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The Beach and the Blob

Posted by on November 22, 2019

The Beach and the Blob

by Conor Grennan, Author & Camp Dad

 

When Finn, now 10, was a toddler, our family moved from Connecticut to LA for a single year. I’m not much of a beach person but when you live in LA you sort of have to go to the beach. Otherwise when your friends back east will say “I bet the beaches are amazing, huh?” and you’ll have to admit that you don’t really love the beach and then they’ll look at you like you’re some kind of mole-person.

I don’t want to go to the beach. The beach is where sand gets in your swimsuit and your shoes and on your tuna fish sandwich. You feel like it will never come off and you will never be clean again. So it was a relief when Finn, age 3 at the time, didn’t want to go to the beach either. Liz tried to put his feet in the sand and he just cocked his little legs higher and higher, like she was trying to lower a cat into a bathtub.

But last year, when he was 9, Finn was going to Camp Brookwoods for the first time, and everyone talked about the beach.

“The beach is amazing!” our friends told him. There was swimming and playing and something called the Blob which people couldn’t quite describe physically but only emotionally – the Blob made you feel like you were some kind of magical beast flying through the air. The Blob sounded glorious, Finn admitted. But it also meant going to the beach. And the beach meant the sand – the sand that would stick to you and never come off. When we dropped Finn off, I assured him that he, in time, would learn to love the beach. He pointed out that I still didn’t like beaches and I was, like, a million years old. (I had no rebuttal.)

Arriving at Brookwoods, we quickly realized that there was way more to Camp than the beach. Finn met his counselors, who were welcoming , excited and friendly. Then he realized he was going to be living in the woods. Lemme tell you something: You give a 9 year old kid a cabin in the woods and a teenager who is genuinely interested in him – you have given him a dream he didn’t even know he had. So who cares about the beach? How often would they even need to go down there? Get outta here, sand!

Liz and I were back home just over twenty-four hours when we got an excited text message from our friend Nicole, who also had kids at Brookwoods and Deer Run. Nicole had checked the live webcam of Brookwoods that afternoon to see none other than our boy Finn, playing on the beach. And getting sandy. And heading out to the lake to do whatever campers do on the Blob. It was glorious.

When we picked up Finn at the end of camp, he was, quite literally, like a different boy. He was tanned and grown up. He seemed more adventurous. He spoke differently.

It took a minute to realize why he was so different: He had created his own world. The way a child makes a blanket fort in the living room, Finn had carved out a place just for him – his blanket fort was 500 acres of wilderness in New Hampshire. Brookwoods helped him own his faith, own his community, own his independence.

As for the sand, Finn found that it washes off. The lake at Brookwoods, as it turns out, is more than just the Blob. Lake Winnipesaukee like the camp itself, could rinse him clean. In that lake the sand fell away like the pressures of school and the expectations of family and the stresses of whether he was smart enough or athletic enough. In that lake nothing could stick to him.

That’s what changed Finn. That’s what makes Brookwoods different. For one week, two weeks or four weeks, Brookwoods, Deer Run and MRO washes you clean and allows you to live in the moment. Kids find that moment is filled with faith and friends and mentors. They are filled with the kind of joy that can only come from the truth – that you are a part of God’s Kingdom, and in the Kingdom things can’t stick to you like sand to wet feet. Instead they are washed away, and there’s nothing left but the safety of your brothers and the comfort of your community and the joy of bouncing impossibly high off an oversized inflatable.

Conor Grennan is a NY Times bestselling author and the Dean of Students for the MBA program at NYU’s Stern School of Business. You can get a glimpse of the Grennan family’s life and last summer’s trip to camp on their YouTube channel. Conor has spent a lot of time thinking about exactly what it might be like to fly through the air, check out his new book, The Hadley Academy for the Improbably Gifted. You may contact Conor through his website.

 

 

 

 

Merry Friendsmas

Posted by on November 15, 2019

Merry Friendsmas 

Spending a combined four summers at Moose River Outpost, we have had the privilege of getting to know some tremendous people. We spent our MRO summers having loads of fun, ministering to some really neat kids, getting to know Christ better, and growing alongside staff members who quickly became some of our most formative friends. 

Being a member of the MRO family has meant so much to us. Life, as we all know, comes with ups and downs—joys and sorrows. We have been blessed with these relationships that allow us to turn to these friends through it all. And time after time we are met with compassion, celebration, and comradery.

No matter the distance, no matter how long it has been, as soon as we walk through the doors to Merry Friendsmas it’s like picking up right where we left off. Gathering with our camp family truly feels like coming home, being surrounded with people who have shared a similar experience and who love each other. It doesn’t matter if we served alongside one another or if we just met that night, we are bonded. At the root of it all is Christ, the perfect foundation. What a blessing it has been for us to hear how God is working at MRO and in the lives of our friends over the years. And He is doing so much! This is what Paul envisioned in Hebrews 10:24-25 when he reminds us to “…spur one another on toward love…not giving up meeting together…but encouraging one another.”

