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What does it mean to be a Christian camp?

Posted by on May 9, 2017

bob Bob Strodel, Executive Director

Probably the most asked question from new families who are checking out Brookwoods, Deer Run or Moose River Outpost is “what does it mean to be a Christian camp?” The question is also asked in another manner “what do you do at camp that makes it a Christian camp?” Both questions are understandable. Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, in Massachusetts, recently completed a survey and discovered over 33,800 different church Denominations in the United States and over three million different church congregations. Each congregation is unique with different strengths and abilities. No wonder there might not be a clear understanding for everyone with so many diverse backgrounds!

If you were sitting down in my office for a visit, this is how I would answer your question about Brookwoods, Deer Run and Moose River Outpost.

Our mission at Brookwoods, Deer Run and Moose River Outpost is to introduce people to Jesus Christ in such a compelling fashion that they will come to know Him as Lord and Savior. This basically means we will tell campers about Jesus Christ through Bible studies and our own personal witness, with the hope that they will pursue their own relationship with Christ. The structure of our program, and the kind of staff we hire each summer, reflect that mission. We wish our staff to role model the life and love of Christ to each camper.

The staff that work directly with the campers are selected through an application process involving written paperwork, references, interviews and a background check. If the staff member is responsible for transporting campers on the road, we also do a drivers license check, and they must have a totally clean record for at least 3 years. During the interview we look for more than just good character. We look for staff that are demonstrating actions compatible with our mission statement. For example, we look for staff that are currently enrolled in Bible studies, small groups or other support networks that demonstrate their desire to deepen their relationship with God. Do they attend church or seek out relationships with others who desire to serve God? Do they choose their friends wisely? Do they demonstrate sound judgment and decision-making? We might even ask a prospective staff member a situational question, for example, how would they respond to a camper who wants to accept Jesus as their personal Savior? It is important that each staff member is able to speak to the spiritual questions our campers may ask. Each year we have more staff applicants than we can hire, so the process is selective. While our leadership programs are a natural training ground for future staff members, completion of those programs does not necessarily guarantee a staff position in the future. Because of the low staff turnover rate each year, we can always select the best candidates to fill the limited available positions.

On a daily basis at our camps we do the following formal activities directly related to our mission statement.

  • Once a day we gather for singing of contemporary Christian songs lead by talented staff members. At Moose River Outpost we gather in Moose Hall and at Brookwoods and Deer Run we gather in the outdoor chapel.
  • After singing, all campers and their staff return to the cabins for small group Bible studies. Over one month at camp, topics usually cover some New and Old Testament material, and the topics vary from season to season. This small group study is done in the security of the cabin group, and will last for approximately 45 minutes.
  • At the end of the day, when the campers are in bed, the Counselors will frequently present a short devotional or thought for the day. This might take the form of reading a portion of a C.S. Lewis novel or perhaps simply talking about some of that day’s activities in the context of the morning Bible study.

I would also share with you that we don’t “shove” the Gospel of Jesus down the throats of our campers. It would be wrong as adults and people in authority to manipulate an emotional response out of a camper. You have probably heard stories of religious activities involving public demonstrations of faith, and while there might be a place for that in some circumstances, camp is not that place. We don’t sit around a campfire singing “kumbYah” until every camper has raised his hand. We prefer to simply make the presentation and permit the camper to make a personal decision, not coerced though emotional manipulation or peer pressure.

Since all our camps are located in New England, we often get asked if someone from a Catholic background can attend.  Yes, in fact we have many campers each summer from Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, and non-faith backgrounds who are comfortable with attending our camps. While our non-denominational approach is centered on the historic Christian faith, we are not a denominational camp. We use the 66 book Bible, and our camp philosophy is clearly from an historical Judeo-Christian approach.

Everyone has a different reference frame based on his or her prior experiences. If you are a parent considering sending your child to Brookwoods, Deer Run or Moose River Post, and have questions about some of these topics, please feel free to call me, the Executive Director, at the camp office at 603-875-3600. I’d be thrilled to spend some time with you talking about our great camps!

Investing in Your Kids

Posted by on May 7, 2017

bobBob Strodel, Executive Director

The last nine years have not been pleasant for those involved in the financial sector or those who have new issues with their home mortgages. Areas of the economy that have been fairly predictable have experienced a level of unprecedented uncertainty. For those who have investments, the best advice seemed to be not to open up those window envelopes filled with disappointing statements; just throw them in the drawer and hopefully stocks will rebound from today’s loss.

