Thanksgiving at Deerfoot Lodge – 1989 #151

A clear blue sky with a bright sun glistened on the 6-8 inches of fresh snow when, on Wednesday afternoon, November 23, our family arrived at Deerfoot to celebrate Thanksgiving.  We opened the gate, put the Jeep Cherokee with good snow tires into 4 wheel drive, and drove slowly between snow covered trees on the trackless road.  It was beautiful!  Parking behind the kitchen, we stepped into total silence.  It was about 2:30 – darkness would come shortly after 4:00.

Through the snow we carried our essential clothing and food fixings down to the Lookout.  When we walked into the cabin, it was about 40 degrees.  Cold, but not the zero we would experience in January-February.

We lit the gas lamps, and while I built a fire in the wood stove, Dirk and Carla brought in the firewood needed for the next 24 hours, Sally Jo and Jenna unpacked the food, putting the turkey in a pot on the floor.  Next came getting water from the lake.  The snow made the slope to the lake slippery, so we worked together to get buckets of water from the lake to the cabin where they were put in the shower stall, ready for flushing the toilet.  A large kettle was put on the wood stove and filled with water for drinking, washing, etc.  Soon the stove was very hot and beds were opened up to get them a few degrees warmer before we crawled in for the night.  After supper was fixed and enjoyed, we played Trivial Pursuit in the warm room.

During the night I got up, walked by Carla sleeping on the couch, and reloaded the stove.  Sally Jo got up early, reloaded the stove, and sat down with the book she was enjoying.

When Jenna got up, she picked up the turkey – still frozen solid! Putting a frozen turkey on an un-insulated floor overnight results in a frozen turkey!  Sally Jo and Jenna used a non-FDA approved method of turkey thawing before putting our bird into the small oven.

While we were enjoying our late breakfast, Hutch arrived to make sure we were OK, and to talk.  After he left, our family hiked in the snow to Evan’s “hunting camp”, located past the rifle range near the Whitaker Lake inlet.  Memorable.

Back at the Lookout, we were happy and hungry as we    enjoyed our wonderful Thanksgiving dinner, from shrimp cocktail to Sally Jo’s delicious pumpkin pie.

We drove out of camp as darkness quickly settled in.

Godly Young Men – Prepared To Serve #150

God provides the opportunity for His people to prepare “to do the good works He has prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10 

Paul grew up in Greece as a Roman citizen and as a son of a Jewish Pharisee.  At 13 he was sent to Jerusalem to study Orthodox Judaism under Gamaliel.  We can be sure he had no clue God was providing the opportunity for him to become prepared to be a missionary to the Gentiles.  He could not have known he would be visiting synagogues to tell about Jesus, or that he would be writing letters to believers in Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, or to men like Timothy, Titus and Philemon.   When Paul was learning to make tents, he did not know tent making would enable him to support himself while on three missionary journeys.  Yes, some of what Paul learned, he did learn directly from God….but there was much he had to work to learn.   God chose a man prepared for the task God had prepared for him to do.

By 1981 Deerfoot’s camper attendance had declined 26%.  With the decline in attendance came a decline in contributions and the ability to replace worn out program equipment which meant a decline in the program, and with the decline in contributions there was a decline in even essential maintenance. Deerfoot had to change directions quickly.

Deerfoot’s Selection Committee knew Deerfoot needed a Director prepared for the task.  These men did not just pray to God for guidance – they did their homework.  They knew that if they chose the wrong man, Deerfoot Lodge would probably have to close.   After two extensive interviews, checking my references, and considerable discussion, the selection committee chose me from 11 candidates to become the new Director of Deerfoot Lodge.  I was hired because of my training, experience, proven track record – and the firm belief I was God’s choice.   I accepted the responsibility because Sally Jo and I believed I was God’s choice.  As I write this next paragraph, I feel a lot like the Apostle Paul must have felt when he stated his qualifications (Philippians 3:3-6), but I think it is important because I had more than the desire to obey God.  I had the training and experience necessary to do the job well.   As a boy, young man, pastor, and camp director in Texas, I had no clue God was preparing me to do His good work at Deerfoot Lodge. None!  Please look to see how each of the following prepared me for something I was responsible for at DL.

