God’s Provision of the Right People! #132

Hiring a great staff was essential. Excellent staff training was also essential. The 30+ college students came from 19 secular and Christian colleges/universities – from MA to CA. The staff came from Christian and non-Christian homes, some had extensive Biblical knowledge while others had very little. Some of the staff had considerable camping skills and others had a lot to learn. Some would rather hike than eat – others would rather study nature, and not always while on the trail! Their abilities varied academically, physically, athletically, and musically. Hopefully all had common sense!

This very diverse group had other areas where, I believed, the staff members were of one mind. Every staff member had accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior and desired to have Him as Lord. Every staff member was a self starter with high energy levels, and looked forward to working with campers while living in the wonder of God’s creation.

It is a tremendous responsibility to plan and lead a 3 week training program for 30 bright, capable college students. Do the math: 21 days X 16 hours X 30 staff members = 8,190 man hours! Staff training had to be excellent! If the staff did not feel their three week training program was valuable to them, it would be very difficult to have an extensive staff training program in future years. Camp was down to an average of 48 campers per session. Poor staff training = poor experience for the campers = fewer campers the next year = the end of Deerfoot Lodge.

I desperately needed God’s help! God knew this and provided two qualified men: Jay and Rich. Jay Barnes, PhD was Vice President of Student Development at Messiah College. Thirteen years previously Jay had developed the successful Guide program, an eight week leadership training experience for selected campers 16-17 years old. Rich Butman, PhD was Professor of Psychology at Wheaton College. Both of these men were Deerfoot Lone Eagles – they knew Deerfoot Lodge from the perspective of camper and staff member.

For two days we worked through what the DL staff needed to know when serving as Cabin Counselors, Section Chiefs, or Guide Leaders. We also focused on the best ways to help the DL staff internalize the areas we had identified. As the training schedule was developed, we tried to keep in mind the critical importance of building a team – almost a church, with all the parts of the body working together to build godly young men in the Deerfoot context of wilderness camping.

At the end of two days, the staff training schedule was complete, and Rich agreed to come and help train the staff. Every day was scheduled from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM. When the staff arrived they moved into their cabins and then worked together to unload Founders Lodge – all of the boats and docks were carried to the water front. This task is impossible without team work as the docks and some boats are very heavy! During training the staff reviewed/learned the daily schedules including line ups, traditional DL games and songs, how to lead a camper to Christ, to lead cabin devotionals, to give an appropriate testimony, the counselor’s role in camper discipline, and the instructional areas with expertise to teach three. Leadership and people management were studied and, on the three day staff hike, all of the above were practiced. Most of the staff earned their American Red Cross Certifications in Life Saving, CPR, and First Aid. Three or four were certified as National Riflery Association Instructors. Planned into the training schedule were blocks of time when Rich would use standardized tests with the staff. After Rich had “scored” the tests, he would explain the results to the entire staff, and then meet individually with each staff member for a personalized review of his results.

As the three weeks of staff training came to conclusion, Rich helped the staff members develop their personal goals for the summer – at least one goal in each of the following areas: spiritual, physical, camper, and instructional area. Throughout the summer the Section Chiefs and I would talk with each staff member about the progress they were making on the goals they had identified during staff training.

At the end of three intense weeks, we praised God for His faithfulness. We were ready/eager for the campers to arrive!!

When we live In Partnership With God we encourage others to live In Partnership With God.

Living in Partnership with God – in Retirement! #131

It has been a good week and a busy week, and come Saturday night I did not have a solid beginning to my IPWG for the week. This afternoon, with the topic pretty well thought out, I sat down to write. After two attempts, I quit! Watched “Undercover Boss” and realized that as the Director of DL, guaranteed there was no reason, nor would it have been at all possible, for me to have been an “Under Cover Boss”!!!

This is where my time has gone for the past two days. Saturday morning began with a men’s breakfast and Bible study – from which I drove home arriving five minutes before a planned telephone call from one of the Guide leaders for this coming summer. At the leader’s request, I had written a five page e-mail response to excellent questions they asked me to address. The telephone call was from one of the leaders who wanted to talk about some of the content, and then to ask me three more questions. We talked for over an hour.

