IPWG What Has Been Done?..What Could Be?..What Should Be? #123

What Has Been Done? What Could Be? What Should Be?

  • By knowing What Had Been Done, insight is gained as to options for the future. What was working? What was not? By knowing the present and past history, the likelihood of making the same mistake twice is reduced, and if something has worked, it is time to built upon the fact – and not reinvent the wheel.
  • By knowing What Could Be Done careful consideration can be given to all options suggested by history, the insights of others, the leader’s insights.
  • By knowing What Should Be Done the challenge becomes matching the best option to the desired result. There comes a time when the leader must choose and act! It is necessary to make timely decisions so other people will not be unnecessarily delayed in their action. The only reason to delay any decision is if, by delaying a decision, additional information will likely be received which can alter the final decision.

Steps one and two above are necessary if those affected are to feel ownership in the final decision. When ownership is part of the process, the ease of change is greatly increased.

It was not difficult for me to do the above prior to the beginning of camp. From January to May, as I traveled about the North East talking with former staff and members of the Deerfoot Board of Directors, there were hours to consider what had been done, the suggested options, and what were likely to be best one or two options of what should be done.

It was more difficult for the returning staff to reconsider almost everything about camp. It was “their Lodge”. They pretty much liked DL the way it was, or they would not have returned, some of them for 10 summers. During staff training, staff input was continual, options often needed to be considered quickly, and decisions were made so the results could be implemented during staff training or when camp began. With almost every decision I would also say that we would stick with my decision only until I had received information that indicated it was time to change the previous decision.

It must have been incredibly difficult for Dave (25 summers at DL) and Elaine (17 summers) Naysmith, Dean (20 summers) and Lee (6 summers) Dover, and Jim and Sherri Van Buren to return to DL with open minds. These experienced Deerfooters returned to provide the quality leadership needed, particularly during my first summer. The Van Burens returned for only one summer, but “Grundy” (Jim) knew the flex time, all camp, sectional, and cabin activities better then anyone else, and he brought contagious enthusiasm! These six people were able to clearly tell me what had been done in every area of camp, and able to make very constructive suggestions, particularly in the areas of program and food service. Each person knew I needed their wisdom if DL was going to survive this transition summer.

A Sinking Feeling, A Thankful Heart #122

Deerfoot is a very big place to see on a cold December day when walking on a foot of snow, yet this was my total exposure to DL prior to my arrival for staff training. Between January and May, while talking with staff from the previous summer and DL Board members, I came to the conclusion that DL was a well equipped wilderness camp and thus gave no further thought to equipment needs for the summer.

When I arrived in June for staff training, as camp was being unpacked from winter storage, I began a serious equipment inventory. Vans are big and hard to miss! Slowly I realized DL did not have the vans needed for the hiking program I envisioned, and I had no clue where to get two safe, working vans quickly and cheaply.

When I went into the tripping area, I was greeted with very sober faces. As the packs and tents were taken from their storage bins, the counselors had come to realize that many of the packs and tents were worn out from years and years of use, and others were in obvious need of serious repair: tears, broken zippers, and missing straps. They did find plastic which had been used the previous summer in place of tents, but everyone knew from personal experience that even if the plastic kept the campers dry, it would did not keep away the insects…like black flies. DL had been through several years of slowly declining enrollment and decreasing contributions. New program equipment had been low on the essential expenditure list.

The DL Board had made it clear to me: Be sure DL has what is necessary to have an excellent summer camp. We all knew the dollars were tight.

Somehow we located two cheap, safe, working vans from Canada. By phone we were told the vans were old, boxy, 16 passenger school buses used the previous school year. As promised, French Connection I & II worked well, but it was not very comforting to sit in a seat and look through rusted out places to the ground below. A lot of salt is used on the roads in Canada! But, they worked and somehow passed their NY vehicle inspections. For the next several years DL used these reliable, rusted out, ugly machines – they got the job done.

I priced new tents and back packs – ouch! Then into camp came the Director of Gordon College’s outdoor recreation program, La Vida. He welcomed me to the area and asked if there was anyway he could help. When asked about sources for back packs and tents, he told me the name and phone number of the person who could help us become dealers for Johnson Camping, who made Timberline Tents (DL now has 73!) and Wilderness Experience, which made back packs and sleeping bags. I made the call and DL became a dealer for both companies. I placed the order and we were promised delivery by the first hike day.

How God provides that we may accomplish His work is not our concern. Our concern is to continue working at what we believe God has given it to do. It is when God steps into our otherwise hopeless situation with a workable solution that we realize His greatness…and we rest a bit more easily in His care.

We often grow in faith because we have to – if we are to live In Partnership With God.

Hebrews 11 has been called “The Roll Call of Faith” and begins with “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” and then gives the names of many people who lived by faith, with a sentence or two about each: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sara, Isaac and Jacob, Joseph, Moses and his parents, Joshua.

In that same chapter we read “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” — Hebrews 11:6

God’s Guidance? #121

Prayer is a constant when interviewing and hiring staff. I was continually aware that hiring the wrong person can have a very negative impact upon the other staff members, upon the campers, and upon the reputation of Deerfoot Lodge. With this in mind, I developed a series of questions through which I really did try to scare off every counselor!

1. Do you love the out of doors? You will be living there….walking to your cabin in the dark when it is pouring….perhaps sleeping in a tipi that never leaks unless it rains, and it can seem to rain forever! Rain or sunshine, you will be a role model for the campers you are protecting, teaching, challenging, guiding, encouraging.

2. Do you have really enjoy kids? Are you able to love those who are not easy to love, but have a desperate desire to be recognized, loved, and cared for?

