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Camp Brookwoods: 75 Years

Posted by on June 21, 2019

Camp Brookwoods: 75 Years

by Peter Greer, Brookwoods Alumnus

 

While I didn’t know it at the time, my entire life changed underneath the giant stuffed moose outside the Camp Brookwoods office. It was in this spot that my mother, Bonnie Greer, made an introduction to Laurel Steinweg. They had recently returned from leading the Martha’s Vineyard trip and it was obvious that my mom had a subversive plan behind this introduction. Four years later, Laurel and I were rafting the Nile River together in Uganda as she moved to East Africa to serve as a schoolteacher. We were married 6 months later.

That wasn’t the only moment when my life changed at camp. In much simpler and less dramatic ways, my life subtly shifted because of the influence of counselors who lived out their faith, the encouragement of friends to complete the inclined log on the ropes course, the solo experience where a journal and a Bible were all that was required for significant conversations with God.

Camp Brookwoods was more than a summer experience. For ten summers of my life, it was the place where wild adventure replaced normal routine and where deep friendships with God and others took root. For 75 years, Brookwoods has been a place where these types of significant moments are woven together through faithful service and a clear mission. It has been a place where God has drawn together people from all backgrounds, transformed complete strangers into lifelong friends, and changed the trajectory of lives.

Another of the memorable moments for us was the Allagash canoe trip. As our group was canoeing across Eagle Lake, we casually paddled, but mostly were caught up in conversation and using our paddles to splash the other canoes. We sang loudly and poorly, and munched on gorp.

But we didn’t go very far. The currents and winds silently counteracted our feeble efforts and as the day wore on, the wind picked up. Small talk ended as we put our heads down and paddled with all our might against surging whitecaps. But looking at the shoreline to measure progress, it was clear that we weren’t moving. We decided to put up camp and weather the storm overnight.

We woke up at 3 am to make up for lost time and get back on the water before the winds picked up again. But once we reached the river, we faced a completely different situation. The river narrowed and sucked us into foamy whitewater. As we navigated around rocks, our small canoes journeyed where the currents took us.

The Allagash trip taught me never to underestimate the currents and the winds. You pay attention to them because they have their own agenda. You ignore them at your own peril. And at times, you fight with all your might not to let them take you to a place you don’t want to go.

Over the course of my career, I’ve seen the winds and currents at play in faith-based nonprofit organizations, too. Slowly, silently, and with little fanfare, organizations are caught up in the currents and drift from their original purpose, and most never return to their original intent.

Take Harvard University, for example. Early in its history, Harvard had the mission, “To be plainly instructed and consider well that the main end of your life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ.” They emphasized character formation above all else, and rooted all policies and practices in a Christian worldview. Yet, today, Harvard University resembles very little of the spiritual vitality their founders espoused. At Harvard’s 350th anniversary celebration, Steven Muller, former president of Johns Hopkins University, didn’t mince words: “The university has become godless.”

Or consider Franciscan food banks. Created as an alternative to loan sharks in the Middle Ages, these montes pietatius helped those in poverty to manage their incomes. The lifeblood of European peasants, these institutions were even endorsed by Pope Julius II. Today, however, we know these institutions as pawn shops. Over time, pawn shop owners lost sight of their identity. Designed to care for those in need, they have now become a place used to prey on families in distress.

Harvard and pawn shops got caught up in drift, and they are far from the only examples. Mission drift is all around us. But thankfully, drift is not the story of Camp Brookwoods, Camp Deer Run, or Moose River Outpost.

As Brookwoods celebrates their 75th birthday, the Main House looks a little different. The facilities have been expanded and improved. I heard that there is even air conditioning in the Main Office! And while SCUBA diving, archery, and wakeboarding are new camp activities since my time, the mission of Camp Brookwoods has remained staunchly the same: to foster vibrant Christian communities located in awe-inspiring outdoor settings in which young people are spiritually transformed through Christ-centered relationships.

