Thursday, June 12, 2014

5 ways camp changes the world

by Matt Wilkinson

In one way or another, it seems since birth I have been connected to summer camps. My first birthday at Muskoka Woods with dad as the director. I was a camper at Camp Mini-Yo-We, Ontario Pioneer Camp and Teen Ranch, and then went on to do LIT and then serving on summer staff as a cabin leader, LIT leader and part of the LIT teaching team. Then, back in November I accepted the role as acting Executive Director for Camp Kwasind, which has brought me all the way back around into the camp community.

It seems that camp is in my blood. Why give my life to being part of the camp community?

1. Camp is a place where you make lasting friendships that shape your future. It is no surprise that in a place where you are sharing living quarters, eating together, creating memories every day, getting into God’s Word with others asking the same questions, and laughing a whole lot that you naturally create strong bonds of friendship.

2. Very few places in this world give a young person the high level of responsibility you get when you serve at camp. Taking on such significant roles at camp taught me leadership, responsibility, servanthood, budgeting, listening, decision-making and problem solving. When I look around for some of the greatest ministry leaders in our country, so many of them have a camp background. It is getting leadership opportunities early that gives you a head start on life opportunities.

3. I could never afford to have my own sail boat, get enough friends together to regularly play Ultimate Frisbee, have such adventures that we have me running through the woods looking for a flag, go down a huge zipline, explore the bottom of a lake, learn how to canoe, go on an overnight where I had to cook for myself, or have someone a little older than me that I can talk with and relate to, who really cares about me. Camp is a time where you get to experience things you might never get to experience otherwise.

4. Life gets so busy that we miss out taking a time to reflect on how amazing life is. Camp is a chance to unplug, to appreciate a world created that isn’t all made of concrete, to see stars at night, to leap into lake water, see wildlife and chase frogs. Camps have great programs but they are a nice break from the routine of life to both appreciate what you have back home but also getting to appreciation for all creation in this amazing world.

5. Camp is a place that changes lives. I have seen young people gain confidence when they accomplish something new, friendship formed with campers who felt alone, a smile appear on a hurting kids face when they are cheered for, a kid give a hug because someone older than them listened to their story, a teen choose to follow Jesus because they had a leader who lived out the love and grace of Jesus to him.

I give my life to camp because it might just be the best way to change the world!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Taking the Pastor to Camp



I love going to camp every summer. It is the most important week of the year in our ministry. Our youth look forward to how they will experience God’s movement through the wealth of shared experiences we have as a group. The fourteen-hour bus ride from the Texas heat to the mountains of Colorado is no problem because it just means more time to be on the camp adventure.

Despite all that was already great about camp, something different happened this summer.

Our senior pastor came with us.

When he told me he wanted to go to camp with our students this year, I’m sure I looked surprised, because he said he was serious, and he even wanted to ride on the bus! His motivation was to get to know more of our youth and to show he was interested in them and what they experienced as a part of our church.

He not only followed through on his word, but also was a full participant during the week: he led a small group, played all the rec games, and shared stories each night as our group gathered to close the evening.

I couldn’t have been happier that he was part of the week, and our students became his biggest fans. There was a moment during the week where our pastor put virtually his whole body inside a giant trash can filled with water so his small group could win their game. If I hadn’t captured it on video, I might not have believed it actually happened. In the evenings he shared his joys and fears and struggles along with the rest of the group, and allowed himself to be vulnerable to a group of teenagers. Our students noticed and it mattered to them. He definitely made an impression, because by the end of the week the kids had even given him a nickname!

Why is our pastor coming to camp a big deal for our youth ministry? It is a big deal because in the rec games, bus rides, and Bible studies, our youth were sharing meaningful moments with the person who preaches and leads our congregation each week. Not only did our students get to know our pastor better, they got to be known by our pastor. This is a big deal, as it is easy for them to feel like their gifts and energies for the church are somehow secondary to those of adults. Our week at camp with our senior pastor made our youth feel valued in a way that I could not have expected.