I was more than an hour late when I arrived at the ordination council in which I was personally asked to participate. The candidate read each section of his prepared statement of his spiritual journey and his theological positions on many topics. The statement must have been over 20 pages long and the examination took over four hours. The candidate was well prepared, articulate, and explained/defended his positions well. After lunch the members of the council met to discuss recommendation for ordination. He is to be ordained.

I arrived home at 4:30, changed my clothes and worked in the yard till 7:00. After supper I wrote a long e-mail in response to an on-going communication with a DL family.

Today, Sunday, our morning was typical: Drive 30 minutes to church to attend Sunday school class we are enjoying. Currently we are studying the book of Job, taught by an attorney. He does extensive study, presents his material well, and welcomes hard questions. Discussions often result. Two other ministers attend the class. Then it was singing three numbers with the choir during the morning worship service.

After church I was one of three judges for an “Iron Chef Competition” between two non-professional “chefs” who are active members in the congregation. The secret ingredient: cilantro. Excellent presentations and food. About 170 stayed for the program and an enjoyed an excellent dinner together.

We got home, walked the dog, I drove back to a pussy willow tree we had walked by…cut a few branches for Sally Jo.

Before beginning to write, I saw an e-mail from a Deerfooter whose wedding will be in August. It was time to begin some pre-marital counseling. He and his fiance’ live in another state and both work. Several dates when they can come for an overnight were suggested. As I began to write, I received a telephone call from a non-Deerfooter to talk about a summer opportunity we had discussed previously. This young man is a graduating senior in high school who takes almost all AP courses in a top private school – and has an excellent voice…taking lessons. He is a super sharp guy who wants to enter the ministry.

I had told him about an opportunity to work with a very effective minister/leader in another state. His parents nixed the idea…not enough structure. I asked to talk with his parents. He said they would call back. Just after we finished eating, the call came. His parents did not want to discuss the matter further. A tremendous disappointment for the young man. His parents think he will receive better supervision at a secular university in the fall.

Sally Jo has just come down to get me! Good night!


Camp-of-the-Woods – A Partner In Ministry #130

In 1900, through the leadership of Pop Tibbitts, Camp Iroquois, located on the shores of Lake George, became Camp-of –the-Woods on the shores of Lake Pleasant in Speculator, NY. In 1929 Dad Kunz went to Pop Tibbitts and asked if he could recommend a location for Deerfoot Lodge, a boy’s camp he would like to begin the next summer. Pop recommended he talk with Cal Wilbur and his wife who had a hunting Lodge on the Kunjamuk River, 8 miles into the forest from Speculator.

Cal Wilbur’s wife told Dad Kunz about the murder of Eulie Davis in 1925 – at Whitaker Lake. Dad Kunz found the lake on a U.S. Geological Survey Map and hiked from the Kunjamuk over Dug Mountain and wrote “my first glimpse of beautiful Whitaker Lake, sparkling like a jewel in the sun”. At the end of summer 1932, DL moved to its present location.

Gordon Purdy became the Director of Camp-of-the-Woods in 1948, and it continued to develop as an excellent conference center. Deerfoot Lodge began, and has remained, a rather small wilderness boy’s camp. Camp-of-the-Woods has about as many staff as DL has campers!

Deerfoot did not have telephones, staff laundry, beautiful beach, or girls. Camp-of-The-Woods had all of these! If you were a guy living in the woods and had a day off, nothing to do in camp, no available car, and an available 12 speed bike – where would you go?

When DL staff went to Camp-of-the-Woods, it was not uncommon for them to:

  • Use every available pay phone for their weekly call to girl friends…and yes, to families. The staff also used the phones when working out the details of their plans for fall – be they school, work, or leisure.
  • Use every available pay washing machine that Camp-of-the-Woods provided for their guests. And not all of the DL staff clothes that went into the washing machines were only slightly soiled…nor did they always leave the laundry looking as they had found it.
  • Try to talk with every available, attractive girl – whether they were on the staff of Camp-of-the-Woods or of their girl’s camp, Tapawingo. It was not uncommon for a DL staff member to plan to meet a particular girl on their next day off.