In 1944, in the midst of WW II, Lawrence Andreson (Doc. A.) opened Camp Brookwoods’ doors to 8 campers on 110 acres of land. Today, Camp Brookwoods and Deer Run have grown to house over 850 campers each summer along 500 acres.

Diligently committed to the mission, Doc. A. hired strong leaders committed to Christ and skilled in teaching. When the camp changed hands in 1973, George Bennett, Sr. gathered an intentional board of directors, and the board has fiercely safeguarded the mission. Due to the careful attention of camp leaders like Doc. A., George Bennett, David Strodel, and many others, the Camp mission vibrantly lives on to this day. “The history and traditions, first established by Dr. Andreson, and saved by the Bennett family,” noted a Camp Brookwoods newsletter, “will continue to the next generation of campers and staff.”

Despite changing leadership, a rotating board, and new camp activities, Camp Brookwoods, Deer Run, and Moose River Outpost continue to keep the Gospel of Jesus Christ centrally integrated into every part of the camp structure – woven into camp life through Bible studies, mealtime prayers, morning quiet times (PQT), evening devotionals, relationships, and Sunday chapels.

Camp Brookwoods continues to be grounded in Christ, building lives of faith and character.

George Bennett said of Camp Brookwoods, “The goal of camp still remains to introduce young people to Jesus Christ and to help them develop their relationship with God… the purpose of camp life is to integrate a spiritual life with daily activity.” And each summer, more and more students are introduced to the saving grace of Jesus and equipped for lives of service. What a powerful history and legacy!

Happy 75th Birthday, Camp Brookwoods… and to many more!

Editor’s Note: Peter will be preaching Sunday morning at Brookwoods’ 75thAnniversary, July, 28th.

Peter Greer is President and CEO of HOPE International, a global Christ-centered microenterprise development organization serving throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. Prior to joining HOPE, Peter worked internationally in Cambodia, Zimbabwe, and Rwanda. More important than his occupation is his role as husband to Laurel and dad to Keith, Liliana, and Myles. For more info, visit www.peterkgreer.com.

Kid-Sick or Kid-Free-Jubilee?

Posted by on June 14, 2019

Kid-Sick or Kid-Free-Jubilee?

Tips from a First-Time Sleepaway Camp Parent…

who also happens to be a child and family psychologist

Andrea Gurney, PhD, Deer Run Alumna, Camp Mom

 

Okay, parents of campers—let’s be honest, for some of us, the mere thought of dropping our kids off on the shores of Winnipesaukee causes our stomach to drop and our eyes to water. We are going to miss our kids so much! For others, we cannot wait to have some down time and our “to-do” list is growing by the day. Perhaps for many of us, we find ourselves somewhere in between—excited for some kid-free time but worried that we will be the ones crying on Incoming Day as we wave goodbye.

Wherever you fall, let me start by saying this: it’s okay! It is completely expected and “normal” to experience a myriad of emotions upon separation from our children (whether it’s the first time or the tenth time you’ve been separated!); it’s known as “kidsickness.” Here are five tips and reminders to help you (and therefore your soon-to-be camper!) relish the camp experience:

One: Remember the Benefits. There are numerous reasons we send our kids to camp: a positive Christian experience and strengthening of faith, establishing new friendships, learning new skills, experiencing the outdoors. Think through why your family chose to send your child to camp. Remembering the specific reasons will remind you of the gift you are giving your child by sending them to Brookwoods, Deer Run, and Moose River Outpost!

Going a little deeper – be assured that:

  • Getting kids outside of their comfort zone leads to growth.
  • Sending children to camp gives them the oh-so-important message you can do this; it empowers them and helps them develop tenacity and grit.
  • When kids are away from home, they learn decision-making and problem-solving skills, which in turn increases their competence and self-confidence.
  • Living, playing, and working together encourages teamwork and increases collaboration and negotiation skills.
  • Being unplugged and outdoors not only promotes appreciation and stewardship of God’s creation, but also allows children to delay gratification, reflect, slow down, and fully embrace human connections (which is what we are created to do)! Taking a break from technology also improves sleep.

