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Kingdom of God Archives - Bethany Birches Camp

Posts Tagged ‘Kingdom of God’

Nevin J. Bender, BBC’s First Camp Director, Joins The Great Cloud Of Witnesses

Ask those who were on staff or came to camp as campers in the 1960s and 70s about their Bethany  Birches experience and they will almost certainly reference the rustic and challenging moments that became so deeply engraved in their memories. Back then, the Bethany Birches experience had to be rustic and challenging. Camp was just getting started and there were minimal dollars being invested and limited machines and tools to use to carve the camp out of a grown-over farm. Those missing dollars and machines weren’t important to Nevin Bender. He and his family were called into action by a sense of vocation, faith, and by Lloyd and Alice Moyer. Quite literally, when the Moyers had the idea to open Bethany Birches they asked Nevin to run the camp. He said yes and was the first camp director serving from 1965 to 1980.

Nevin J. Bender passed away this summer. His willingness to forge Bethany Birches with minimal resources created a lasting culture and while he has recently joined the great cloud of witnesses (see Hebrews 12:1), his mark was made and is still visible today, here at camp. You can see his personality and work in the Core Values of BBC. We named our core values just last year after conducting research with many different stakeholders (over 150). The core values are found in this word picture. Interestingly, in 2010 Marcia Bender (one of Nevin’s daughters) was asked what she felt was important to her father. In her reply she touched on community building, learning to trust each other, nature, building consensus and trying new ideas. Here we see the values she saw in her father’s behavior match some of the camp’s core values. At a dinner in 2008 Nevin was honored at his place of work and his colleague, Will Hairston said of Bender, “Nevin’s passionate faith, intense work ethic and model of service have been an inspiration to all.”

Weaving these two comments we get a sense that our core values are closely linked to who Nevin was. Here at BBC we use the phrase “With Over Watch.” It was coined by Michael Brandwein and is a comment about leadership, influence, and how to have a relationship. You don’t “watch” a 10-year-old from afar and expect to have much influence, or connection with each other, you go to be “with” them! It is by being together that individuals get to know each other, have shared experiences, and influence one another. Nevin was a “with” kinda guy! You see that in Marcia’s comments about her father and the stories that abound of Nevin connecting with others, leading from among the various camper and staff groups. I have met many people who shared about the influence Nevin had in their life.

Here we are today, still working with fewer resources than many organizations have, still cooking over the fire as they did that first year, and still our Directors spend a lot of time “with” people. We see relationships and community building as central to how we go about our mission just as Nevin did. We trust that God enters in the midst of this special camp experience, just as Nevin did. Today we are thankful that God (and the Moyers!) called upon the Bender family and thankful for their service. Nevin, please continue to be “with” us from the great cloud of witnesses!

When Nevin passed, his wife Lourene requested that gifts be made to Bethany Birches in lieu of flowers and gifts to the family. Please join her and many others in giving to the camp in memory of Nevin. Learn more about Nevin at www.bethanybirches.org/Nevin

 

~ Brandon “Tuna” Bergey,
Executive Director

Shifting From Receiving To Giving… Yet Still Receiving

 

Having been a camper at Bethany Birches for six summers (and a Counselor In Training for one), I knew that I wanted to be a counselor eventually, and I finally got that opportunity last summer, as the youngest member of the 2019 summer staff. Camp had always been one of my favorite places in the world. At camp I always felt like I could connect with God. Interestingly, my first staff experience was a lot like what I expected it to be. However, “being on the other side” of camp helped me better appreciate how special Bethany Birches is. Even if I sometimes struggle with my faith while at home, I can always see how God is working at camp.

