Passing the Torch #175

As Director of Deerfoot Lodge, I had the responsibility and privilege of leading the ministry of building godly young men, and to pass on my knowledge and experience.  Previous generations had formed the Deerfoot of history.  New ideas and insights came from the Deerfoot Lodge Board of Directors, DL parents, campers, and staff.  I tried to never share anything that I had not seen work – or to say anything I was not seeking to live.  Consistency year after year.

It was easy for the staff to learn what the program of Deerfoot Lodge was.  The specifics within the summer’s schedule were repeated summer after summer: staff meeting, reveille, cabin clean-up, line up, breakfast, singing – all very straight forward.

More difficult to grasp was why Deerfoot did what it did.  Understanding why helped drive the what.  And it was necessary to understand why things were done if there was to be clear transfer of learning to future Deerfoot leadership. The staff came to realize that everything on the schedule had been thought through, trying to anticipate staff and camper response to each experience.

It was also important for the Deerfoot staff to understand how Deerfoot did what it did. This “how” began with an understanding of role of the Board of Directors, how I, as camp Director, related to them, and how our joint decisions affected all that Deerfoot was and did.  Each summer, during the three week staff training, staff members took a few minutes to read the DL by-laws, the camp policies, the chart of relationships from the DL Board to the assistant counselor, the meeting schedule of the DL Board, and what happened at each meeting.  The staff saw the camp budget for the previous 10 years, and samples of each quarterly and annual report I, as camp Director, prepared before each Board meeting.   Not much time was spent on this as the information was in their staff manuals for future reference.

With this foundation, management principles were taught and reviewed each summer.  How the DL Board managed me was how I managed the Deerfoot staff:  my assistant, guide leaders, and section chiefs.  Being the director of DL is much like leading a small company.  Being a section chief or a counselor is also like leading a small company.  I learned this reality prior to becoming the Director of DL.  I participated in the American Management Association’s “Management Course for Presidents” with the CEOs of Hunt Trucking, Beatrice Foods, Ditch Witch, and 21 other large companies.   After becoming the Director, the DL Board enabled me to attend a four day leadership development seminar with secular business people from, literally, around the world.  In both of these cases, the language and principles were the same.  Most principles were Biblical, though the Bible was not used as a reference.

85-92% of the staff members had previous DL experience, and considerable skill knowledge and were ready to learn how best to teach these skills.  Coming to an understanding of how people learn and why they forget is helpful when teaching canoeing or leading a cabin devotional.  Quality cabin devotionals result from the staff member planning to move from the interest of the camper to a Bible passage and then back to the camper – to help the camper realize the relevance of the Bible passage to his current life experiences.  Staff training included learning games, but equally important was learning why games were placed in specific time slots.  Gradually the staff came to realize that everything on the DL schedule had been thought through, trying to anticipate camper response to each experience.

Every year, three days before staff training began, section chiefs, guide leaders and my assistant came to our home. They made a list of all that should be covered in staff training, and proceeded to develop the three week staff training schedule.  Assignments were made as to who should teach what.  They asked me to teach specific topics.  One year, as we finished our planning time, it was decided by a doctor that I should go to the hospital as my pace-make meds had not been working effectively for a month.  This meant that our leadership team would go to camp and lead staff training – including teaching what I was to cover.  I arrived one week later, too weak to talk by the end of the day.  As I was able, they let me teach – and the final Friday night, two weeks later, I was able to give the benediction that ends the candle light service.

Today at least 10 Deerfooters provide full time leadership within the field of Christian Camping.

We have the responsibility of being good stewards of the people, as well as the message, the Lord has entrusted to our care.  This means building men, godly men!  It means training those under our care to lead the next generation.   When we live In Partnership With God, we equip and encourage others to live In Partnership With God.  As God’s people, this is our responsibility.

Does It Matter Who? #174

At Deerfoot Lodge, there are many people who go over and beyond what is expected of them.

One summer the waterfront director decided that the diving raft needed replacing.  He was right.  He told me that if DL would buy the wood, and a lot would be needed, he would build it.  Day after day, available hour after hour, he screwed the very strong structure together.  After the campers left, staff surrounded the raft and carried it to the beach, to be ready for the next summer.  I think that raft remains in service to this day.

The raft has been used for all 3 instructional periods + flex time.  Lets conservatively say the ladder was used  100 times a day X 56 camper days X 20 years = 112,000 times.  This is more times than Consumer Report tests a product.