Note: this is true for all of us!!

 

Two: Stay in the Present. As parents, it’s natural to want to protect our children. We want to keep them from harm and make sure nothing goes awry. We might even believe that somehow, if we worry just enough, we can control things and make them go right. However, this often leads us down a path of anxiety as we begin to parent out of fear. So when you find yourself thinking of “what if” scenarios, ground yourself in the present, evaluate whether your concern is based on fact or fear, and think about realistic and reasonable courses of action.

 

Three: Focus on the Positive. Optimistic thinking is a resiliency skill that we develop in face of hardship or stress. Although it won’t change the situation—in other words, it won’t bring your child back home from camp tomorrow—it gives us perspective and changes our attitude.

 

Four: Keep in Touch. Although there will be no care packages this summer at Brookwoods, Deer Run, and Moose River Outpost, rest hour will always be a highlight of the day, with the million dollar question being, “Did I get mail?”  There is no better time and place for good, old-fashioned letter writing. (This is a great skill to teach your kids, not just the lost art of writing a letter, but addressing an envelope!) And if you can’t wait for your news to get to Camp in three days, you can subscribe to Bunk Notes and send your camper letters, puzzles and pictures from home.

 

Five: Practice Self-Care. While your kids are away at camp, this is the perfect opportunity to take time for yourself! Be mindful to not fill all your time with additional tasks, but rather enjoy activities that you wouldn’t otherwise do with kids in tow (e.g., a long or strenuous hike or bike ride, spa day, eating out at an adventurous restaurant, sleeping in, a weekend getaway, etc!).

As summer approaches and you and your child make your packing list for camp, tuck these reminders away in your head and heart, breathe deeply, and trust that the Maker of heaven and earth goes before us, behind us, and beside us.

Andrea Gurney, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist, professor of psychology at Westmont College, and author of Reimagining Your Love Story: Biblical and Psychological Practices for Healthy Relationships. An East Coast camp girl at heart, and Deer Run staff alumna, she currently lives in Santa Barbara, CA with her husband, two daughters, and playful goldendoodle. Connect with her at AndreaGurney.com or Instagram @andrea_gurney for practical tips and insights on life!

What’s in Your Suitcase?

Posted by on June 7, 2019

What’s in Your Suitcase?

Five Tips to Help Prepare Your Child for Camp

by Andrea Gurney, PhD, Deer Run Alumna, Camp Mom

 

As the days get longer and our children become antsier it means only one thing—summer is approaching and camp is around the corner! Blobbing, Inspiration Point cookouts, hiking, new friends, silly songs, and cabin devos await our children. Excitement can also be accompanied by nervousness—whether it’s articulated or not. So as you get out the backpacks and duffle bags, I’d like to offer some packing tips to help your child have a successful camp experience.

 

One: Get organized together! In this case, organization equates to three things: Make a checklist. Or really, just refer to the great one that is in Camp Brookwoods, Deer Run, and MRO’s handbook. Think through, with your camper, what might need to be purchased or borrowed in order to cross off all the essentials. Feeling equipped and prepared will boost your camper’s confidence.

If items need to be purchased, go shopping together. This can be a sweet time of bonding and enable your kiddo to get excited as they visualize a bit of their day-to-day experience and all the fun ahead.

Pack alongside them (not for them!), empowering them to choose specifics, and talking with them about actually using the items they are packing! For example, when you are both going through toiletries, talk about the idea of putting sunscreen on each morning before they leave the cabin, flossing their teeth every night, etc. When children are a part of the decision-making process, they feel empowered and are more likely to have a positive experience!