3. Do you desire to be God’s man, and to build godly men? If not, stay home, for you will be out of place. Being God’s man at DL does not mean you will be able to have a 45 minute quiet time each day. Life just keeps coming at you and you are thankful for just a few minutes during the camper quiet time or during rest period. You will learn to pray throughout the day. You cannot fake being God’s man for 11 weeks!

4. Are you a self starter with a good energy level? You, and the other DL staff, will be miserable if you must be continually told what to do! When out of camp no one will be able to tell you what to do. The high energy level is essential because you will be on 24/6 – really! You do learn to pace yourself, but at the end of summer, if you have done your job, you will be almost crawling out of camp – and so will I.

Though his picture was on his application, I was not mentally prepared for this guy coming toward me: ragged Levi shorts with patches, a faded T shirt with no sleeves, a bushy beard, and solid muscle. He looked like a wild man. “Chief…I’m Steve!” My first year…and I had hired this?

Steve learned about Deerfoot through a list of Christian camps – DL was listed as a wilderness camp. At his request I mailed him the 4 page staff application. Through his application and our second telephone interview I learned Steve was 28, a recreation major at the University of Wisconsin in need of working at a summer camp for his field work assignment. When asked what he had done between high school and college, Steve told me that in high school he began to smoke, drink, and do drugs. When he graduated he got a job…in fact had 4 or 5 different jobs and attended 3 different colleges. At some time during these years he attended a Navigator Bible Study for several months and had learned about Jesus Christ and the salvation He offered. But Steve continued heavy into alcohol and drugs.

One morning Steve found himself alone in the woods coming off a really bad drug trip. He quickly realized his “friends” had left him and he also realized this was a good way to die. And as he put it, “no way to live either”. Alone in the woods, Steve asked Jesus Christ to forgive him, to save him…just as he had been told he could do by the Navigators. Steve then enlisted in the army, and upon the completion of his tour of duty, he entered the U. of Wisconsin where he was an honor’s student.

Several weeks into camp Steve told me how, when he first saw the DL sign, he just kept on driving! He was not afraid of much, but Steve was afraid DL would not accept him – “he knew he was older and a bit different!” Steve proved to be golden! His third year on staff he was the Guide leader. He eventually became a youth pastor. Now Steve is the associate pastor of a church in Wisconsin. His four sons became DL scholarship campers, and the oldest, Steve Jr., was a counselor this past summer.

Every time Steve has returned to bring his sons to DL he has driven to the same bridge over the Hudson River he found his first year on staff….to jump down 60′ into the river, just to be sure he still can. Steve Tramp is still a wild man, even as he continues to live In Partnership With God.

(Steve approved the above)

We Had No Choice! #120

Every member of the staff had asked to work at Deerfoot Lodge for the summer of 1982. We had all said that Jesus Christ was our Savior and we desired to have Him as Lord…to be godly men. Beyond that, the diversity was incredible.

27 of the 36 in camp when we began staff training:

  • did not know another person in camp
  • did not know the location or content of any building
  • did not have any reasonable understanding of the uniqueness of the DL program
  • did not know the difference between boss and beak, or what the Waldorf was, or a gudge, or 3000-12

The total staff of 50 included males ages 15 – 42 and came from 16 states. Most of this staff had never lived in the woods, much less for 11 weeks. Some had never been to any camp!

Diverse as we were, We Had No Choice but to work together well if we were going to survive – and to work together required the 75% that were new depend upon the 25% returning staff for knowledge, and in many ways, initial leadership. This would have been much easier if the 25% agreed on everything. I remember spending over an hour trying to come to agreement on what skills should be included in the row boat test! There were 3 different tests… apparently all in use the previous summer. I remember saying in desperation “I do not care which test we use! This is a crazy use of time!”

We began with a very sobering tour of camp. In 1982 there was no Memorial Day Work Weekend. Everything was dirty, particularly the camper cabins. Repairs were necessary from camper use and winter storm damage. None of the instructional areas were set up and we could already see equipment shortages. In every area of camp we had to think through what had to be done – while thinking through the programming questions of what should be accomplished in each area, and how best to do this.

Always in our minds was the reality that Campers Were Coming, and we were far from ready for their arrival!! During the days we unpacked and cleaned every one of the 27 buildings, 4 gudges, and 3 instructional area shelters – while learning the content and how to teach in each of the 11 instructional areas. Almost everyone was trained in CPR, good swimmers took ARC Life Saving, and 3 became National Riflery Association instructors. We had to learn how to prepare and lead a cabin devotional, and appropriate ways of discipling campers. We had to learn the DL songs, and about camp fires, testimonies, banquet night, skits, and hike procedures. We knew we had to be ready! The days were long and hard! We knew We Had No Choice!

After listening to knowledgeable DL campers, staff and board members in the previous five months, I knew some patterns had to be changed – and I also knew these changes would have to be well-received by the staff. They included discontinuing the following: biking camp, cross country camp, kayaking as an instructional area, bringing in a different Bible study leader every session, the 5:00 Bible study, using sandwiches and frozen leftovers as tripping food, and having all of the campers and counseling staff out of camp on the same day.

We were all living in our stretch zone, and I think would have moved into our panic zone apart from the fact that God had brought to the DL staff many exceptional people. These included four young men who today are on the Deerfoot Lodge Board of Directors: Brent Karner, Jeff Littauer, John Fox and Steve Mayer.

In reality, we did have many choices. We could have formed two distinct groups – the returning and the new staff. We could have been resistant to changing our understanding of the right way of doing things. We could have quit…feeling too much was being expected of us. We could have become proud of what we were accomplishing.

To God Be The Glory, Great Things He Has Done…through us, because we chose to work In Partnership With God