Before graduating from high school I had been a camper for 19 weeks in excellent camps in Canada, Wisconsin, and Colorado, worked on a farm for 2 summers, washed pots and pans for Young Life’s Silver Cliff Ranch, spent a summer touring Europe as a choir member, a summer building a house in Costa Rica for Latin American Mission,, and a summer doing maintenance at Capernwray Hall in England.   In college I took the 4 week staff training course at Wheaton College’s Honey Rock Camp, earned certification from the American Red Cross in First Aid, as a Life Guard and as an instructor in Water Safety, Canoeing, and Sailing, and worked as a counselor, waterfront director, unit leader, and as the assistant director.  I took extensive voice lessons, sang in the Men’s Glee Club.  I was the head cook for 2 years at Wheaton’s soccer, football, and cross country camp.  I earned a Master’s in Divinity, a Master’s in Religious Education, and served as a pastor for 11 years, including 2 years as the Presbyterian Minister to Students at Middle Tennessee State University.  I had taken a time management course from World Vision, a management course at Service Master Corporation and the American Management Association’s Management Course for Presidents. As the Executive Director of Sky Ranch in Texas, I had worked on the design and development of their new facility, from layout to sewer to camper cabins to maintenance building, hired a permanent of staff of 9, including an MBA in Business, and an MBA in Marketing, taken attendance from 1000 to 8,700 per year, and served as the President of the Texas section of the Christian Camping International, and as the program chairman CCI national Convention in Indiana, and then the chairman of their International Convention in Glorietta, New Mexico.

For forty years I was being prepared by God, by others, and my hard work to serve In Partnership With God as the Director of Deerfoot Lodge.  I became Director being confident in God and my preparation, but still very uneasy about what was to come!

You may be very surprised at what God is preparing you to do – and He may be preparing you to carry out one responsibility when 19, another at 24, another at 30, another at 45…with each “good work” built upon what you had learned to that point.

God has given us our salvation and He has prepared work for us to do…Let’s be thankful and be well prepared.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  Ephesians 2:8-10

Building godly Young Men at DL #149

Deerfoot’s mission statement: “to build godly young men in a Christ-centered community through wilderness camping”

When interviewing prospective staff, the first question I asked was: “Do you seek to be and to build godly young men?”

What is a godly young man?  My understanding: A person who seeks to know and to do the will of God.

How does Deerfoot Lodge seek to do this?

Process:  “The Deerfoot Lodge Board of Directors is responsible for the selection, training, encouragement, and discipline of the Camp Director, who is responsible for the selection, training, encouragement and discipline of the summer staff.  Each of the summer staff will be given leadership responsibility in keeping with his ability.  For section chiefs and counselors this includes being responsible for the training, encouraging, and discipling of the individual campers.”     This statement was adopted by the Deerfoot Lodge Board of Directors.

Deerfoot Lodge seeks to build Christians who will be role models, young men who are willing to live in the fish-bowl of camp – able to be watched at any time, anywhere – like Jesus was.   I have no illusion that I was a perfect role model.  In fact the permanent summer staff and those who reported to me – my assistant, section chiefs, guide leaders and the head of tripping – knew I had given them the responsibility of coming to me when they felt I had done something that was not wise, was not right.  And they did!  Many times each summer I had to apologize and ask forgiveness.  If only one person was affected, I went to that person.  If the entire staff was affected, I went to the entire staff. When I apologized to/asked forgiveness of the staff, I think without exception, they were ready to forgive. My asking forgiveness often moved me, in the minds of the staff, from a position of disappointment and possible hard feelings and tensions in relationships, to a position of increased respect.  And yes, I had to ask for God’s forgiveness too!