I’m sure there’s still some texting going on during the sermon most Sundays, but after conversations I’ve had with our youth I know they listen and participate in worship differently now that they share those special memories from camp with our pastor.  And our pastor communicates to them differently now that he knows more names, faces, and stories.

As it turns out, the most important week of our year was made even better because our senior pastor told our kids they matter, and he reminds them of that every week.

from Fuller Youth Institute
http://stickyfaith.org/
I love going to camp every summer. It is the most important week of the year in our ministry. Our youth look forward to how they will experience God’s movement through the wealth of shared experiences we have as a group. The fourteen-hour bus ride from the Texas heat to the mountains of Colorado is no problem because it just means more time to be on the camp adventure.
Despite all that was already great about camp, something different happened this summer.
Our senior pastor came with us.
As we were returning from our first Sticky Faith Summit last February, he told me he wanted to go to camp with our students this year. I’m sure I looked surprised, because he emphasized that he was serious, and that he even wanted to ride on the bus! His motivation was to get to know more of our youth and to show that he was interested in them and what they experienced as a part of our church.
He not only followed through on his word, but also was a full participant during the week as he led a small group, played all the rec games, and shared stories each night as our group gathered to close the evening. I couldn’t have been happier that he was part of the week, and our students became his biggest fans. There was a moment during the week where our pastor put virtually his whole body inside a giant trash can filled with water so his small group could win their game. If I hadn’t captured it on video, I might not have believed it actually happened. In the evenings he shared his joys and fears and struggles along with the rest of the group, and allowed himself to be vulnerable to a group of teenagers. Our students noticed and it mattered to them. He definitely made an impression, because by the end of the week the kids had even given him a nickname!
Why is our pastor coming to camp a big deal for our youth ministry? It is a big deal because in the rec games, bus rides, and Bible studies, our youth were sharing meaningful moments with the person who preaches and leads our congregation each week. Not only did our students get to know our pastor better, they got to be known by our pastor. This is a big deal, as it is easy for them to feel like their gifts and energies for the church are somehow secondary to those of adults. Our week at camp with our senior pastor made our youth feel valued in a way that I could not have expected.
I’m sure there’s still some texting going on during the sermon most Sundays, but after conversations I’ve had with our youth I know they listen and participate in worship differently now that they share those special memories from camp with our pastor.  And our pastor communicates to them differently now that he knows more names, faces, and stories.
As it turns out, the most important week of our year was made even better because our senior pastor told our kids they matter, and he reminds them of that every week.
- See more at: http://stickyfaith.org/blog/taking-the-pastor-to-camp?utm_source=FYI+E-Journal&utm_campaign=cb8ffecb6b-FYI+E-Journal+Nov+26+2013&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e88a54a953-cb8ffecb6b-312821229#sthash.U73GF6hC.dpuf
I love going to camp every summer. It is the most important week of the year in our ministry. Our youth look forward to how they will experience God’s movement through the wealth of shared experiences we have as a group. The fourteen-hour bus ride from the Texas heat to the mountains of Colorado is no problem because it just means more time to be on the camp adventure.
Despite all that was already great about camp, something different happened this summer.
Our senior pastor came with us.
As we were returning from our first Sticky Faith Summit last February, he told me he wanted to go to camp with our students this year. I’m sure I looked surprised, because he emphasized that he was serious, and that he even wanted to ride on the bus! His motivation was to get to know more of our youth and to show that he was interested in them and what they experienced as a part of our church.
