Menu Our Camps

Prayer Makes a Difference

Posted by on August 16, 2019

Prayer Makes a Difference

Madeleine Schlenz, RN and Camp mom

Camp nursing is different from serving in a hospital: it’s a little bit of mothering, a lot of community health and a ton of smiles and reassurance. Whenever possible, I take time to pray with the kids who come to receive care, and this week I was reminded of the difference that makes.

Homesickness strikes early at camp. Within the first few days we see some kids struggle with being away from family. One that I met this summer will stick with me forever.

A young camper attending Camp Brookwoods from overseas came to visit the Loon on his first night. He was clearly fighting back the tears and just wanted to go home. We spent time with him, encouraged him and prayed with him. Then, he reluctantly went back to his cabin.

The next night he stopped by, less weepy but still wanting to spend time with us. When I asked him if I could pray for him, his demeanor changed and he quickly told me he would love that.

Three nights in, he melted my heart.

While other campers were getting ready for bed, he walked into the Loon (our medical facility) smiling, and just stood there. We asked him about his day. He smiled as he told us what he had done and about all the fun he had. Then we asked if he needed a good night hug. He shook his head, no.  We asked if he wanted some water or if he needed anything medical. Again, he shook his head, no. Puzzled, we asked what we could do for him.

He dropped his head, kicked his feet a bit, then looked up and shyly asked, “Could you pray for me? It really makes a difference.”

I about lost it. I ran to him, hugged him, and wanted to keep hugging him. The other medical staff joined me as we thanked God for this child and prayed for him, lifting him up to a Heavenly Father who is well aware of everything the boy felt and the struggle he was having.

Oh, to have the faith of a child; to simply come and ask for help through prayer! This boy didn’t have a concern with how he looked or what others would think to keep him away. He just came. He wasn’t caught up in his own pride or self-sufficiency. He was vulnerable. He took one small step toward us and we all rushed to meet his request.

Our staff that night consisted of two RNs and an MD, we had plenty of skill, we were confident in our ability to diagnose and treat physical issues, but God wanted us to remember the importance and the power of prayer, because, “It really makes a difference.”

The staff at the Loon is usually busy caring for the physical needs of campers. But this summer, God used a young boy from another country, to show us how much He cares for us, to lift our heads and hearts upward to a God who wants to be brought into everything we do, and to remind us of the value of childlike faith.

 

Madeline and her husband Jeff live in Annadale, VA and they had three campers at Brookwoods and Deer Run this summer, Benjamin, Christopher and Karisa. Before coming to Brookwoods and Deer Run she served on the medical team at Camp Sandy Cove in WV. Her favorite thing to do at camp is fellowshipping with the larger body of Christ and being reminded of God’s involvement in different parts of the world, as well as enjoying the super amazing slushies in the Camp Store. Visit her blog at TurnAside.org (it’s a work in progress :-).

Indispensible Anchor Points of Great Living!

Posted by on July 26, 2019

Indispensible Anchor Points of Great Living!

by Uncle Woody Strodel, Brookwoods alumnus

 

“This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.”  Psalm 118: 22-23

The Strodel Family

On behalf of the entire Texas Strodel family and my dear departed wife, “Aunt Dawn,” I want to express my deepest joy to Camp Brookwoods and its current leadership on this marvelous 75th Anniversary. We celebrate this time remembering Miles and Grace Strodel and their many years of camp leadership in Massachusetts, Maryland and New Hampshire. Dawn and I had the privilege to walk beside them and assist in many years of service together—these years have provided incredible focal points in my Christian camping ministry and guided me as I served as executive director at First Presbyterian Church Camp in Pittsburgh years later.

Camp Brookwoods Staff, 1959 Uncle Woody first row, 2nd from the left

I firmly believe when we blend home, school, church, and Christian camp, four key anchor points of true discipleship in Jesus Christ are born. Brookwoods has emulated the perfect example nation-wide like no other institution of such a framework. It has done this with huge success over these 75 years and I have no doubt will continue.