As a camper, the main feeling that I experienced was joy, regardless of what I was doing. During my time as a counselor, things were more topsy turvy than I remember them as a camper. I enjoy working with kids (one of the main reasons I applied!), and the skill I improved the most over the summer was patience. Whenever I was stressed out, I would take a deep breath and remember: I’m not just doing this for myself. I often remember that when I was a camper, I got a little sad when my counselor went on break. Now, even though I love being with my cabin, I get a little excited whenever I get to take a break, partially because I know that it gives me time to relax, making me better at my job once I go back. The further into the summer I got, I noticed how some of my campers reminded me of my younger self, which gave me great joy. It’s always good to know that whatever you are doing, it can ultimately have an impact on someone — and that’s what I think I enjoyed the most about working at camp. Being a camper was constant fun, every single day, but being a counselor still contained many of the great joys of camp. From the pig trough to hikes to the treehouses, many of my camp experiences remained the same, but being able to lead others made them far more rewarding.

 

~ Ryan “Michi” Smith, Assistant Counselor

Be Still And Know That I Am God…. even in the chaos

Hi. I’m Flora, or at camp I’m Gigi.

This summer I’m the Day Camp and Leadership Training Director. Every summer I’ve worked here I’ve seen God clearly in the campers, in nature and the community among the staff. This summer I’ve seen him in each of those places, but I’ve also been challenged by the scripture- “Be still and know that I am God” in Psalm 46. If you’ve never been here when there are campers, still is not the word you would come away saying. Camp is great with campers, and it’s energetic, and loud and a little crazy. Not still. During orientation Cheeks had us do a practice where we found somewhere quiet and repeated “be still and know that I am God”, then reduced the phrase to “be still and know that I am”, and then “be still and know”, slowly removing words until we were just repeating “Be” to ourselves. I really enjoyed this practice, but had trouble thinking about how that scripture could be true for me this summer. This scripture kept coming up for me the next couple weeks, friends would send it to me or it would come up in my devotionals but it didn’t seem possible. When I decided to listen to a sermon from my home church in Burlington, VT, and the sermon scripture was “be still and know that I am God” I felt like God was yelling at me to obey that scripture.

That sermon changed my idea on what being still looks like at camp. My pastor talked about the Hebrew word Rapha, which he described as a calm confidence in God. Being still became more attainable to me as he described peace coming from posture of Holy awareness, instead of what had been in my mind, which was being alone and finding long periods of time for God, which this job doesn’t always allow. Since then I have been able to find Rapha in some of the least still moments of the summer, by expanding on the scripture. During the many times when it feels like my patience is running low when I’m with campers who may require extra attention I remind myself to be still and know that God is God who provides patience and love. I don’t need to be all those things, because God is for me. And on the days when I get woken up by the radio in the night and don’t get the sleep I need to make it through the day I am reminded to be still and know that God is God who has energy and is the life in me. When I’ve had this posture I’ve seen myself being more full of what I should be empty of and more aware of God giving me what I need.

This summer I had the opportunity to lead a three day backpacking trip with seven campers, and two other staff. The morning we were leaving for the trip I woke up at 4am with every worst case scenario running through my head. Thunderstorms. Medical emergencies. Behavioral issues. No logic could solve the stress I was feeling. I had solved these problems when I was planning the trip earlier that summer; we had extra tarps, I have wilderness medical training, and I know how to deal with campers, yet I was still stressed. I was physically still in bed, but my mind was not still. As I laid in bed I knew what I needed wasn’t more backup plans, but rather the peace of Christ. That week as we hiked along the Long Trail I experienced God not just in the stillness of nature, but in the conversations and riddles that kept us hiking. As I led with a calm confidence in God I found myself knowing that He was there, and providing for each need of each person on that trip.

Flora “Gigi” Dewar

Matthew 25: BBC Style

 

Matthew 25:34 reads: ‘When I was in prison you visited me, when I was hungry, you fed me, when I was stuck on Lynds Hill Road, you pulled me out…’

Actually that last phrase isn’t in the Bible. But the phrase does describe how the Bible came alive last week at Bethany Birches Camp.

I was getting ready to feed Susie when I heard a knock on the sliding door (a common mission impossible destination for many – knocks are not uncommon!).  A man I did not know stood outside our door, looking cold and tired. I opened the door a crack.