Who did it? Does it matter?  How many of us know who built first dining hall, Old Hardwood, prior to 1930, or the new dining hall in 1946, added to in 1966, and in 1981, and in 2003?  Do you know who, using dimensional lumber, built the eight large cabins in the Woodsmen and Pioneer sections, and is now working to replace those cabins with new log cabins?*

Should we feel badly when we are not remembered for what we do?

  • “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:16

  • “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

            1 Corinthians 10:31

Yes, a raft and buildings are built for the glory of God, not men.  The raft and buildings are then used for the building of godly young men for the glory of God.

Part of this challenge of building godly young men is to build and equip some of these young men so they can become directors of camps which will build godly young men, and often women – who will build godly young men and women.

Does it really matter who built the raft?  If he did it with the right motive, it would be fun to know who he was, and it would be fun for him to know that the ladder he built has been used 112,000 – for the glory of God.

As the Director of Deerfoot, I know I did not continually ask myself: “am I doing this for the glory of God?”

My focus was on getting to staff meeting at 6:58, on having a constructive 1 on 1 with a Section Chief after staff meeting, on being prepared with a clear After Breakfast Bible, on answering questions in the office, and being available to a staff member who wanted to talk about….I never knew!  And it was always fun to give the strokes test to someone finishing his master’s in canoeing.  To pass, every stroke and the docking of the canoe had to be perfect.

Not continually, but somewhat regularly, I would ask myself: “Am I living my life for the glory of God?”  I still do!

I encourage you to sit back once in a while and ask yourself:  “Am I living my life for the glory of God?”

*Charlie Karner is the cabin builder.  These days he has lots of help!

The Hutch Cabin #173

As the new Director of Deerfoot Lodge, I quickly learned that those on support staff were continually in trouble with someone.  There were 10 single staff who worked in the kitchen and on maintenance.  I think 7 lived, with all their belongings, in a 6 person cabin at the end of the Woodsman section toward the Island.   They were packed in so tightly that they had built a loft.  Imagine the mess.  They called it the rubber room.

Any time they made much noise they were in trouble with the counselors in the next cabin – and with the Woodsman Section Chief…who then complained to me.  Every time they went to the Waldorf, they had to walk by the entire Woodsman section and any conversation between two support staff as they went by a cabin having devotions….not good.  The maintenance staff was “free” after dinner, and the kitchen staff about an hour later.  So what were these young people supposed to do?  They were free to hang out in the staff lounge in Ole Hardwood, but doing what?  Going, without permission, to Speculator/Camp-of-the-Woods was often an actualized temptation!

Paul described the church as a body.  Every person in the church, every part of the body was needed if the church/the body was to be healthy.  Whereas DL is not a church, the principle is the same.  The people on the support staff were being treated as second class citizens. I Corinthians 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4

Plans were made to build a log cabin just for the support staff.  The idea: sleep upstairs, and down stairs have a lounge area plus ping pong, foosball, a table for board games, a pool table, and a weight lifting area – plus a table under the stairs where someone could write a letter after lights out and a very large table where the staff could gather to have a “Hutch meeting” or a Bible study.  A wood stove would be nice!  The cabin built was 2 story 40 X 40 = 3200 square feet.  It is located on a hill up from the Point trail.   There are 40 gas lights…and no electricity.  The tongue and groove 2” thick yellow pine floor was polyurethaned and our son, Dirk, sanded the entire floor between coats, on his hands and knees.  Boots/shoes stay on front porch.  It is a beautiful building, – the largest built since Founders Lodge.

Eventually the support staff grew to 20 – and there proved to be sufficient floor area for 10 double decker bunks – each staff could store his belongings under 1/2 the bunk and in a 3’ wide open closet with shelf and clothes hanging bar.  Life suddenly changed for those on the support staff.

For the Hutch cabin to be built, money and volunteers were needed – it looked like the impossible dream.  But, if this was what was best for the ministry of DL, the DL Board and I agreed, it would be done.  There was no major fund raising. People, as best I can remember, read about it in the DL Tracks.  The money was given by many – no major donor.

A carefully chosen company cut each log to shape and length.  After the footings were poured, every person involved was a volunteer – except me.  Most of the crew came for 8 days, planning to complete the building, roof and all!  A borrowed forklift unloaded the semi in the parking lot.  As the volunteers arrived, rain also came.  The only way to get the logs to the cabin was to load them by hand onto a two wheel army trailer which was pulled by an old jeep in 4 wheel drive to the cabin location and unloaded in the ever-increasing mud.  The rain stopped, but the mud remained.  John Pinkham and I picked up and transported every log in the Hutch cabin.  There were two nights I was too tired to eat.   When I asked who could put on the metal roof – at least 25’ above the ground. Steve Bolduc a camper dad up for the final weekend, volunteered.  He was an experienced contractor, and would need one helper up on the roof with him.  No one volunteered…so, that left me!  I do not think I have ever been so afraid.  It was lightly snowing – VERY slippery!

