets done!” Again, another reflection that encompasses our hope for our canoers. Rising to the challenge, even while accepting limitations is also key in the success of a canoe trip.
Finally, a high school student shared on their reflection,
“What really stuck out to me was how similar this trip was with devotion to God. It’s hard at first, but if you keep at it consistently, it will get so much easier.”
Can we get an AMEN?!
We are so proud of all of our canoe trip participants this summer for conquering the challenges of their trip and learning about themselves and God along the way.
Earlier this week, our full time staff gathered for a zoom meeting. During the retreat season, we do these weekly but in the busyness of summer we try to do them once a month. We started our meeting by sharing ways that we have seen God working this summer and there was a resounding theme across our ministry: Community.
Community is at the core of most camps. At CPM, we see this emerge in the temporary communities that are established for one week of youth camp, Silver Beach, or on a canoe trip; the summer staff community that intentionally exists; or the full time staff who have committed to living a life in community together. But in our meeting this morning, it was apparent that the community of Covenant Pines Ministries reaches beyond what would typically come to mind when you think of “camp community.”
At Adventurous Christians, there is another Wilderness Camp off the Gunflint Trail, and our staff has gotten to know their staff quite well over the years. At the beginning of this summer, when both camps were out on their staff training trip, the two groups crossed paths. Mind you, this was not planned and truthfully shouldn’t have even happened given the routes both groups were taking. This short exchange allowed for some shared laughs, but also an opportunity for our staff to care for some of theirs in a time of need. The timing lined up perfectly enough to care for our friends when some of them really needed it.
Earlier this summer, there was a camper at Covenant Pines who needed a little more one-on-one attention then your typical camper. This happens from time to time, and we do our best to provide that attention when needed. This camper had a desire to still participate at camp, to feel a part of this unique community that is created each week, but also knew she had limitations. Her counselor was attentive, thoughtful and caring for this camper (all while also lifeguarding) to make camp a place where she felt comfortable to participate.
Every first day of camp is a little chaotic, including at the Bus Stop at Salem Covenant Church. We load all the campers on the bus making sure everyone is accounted for, pack the trailers and answer any questions about the week of camp ahead. Once the buses leave, there is a communal exhale as the campers make their way to camp. Some parents choose to stick around and share their excitement for their campers with each other, pray together, and make plans to hear about their campers weeks when they get back. The parents who send their children to camp are creating their own little community themselves, making the impact of the week of camp grow farther.
These stories share the ways that the community of Covenant Pines Ministries reaches beyond our campers each week. Stories were also shared about the personal community staff are finding, volunteers who are coming up and contributing to and bringing life to our community, and the growth we are observing within the people we are serving alongside. It is a humbling reminder that we are all apart of something bigger. A bigger story, and an even bigger community in God’s family.
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
Adventurous Christians is excited to welcome our new Program Director, Annie Huntington. Annie started at AC this week, and comes to us from Waco, Texas after recently graduating from Baylor University. Annie is passionate about outdoor ministry and even more so about Jesus! Below is a quick Q & A for you to get to know Annie a little bit better.
Get to know Annie:
Hometown: Tough question! I grew up in Providence, RI, lived in Atlanta, GA for 6 years and would most recently call Waco, TX home!
What were you doing before moving to Grand Marias?: Attending Baylor University, where I was in an honors interdisciplinary program studying Theology, English and Philosophy. I love to read – book recommendations are welcome!
What camping experiences do you have prior to working at AC?: I was part of the Baylor Outdoor Adventure Living and Learning Program where I participated in climbing, kayaking and backpacking trips through the Southwest. Some of my favorites have been Big Bend, Guadalupe Mountain, and Paria Canyon! I also spent a summer working for Camp Eagle where I guided white water kayaking trips on the Pecos River. The following summer I lead rafting trips on the Chattahooche River in Georgia with the Nantahala Outdoor Center. Most recently, I guided canoe trips in the Boundary Waters with the Coldwater Foundation, a camp just down the Gunflint from AC.
What led you to apply for this position at Adventurous Christians?: This past summer, I came up to AC to help out and guide for a week. I had been asking prayerfully whether I was called to Outdoor Ministry and felt a certainty on that trip that this is exactly where the Lord wanted me.
What are you looking forward to in this new role?: I am excited to host guests and share how wonderful both the challenge and rest of the outdoors are for growing closer to God!
Tell us an interesting fact about you: I’ve paddled 7 of the major rivers in Texas! The Pecos, Brazos, Nueces, Rio Grande, San Marcos, Frio, and Guadalupe.
Favorite Sports Team: BAYLOR BEARS!!! Sic ‘em
Favorite Restaurant: A little food truck in Austin, TX called Veracruz with the best el Pastor tacos you’ll ever have!
A note from Annie to the CPM community: I’m so grateful to be a part of this community and excited to work with y’all!
Please join us in welcoming Annie and praying for her as she transitions and steps into this new role!