Day One – At the Lodge #119

It is easy to think of DL only as it is now: a full camp, a large staff, a sufficient supply of camper and staff scholarships, a beautiful, functional facility including a “boulderless” ball field, lots of boats, excellent vans, all desired maintenance, kitchen, and office equipment, a complete staff manual, 100 people for each work weekend, good salaries for the full time staff and a large number of financial contributors.

I am hopeful that as I tell my experiences at DL, you will remember that it has taken 28 years to go from where DL was in 1982 to where DL is today. As you read my perspective of these years, I trust you will be encouraged as you learn how God has guided and provided… and He has! I trust you will also be encouraged to remember that it has taken a total of 80 years, even with God’s guidance, provision, and just plain old hard work by the staff, board of directors, and many, many volunteers, for DL to become what it is today. So if you are in a very difficult position, and it is where you believe God would have you to be, hang in there. On my desk I keep the words Winston Churchill spoke during World War II: Never Give Up, Never, Never Give Up, Never, Never, Never Give Up.

In the nine months before I walked into DL to begin my first summer as Director, my mom died, I had been asked to resign as the Director of a large camp/conference center in TX, was Chairman of the Christian Camping Convention, turned down several jobs, and when our money was just about all gone, was asked to become the Director of DL. I spent two of the next five months away from my family who remained in TX, sold a house, bought a house, flew back to Texas to drive with our family to the new house, arriving on June 2. The movers arrived in pouring rain on June 5, a day later than scheduled, giving us more time to scrub walls, floors, cabinets and counters. Between the 5th and 7th of June 16 family members or Deerfooters had come to help clean and get things settled. On June 8 Sally Jo and I drove our oldest daughter to La Guardia Airport in NYC for a flight back to Dallas where she would rejoin her high school orchestra for the long anticipated high school orchestra competition in Vienna, Austria, and stay on to work in Christ Camp of Germany, where Sally Jo and I had previously worked two weeks as consultants. On June 11 I took a day trip to Massachusetts and Vermont where I picked up DL staff. On June 12 the counselors and I left for camp.

As we headed for DL I was tired, excited and very aware that I had only been at DL once before, in December for two hours when there was deep snow!

Upon arrival, the first person I saw was Jeff Littauer, a senior at Wheaton College and the only person I had previously known with DL experience who would be at DL for the summer. Jeff had agreed to open the facility and be Guide leader. Here he was, mowing the ball field, with drops of blood on his face – my introduction to black flies.

I do not remember what I did during those first hours, but at 10:00 that night I was heading for the Lookout when the generator was turned off – as it was every night. Suddenly it was pitch dark. I did not have a flashlight with me. I tried to work my way down the “S” shaped path to the cabin where I had only been once before. It was hopeless.

Into the darkness I called “will somebody please come and take me home!” The person who came was also without a flashlight, and he almost walked me into the lake.

Lord, Help!

I was exhausted and had no clue where I should begin the next day – when 30 people were looking for my leadership as the new Director of Deerfoot Lodge.

What a difficult way to begin, even if I was living In Partnership With God.

The Finest Product Deserves the Best Packaging #118

Twenty one years before becoming the Director of Deerfoot Lodge I received a life changing challenge.

While driving back from my admissions interview for Baylor Medical School, I remember thinking “I can be a doctor… but do I really want to be a doctor?” My father was an MD and my older brother, and our mutual friend, Paul Groen, were in Baylor Medical School. I had never really given any thought to being anything but a doctor.

One evening while at a concert, Mr. Garret Groen invited me to come to his home so he could talk with me. It was an easy yes for me as Mr. Groen lived a block from our home. The Groen’s home was set back on property with several large trees, and impressive due to its modern design. I was warmly greeted at the door and we went into the living room. We were still standing when Mr. Groen said “Chuck, I just cannot get it out of my mind – I think you should consider going into the ministry, not into medicine. So often we present the finest product in shabby packaging. I believe that Jesus Christ is “the finest product” and we should present Him to the world in the best packaging. I challenge you to do this!”

Our Lord never asks anyone to do anything “half way”:

  • “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” — Mt 6:33
  • “No one can serve two masters” — Mt 6:24
  • “If you love me, you will obey what I command. — Jn 14:15
  • “Forgive …seventy-seven times.” — Mt 18:21-22
  • “Love your neighbor as yourself” — Lk 10:27

The Lord does good work: consider the design, the inter-relatedness, the beauty of creation. Remember the detail God went into when it came to building His portable temple. How He directed the tribes to stand around the temple. How He led the children of Israel by day, by night. How He directed King Solomon to build His beautiful temple.