Much of my personal Christian growth at Brookwoods was due to the kindness of Dr. Harold Ockenga, who released me from Park Street Church in Boston during the summer months to assist and learn from Miles. Enormous pleasant memories are still with me, as I recall initiating the Maine Wilderness trip, Chibougamou adventures, the 100-mile bike trip in New Hampshire and Maine, golf trips, and many teen camps (after the regular camping season). Serving alongside my brother, much as Bob and David Strodel do today, was a joy and privilege I hold dearly.

“Uncle Woody & Aunt Dawn” by the stone wall

I lean on those early years and have so many fond memories from silly dining hall skits, to driving the ski boat, or playing softball on the Brookwoods backfield. There were countless great Biblical discussions as we poured our hearts into teaching others about the importance of trusting the Lord and gaining Christ-centered tools for life. I learned so much from Miles including how to be grateful. I remember Miles telling me “God has blessed us with balance, good choices, mentors, and good wives.” He also advised me to “Preserve the core and stimulate progress,” from author Jim Collins. These are moments I will never forget. I have been blessed beyond measure as there are so many others from my days at camp that molded me personally and professionally. To this day, I still quote Uncle Nubby who told me to “always bring your criticism up to date.” Powerful stuff.

Time will only tell the depth of Camp’s impact for the Kingdom of God because of the unique endeavors that stem from Brookwoods. Psalm 118  from Euguene Peterson’s translation titled, The Message Bible, says: “This is the Lord’s work. We rub our eyes – we can hardly believe it! This is the day God acted – let’s celebrate and be festive!”

Sadly, I’m unable to attend this great event, but I am delighted to share my deepest appreciation and love for Brookwoods and its legacy through this letter. God Bless you all, and God bless Brookwoods, Deer Run and Moose River Outpost.

 

With love and gratitude,

Uncle Woody

“Woody” Strodel and his family happily worship and serve our Lord at Highland Park Presbyterian Church in Dallas, TX. After more than 50 years of active ministry, he is retired but continues as Pastor Emeritus. Woody would love to hear from you, wdstrodel@aol.com

 

 

 

 

That They May Be One

Posted by on July 12, 2019

That They May Be One

by  Craig Higgins, Resident Theologian

Click on Photo to see a short worship video

Just before his crucifixion, Jesus prayed for us, and he prayed for something specifically: “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:22-23). Jesus prayed that we, his followers, might be one so that the world may know the Good News.

One of the things that I love about camp is that—at Camp Brookwoods, Deer Run, and Moose River Outpost—we work very hard to practice the unity for which Jesus prayed. And we do this so that campers and their families might hear—sometimes for the first time, sometimes in a deeper way—the Good News, the gospel.

Another thing I love about camp is that, for several years now, I have had the privilege of helping with “Staff Week” (which is actually the better part of two weeks) by teaching the amazing people that God raises up to serve as our summer staff. This is—year after year—a group of young men and women who love Jesus, love camp, and love campers.

Bible Study at Camp Deer Run

But this group is very inter-denominational, representing just about every denominational affiliation that you can think of! And one of the points I stress to them is that while we are an explicitly Christian camp we are also a broadly Christian camp. We stress the importance of not dwelling on those things that separate us as Christians but on what we have in common—and that those truths we hold in common—the Trinity, the Incarnation, the atoning work of Christ—are, in fact, the most important truths! We emphasize that “the main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing,” and that the main thing is Jesus and the gospel.

Deer Run Sunday Night Vespers at Inspiration Point

This ecumenical emphasis can be life-changing. First of all, I’ve seen staff discover that the Body of Christ is larger than they realize, that Christians of other denominations are truly their sisters and brothers in the Lord. And the campers discover that, whatever their church background (or none), they are loved and welcomed.

Camp is a beautiful example of Christian unity in practice! But, of course, this doesn’t make our “unhappy divisions” (in the words of the Book of Common Prayer) go away. What can all of us—in our homes and home churches—do for Christian unity? Here are three things:

First, recognize the unity of the church. Remember that what (Who!) unites us is more important that what divides us.