A few years ago we had a family donate stock to our organization from a very reputable and highly rated insurance firm. I’m thankful they made the donation when they did since the stock price went from well over $20 down to $1.58 per share. Seven months previously this stock was a “strong buy” and now it is worth less than a roll of toilet paper! This illustrates the critical importance of timing involved with investments; what was good 7 months ago has lost its current appeal.

One of the largest investments we make in life, and in the future, is the raising of our children. The United States Department of Agriculture tried to determine the “average” cost of raising a child from birth to the age of 17.  The department looked at several areas: housing, food, transportation, health care, childcare and education. Without going into great detail (you can read the study on the Department of Agriculture web site) the “average cost” of raising a child came out to $300,000. Housing makes up approximately 1/3 of that number; but still, it was staggering to see the bottom-line conclusion. Call me biased, but I believe that one of the best and safest investments you can make is in sending your child to camp. Michael Eisner, former CEO of Disney, while delivering a recent keynote address to a large conference of camping professionals said, “ No matter what the background of a child, camp opens doors, exposing children to possibilities and opportunities they might never know could be theirs. Camp transports kids with everything to a place where they have close to nothing. In so doing, it takes kids away from things they value, to teach them the things of real value.”

Camp is a temporary summer community involving an outdoor environment, with a child-centered program, safely conducted by trained leaders. Investments at Brookwoods, Deer Run and Moose River Outpost also provide important spiritual objectives. The temporary community is created away from the normal distractions of life. It is amazing the “noise” we have to deal with from the television, iPods, Xboxes and cell phones. Sharing a cabin with others includes responsibilities and learning to respect each other and their property. When issues arise, campers have an opportunity to become more independent by resolving problems without the help of Mom and Dad.

The outdoor setting is a great place for that community because it is safe, healthy and provides openness and conversation as campers learn real life skills. To provide a great support network at our camps, we strive to hire a staff that possess character, and we train them to share their skills and their faith with the campers. Faith is the core of our camp experience. The spiritual objective is to point the campers on a journey of a lifetime by creating the desire, the will, and the ability to follow Jesus.

 

2017 Scholarship Challenge!

Posted by on February 28, 2017

Make your scholarship gift go twice as far!

Great News!

Initial $100,000 goal reached – match amount increased to $125,000!  Thanks to our wonderful donors, we have reached the initial goal of $100,000 ahead of schedule, securing the extra $60,000 for the Endowment. More Good News: Our generous donors have agreed to continue matching any additional funds we receive up to $125,000 so there’s still time to participate and have your donation matched – but only for a short time.  Give before July 23rd to double your impact for bringing kids to camp!

Double Your Donation…and then some! A group of Brookwoods Alumni have challenged the camp family to powerfully impact the lives of campers by making more funds available to campers who need financial assistance—today, and in the future. Every dollar donated to the Scholarship fund between now and July 23rd (the mid-point of camp) will be matched by these alumni with a contribution to the Scholarship Endowment Fund … up to $100,000! And that’s not all! If we succeed in this challenge, another $60,000 will be donated to the Endowment Fund. This is a unique opportunity to turn $100,000 into a $260,000 donation to bring kids to camp. Double my donation Today!

 

Jack Lees, a Brookwoods camper from 1947-1955, who has a heart for sharing the gift of camp, is spearheading this effort. He and a group of his “camp buddies” share a desire to bring as many kids as possible to camp. Jack puts it this way in a letter to the camp family:

 

Former Brookwoods friends, Dick Geney, and Jack Lees (right) on a recent visit to Brookwoods.

“When I think back on what my Brookwoods experience meant to me, and how those years at camp set the course for my life, I realize how important it is to help provide that experience to others.

I can’t think of a better investment in the life of a young man or women than to provide the Christian growth experience at camp. The cost of attending camp is a small investment for the life skills, spiritual development, life long friendships and peer support gained during time at camp. When you look further and realize the expansion of that investment over generations, it really blows your mind to the lasting impact. My wife, Linda, and I have been privileged to send our two daughters to camp and now are witnessing the attendance of our four grandchildren. That is a 6 to 1 investment in development in our family alone. Do you know of any other opportunity that has such a high rate of return?

Jack Lees (left) and Peter Bennett, life long friendship started at Brookwoods, and continues through today; despite the differences in the size of their catch!

