Archive for the ‘2023 Fall Newsletter’ Category
I was at the local pizza shop talking with a long-time camper earlier this week (he is a pizza chef now). He started working in our kitchen part time during the summer to pick up some extra hours. As we were talking, he inquired about the auction. He remembered it was coming up, and he wanted to know if we were ready. He wished us well. It struck me that a young man who just turned 20, was asking about a benefit auction where maple syrup sells for the price of a trip to the dentist. And then I remembered that when he was young, his mom was single and life was pretty hard at times for them. Regardless, he came to camp. He started attending camp in 2009 and attended for 10 consecutive years.
His mother paid $115 that first year for his week of camp. And that may be part of why this 20-year-old man is curious about the benefit auction. He knows Bethany Birches to be a place filled with love, and compassion, and somehow was able to make it so that even a young, hard working single mother could send her two boys sometimes more than once each year. The 21st annual auction was a lovely time, filled with friends, food, and giving. More than $70,000 was raised that morning so that kiddos from all walks of life can have a meaningful, faith-filled summer and winter camp experience.
~ Brandon “Tuna” Bergey, Executive Director
2023 marked 30 years since we (Phil and Kelly) had both served on summer staff at BBC. God used Phil’s three and my one summer at BBC to create a special place in our hearts for camp ministry. Little did we know that God would use our BBC experience to lead us into camp ministry for over 16 years in Pennsylvania. All four of our children lived at, volunteered and/or worked multiple summers in camp ministry and have also found great joy in serving God in this way. This past summer we had the opportunity to come full circle and bring our four young adult children with us to BBC to volunteer for a week at camp. How neat it was to ascend Lynds Hill, together, to take in the familiar view of the beautiful green mountains, to visit Chickadee and Warbler where we were camp counselors, to stay in the staff cabin, and to enjoy the pond. How familiar it was to see the campers and staff coming to pick up their food crates, singing camp songs, hearing fireside speakers and seeing staff lighting their lanterns.
During our week, we enjoyed working with and getting to know the friendly camp staff, experiencing the gratefulness of the campers as we served food to them on rainy days. We enjoyed making progress in putting siding on the bath house, helping and learning from the kitchen staff, interacting with campers, and eating meals together in the pavilion. We even participated daily in the maintenance team devotions. And of course we loved just being outdoors and two trips to the Green Mountain Sugar House for maple creemees!! (Thanks Tuna and Cheeks for that suggestion!). As we reflect on our experience this summer and the many things that were the same, there were also several things that changed since our time at
BBC, as you can imagine. Changes such as the beautiful pavilion and much larger kitchen, the craft hut, the “blob” on the pond, the enlarged beach area, the hammocks, the tree
house and of course the flushing toilets in the bathhouse! Yet, with all of these changes, BBC continues to find its purpose in creating a fun and loving environment in an outdoor setting with a unique rustic experience, to introduce campers to and help deepen connections with Jesus. During our time there this summer, we were blessed to witness a staff member’s baptism at the pond and the opportunity it provided to explain to campers what it means to give one’s life to Jesus. We truly believe that summer camp provides an amazing opportunity to reach kids with the gospel. It is a place where they can “disconnect” from the virtual and get outside. It’s a place to form friendships and be kids! Plus, when you gather a bunch of young adult staff who love God and want to serve Him, God uses this community and the crazy fun of camp to make Himself known! We are thankful for the many years that God has used BBC to point others to Him and that He is continuing to do so! We are thankful to have been able to serve as a family this past summer.
~ Phil and Kelly Horning
The 2023 summer staff team wasn’t complete until midway through the summer. Mana “Moana” Acosta and Leah “Patti G” Beachy arrived at BBC in mid July while the rest of the staff team started mid June. The two counselors had spent the first half of their summer working as counselors at Drift Creek Camp in Oregon. Moana and Patti G brought fresh energy, new ideas and the ability to learn quickly how to cook over a fire and the daily flow of camp life at BBC. While each newcomer learned quickly Mana had this to say about the transition:
“I wasn’t fully prepared for the culture shock that accompanied my switch to a camp across the country. After five weeks of forming tight bonds with one staff group, I found myself a newcomer among strangers. I woke up on my first morning at Bethany Birches as a Disney princess named Moana, a skilled firebuilder, a celebrated chef, and a launcher of water trampoliners. Adapting to being an older staff member with a new leadership system of assistant and head counselors was a challenge. Despite the differences in leadership structures, games, and even a new name, what touched me was the shared emphasis at both camps on meeting each camper where they are, embracing them with acceptance and love.”