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  I John 1:8-9,

The Apostle Paul tells how he sought to be a godly man and how to build godly men:

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect… But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus… Join with others in following my example”  Philippians 3:12-17

How effective is Deerfoot in building godly young men?

Two weeks ago Sally Jo and I had lunch in Albany with Chief Ron and Anne Mackey.  Chief Ron was a camper, Guide, Section Chief, head of tripping operations, and my assistant before becoming Director of Deerfoot Lodge in 2005.  Last week Sally Jo and I had breakfast with Ken and Stephanie Hoffman at King of the Frosties in Speculator.  Ken was a camper and is now Deerfoot’s Facilities Manager.

Weekly I am in touch with former campers and staff who continue to seek to be God’s men in a tremendous variety of vocations.

Andres Lives In Partnership With God – and With Us? #148

Last week I wrote about Andres Segovia, who works at living In Partnership With God.  Andres served 4 summers at DL, and a summer in Venezuela at a camp begun by Deerfooter Peter McMillan, where he translated sections of the Deerfoot staff manual into Spanish – no challenge as Andres is a Mexican.   Andres went to Camiri, where he became a grade school teacher in a Christian school for Bolivians.  Son Dirk and I flew to Camiri where we spent several hours with Andres.  God, through one of His own, provided us the plane/pilot – if you missed last week, read the story.

Andres met us at the plane which landed on the grass landing strip and took us to “his school”.  The school was clean, full of children, and had only the very essential equipment/books with which to operate.  Andres’ students knew we were coming, so when we arrived they all stood and sang several songs to us.  They were excited, we were excited.

We then walked about a mile to a rushing river, perhaps 100’ wide, which we crossed on a cable suspension bridge –  (Not for the timid!) to a farm that had been used, many years before, as a boarding school.  When the farm was for sale, it was purchased by a missionary family.  The small buildings were being restored while being used as a camp and for retreats.

We enjoyed the lunch Andres had prepared for us in his small, simply furnished apartment.  He had prepared food he knew I enjoyed at DL, including carrot cake for dessert.  As we left, Andres gave Dirk and me their camp’s T shirts, and a leather bread basket, which we continue to use.  The pilot was waiting to fly us back over the mountains to Tarija.

The next year Deerfoot began sending the offering from one Sunday morning to the mission organization under which Andres was serving, to help with his missionary support. (This practice continues to this day.)  Deerfoot also provided $3500 for the construction of a basketball court (still in use) at the farm/school/camp.  Two summers later, Deerfoot enabled counselor Chad White to go to Camiri to be with Andres and run a “DL style” summer camp.

Recently, 11 years after my visit, I received an e-mail from Andres that was very difficult for him to send.  Andres serves under a mission organization that believes their missionaries should be supported without the missionaries asking anyone for money – not even making their needs known.  With great hesitation, Andres asked if I would support him with $20 per month.  I could tell he was really hurting. When I questioned him, I learned that his financial support the previous month did not even cover his rent.  Why?  One reason was that the organization under which he was serving decided  he did not qualify as one of their missionaries because he was not an American citizen.  The mission would still pass on contributions specifically made for Andres support, but he would no longer receive any portion of the general mission contributions the organization received.  Another reason – his need was unknown, at least by me.  We have e-mailed frequently. I have enjoyed his blog (, but never thought to ask if his mission support was solid.

The Apostle Paul found himself in a similar situation.  “Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. Philippians 4:14-18 

Andres, like Paul, did what Jesus asked the disciples to do: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28:19-20

Please do not focus on Andres support.  Rather ask yourself “Who do I know that has gone to ‘all nations’ to make disciples, as Jesus told us to do?”  If we are “In Partnership With God”, could this mean we should partner with them in  ministry? Deerfooter’s go!  So do many others!   We should be either goers or senders.  Our lives will be enriched – other lives will be changed through learning and receiving the Good News.  They, too, will become disciples!