When we live In Partnership With God, God may direct us, often through the gentle steady pressure of the Holy Spirit, to take on a seemingly impossible task.  What a privilege to be entrusted by God with “the impossible”.  What peace to know that God has entrusted to us, and to others, the resources to get the job done.  Planning, work, sometimes exhausting and sometimes frightening, is required.   I firmly believe that when we obey God – when we do what is pleasing to Him, the rewards are tremendous for others and for us!  God works through people.  Ask Noah or Moses.

Follow-on note to #172

I had the following small paragraph in my latest IPWG until my final draft.  Primarily due to space, I took it out….and this bothers me.  I try to keep each IPWG to 1 page.  I did put it in my Facebook note.

“Three times I rationalized hiring a person I did not really think was right for the DL staff, in each case for an unjustifiable reason.  The end result in each situation was not good for Deerfoot, and probably not for the staff member involved.”
In each case I was asked to seriously consider hiring the person.  I knew better!   I was not pressured, but I knew what each friend really wanted me to do.  At the least, this was an injustice to Deerfoot Lodge.
My bad, and I apologize.

With God there is No Injustice, No Partiality or Bribery #172

Whereas this is easy for God, it was not easy for me while the Director of Deerfoot Lodge.

Families send in their camper registrations.  Returning campers, and those on the previous summer’s waiting list, have the opportunity to register before the date of open registration.  The early registrations are made as the registrations are received – and when the open registration date passes, all registrations are made in the order received.  Sound easy?  Well it is if the system is consistently applied.   But there was still the temptation when a registration was received from a long term DL family, the governor’s wife, Deerfoot’s NYS camp inspector’s boss, a major donor or a close friend.

I remember making two exceptions in 23 years.  A registration was received from a foreign missionary over a month after it was mailed.  We registered the camper as plane tickets needed to be ordered.  Thankfully there was a cancellation.  And I remember when a camper from NY City had a great time as a Pioneer in Session II.  Near the end of Session III his mom called to ask if her son could return for Session IV?  The session was full.  I could tell the mom was desperate, but it was really hard to hear her.  I asked her to turn down the TV.  She said “Chief, the TV is not on!  That is the noise from outside our apartment window!!!”   I told her to get her son to camp and we would find a bunk for him.

There were sessions when 28 of 30 on the Island were returning campers.  When the Island capacity was increased to 40, the Guides moved out of the dining hall onto the front porch.  As the number of Guides increased, the Voyageurs, who were only in camp for a couple days, ate at a picnic table.  Try telling a family whose son has attended for four summers, and registered in February, that there were no openings for Indians for the entire summer!

So what about scholarship campers?  Should they be registered as their applications arrived, or should they have to wait until adequate contributions were received?   As most scholarship contributions are received after January 1, there would be few scholarship campers.  If there were no scholarship campers, there would be more paying campers. The decision was made to register every camper the same, scholarship or not.

Decisions on staff hiring were made as their applications were received.  I had to sort out what I knew, and earnestly seek the Lord’s guidance, believing that He could direct my thinking.  I remember hiring a counselor who had been kicked out of a secular university for drinking.  I just knew it was the right thing to do, and it proved to be.  I tried never to offer a contract when I was uneasy about the person.  It was tough to say no to a long term camper/previous staff member, particularly when I had no better alternative.  At such moments I had to believe the Lord would provide the right person.  I tried never to turn down a person without telling him why.  How else would he know what to work on?

Campers are invited to be Guides, Deerfoot’s 8 week training program for potential staff members.   Qualification factors are many.  Guides are accepted on the basis of the recommendation of their Counselor, their Section Chief, their four page application, and their interview.   There were times when I knew what I should do, but shuddered to do it!  Try not inviting the son of a staff member or a major donor into the Guide program.  I tried to explain to each camper why they were not invited to be a Guide – sometimes I had to explain to parents.  I remember the mom who called when one twin was accepted, and not the other.  She was sure I had chosen the wrong son!  The son chosen was “too quiet, and not as strong, and…”   What the mom had a hard time understanding was that the “chosen son” seemed serious about growing as God’s man, had a servant’s heart, and fully participated in the DL program.

Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, is an inspiration to me.  He was brought in from the battle ground and refused to spend a night with his wife while his men were in battle.  Uriah did what he believed to be right.  It cost him his life.  II Samuel 11-12

When I live In Partnership With God, I know what I should do in almost every situation.  To be obedient may not be easy!