He not only followed through on his word, but also was a full participant during the week as he led a small group, played all the rec games, and shared stories each night as our group gathered to close the evening. I couldn’t have been happier that he was part of the week, and our students became his biggest fans. There was a moment during the week where our pastor put virtually his whole body inside a giant trash can filled with water so his small group could win their game. If I hadn’t captured it on video, I might not have believed it actually happened. In the evenings he shared his joys and fears and struggles along with the rest of the group, and allowed himself to be vulnerable to a group of teenagers. Our students noticed and it mattered to them. He definitely made an impression, because by the end of the week the kids had even given him a nickname!
Why is our pastor coming to camp a big deal for our youth ministry? It is a big deal because in the rec games, bus rides, and Bible studies, our youth were sharing meaningful moments with the person who preaches and leads our congregation each week. Not only did our students get to know our pastor better, they got to be known by our pastor. This is a big deal, as it is easy for them to feel like their gifts and energies for the church are somehow secondary to those of adults. Our week at camp with our senior pastor made our youth feel valued in a way that I could not have expected.
I’m sure there’s still some texting going on during the sermon most Sundays, but after conversations I’ve had with our youth I know they listen and participate in worship differently now that they share those special memories from camp with our pastor.  And our pastor communicates to them differently now that he knows more names, faces, and stories.
As it turns out, the most important week of our year was made even better because our senior pastor told our kids they matter, and he reminds them of that every week.
- See more at: http://stickyfaith.org/blog/taking-the-pastor-to-camp?utm_source=FYI+E-Journal&utm_campaign=cb8ffecb6b-FYI+E-Journal+Nov+26+2013&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e88a54a953-cb8ffecb6b-312821229#sthash.U73GF6hC.dpuf
I love going to camp every summer. It is the most important week of the year in our ministry. Our youth look forward to how they will experience God’s movement through the wealth of shared experiences we have as a group. The fourteen-hour bus ride from the Texas heat to the mountains of Colorado is no problem because it just means more time to be on the camp adventure.
Despite all that was already great about camp, something different happened this summer.
Our senior pastor came with us.
As we were returning from our first Sticky Faith Summit last February, he told me he wanted to go to camp with our students this year. I’m sure I looked surprised, because he emphasized that he was serious, and that he even wanted to ride on the bus! His motivation was to get to know more of our youth and to show that he was interested in them and what they experienced as a part of our church.
He not only followed through on his word, but also was a full participant during the week as he led a small group, played all the rec games, and shared stories each night as our group gathered to close the evening. I couldn’t have been happier that he was part of the week, and our students became his biggest fans. There was a moment during the week where our pastor put virtually his whole body inside a giant trash can filled with water so his small group could win their game. If I hadn’t captured it on video, I might not have believed it actually happened. In the evenings he shared his joys and fears and struggles along with the rest of the group, and allowed himself to be vulnerable to a group of teenagers. Our students noticed and it mattered to them. He definitely made an impression, because by the end of the week the kids had even given him a nickname!
Why is our pastor coming to camp a big deal for our youth ministry? It is a big deal because in the rec games, bus rides, and Bible studies, our youth were sharing meaningful moments with the person who preaches and leads our congregation each week. Not only did our students get to know our pastor better, they got to be known by our pastor. This is a big deal, as it is easy for them to feel like their gifts and energies for the church are somehow secondary to those of adults. Our week at camp with our senior pastor made our youth feel valued in a way that I could not have expected.
I’m sure there’s still some texting going on during the sermon most Sundays, but after conversations I’ve had with our youth I know they listen and participate in worship differently now that they share those special memories from camp with our pastor.  And our pastor communicates to them differently now that he knows more names, faces, and stories.
As it turns out, the most important week of our year was made even better because our senior pastor told our kids they matter, and he reminds them of that every week.
- See more at: http://stickyfaith.org/blog/taking-the-pastor-to-camp?utm_source=FYI+E-Journal&utm_campaign=cb8ffecb6b-FYI+E-Journal+Nov+26+2013&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e88a54a953-cb8ffecb6b-312821229#sthash.U73GF6hC.dpuf