We hope to see you at MRO’s Merry Friendsmas so we can pick up where we left off, December 6th-8th at Brookwoods! For more information click here to see the event on Facebook or email Seth for details.

Blessings,

         Mark & Lauren Connor

Remembering Cheryl Crawford : 1955-2019

Posted by on November 14, 2019

Remembering Cheryl Crawford: 1955-2019

Cheryl Crawford, a member of the Christian Camps and Conferences community, passed into the arms of her Savior on November 3, 2019.

Cheryl committed more than 45 years to the ministries of camps Brookwoods, Deer Run, and Moose River Outpost.  In her early days she served as the Deer Run Tripping and Program Director, and in the winter traveled to recruit campers. Cheryl was instrumental in transforming the CIT program into the Leadership Development Program, with the emphasis on training and raising up future camp leaders. She also served as Director of Camp Deer Run over a span of summers in the mid 80’s and 2000’s.  She transitioned into the role of Camp Pastor, while also serving on the Board of Directors for 20 years until her passing. When on camp grounds Cheryl could often be found with a paint brush in her hand as easily as preaching in chapel or helping a staff member connect with a camper. She also enjoyed a boat ride on the lake, a hike in the woods, and a bowl of Moose Tracks ice cream.

Camp Staff 1980: Uncle JJ, Cheryl, Miles Strodel, Becca [Cowan] Johnson

Cheryl had gifts in counseling and ministered to thousands of campers and staff through the years. She was never too busy to have a conversation and lend a listening ear.  Cheryl was active in her support of others and many know that once she found out about a problem or need she was busy creating a solution or plan to meet the need. Many staff, campers, and families benefited from her efforts to help and care in practical ways.

Deer Run Staff in 1983: Mary Beth [Fuller] Bowling, Cheryl, Jean DeVaty

Deer Run Staff 2000: Cheryl, Heather [Walker] Sanchez, Jen [Morgan] Haight sitting on Cheryl’s Harley!

 

In her work in residence life at the University of Southern California, Career Counseling at Biola University or teaching at Azusa Pacific University,  she actively recruited staff for the camps, and she continued to be an encouragement to staff to stay strong and faithful through the summer and the school year.  Cheryl served as a model to young women in ministry. Her faithfulness in ministry inspired others to use their gifts to serve God in many ways, and opened the door for other women to pursue degrees in divinity and seek to pastor as Cheryl had modeled for them to follow.

Executive Director Bob Strodel and Cheryl enjoy some Moose Tracks!

In her last months, one of Cheryl’s passions was to return to camp once again to serve.  Her request of donations to the camp’s Scholarship Endowment Fund supports her passion to help more campers experience the joys of camp, to begin or strengthen a relationship with Christ, and raise up a new generation of women and men in leadership.

We will be celebrating Cheryl’s life at a memorial service at Glendora Community Church (CA) on Saturday, December 7, 2019 at 1 pm, with a reception to follow at the church. On the day of the memorial in the spirit and in honor of Cheryl, please join us in wearing khaki and blue or an L.L. Bean flannel shirt or Sperry Topsider shoes, which were all Cheryl’s favorites.

To make a donation in honor of the life and work of Cheryl Crawford, click on this link and designate your gift to  Scholarship Endowment. 

 

 

 

Camp Community is Crucial for Faith

Posted by on November 1, 2019

Camp Community is Crucial for Faith:
One Mom’s Perspective

by Susan Bradley Arico, Deer Run Alumna & Camp Mom

 

Camp is in my blood, and in the blood of my family. I came to Deer Run as a camper for six summers in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I even did a month-long “January term” winter study at camp in 1995, sandwiched between a summer as a cabin counselor and two more as an LDP counselor. I met my closest friends and even my husband at camp! And when our oldest was ten, my husband and I became camp parents.

For the past four summers we’ve been camp parents—to one, two, and now three of our four kids. Despite my deep love for Brookwoods and Deer Run, though, I had no way of knowing at the start of our parenting journey how meaningful it would be to send our kids there, and how much they would need it.

You see, our family lived in Greece for the past three years, and it was a dry time spiritually. The Greek Orthodox church is the church of Greece, but very few Greeks attend services, let alone non-Greeks. Since our family spoke little Greek, it wasn’t an option for us. There were three tiny international churches in our city, each with a congregation of less than 50. In the Hellenic Ministries church plant we attended, there were virtually no children other than ours. During the sermon my husband and I ran an informal kids’ “Sunday school class,” and nine times out of ten the only participants would be our own four kids. This made for tricky dynamics, as you can imagine.

By the time we left Greece in June 2019, our children were 13, 11, 9, and 8. Because their main (and often only) Christian fellowship was with their immediate family, we were always looking to engage them in meaningful fellowship with other believing kids. But we had few options.