Leah Beachy found herself spending the second half of her summer at BBC because she had heard positive reports from friends and appreciated the established connection between the two camps as both are part of the Mennonite Camping Association. When asked what she was taking away from a summer of dual camping ministries she responded, “Spending time in camp ministry is an amazing respite from the “real world”. Camp provides a space to reflect on the life you live the other nine months of the year, and it never fails to remind me of what is most important, like building meaningful relationships and consuming as much baked oatmeal as possible. Camp ministry also gently coerces you into doing some of the most silly and undignified things for the sake of the children…which has taught me to be better at just having fun with life, and to care less of what others may be thinking.”
~ Amber “Cheeks” Bergey, Volunteer Coordinator
They say that “time flies when you’re having fun.” It’s hard to believe that in just a few months, I will have completed nine years on the Board of Directors. In some ways, it feels like I was much younger when I joined, and in other ways it seems like last week.
Some words that come to mind when thinking about board work, and the directors in general. Passion, integrity, resilience, thoughtfulness, intentionality, team-work, kindness, etc. Assuming the role of board chair stretched me as a leader, but this group of board members, who are so passionate about Bethany Birches Camp and its ministry, made it a privilege to serve in this role. I made mistakes along the way but was given much grace as I grew into my role.
A few years ago, several board members and I attended a conference called Thriving Boards. This conference was the gold standard for everything board related; like how to conduct a meeting, make agendas, take minutes, call for a vote, create a board policy manual, create an executive director contingency plan, fundraising, budgeting, donor relations, and much more.
It was an intense three days, full of training sessions and fellowship with other camp leaders. But the biggest takeaway was the importance of boards focusing on governance. We can get sidetracked at times, like deciding the paint color of a bathroom, or where to buy a new lawn mower. Now we feel comfortable saying “stop, this isn’t governance”, and move on to more important things.
The board has done a great job of focusing our time on the governance of camp, adhering to the bylaws, supporting (and trusting) those in other positions to do their jobs well, and empowering our Director to run camp to the best of his ability. It has been neat to see the transition.
Some of our greatest (and time consuming) accomplishments over the past few years have been the redrafting of the bylaws, the completion of a board policy manual, the review of camp’s compensation schedule, and navigating a global pandemic. In short, BBC was one of the only camps in Vermont that remained open in 2020, because we felt strongly about finding any way possible to fulfill our mission.
As I leave the board in good hands, my prayer is that there will continue to be a constituency of camp supporters that will willingly volunteer and engage in the governance and oversight of this wonderful place called Bethany Birches Camp.
~ Chad Yoder, outgoing board chair
As some of you may know, Vermont experienced an excessive amount of heavy rainfall events this past summer. Most notably, between July 10-11, when we received approximately 9 inches of rain over that 48-hour period (that’s only a few inches short of Hurricane Irene!). We were fortunate to be spared from the most significant damage, aside from an access road at the lower end of the property.
On the morning of the 10th, the kitchen crew pivoted to providing all meals in the pavilion, as all of the shelter’s fire pits either had puddles or streams running through them. I rushed out of the staff cabin and took the gator around the shelters to survey the damage. Many of the trails were completely covered by an inch or more of rushing water. Subsequent days were spent rerouting the remaining streams, rebuilding trails, and, crucially, thanking the Lord for keeping us out of harm’s way.
The counseling staff was incredibly supportive of the maintenance crew during this time. I remember one cabin group smiling while reminding me that, yes, there was still an unintentional water feature running through their eating area. The rain throughout the summer posed some challenges, and the cleanup took our time away from other possible projects, but it certainly made for a memorable summer!.”
~ Sean “Spencer” Smith, summer maintenance manager