 

Two: Talk through expectations. I love New York Times bestselling author Susan Cain’s story about her first sleep away camp experience. Raised in a book-reading family of introverts, she packed a suitcase full of books, eagerly anticipating the silent reading time that would take place with her cabinmates. Imagine her surprise when cabin time meant memorizing rambunctious chants rather than reading!

It behooves us to talk with our kids about their expectations of camp. By doing so, we can gently correct any misguided assumptions and help them articulate concerns or set goals. Additionally, when we make time to talk with our children about their expectations, we better equip and prepare them psychologically as well as help to prevent disappointment, frustration and anger as a result of unmet hopes and expectations.

 

Three: Anticipatory Guidancedo it! Anticipatory guidance may not be a term with which you are familiar, but essentially, it’s all about the mental prep work we can do ahead of an actual situation, so that when time comes, we are more mentally and emotionally prepared for the event. For example, sporadically and casually talking to your campers about the potentially challenging “what if” situations:

  • What if you don’t get any of the activities you hoped for?
  • What if your counselor isn’t your favorite person?
  • What if your bunk make repeatedly teases you?
  • What if you get sick?

Having these conversations beforehand will not only better prepare your child for camp, but it will also normalize their feelings when they occur and increase their coping strategies.

Quick tip: when talking through the “what if’s, let your child take the lead in answering the questions. Then, after validating their emotions and ideas, offer additional problem solving strategies and talk through those. Additionally, remind your child of ways they have navigated difficult situations in the past as this not only communicates your belief in them but boosts their own confidence.

 

Four: Prepare for Homesickness. Speaking of anticipatory guidance, homesickness is a great subject to briefly talk through with your child. Many kids feel a twinge of homesickness at some point during their camp experience so when you are talking through the “what if’s” be sure to bring up this one if your child does not. And normalize, normalize, normalize—meaning let them know it is completely normal and expected to have these feelings. Don’t jump to reassurance or “fix it” mode right away; this is actually dismissive of their feelings! In other words, do not respond with “Oh, you’ll be just fine” or “You’re going to love every minute of camp.” Validate their emotions, empathize with them, and then remind them that homesick feelings are temporary and talk through what they can do if they feel homesick (i.e. engage in positive self talk such as “I am safe even though I am someplace different”; find a trusted counselor to talk with; write a letter home; pray).

 

Five: Keep the lines of communication open! We want to create cultures of communication in our homes where our kids know they can talk with us about anything, including their worries and fears. One of the best ways to do this is to listen, listen, and listen some more. Our brains literally settle down when we feel understood! So in the days leading up to camp, make sure to slow down and spend time listening to your camper; simply paraphrasing what you hear them saying is a powerful tool and will lead to deeper conversation and dialogue.

 

Lastly, as a psychologist who has worked with children, adolescents, couples, and families for more than two decades—I can’t help but also include a couple of quick “don’ts” to be mindful of:

  1. Don’t keep talking about how much you are going to miss them.
  1. Avoid a long, tearful goodbye on Incoming Day. Offer smiles and boosts of confidence instead of your tears and strong emotions.
  1. Don’t send letters that speak about how lonely you are, how quiet the house is, or (on the other end) how you are going to Disneyland without them.
  1. Don’t offer an escape plan; in other words, do not promise you’ll come and pick them up if things are hard. That actually undermines your child and sends the message that you don’t believe they are capable of working through challenges and overcoming hard things.

So there you have it…some do’s and don’ts as we pack alongside our children and prepare them for the journey ahead. Stay tuned for next week’s post when I’ll talk about how we can manage our own potential “kidsickness!”

Andrea Gurney, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist, professor of psychology at Westmont College, and author of Reimagining Your Love Story: Biblical and Psychological Practices for Healthy Relationships. An East Coast camp girl at heart, and Deer Run staff alumna, she currently lives in Santa Barbara, CA with her husband, two daughters, and playful goldendoodle. Connect with her at AndreaGurney.com or Instagram @andrea_gurney for practical tips and insights on life!