The past 60 years of my life were successful in part because of my time at Brookwoods. Linda and I are grateful we’ve had the ability to provide that experience to others by giving to the Scholarship Endowment Fund and that these contributions will provide growth experiences for the next generation of campers. I want to encourage you to join us through your gifts to this important fund.”

– Jack Lees

Brookwoods Camper (1947-1955)

Camp Parent (1978-1981)

Camp Grandparent (2016-present)

 

In 2016, over $200,000 was gifted to 200 campers who could not have attended otherwise. We anticipate even greater requests in 2017 for campers who need financial assistance to attend Brookwoods, Deer Run, and Moose River Outpost.

 

The Scholarship program is beneficial to all campers because it not only provides a way for kids who need financial assistance to attend, but it also enhances the camp experience for the entire community by bringing children together from different and diverse backgrounds. This broadens the outreach and impact of the ministry as more campers are introduced to a gospel-centered community where lives are transformed for Christ and His kingdom.

 

The Scholarship program is funded by two sources: funds that are designated on an annual basis for that camping season and the Scholarship Endowment Fund, which provides annual earnings from this invested fund. Contributions to this fund will benefit both current and future generations of campers.

 

Click here to Double your Donation to bring kids to camp now, and for generations to come.

Love your neighbor

Posted by on February 9, 2017

In loving memory of Don Byker

At Brookwoods and Deer Run, we are blessed beyond measure to have such supportive and caring neighbors. Not everyone wants to live next to 300 campers: think cabin nights/noise, Changeover/unusual traffic for those that live around the corner from Camp on Damon Drive. You’ve probably seen the “Woodland Waters” sign many times, with the names of the families… that also call Chestnut Cove “Home.

Of course, this camp story starts before Don and Wyn built their house on Damon Drive. Miles Strodel was serving as Gordon College’s Athletic Director and Wyn was Gordon’s Women’s Athletic Director and Women’s Basketball Coach. Miles, Brookwoods’ Director, had a particularly good sense for people and their talents; he invited Wyn to be the Brookwoods’ archery instructor. Her first summer was 1979. Even though Wyn was technically the one with the “summer camp job,” Don was her biggest supporter, helping set up and take down the range every summer, and everything in between. It was Don who insisted that Deer Run needed more shooting room and a much larger shed. He built that shed and would have cut down most of the trees if we had let him. Everyone that knew Wyn, knew Don, because they were a team, best friends, married for 58 ½ years. He loved her with all his heart and was by her side for everything.

Born in Iowa, raised in Michigan, Don became a New Englander, at the same time as having one foot (if not two) in the Philippines. With a lifelong passion for education, he taught at Unity Christian High School in Hudsonville, MI and then as a professor at Calvin College and Harvard University (PhD from Univ. of Michigan). Most of us are more familiar with Don’s entrepreneurial side, first as a business consultant at Boston’s Bain & Company and then Don co-founded Affinity Industries in Ossipee, NH in 1990. Don “retired” in 2001 and co-founded Dignity Business Partners in 2010. Retire? Our guess is that he has never worked harder or tirelessly than with Dignity and the Community Transformation Plant (Cagmanaba, Oas, Albay Philippines) a missions-oriented business designed to create meaningful jobs and high-quality exportable products that can transform the lives of the people in the Philippines’ Bicol region.

Let’s get back to the neighbors. God calls us to LOVE our neighbor (Mark 12:31). Don modeled this kind of love, God’s love, daily, for all of us. He did this immeasurably. I’m thankful for the love he put into our Leadership Development Program campers, as they worked side by side on Habitat for Humanity projects in Carroll County, Camp’s neighboring county. Don practiced selfless, humble and effective service to the world’s poor and forgotten. His heart for the Philippines is so deep, you could not count the number of people that he touched there, from the Grace Christian Mission School down the road from the Dignity processing plant, to the GCM school in Boso Boso, outside of Manila. I can’t say it better than Don’s Dignity partner and friend Stephen Freed, “It would be difficult to overstate how fully he reflected the character of Jesus, and how deeply he loved and helped so very many of us. How profoundly he will be missed by so many.” And the same is true for our Camp family. Don showed us what it looks like when you share God’s love.

Don is survived by his wife Wyn, his children, and grandchildren: son and daughter-in-law, Patrick and Ingrid Byker and his son-in-law and daughter-in-law Guy and Patience Wood. His grandchildren, Thomas and Helen Wood, have all spent many summers at Camp Brookwoods and Deer Run. Wendy Byker Wood, Don and Wyn’s daughter born in 1960, has been in heaven since 1998.