Second, pray—daily!—for the unity and reunion of the Body of Christ.

Last, fellowship! I am a member of a Christian organization (comprised of Anglicans, Baptists, Catholics, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and just about everyone else) in which we all commit, at least monthly, to working/talking with Christians from outside our immediate faith community. Building inter-denominational friendships is a great way to recognize our unity and to be reminded to pray for it. Plus, it’s fun!

And if you want to see a good example of genuine ecumenism—genuine Christian love across the sad divisions of the church—come to one of our camps. Here, we believe in the unity of the Church and we do our best to practice it every day!

Dr. Craig Higgins is the founding and senior pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in the Westchester suburbs of New York City. Whenever possible, however, he is at camp, where his nametag reads “Resident Theologian.” His wife, Ann, serves year-round as camp’s Director of Development. They have three young adult children, all three of whom were campers, and all have been either LDPs, on staff, or both. You can find him on email, craighiggins@trinitychurch.cc

 

 

 

Incoming Day 2019

Posted by on June 28, 2019

Incoming Day 2019

by Tim Nielsen, Director of Ministry Services

Yesterday was my first Incoming Day as a staff member at Camp Brookwoods and Deer Run. It was a busy day, full of excited (and sometimes nervous) campers and their parents. Staff were fully engaged in cleaning, greeting, conducting swim tests, preparing meals and so much more! Incoming Day is a BIG DEAL!

A Brookwoods camper moving into his cabins

I have spent the last 30 years directing another camp, and I have experienced over 200 Incoming Days. Each camp manages this experience differently. Here are some highlights from my first Brookwoods Incoming Day (as a camper) since 1979.

Worship and Church – Most of the parents missed this part, but I think it is fantastic. Even though the task list was long, the staff schedule included a time of worship and a time in God’s Word in the morning. This is evidence of camp’s commitment to Christ-centered spiritual transformation!

Alumni Luncheon – What a brilliant idea! This luncheon allowed alumni, campers and parents, to reconnect and reflect on their experiences at camp. It also allowed the leadership to share the future hopes and dreams of the ministry!

Deer Run campers on Incoming Day

New Parent Orientation – Dropping your child off at camp for the first time can be a little scary. This gathering allowed new camp parents to personally connect with the Executive Director, Bob Strodel. The question and answer time was educational for the parents and the Executive Director as well!

Excellent Parking Management – How do you fit 181 vehicles in 80 parking spaces? You need attentive staff managing this process! I thought that this was managed so well!

Campers headed to MRO in Maine – We also loaded and shipped out three vans full of campers headed north to Moose River Outpost. It is such a rich blessing to be serving campers on that amazing property.

Great snacks and multiple check-in locations! – Checking in 281 campers takes time. I loved that this was conducted at three different locations in camp. Each of these locations had beautiful trays of cookies and fruit, as well as refreshing drinks! Waiting in line is always better with delicious snacks!

There is always someone ready to play Ga-Ga

A great dinner followed by a HIGH ENERGY Opening Rally! – The first meal of the summer was hot and delicious. We had Thanksgiving Dinner with hand-dipped ice cream for dessert! The Food Service staff knows how to deliver quality! After dinner the kids learned some camp songs, the camp staff were introduced, and the spiritual direction of the session was set! It was an awesome way to welcome the kids and start off the session!

There were a million other details that made the day great! Most importantly, thanks to the Lord for the perfect weather, that really enhanced the experience!

In 2019, Tim joined Christian Camps and Conferences, Inc., but he is not new to Christian Camping. For the last 30 years he directed camps in Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. As a child, Tim attended camp every summer at Camp Sandy Cove and for a few summers in the 1970s, he attended Brookwoods. Tim attended Houghton College and completed a Masters Degree in Christian Education at Columbia International University in South Carolina. Tim’s wife, Adina, is also passionate about camp. They have two young daughters, Tilba and Dagny, who are happily carrying on the Staff Kid tradition. tim@christiancamps.net

 

 

 

 

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.