Friday, August 30, 2013

What's Needed to Prepare Your Child for the Future? The Answer May Surprise You...


 parents August 30, 2013
by Todd Kestin, LCSW, Life Skills Mentor

from http://www.huffingtonpost.com

Since Junior's birth, you've been socking away savings from every paycheck to ensure he has money for college. After all, that's what responsible parents do, right? Making sure he has the education to prepare him for the workforce, to care for himself and his family...?

When he leaves for college, your heart swells with pride, hope... and a little trepidation. Will he do well? Is he ready for all that freedom? Will he make the most of your investment?

Two semesters later, he comes home whipped, defeated, demoralized. While he had the grades to get into that Ivy League college, he didn't have the life skills to succeed.

There's more to preparing for adulthood than academic education. I believe if kids spent their summers in camp, they'd be better prepared for later decisions like whether to go to college, and how to make the best life for who they are.

Kids, especially teens, need mentors they trust, separate from their parents. These role models provide guidance and help them prepare for their adult lives by helping them lay the foundation now.

I started camp as a 10-year-old, and didn't stop till I was in my 20s. Though many may view this as parents getting rid of kids for the summer, my parents told me it was an investment to set me up to be a more independent, confident person. They were so right.

Camp taught me how to grow up. It taught me to take responsibility, and the importance of meaningful relationships in life. Before I started attending camp I had friends, but no significant relationships that I viewed as important. In fact, I had no idea what that even meant.

I didn't need to be "cool" at camp. It was the first place I could truly be myself, and was accepted for who I was. In fact, I felt pretty damn cool for the first time. My self-esteem was boosted, my confidence increased, and I learned about investing myself in things that matter.

An interesting thing happens at camp when kids are taken out of their usual environment. The rules change. Everything changes. Authenticity is rewarded. Responsibility is cool. Maturity adds clout. If it weren't for camp, I would never have been ready for college, which led to graduate school, and the mentoring career I enjoy now. It was a natural progression that began in camp.

As a camp counselor, I learned the importance of putting attention on others. The older I grew, the more I learned to be at camp for the campers, rather than for myself. As I grew as a camp counselor and worked with the kids, my personal development transformed as I spent time with them to give them a meaningful, significant experience that wouldn't go away. It changed me... and it changed them. As my focus turned away from myself and I became focused on others, well, that was a huge piece of the growing up process.

Without this type of experience, kids often flounder through their teens and early twenties, unsure how to:
• Choose valuable friends
• Make decisions for their lives and
• Have the confidence to pursue their dreams.

For me, camp was a big group of mentors I looked up to, who gave me amazing advice, guided me on my journey, taught me lessons about growing up, showed me the importance of meaningful relationships, and, most important, how to find them.

Through my development in the camp experience, I learned how to leave camp and go back to school and find valuable friends. By the time I was in high school I had learned how to surround myself with people who would bring the most value to my life. I wasn't born with this important skill.. .I learned it at camp.

Kids need to learn how to develop this skill at a young age. To choose the people they put around them who will help them in their own development, push them to be successful, take chances, and show them how to be a good friend.

A moment stands out most in my memory as to the impact it had on my life. In fact, it plays a big part in how I work with teens in my practice today.

I was 16 and learning to be a camp counselor. This meant I needed to grow up and take responsibility, but I didn't know how. At one point, the assistant director sat with me and asked me how my summer was going. I told him I was having a great time. He then proceeded to ask me several questions that would change the course of my life.

"How is the summer for your campers?" he asked. "Who's struggling? Are you able to pay enough attention to notice where you need to focus? Why do you think you continue coming to camp?"

Then the last question, which changed me forever: "What is it you want your campers to have at the end of the summer that they don't have now?"

I'd never thought this way before. From that moment, I set out to work with campers in a completely different way. I was determined to help them have the experience they were looking for. I would ask them all, "What is it you want to have at the end of the summer?"

One kid told me he always wanted to make it to the top of the climbing wall. So, we worked on it little by little, inch by inch, and the last day of camp he made it and was on top of the world. I have no doubt to this day, when he struggles with something difficult, he looks back on that summer, the work he invested, his determination... and his success.

Whether your child has the funds to go to college or not, his future growth and management of life depend on how he's living today. Sometimes I think we as parents forget what's important now. We're so focused on what is necessary later, we don't realize we need to set our kids up now to have the skills to live later.

So, saving funds for college is important, but saving for camp each year can really change a life. Let's let our kids decide if college is important to them when the time comes. Let's give them the tools necessary for them to make the decisions that will catapult them forward.

Give them the gift of camp.