When I received the written invitation from Gordon Purdy to stop by his office, I knew it would not be an easy visit!

On my next trip to Speculator, I went to Gordon’s office. I am sure we exchanged pleasantries, but deep down I knew what was coming. And it did! Very gently, but yet very forcefully, he told me he did not appreciate Deerfoot Lodge staff arriving in groups several days a week, and the resulting situation with the phones, laundry, and girls. He noted that the Camp-of-the-Woods guys were not happy to see the Deerfoot Lodge staff come either. I said I would see what could be done about these problems. We both knew there was no easy solution.

He went on to tell me that he knew DL needed more campers and thought he could help in that department. He would like to provide Deerfoot five minutes one morning each week during chapel to show slides and tell about Deerfoot Lodge. He also encouraged us to put a permanent Deerfoot display in an area where guests passed each day. He then offered to put a Deerfoot “advertisement” in the annual Camp of the Woods brochure.

Camp-of-the-Woods people were the ideal market. These were primarily Christian families who chose to spend a week or more in the Adirondacks. Tapawingo, the girl’s camp located on an island in Lake Pleasant, was a good camp for their daughters. Now, with the endorsement of Camp of the Woods, these families were encouraged to have their sons have fun while growing through the experiences available at Deerfoot Lodge.

“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus” — Romans 15:5

The Health Inspector Is Coming! #129

In 1982 there was no telephone line within five miles of DL, so DL had a phone with answering machine at Dave Good’s house in Speculator. Every day a staff member would check for messages.

My heart sank the day I received the recorded message from the NYS Health Department Inspector telling me he was coming on a specific date for our pre-camp inspection. I had heard that Mr. Lane was really tough. There was no way to fake it – I did not know the NYS Health Department regulations. My mind was spinning as I drove back to camp.

While in high school I was riding with a camp director who was driving a truck to camp. The director turned off the highway on to a small side road…and then another…and another…then back to the highway. As we made this detour he explained that the truck was over-loaded and so he was driving around the weigh station. He went on to say that sometimes in Christian work we needed to do things like this. I was stunned! I could not believe what I was hearing – and from a Christian leader I highly respected. At that moment I vowed I would never knowingly disobey the law of the land – unless it was in violation of God’s law.

Romans 13:1-5 — ”Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.”

When I told the staff DL was about to have an inspection by the NYS Health Department, I explained my position on obedience to the law of the land – it was biblical. It was really tough to say this because I did not know what the state regulations were! But…the NYS Health Department regulations are law.

The inspector introduced himself: Steve Lane. I admitted I did not know the NYS regulations and was not willfully in violation of them. I went on to ask Steve to teach me – and not be too tough on my ignorance. He smiled and said he would be glad to. I then asked if our entire staff could go along for the inspection as I wanted them to also learn the NYS regulations. I think the best word to describe his reaction was “shocked”. Then… ”I guess there is no reason why not.”

We toured camp together for several hours – Steve was a great teacher!!!! As we went through camp, at location after location he would stop us and then clearly explain the potential accident a specific regulation was seeking to prevent. I did not feel any tension between Steve and me….so as we walked along the trail from the Island back to main camp I asked Steve if he would be willing to stop the group – point out the dangers of the roots in the path, and tell us the path had to be made safe, which meant filling between the roots. He winked at me ….then he stopped the staff, and with all seriousness he explained the dangers of the present path – and what needed to be done to make it safe. Even I was beginning to believe he meant it! Then he started laughing…and slowly we all did. Needless to say, any tension we were feeling was gone.

Through the years Steven and I became very good friends. After several inspections Steve told me he was an elder in his church, and because we were brothers in the Lord, he would be extra tough on DL, so Steve and I would be above reproach. He also assured me he would be fair with DL, and he was.

About 15 years later Steve’s boss sent his two sons to DL. Later, Steve’s son also became a Deerfooter – as did the two sons of the Governor of NY State.