The Lord asks for our best! Who we are, inside and out, and what we do is how we bring this “finest product” to our sinful world. Our Lord asks us to “Be holy, because I am holy.” — I Pet 1:16, to “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him” — Ps 37:7, to work hard: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” — Ecc 9:10, to take time for reflection: “consider the lilies of the field” — Mt 6:28, and to “run with perseverance the race set before us.” — Heb 12:1

My challenge at DL: Finest Product, Best Packaging. As Director of Deerfoot Lodge, I had the privilege of working at this challenge with the full support and guidance of the DL Board of Directors. The underlying question in every Board discussion was/is “what is best for the ministry of Deerfoot Lodge?” Building godly young men requires DL to work at modeling excellence in every area of camp: program development, selection, training, and compensation of summer staff, food service, nursing care, equipment, marketing, camper scholarship provisions and facility. I mention facility maintenance and development last so I can bring special focus on the 2000 hours given each work weekend by volunteers to provide the beautiful, functional facility.

There are many differences between the Lord and us! One is… the Lord does it right the first time!! The DL Board was very comfortable with my sending them a report the week before their next meeting – and then my giving them an amended report at the meeting. They were pleased that I had continued to think through the best way to do something. Their openness encouraged me to say to the campers and staff “show me a better way to do something, and we will do it.” At the end of every summer I walked one on one with every male summer staff member. They knew the questions I would ask. What were the goals for the summer you wrote down in staff training? How did you do? How could we have prepared you better for your work this summer? If you were Director, what would you do differently? How can I do my job better? The staff knew I wanted straight answers and they gave them! Because of their suggestions, changes were made.

The finest “product” is Jesus Christ. We have the joy of working In Partnership With God as we bring Him into the lives of people – and through people, to a world in great need. Let us do all for the Glory of God.

We Found the Right Home for Our Family #117

There was a tremendous difference between our home in TX and the house I bought in Greenville, NY. Each has proven “perfect” for the lives we have lived in each location.

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” — Psalm 37:4. It has taken hours of work, many given by Deerfooters, but look at what the Lord has provided. We consider our home and its location a gift from God.

Our location provided hundreds of acres behind our five acres where we could walk, horse back ride, dirt bike, snow mobile and cross country ski. A half mile away is a PGA certified golf course. Within easy walking distance is a resort for young families. We are encouraged to bring our grand children to use their playgrounds off season.

And our house? Today all floor coverings, windows, kitchen cabinets, interior doors and trim, siding, and roofing have been replaced, and three large bay windows have been added to the west side of our house – great views and sunsets. The damp basement is now dry, and has two 4’X 6’ south facing windows, a nice play room, a great little study, and a large wood working shop. The sorry deck on the back of the house has been replaced with a screened porch, deck and patio which together have almost as many square feet as the first floor of our home. From our kitchen and family room we look over beautiful flower gardens and a scruffy lawn to a wall of 15’ Colorado Blue Spruce and beyond, to the woods. On the south side of our home is large natural slate patio, made private with a stone wall, berm, and extensive tall grasses – creating an out-door room which we use for a month before, and a month after the deck/patio are comfortably useable. To the north-west of our home are the vegetable garden, rhubarb, blueberry and raspberry patches. This year we froze a winter’s supply of blue berries, red raspberries, and organic vegetables.

This year the garden club asked if they could include our home on their tour. Our children cannot imagine that we would ever sell the place! Our son Dirk, the associate pastor of a church 25 minutes away, and his wife and three sons come frequently to our home… their home. Hardly a week goes by that we do not have “visitors” of some kind, many of them Deerfooters. This week a tree surgeon, three pastors, and an Albany County highway worker and their families have cut Christmas trees on our property – and enjoyed a meal or hot chocolate. While I was Director of Deerfoot, for the 2 or 3 days before staff training began, the 3 section chiefs and my assistant for the summer came to review details for the summer and to finalize staff training.

When in a difficult situation, let us not be too quick to turn from “giving thanks in every situation”. God’s hand was integral to my being asked to resign in TX and to being hired by DL as Director at a critical time in DL history. We also believe that God’s hand was integral to the quick sale of our home in TX and the purchase of our home in NY. As I continue to tell the DL story, my expectation is that you, like me, will see God’s involvement historically, and to this day. Often there is an incredible amount of work involved in what the Lord asks us to do. Consider the experiences of Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, David, Nehemiah… James, John, Peter, Paul – they all had to trust God and use every bit of preparation, brain power, and physical strength they had. The result? God’s work was done, and the people involved had the satisfaction, the joy of experiencing God using them in His work.

Have I seen every tough situation turn into a satisfactory result? Absolutely not. There are times when my biblical understanding tells me how things should work out, but my logic continues to say “impossible”. Yet, I must push on, for I seek to live In Partnership With God.

We can smile now at the tears we shed when our family arrived at our new house on a rainy, gray day and was greeted with the smell of cat urine and cigarette smoke. God knew that he had provided the right house for us, and this fact has become increasingly obvious as we have lived in our home.

If you are going to live In Partnership With God, you too must push on, earnestly seeking His wisdom.

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” — Psalm 37:4