If you wonder why I'm posting this at the end of summer rather than the beginning, here's why: The new school year is beginning. You have nine months to save for next year's camp. Make it happen for your child's future success.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Twenty Ideas for Grandparents


Fuller Youth Institute 

(Lutherhaven offers many summer camps great for bringing grandparents and grandkids together. Consider our Fourth of July Festival Camp, Ranch Hands Weekends, Kindercamp, or a Buckeroo Weekend!)

Kids’ faith tends to mirror the faith of their parents.

And their grandparents.

Here at Lutherhaven we're more and more interested in maximizing grandparents’ impact on kids. We see many grandparents at camp with their grandkids, eager to help build "sticky faith" across their family's generations.

 

More Involved than Ever

Some recent research highlights the enormous impact of grandparents on this generation of young people. Consider the following data from the University of Southern California:
  • Senior adults’ health is improving and their life expectancy is increasing.
  • Grandparents have new ways to connect with their grandchildren through technology like Skype, Facebook, and texts.
  • As more and more parents (including mothers) are working outside of the home, grandparents are providing more after-school care.
As a result of these and other cultural factors, the USC team concluded that “Gen Xers and Millenials will have greater involvement with their grandparents…than any previous generation of grandchildren in American history.” 

 

Involvement = Influence

That involvement translates into religious influence. According to the team at USC, grandparents can take one of three paths in their religious influence:
  1. Grandparents can reinforce the parents’ religious influence,
  2. Grandparents can substitute for the parents’ influence
  3. Grandparents can subvert the parents’ influence.
As the second and third paths indicate, sometimes the faith of grandparents actually “skips” a generation as grandchildren end up following in their faith footsteps despite parents’ choices to walk away from faith.

 

The Power of Your Story

Other recent research highlights the unique power of family stories.

Fuller Youth Institute's Executive Director, Kara Powell, says: "If we could sit down over coffee, I might share with you about my grandfather’s garbage disposal that created a cascade of garbage in their backyard. Or the time my mom cheated my dad out of the last piece of See’s candy. These were some of my favorite stories growing up. I loved hearing them—again and again."

She's not alone. Most kids love hearing stories of family members’ past experiences. Research indicates that children who know more about their family’s narratives also tend to do better emotionally. Here’s a description of some recent findings described in a New York Times article:
The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned…

(Researchers) developed a measure called the “Do You Know?” scale that asked children to answer 20 questions. Examples included: Do you know where your grandparents grew up? Do you know where your mom and dad went to high school? Do you know where your parents met? Do you know an illness or something really terrible that happened in your family? Do you know the story of your birth?

As it turns out, the “Do You Know?” scale was the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness in their study. Knowing a family narrative is also linked to positive identity formation and kids’ ability to show resilience toward stress.
The Times article concluded, "Children who have the most self-confidence have a strong ‘intergenerational self.’ They know they belong to something bigger than themselves.”

And who knows family stories better than grandparents?

 

Twenty Best Ideas

To help families and leaders leverage the influence of grandparents,the Fuller Youth Institute asked grandparents to share their best ideas to build Sticky Faith in their grandkids. They originally posted over 40 ideas but they've distilled the list to 20 favorites for grandparents.

Said one grandfather they interviewed: “The bottom line is TIME—our grandkids just want to spend time with us.”

 

Ideas that can be done any day, any time

  • Invite your grandchildren for individual “sleepovers” at your house. While they are over, do some of their favorite activities together.
  • Pray with your grandkids. As you pray, thank God for the special qualities he has given them.
  • Teach your grandchild a new skill or one of your favorite hobbies, e.g. fishing, skiing, bicycling, jewelry making.
  • Let your grandchild teach you a new skill or share a hobby with you.
  • Enter a race and run/swim/ride or walk it with your grandchild.
  • Talk with your grandchild about a family tradition that you enjoyed with your own grandparents and/or parents, and have passed along to your children. Then continue that tradition with your grandchild. Examples could include seeing fireworks together or going to a parade, having campfires and roasting marshmallows on the beach, seeing the Nutcracker ballet or making tamales during the Christmas season, or riding bikes to a favorite ice cream place.
  • Bring out photo albums and talk about when your grandchild was born, how you prayed for them even before they were born, how excited you were to first hold him or her, and how blessed you feel that they are now part of your family.
  • Serve together at a local ministry.
  • Cook with your grandchildren. Play loud music and sing and cook (maybe even dance) together.
  • Build something with your grandchildren.
  • Share times when you have blown it, or disobeyed what you sensed God was telling you to do. Let them know how glad you are that Jesus is bigger than any mistakes.

