Andres Segovia: God’s Leading, God’s Faithfulness #147

Andres Segovia, whose family ran a small bakery out of their home in Mexico, attended Emmaus Bible College in Dubuque, Iowa.  He helped to offset his college expenses working for Dean Dover/Wazican, their Director of Food Service.  Wazi held the same position at DL, and encouraged Andres to come with him to Deerfoot.  Andres became a favorite Woodsman counselor, and after his third summer, DL made it possible for Andres, and several other DL staff, to go to Venezuela to help with the development of a camp begun by Deerfooter Peter McMillan.  Andres’ job: translate needed sections of the DL staff manual into Spanish.  During the next summer Andres told me about a school in Camiri, Bolivia that needed a grade school teacher.  I could tell this was heavy on his mind, and said that if he wanted to go check out the place for a couple months, Deerfoot would pay his transportation costs.  Andres’ response:  “The Lord opened my eyes and heart ot this ministry…it has been a joy.”  After Andres has been teaching at this isolated Christian school for a year, DL began giving the offering from one Sunday morning each summer for Andres’ support.  After his second year, he repeatedly invited me to come to Camiri so he could show me his school and a 200 acre farm/camp/adult Bible school – his new world.   Andres has now been teaching at the school for fifteen years.

Four years after Andres went to Camiri, Bolivia, our son, Dirk began working for Food for the Hungry in Cochabamba, Bolivia. We would be visiting Dirk and Jennifer – a visit to Andres seemed possible.  I began to realize how isolated Camiri was when Dirk told me that Camiri was on the only unpaved section of the Pan American highway: travel time by bus from Santa Cruz, the nearest city, was about 15 hours, if it did not rain. Travel time by bus from Cochabamba to Santa Cruz- over 6 hours.  Ouch, but we could do it!

When Sally Jo and I arrived in Bolivia, the country was in a general strike.  I think it was about teacher’s pay. These strikes were seldom violent…but real.  Main roads were blocked with overturned buses, trucks, and cars – and deep trenches were dug through the roads.  Cancel the road trip to Andres, or anywhere else.  .

Fortunately Sally Jo and I were able to buy plane tickets to take Dirk, Jennifer, and baby Jashton to an incredible resort just opening near Tarija.  Every morning we would see the sunrise through the arch on our veranda, look down about 300’ to the river where people would be washing their clothes, loading a truck with rocks by hand – and then there was the man who brought his cows down to drink.  Every morning we would hear him sing, his baritone voice filled the valley.  We have a picture of the scene on our family room wall, and we can still hear him singing.

In Tarija we were about 150 miles from Camiri, but the strike and the mountains prevented any possibility of a road trip.  On a whim, Dirk and I went to the small airport in town.  Could we lease a plane to take us to Camiri?  Not a chance – general strike.  Every plane was in use every daylight hour.  As we walked away, a man walked up and asked why we wanted to go to Camiri.  I told how my friend, Andres, was teaching at a Christian school there and that I wanted to go visit him.  He told us to meet him the next morning at 9:00.  When we arrived, he unlocked a gate, took us out to a plane and introduced us to the pilot.  While flying, the pilot told us that the man who arranged our flight was responsible for inspecting all of the airplanes at the airport.

We flew over dry areas and mountains…jungles…occasionally seeing a river and a few “houses”.  It was beautiful, but the isolation of Camiri became very real.  If we crashed in those mountains…forget it!  With mountains all around us, in the distance we could see an open, flat area next to a river…and then a very spread out city of about 30,000 people.  The pilot buzzed the grass landing strip to clear it of animals, made a circle, and landed.  As we got out of the plane, he encouraged us to take as much time as we wanted.  He would take a nap, eat lunch, and be in the area when we returned to the plane.

After several hours with Andres, we were flown back to Tarija where the inspector greeted us.  He told us he was a Christian, and invited us to worship at his church in the morning – Sunday.  Together we praised God for His faithfulness.  Later in the week he and his wife joined us for dinner at the resort, and they brought picture scrap books through which they shared their lives with us.

You decide:  Was it chance that this Christian overheard Dirk’s request in the very busy little airport?  How did he know we were Christians?  Neither Dirk nor I remember saying this in our initial request to hire a plane.