This is why camp was and is such a lifeline. For two weeks each summer, our kids are immersed in a vibrant community of faith. They’re singing praise songs and participating in Bible study. They’re spending time with Christian role models and hearing first-hand stories about God. They’re doing activities with same-age peers who also follow Jesus, and interacting with them around shared faith. These are things they didn’t have the opportunity to do in regular life in Greece. What a gift!

Our son had the same Brookwoods counselor, a guy who’s as fun as he is godly, two out of four summers and has bonded closely with him. His presence and voice of encouragement in our son’s life has been an answer to prayer. Our daughters have also enjoyed their counselors and learned many things about faith from them. This summer, one daughter came home from camp saying that Bible study and worship time each morning was her very favorite thing about Deer Run. It’s tidbits like these that prompt me to bow my head in gratitude to God for providing our kids with a place where they can drink from this spiritual well after a comparative drought throughout the year.

Camp Brookwoods, Deer Run, and Moose River Outpost give a tremendous gift to its community, and really the whole region, by being a hub of Jesus-centered faith that’s easily accessible to kids. It’s a place where parents can know that their children will be exposed to God in winsome ways, and where their kids will meet and interact with engaging models of permeating faith. These types of communities can be hard to come by, and being able to plug into one is an amazing blessing. We’ll always be grateful for the central role that camp is playing in our children’s spiritual upbringing, and how God has used it to help close the spiritual gap for our children.

Susan Bradley Arico was a Deer Run camper from 1986-1991 and was on staff in 1994, 1996, and 1997. Her husband York was on Brookwoods staff for three years in the 1990’s. The Aricos now reside in Connecticut. You may contact Susan, or view more of her writing on her blog, or her facebook page.

 

 

 

Impact of Camp

Posted by on October 25, 2019

The Impact of Camp

by Daniel Forkner, Brookwoods Alumni

I started going to Camp Brookwoods when I turned eight years old. I remember being unsure if I was really going to like this strange place that I would spend two whole weeks. I had no idea that Brookwoods would be one of the most impactful places of my life. Over 11 summers, I spent 52 weeks at Brookwoods, not including multiple Alumni Camps and Winter Reunions.

Building a fire is a great life skill.

One of the greatest parts of camp is the skills that kids learn. Throughout my years at camp, I learned many different skills that my friends from outside of camp seldom possessed. Some of these skills include: how to sail, use a band saw, water ski, wind surf, SCUBA dive, shoot a bow, shoot a rifle, rock climb, throw a Frisbee, build a fire, read a map and compass, catch fish, save lives, canoe through whitewater rapids, build a shelter, set up a tent (quickly in the rain), mountain bike, ride a horse, serve others, be vulnerable, teach Bible studies, and so much more. Without a doubt, there are other places that kids and young adults can learn these skills, but there is nowhere besides camp where they can learn such a bevy of diverse skills in the context of a Christ-centered outdoor experience.

Camp is definitely one of the most fun places on Earth. At the same time, camp is also incredibly challenging and stretching. There were periods at camp that weren’t necessarily ‘fun’, but those were the moments when I was learning the most important skills—those that build character. I learned focus and respect during Bible studies, and perseverance through immense knee pain on my 1st year LDP 6-day hike. I learned support, brotherhood, and community through talking about tough teenager stuff in the Ranger cabin during LDP, and I learned patience in leadership by being a counselor.

Woodchucks 2016, Daniel far right

The Holy Spirit moves powerfully and intentionally on camp’s sacred grounds; there is no place on Earth like it. One of the most impactful lessons that I learned at camp came during my last summer there, when I was one of the counselors in the Woodchuck cabin. I had thought long and hard about returning for another summer on staff and I just wasn’t sure if I wanted to come back. I did return, but towards the end of the summer I was overwhelmed, stressed, and doubting that I had made the right decision. At the Closing Campfire, campers have an opportunity to share with the entire camp something that they had learned and one of my campers stood up and said, “This summer I learned that Jesus Christ is my Savior.” I teared up. Foolishly, I was regretting my decision to work at camp. Little to my knowledge, God was working through me and using me in this camper’s life. In an instant, the hard work of being a counselor was worth every minute. God used me in bringing this camper into the saving grace of Jesus. In that moment, God reinforced the most important lesson—camp is not about me. Camp is about the Gospel. As Bob Strodel famously says during Staff Week, “The entire summer is worth it if one camper comes to Christ.” The impact of camp, camper and counselor alike, is life-changing. Come to camp, and experience it for yourself, you won’t regret it.

Daniel Forkner graduated from Wheaton College in 2019. He moved to Colorado Springs, CO where is he working in the financial technology industry. He’s spending as much time outside as he can, doing the things he learned at Brookwoods, like rock climbing, fishing and hiking! Find him on Facebook or email, dcforkner@gmail.com