 

Ideas for grandparents who live far away


  • Choose a book series to read with your grandchildren. Read to them using Skype, or as they get older and the books get longer, read them individually and then discuss the highlights of the book by phone.
  • Have breakfast together once a week using Skype or FaceTime.
  • Start a collection of something with your grandchild, e.g. dolls from other countries, interesting stones, coins, colored glass, and continue adding to the collection when you travel or when you are together.
  • Text them on an ordinary day and let them know you’re thinking about them.
  • Call or send a letter when kids have special events or milestones at school or church. For instance, while you may not be present for a baptism, calling your grandchild on that special day is still very memorable. The same can be true of soccer tournaments, school plays, or after a church retreat.

 

Ideas for vacations or extended time together


  • On extended family vacations, try to have morning or evening devotions that include questions that all family members can answer. This way the children hear their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins share on a deeper level.
  • If financially possible, at the age of 12 or 13, take your grandson/granddaughter on a weekend away with the other significant males/females (of the same gender as your grandchild) in your family, e.g. dad, mom, aunts, uncles, grandfather and grandmother. Have a planned activity that you’ll do together (skiing, hiking, going to a Broadway show, camping, etc.). Include time to discuss what it means to be a Christian man/woman. Give them something lasting that will remind them of things learned over the weekend and commitments that are made.
  • Have “Grand Camp” with your grandkids either at your house or another destination. Do things together that they’d do at camp—crafts, sports, singing, cooking, treasure hunts, etc. This could last one day or several days. Or find a camp that hosts weeks for grandparents and grandkids to come together, letting the camp plan the programming and details.
  • Go on a mission trip with your grandchild, either locally or abroad. Consider making this a rite of passage experience at a certain age with each grandchild.
Adapted from http://fulleryouthinstitute.org
 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thanks, Ruby-Lou!

It was so long ago, Rebecca Smith was still on summer staff and I still wore a mullet.

So many of you have already heard this story so many times, but that's okay, because first, it's a great story, and second, it only gets better as the years go by.

Rebecca and I were nearly murdered. That's the story; we're sticking to it.

We were leading a Lutherhaven summer camp trip (with a third counselor, Craig) on the Missouri River, expertly guiding a dozen high school boys and girls through country little changed since Lewis & Clark...even littler since mullets.

When you put in on the Missouri at Virgelle Ferry, it's three sleeps to Judith Landing, the nearest real road. Canyons, arches, massive castle-like walls, prickly pear cactus, abandoned homesteads, bandit hideouts, native pictographs, and rattlesnakes are all you see for three days of floating.

Our second night out we expertly guided our group to camp in the wrong spot. We thought we were camped where we were supposed to, but we weren't. We were off by more than a few ticks and so pitched camp--unbeknownst to us until after midnight--where the locals camp ...

...locals themselves who were off by more than a few ticks.

We campers were nestled all snug in our bags, the kids in big wall tents, (boys, girls,) and us leaders parked just outside, drifting off to sleep under the Montana stars. Along about 12, however, we three expert guides were wakened by the lights of a couple pickups of locals, rising over the far ridge and descending the canyon for our (uh, "their") spot. Party spot.

We watched the headlights close in, heard the tenor of the engines whine and the gears grind as the two-track got rougher and rougher.

Soon they were on us. On top of us, really. If Rebecca and I hadn't jumped up just in the nick of time, I'm pretty sure we'd've been just another hump in the trail for this band of inebriates.