Those who live In Partnership With God often experience the hand of God in undeniable ways.  “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”  Deuteronomy 31:8

God’s Unlikely Choice #146

Tucker Lownes had been a DL camper for 6 summers when he was recommended for the 8 week Guide program. Guides are campers whose counselors believe have good potential as a DL staff member.  I interviewed him by phone and sent him a letter of invitation to register. Tucker decided he would rather work on maintenance with Brent Karner.

At some point I learned that Tucker had trouble reading and was not doing well academically in college, even with the help of people reading his text books to him.  (He finished at the very bottom of his graduating class at Gordon College.)  I also learned Tucker was a good horse back rider – like big time show time!  This may have helped his self confidence, but it did not help him to read!

Tucker became a DL counselor – great with kids!  He and Peter Kempf were the first counselors to lead the Allagash River canoe trip.  On the river, Tucker decided to ride a moose.  He was serious.  Fortunately he was never able to get close enough.  To have a staff member try to ride a moose may say more about my inability to choose wisely the counselors who would take campers into northern Maine where they would not see a house for eight days…than about the staff member who stayed true to his unpredictable nature.

On Monday mornings Tucker came at 6:30 to the voluntary Breaking of Bread service.  The purpose of these services is to worship/celebrate what Jesus Christ accomplished for us through his death and resurrection.  Campers and staff sit in front of the fireplace in a semi-circle around the communion table. In this setting campers and staff read the scriptures, pray, and request hymns to be sung – often explaining why they have chosen that particular hymn.  I always sat in the front circle and started the requested hymns.

One Monday morning Tucker requested a hymn I did not know.  I asked if anyone else would be able to start it.  Silence.  I then asked this Tucker to read the hymn.  The request was no sooner out of my mouth than I realized what I had done.  Tucker could barely read! As I sat there, wondering what to do next, I head Tucker reading the hymn like an actor!  The words flowed from his mouth – expressive, reflecting the emphasis of each verse.  I was stunned.   After the service Tucker told me that after he had started to read, he realized what was happening…and just kept on reading.  God knew Tucker’s desire to be God’s man, and this was more important than his academic record.  God could equip Tucker!

After graduation, he married Kim, a delightful person. Tucker went to work for Ryder Truck Rentals. He worked hard, and after 16 years, was hired away from Ryder by Kempf Building Supply, a company with four locations selling the construction materials used in finishing commercial building interiors. Tucker eventually became Vice President of Sales.

Tucker and Kim were very involved in the life of their church, and came to believe God wanted Tucker to leave his financially secure job, which he enjoyed, and enter the ministry as his vocation.  When Tucker told his boss, Bob Kempf, a fellow believer and Deerfooter, Bob said he could stay on as Vice President of Development while earning his Master of Divinity degree from Hatfield Biblical Seminary. Tucker graduates in June and the lowest grade he has earned, in any course, has been a B-. He swears that his wife Kim has not written any of his papers for him!!!

When we get discouraged with ourselves, our children, or our grand children, let’s remember Tucker who, academically, was a late bloomer.  Even more importantly, let’s remember a man who seeks to be God’s man.

As I think about Tucker, my mind goes to how the first 4 men Jesus chose to be his disciples were fisherman: Peter, Andrew, James and John.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD   Isaiah 55:8

Hub Baehr Lives In Partnership With God #145

As the Director of Deerfoot, I had the privilege of knowing, of learning from, very remarkable men.  Hub Baehr was one of these.

Camp began in 1930.  In 1935 Hub was serving as the Secretary of the Lone Eagle Fellowship.  In about 1950, he and his wife, Lilly, built a simple cabin on the lake.  In 2004, 69 years later, he was serving faithfully on the DL Board of Directors, at the age of 85.  His mind was sharp, but his body needed parts repaired and replaced.  He said he was becoming a bionic man…heart by-pass, hip replacements, pace maker.

After one or two summers at Deerfoot, I came to realize that the schedule for the first Sunday of each session needed to change.  As it was, a new camper arrived on Saturday afternoon, moved into his cabin with strangers, had a swim test in a cold lake, ate supper, tried to sing unknown songs around the campfire, and then went back to his cabin of strangers.  Sunday morning began with a soap scrub in the cold lake, cabin clean up, quiet time when they were to read their Bible – tough for younger campers with limited reading skills.  After eating in the noisy dining hall, he had the choice of participating in a Breaking of Bread service or attending Sunday school – in either case he would be sitting on a hard bench.  And then there was church:  more sitting on a hard bench.  In the evening, another service, another hard bench.  This was not a day that excited the average camper!  And for new campers, homesickness was prevalent – too much time to think.