A service to celebrate Don’s life will be held Saturday February 18th at 2:00 pm at First Christian Church of Ossipee, NH (50 Route 16B Center Ossipee).

In lieu of flowers, Don would wish for contributions to be made to the Scholarship Fund for Camp Brookwoods, Deer Run’s, and Moose River Outpost.

Donate to Scholarships Here.

or

Dignity Coconuts

www.dignitycoconuts.com/donbyker

I’m so very thankful to have had this neighbor, this friend, this mentor, and this brother in Christ. We will miss you.

If you want to send a note to Wyn, you can send an email to wyn.byker@gmail.com or send a card:

Wyn Byker

159 Damon Drive
Alton, NH 03809

 

2017 – More Than Just a Fresh Start

Posted by on December 31, 2016

“2016, I am so done with you.”

Statements like those have been a common refrain in my social media feed, particularly after news relating the death of a beloved musician (Prince, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen), actor (Alan Rickman, Gene Wilder, Carrie Fisher), or public figure (John Glenn, Muhammad Ali). For many, 2016 was an especially awful year. Between a bitterly contested Presidential race, a global refugee crisis with no end in sight, domestic and international terrorism, ongoing racial tensions and high-profile police shootings, and many, many other issues—it’s hard to disagree with the sentiment.

Wouldn’t it be nice to just close the book on those challenges? How about a fresh start in 2017, a blank slate, clean bill of health for the world, all debts paid?

Of course, that’s not the way it works.

Life gives second chances (and thirds, and fourths…), but these are always sequels that build on the past, never altogether new. We don’t get the luxury of going back to the home-screen and picking a different story like we do on Netflix. Most of the challenges of 2016 will remain with us into 2017, and their ramifications will raise new challenges unforeseen to us now. The challenges of life aren’t at all affected by the celebration of one more pass around the sun.

But, while life doesn’t offer do-overs, it does move in cycles that give us time to reflect on our “do-next-time’s” and that’s the opportunity found in New Year’s resolutions. The “do-next-time” I’d recommend to you—even if it’s your “do-again-next-time” or “do-for-the-first-time—is to commit to a devotional practice that helps you make sense of years like 2016.

Last summer at MRO, we looked at the stories of Daniel and Ruth as a way of understanding the Big Story of God in the Bible. The challenges that this man and woman faced are similar to our own. Ruth’s family faced utter devastation after the deaths of her father-in-law, husband, and brother-in-law—all in a brief span of time. Daniel was pressured to compromise his convictions at the cost of losing his job and even his life. But the profundity of these stories isn’t that their struggles perfectly mirror ours. The profundity is that their hope perfectly mirrors ours. Or rather, their hope is our hope. Ruth’s story teaches us that the answer to our present suffering is a King who will redeem our sorrows once and for all. Daniel teaches us that God is moving behind the scenes, even when all seems lost, to bring justice and save his people.

Reading stories like these, regularly, reminds us that our struggles aren’t just the unhappy coincidences of a bad year, but the perennial challenges of humankind. More importantly, however, they remind us that the hope of those who have gone before us is the same hope that we can have this year—hope that isn’t founded in casual optimism, but in the real, embodied events of history recorded in Scripture—most notably in the Incarnation of God himself through the person of Jesus Christ.

While we might be “So done with 2016,” I’m grateful that our Lord isn’t. He’s at work in our world, by the power of his Holy Spirit, active in the lives of his Church and in camps like Moose River Outpost, Brookwoods, and Deer Run. So as 2016 comes to a close, think about ways that you’d like to regularly hear words of hope in the pages of Scripture. I’ve included some personal recommendations below.

Whatever you decide, I encourage you recommit to some way of entering into the Big Story of God on a regular basis. That way, whatever comes in 2017, you’ll have something real to offer to a world desperately in need of hope.

Recommendations for Regular Scripture Reading:

As an Anglican pastor, I recommend the Daily Office Lectionary, used by Anglican churches worldwide, which provides four readings from across the Bible every day. Praying the Psalms regularly has helped me to be more honest and authentic in my prayers, especially during times of grief. Or you might try to read the Bible in one year. Friends of mine have really enjoyed this daily email that allows you to listen or read a commentary that helps explain the passages.

by Will Chester, Moose River Outpost summer pastor 2016, Masters of Divinity from Gordon Conwell, pastor at Church of the Resurrection