Pickup doors slammed. Bodies spilled out of tailgates. Then, spotted!  "Somebody's camped in our spot," one of the brightest said.

"You're camped in our spot," the leader, a little dimmer than the first, told us.

"We didn't know," I offered, stepping forward. Rebecca instinctively melted into the shadows to begin rousing our 12 campers to trouble. "We thought this was the campsite," I explained.

"They're camped in our spot," the first repeated.

"You're camped in our spot," the leader brightly echoed.

"Uh, sorry," I mustered. "We didn't know."

"I think we should kill 'em," a third suggested. Solid agreement from the onlookers. "Yeah, let's kill 'em," the leader agreed. "How?"

"I think we should run 'em over, " another miscreant chimed in. Laughs all 'round.

"No, let's just shoot 'em," came yet another brilliant idea. A chorus of yeas.

"Run 'em over!" cheered that faction. "Squish 'em in their sleeping bags! Run 'em over! Run 'em over!"

"Shoot 'em!" declared the Shoot 'Em Club. "Shoot 'em!"

The debate waged on, each party presenting their platform of pros and cons as to why their method of murder was best.  "Run 'em over!" "Shoot 'em!" "Run 'em over!" "Shoot 'em!"

"Uhhhh..." I suggested, "could we talk about this? Maybe come up with another idea?"

"Run 'em over!" "Shoot 'em!"

While the two committees met, Rebecca and the other counselor managed to waken all the kids, preparing them for swift escape.

"All of you, listen to me!" Rebecca stage-whispered. "Do just as I say! Don't ask any questions. Just stand up in your sleeping bags right now!"

"Huh? Wha?" the teens responded.

"I'll tell you why later!" she declared. "Stand up in your sleeping bags now! Just stand up!"

It's been almost 20 years since the night Rebecca and I were nearly murdered, and it's just as funny now as it wasn't then. "Stand up in your sleeping bags and ... what???" we laugh together. "Prepare to hop away???"

I tell one of my favorite Rebecca stories again because she retires from Lutherhaven coming up this May 15. Her and husband Stephen's awesome twins, Sam and Lucy, have two more summers at home before school starts, their amazing daughter Mercy is not far from taking her first crawl, and Rebecca is heeding the call to stay home with them. Stephen has launched into a Masters of Nursing program alongside working full time in the ER at Kootenai Medical Center, so Rebecca's timed her departure from Lutherhaven with that exciting, challenging transition in their family's life.

Rebeca has served Lutherhaven for one short of twenty summers, first as summer support staff and camp counselor, then after graduating from Western Washington University, as year round Program Director for the growing Lutherhaven ministry.

She's overseen summer camp, outdoor education, staff recruitment, women's retreats, family programs, skits, games, scheduling, curriculum, supervision, publicity ... everything programmatic. Under Rebecca's incredible guidance our programs--summer and year-round--have helped Lutherhaven grow to be among the largest of Lutheran and Christian camps in the country.

Because of Rebecca, there's hardly a month we don’t offer a weekend retreat or other special program for “campers” of every age—from children to youth to older adults & families. Literally thousands and thousands of campers--my own kids included--have been impacted, had their faith molded by her leadership. Hundreds and hundreds of summer staff--my own kids included--have learned and grown under her style, warmth, organization, hospitality, creativity, heart, drive, spirit, humor and mentoring. There are untold numbers of people in life and ministry around the nation--world, even--who are who they are today because of Rebecca Smith.

I'm pretty certain canoe trips, sleep-outs, arts & crafts, campfires, s'mores, sing-a-longs, bedtime devotions, traipses in the woods, star gazing, Discovery Centers, and Bible studies--all with kids--are on Rebecca's and Stephen's calendar for years to come.  I'm also certain Lutherhaven will sorely miss her fingerprints in every aspect of who we are and what we're about...

...and I will dearly miss my closest compadre in outdoor ministry.

Oh. By the way. The campers did not have to hop to safety. We convinced the locals it was a bad idea to run us over. Next time we expertly guided the group to the right campsite. Rebecca and I were not murdered that night on the Missouri River.