The Deerfoot Board agreed that the Sunday schedule was a problem.  Someone suggested that camp begin on Sunday, but this was not a good solution as most Deerfoot families are active in their local church.  The discussion was going no where.  To this point Hub Baehr had said nothing.  Then he asked:”Who said Sunday at Deerfoot needed to look like Sunday at home?”

The result:  the optional Breaking of Bread service was moved to Monday morning at 6:30.  Instead of Sunday school, the boys went as cabin groups into the woods to notice the difference between Deerfoot and home, or to find a symbol of God, or to create a parable.  Church became a time of celebration through singing the great hymns up to tempo, and having selected campers share insights they had gained during their time in the woods.  Sunday afternoon became Naval Battle and flex time when campers could choose to swim, take out a boat, fish, play soccer, basketball, tether ball, foose ball, floor hockey, ping pong…or just to talk with friends.  A hot dog cookout by cabin groups led into the evening “service” with three song leaders, many guitars and a piano leading fun choruses.  During this singing, a counselor from each section, plus a person from the support staff, shared with Jesus Christ meant to them.  Thanks Hub.

One Saturday morning Hub returned home from a meeting of The Gideon’s (a Bible placement organization) to find his wife had been murdered.  Three weeks later he had a previously scheduled triple by-pass heart surgery.  A few weeks later Sally Jo and I went to spend time with him.   When we arrived the dining room table was set for “tea time”, just as his wife would have done – china cups and slices of pound cake.  After tea, Hub asked to see the Deerfoot slide show.  For two hours these pictures brought back wonderful memories.  We talked, cried, and laughed together.  Often Hub would quietly say, with a smile on his face, “God is good!”  Since then I have thought of Hub as my Abraham.  Steady in life and death.  Thanks Hub.

The Deerfoot Board agreed that Deerfoot’s theological statement was inadequate.  Over a two year period a clarified and expanded statement was developed, but no one was ready to make the motion for approval.  Then Hub spoke up.  “I worked with Dad Kunz on the development of the original statement.  I think he would be very pleased with these changes.  I move we adopt this new statement.”  Unanimous.  Thanks Hub.

Plans were being made to have Deerfoot’s 75th anniversary celebration in a New Jersey “party place”, just as the 60th had been.

And then Hub raised the question: “Is there any reason this 75th anniversary celebration could not be held at Deerfoot?”  The focus of the location changed, and over 500 came for the weekend.  Thanks Hub.

Hub Baehr said little, yet brought about significant changes.  Hub continues to be a godly man, at 93.

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.”  Psalm 37:23

The Cost of My Pride #144

During my second summer as the Director of DL, I was a very happy man.  The staff had settled into their responsibilities, camper registrations were coming in daily – the pattern during those years as no section of any session was ever full.  It looked like camper registrations would easily exceed the previous summers.  Contributions were up.

I was standing in the sunshine, in front of Old Hardwood when a staff member walked up to me and said:  “Chief, I just heard attendance at ______, ­was down.”  This was ­­­­­­the camp that had asked me to resign two years previously.  I thought   “When I was the Director of ______, there was a waiting list.  Now that I am here, attendance is growing.  I must be pretty good!”  I also remember thinking “This is pride! – Not good!!!   Yes, it was pride, but it was true!”  Total time for this conversation with myself?  Perhaps fifteen seconds.

At the summer DL Board meeting, always in the middle of Session III, I was asked where DL was financially, I had to admit, I did not know.,  This was about the only time I remember some of the Board members really got upset with me!  “How could I be the Director of Deerfoot Lodge and not know where the organization was financially.”

When camp was over I quickly saw that camper registrations were up only 8 from the previous summer, and DL did not have any cash reserve to carry us until the next year’s registrations would begin – in about 6 months.

The light came on.  I remembered my brief conversation with myself – pride!  I could see on paper when camper registrations and contributions essentially stopped.   As best I could tell, my pride cost Deerfoot about $35,000 – and a whole bunch of boys were denied two great weeks at The Lodge.  I was so confident that the financial loss was the result of my pride, I thought I should get a mortgage on our house so I could contribute $35,000 to DL.

In preparation for the October DL Board meeting, a member asked me to come to his home. He asked how DL was doing.  I told him my story, and what I planned to do.  He smiled and told me that would not be necessary.  He had the money needed to keep DL moving forward.  He asked what was needed immediately.  He then wrote a check to DL for the needed amount and said:  “If DL needs additional funds, give me a call.”  I was stunned!