“Hello, can I help you?”

“Uh, yea,” the man replied. “I’m from VTEL, I’m stuck down the road. Could I use your phone to call a tow truck?”

“Oh, I’m sorry. Yes, you may use the phone, come on in.”

“Do you have the number for a local towing company?” The stranger asks sheepishly.

“Uh, sir, you’re in Plymouth, VT. the middle of nowhere. Nothing is local… Let me call my husband at the camp up the road, he’ll know who to call.”

” Oh, just up the road, I can walk up there.”

And after a bit more conversation the cold, tired man trudges up the road towards camp.

About 15 min later, I see Chick on the tractor and Tuna and the stranger in our car driving down the road.

15 min later I see the tractor, the car and a mini van come up the road. The stranger gets out and gives Tuna a hug. The man gave Chick the certificate pictured here.

He wasn’t naked, hungry or in prison. He was stuck. And Chick and Tuna helped him get unstuck.

The words of Jesus continue to come alive at Bethany Birches Camp. Join us on the hill (work days, winter camp, summer camp, volunteering) to experience Jesus for yourself.

-Cheeks.
Towing Certified

(Mennonite) Disaster (Service) at BBC

The Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) van could be seen in the camp parking lot from April 6-10. Each spring a group of volunteers from Salford Mennonite Church travel in this van to an area that has experienced a natural disaster. The group serves for a week by doing whatever needs to be done to minimize the physical effects of the disaster. This spring there wasn’t an option to head towards a natural disaster on the East Coast so they drove the van to BBC!

A number of the guys in the group joked about bringing the MDS van to BBC. Clearly, this is NOT a site of a natural disaster. And yet something about having the MDS van at BBC last week was so fitting. At times this project has felt like a disaster…

…Attempting to build a large building from start to finish in VT during the months of Sept – June is a bit disastrous…Utilizing as many volunteers as possible to build a commercial building has the potential to be a scheduling disaster…Going 50+ days below freezing when attempting to complete outside construction work feels like a disaster to each worker who can’t feel their fingers/toes most of the day…A spring thaw turning the parking lot into a huge mudpit has the feel of disaster.

The Salford MDS crew did what most MDS crews do. They brought encouragement in the face of discouraging facts. They smiled as they climbed ladders to shingle the roof. They shrugged off the April snow that pushed them to insulate inside. They asked questions about the mission of BBC and worked all the harder. When they finished on Friday the building had more siding, shingles and insulation. The van pulled out early Saturday morning. The parking lot was still muddy. Much of the building is left to be finished. There still isn’t enough money in the bank.

On Monday Ken Hershey, Larry Derstine (Bridgewater, VT), Roy Snell (Woodstock, VT) volunteered time to continue working on shingling and siding. Andy Bird (Bridgewater, VT), Harold Bergey, Will Bergey, Marlin and Neil Bergey (Hatfield, PA) are volunteering all week to continue the rough in electrical work. Today Russell and Nancy Pejouhy (Bethel, VT) came to stain interior boards. Margaret (Lebanon, NH) is here keeping the office in order. A group from Make it Rain will be here this weekend to volunteer their skills and on Sunday a group from Blooming Glen Mennonite Church will start a week of service.

At BBC we normally experience God using people to bring encouragement in the face of discouraging circumstances all summer and this year, all winter. Experience first hand how God does this by volunteering time or giving money to help build the pavilion or sending a kid to BBC this summer!

The MDS Van

The MDS Van

Salford MDS Crew

Salford MDS Crew

Larry Derstine adds shingles

Larry Derstine adds shingles

Marlin and Neil of Bergey's Electric Volunteer to do the high ceiling work.

Marlin and Neil of Bergey’s Electric Volunteer to do the high ceiling work.

Nancy (OSO) and Russell (OWO) volunteer to stain.

Nancy (OSO) and Russell (OWO) volunteer to stain.

 

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