Just nearly. It's a great story. You'll hear it again sometime.

____________________________________________________________
Use this blog to send your well-wishes, thanks, stories and pictures of Rebecca!
Or email her! rebecca@lutherhaven.com
Or send a note or card to
Rebecca c/o Lutherhaven, 3258 West Lutherhaven Road, Coeur d'Alene, ID 83814

Thursday, December 20, 2012

"Sticky Faith" Formation at Lutherhaven!

Many of you probably won't read this until after we've shared—across the miles—our respective, collective Christmas celebrations and the glad tidings of great joy to all people: Jesus our Lord and Savior, born in Bethlehem, sing Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace and goodwill to all! 

As we look toward all the ministry opportunity God has placed before us in 2013, I feel compelled to share with you Lutherhaven's commitment to the young people of our congregations. Rev. Dr. Paul Hill, Executive Director of Vibrant Faith Ministries, recently commented on the changing landscape of denominational Christianity in our nation and the role of Lutheran camps in shaping the faith of our kids and youth.

“Camps are faith-transformative,” Hill says. “They shape generations of Christian leaders.” Camps like Lutherhaven don't merely support congregational life, says Hill. They “drive the faith formation process.” Camps “play an important role in shaping the future of Christianity in North America.”

Lutherhaven believes our kids need times to unplug with fun, safe programs, outdoor recreation, games and activities; opportunities to develop life values with significant, trained Christian adult mentors and like-minded peers; and chances to form and grow “sticky faith” they'll carry with them on into adulthood. And we believe, strongly believe, we are doing all those things … well!

As one long-time Seattle youth pastor said to me this summer, “Lutherhaven's been the one thing that's allowed faith to stick in the lives of the kids in our congregation, keeping them in the church through high school and on into college.”

To that end I'm more excited than ever to share four events coming up this winter for youth:

  • Plugged In! Traditional “confirmation” weekends with two of the very best speakers we've ever had. These weekends are sure to fill fast. 
    • January 18-20 with Pastor Dan Weber, Bible Study leader and keynote speaker for the 2013 National LCMS Youth Gathering in San Antonio. 
    • January 25-27 with Pastor Kristin Kuempel, 25-year Lutherhaven veteran and leader who heads a vibrant, growing congregation in Kennewick. 
  • Jumpstart! Our popular retreat weekend to jump start the “sticky faith” process in 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th Graders, February 1-3. 
  • And new this year: Junior High Avalanche! A weekend not just for “regular” church kids, but one to bring the unchurched kids or friends on the fringes of church. 
    • February 8-10, with awesome speaker Chris Haas and the Kroc Center Youth Band.

This year's theme for all four events: Heroes Assemble! from Joshua 1:9 … Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Three key words serve as headlines for the weekends:

Real. Faithful. Purpose.

Combining an age-appropriate mix of active camp fun, Bible stories and teaching, and vital time for connecting with significant mentors and life values, kids explore what it means to be Real (through honest confession and absolution; authentic, genuine relationships; and the Incarnation of God for and in us;) Faithful (as courageous, Jesus-centered, grace-filled followers of God;) and Purposeful (living intentional Christian lives of meaning, availability, willingness, calling, and significance.)

Lutherhaven's one of the few Christian camps across the country regularly offering winter retreat weekends for regional youth. In fact, it's our goal to be recognized around the nation as the best camp in the Northwest for nurturing Christian faith, equipping servant leaders, and strengthening communities.

When it comes to fostering lifelong faith formation in youth, more and more evidence points to the importance of impacting young people's lives early on with the magnitude of God, with a sense of the sacred and holy, with the saving grace of God's Word, knowing that God matters, that what we are doing—our calling—matters to the world and most importantly, matters to God.

Consider sending the kids from your congregation—and those teetering on the fringes—to one of Lutherhaven's winter youth retreats. Find a quarterback in your congregation to take it on, line up folks who care about kids to go along, and come yourself as one of the more significant adults in their lives …

who cares about the faith formation of kids and youth!

We can't wait to serve you at camp!

Your servant in Jesus,


 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012