At the October meeting, when I made my annual report, I told my story.  I went on to say that I felt I had learned my lesson. Grove Rust responded: “there will be more!”  Everyone laughed.

Seventy thousand men died in Israel as the direct result of King David’s pride.  David turned from trusting God for his military victories to trusting the size of his army and he asked Joab, the commander of his army, to count his troops.  Joab reminded King David that God’s direct involvement was the reason for Israel’s growth and military victories.  David over-ruled Joab and the captains of the army.  It took nine months and twenty days to count the soldiers: 800,000 valiant men.

“David was conscience-stricken after he had counted the fighting men, and he said to the LORD, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, O LORD, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.”   As the result of David’s pride, even after David asked for forgiveness, a plague came upon the people and 70,000 men died.  II Samuel 24.

Living In Partnership With God and Man #143

Deerfoot Lodge was barely alive.  Camper attendance and contributions were low, facility maintenance and equipment needs were high.  Available camper scholarship funds did not meet scholarship needs, and staff scholarships to supplement summer staff salaries were little more than an idea,

Deerfoot’s Board believed the time had come when Deerfoot needed to move from a part time to a full time Director, or to close the camp. The men also realized that if a full time Director was hired, it would be their responsibility to provide the needed funds for his salary and transportation, new brochures, essential maintenance and equipment, etc.  There’s would be a huge financial commitment.  When hired, I knew Deerfoot’s situation,

At my first Board meeting they said to me “spend what you need to get Deerfoot Lodge back on the road.”   I pinched pennies!  Example:  two cheap vans from Canada – they ran well, and we could see the road through the floor.

My salary was low, but their appreciation for my work was very evident.  During my first October Board of Director’s meeting I was asked to call the florist in our town and have them deliver a flower arrangement to Sally Jo.  Partnership.  At that meeting we agreed I should suggest my goals for the coming year, to be finalized by the Board.  Together we worked toward their accomplishment. Many goals were achieved or exceeded, but every year some goals were not achieved.  Often the discussions were intense…very intense.  We wanted to be of one mind, in Partnership!!!

The Board members care for us was evident.  Jim and Ginny Masterson paid for us to have a couple nights in a cabin in the High Peaks – not forgotten.  John Landis often wrote notes of encouragement. As DL began to get on its feet, the Board raised my pay, and began to pay Sally Jo for the work she was already doing., Two or three times the Board members themselves paid for us to have two nights at Mirror Lake Inn in Lake Placid.  We would go on January 2 and 3rd.   Cross country skiing was a joy, and as the place was almost empty, the price was right and the service was excellent!

Eventually DL began to end each summer with about a $3,000 surplus.  It was an incredible to make every decision based on what we believed was best for DL….and then end the year with a slight surplus.

After my dad died, I asked if our family could take an extended trip after camp.  A Board member loaned us his 42′ RV and two of our children became legal “drop outs”.  During the trip we wrote the DL Tracks, did essential business and I flew back for the Board meeting.  13 weeks=13000 miles = many national parks.

The Deerfoot Lodge Board demonstrated to me how I should care for the Deerfoot Lodge staff – those who were “permanent”, and those who were on staff for only a few summers.  Sally Jo and I would take key staff couples out to dinner. We provided extra time off when we thought someone needed it.  The kitchen staff would do all counselor and support staff laundry in the Speculator Laundromat, at no cost to the staff. After a few years Deerfoot’s staff salaries were some of the highest in camping, and college scholarships were provided if needed for a person to be able to return to DL. We did everything possible to treat the Deerfoot staff as the very special people they are.  We were in Partnership.

Is God pleased with your ministry partnership relationships?      Here are examples of the encouragement we have received through many years in various ministries. Can you come over for dinner on Thursday night?  Is there a day this week when we can meet for lunch?  Here is a gift certificate to our favorite restaurant – enjoy.  Let me give you the keys to our condo and let us know each time you would like to use it as a get-a-way.  I will not be using my symphony tickets next Friday.  Let me take care of your children one day a month so you two can…  Here is a check for you – it is a gift and not taxable.  Please use our RV for a week!  Let’s go to a blue grass concert at the Blue Lake music center together on Tuesday night.   And brief notes of encouragement/appreciation were wonderful to receive.

Partnership – enjoy enriching the lives of those with whom you serve.