One of the Least? Not in God’s Eyes! #186

We may know the staff pretty well – but never completely.  We certainly do not know the joys, struggles, and needs of each camper.  And how could we possibly know where each camper was in their relationship with God when they first arrived at DL – even after 2 weeks.  When a camper was assigned to a cabin with two Counselors, hopefully the camper would be able to quickly build a solid relationship with one of them.  Perhaps both counselor and camper had struggled with the death of a sibling, or lived lonely lives after having moved to a new school, or had a father out of work.  Perhaps both had been to Europe, loved soccer, or liked to read.  In such situations, the Counselor, Section Chief, and I humbly thanked the Lord.  But there were situations where neither of the cabin’s Counselors was able to get close to the camper.

I remember one young camper who seemed to prefer being left alone.  Walking to instructional areas, during flex time, even at line-up, he kept to himself.  Many on the staff had seen the camper.  We knew he must be hurting deeply, but it is tough to relate to a camper who lives in a shell.  A few days into the session we talked about him at the 7:00 a.m. staff meeting.  We hurt for the boy.

A couple days later a staff member noticed that when this camper went into the camp store and saw one of the older staff girls, Heidi Naysmith, working behind the counter, he would just light up….he became a very different person!!   Walk out the door and his body language became very clearly “just leave me alone!”  Heidi, who had grown up at DL, became aware of the situation, and offered to take the camper on a hike up the Dugs.   I told her to “Go for it”.*  When asked, the camper came alive:  Huge smile!

The next day was beautiful.  After breakfast the two of them picked up their tripping food, went down to the lake, put on life jackets, and headed out for their great adventure!  During flex time the two of them paddled back across the lake.  The grin on the camper’s face was obvious!  Up to the camp store they went, and Heidi gave the camper an “I Climbed the Dugs” T shirt!  For the remaining days of the session, everyone experienced a very different camper.

“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me”   Matthew 25:40

When Heidi Naysmith Rekard took the camper up the Dugs, she lived/hiked In Partnership With God, and she continues to do so.


*Even as I write this, I know some of you are thinking – never take this risk!!!   I hear that, but in the late 80’s there was not the level of paranoia there is today about child abuse and law suits.  Would I make the same decision today?  Fortunately, I am not facing the same decision.

Experiencing God’s Unaltered Creation Changes Us! #185

On Saturday afternoon a camper from New York City, Albany, Boston, or Newark  drives up Rt. 30, and, sees more trees than he has every seen in his life…and a shallow rushing river next to the road.    He sees the pig rock as the mini-van turns off Rt. 30 onto the stone road…never ridden on one of those before.  More trees!  He is welcomed, his suitcase is taken from the van, and he is soon walking with an increasing number of excited people who seem to know each other.  He is guided past a large, log building called Founders Lodge, and there is the lake – just like on the DL calendar.  He nervously gets through registration, has his temperature taken, his hair is checked for lice!  Someone picks up his suitcase and he is taken to his log cabin where he meets his counselor, few campers, and picks his a bunk.  He is asked if he wants to take the swim test.  Swim test?  The test is explained, he puts on his swim suit, and one of the campers takes him down to the swimming area.  He learned to swim at the park pool.  He realizes he will have to jump into the lake.  The lake must be very cold – everyone is talking about it – and there will be fish!

After supper and a camp fire, his cabin group walks back to their cabin. Entering the woods, it is very dark, and quiet – not like home with street lights and cars and horns.  The cabin is dark, until his counselor lights the two gas lamps…really cool!  He is relieved when his counselor says that if anyone is afraid to go to the Waldorf alone at night, they should wake him up.

In the morning he gets dressed and walks out the front door of his cabin to see the sun rising over the Dugs, and a lake that is beautiful.  Sparkling!   He knows about the soap scrub, and soon he is having his first.  What’s the big deal?

After the sticky buns in the dining hall, everyone is told by the Director to go with their cabin group into the woods.  “This is what I want you to do:  Notice the quiet beauty of God’s unaltered creation.  Enjoy the colors.  Listen to the sounds. Feel the textures in the woods.  Notice the different smells..  What are the differences between DL and home?  Do you see things that remind you of something about God? A “symbol” of God?  Many times Jesus taught with stories, called parables. Can you make your own parable, a story that teaches something about God?”  He comes out of the woods, excited and awe struck.   It was incredible!  The Woodsman cabin groups sit together on benches by the beak poll, and he hears what others have seen, what they have thought.  Wow!

Monday morning he learns he must take swimming, campcraft, and an instructional area he can choose – archery!  The singing with six guitars, bongo drum and piano is good.  Everyone sure sings loudly!  And some songs do really fast.  The after breakfast Bible study is about King David.  Interesting.   David did a lot of camping too.  Campcraft is first period.  He has never held an ax, built a fire, or seen a compass.   So much to learn!!!  Swimming is easy, now that he has been in the lake twice.  He passes his basic in one day!  Tomorrow – canoeing.  Those canoes sure look tipsy!

The hike is fun.  Never knew what a hike was.  Returning to sleep near camp sounded good.  While eating, he hears a loon.  His cabin sits around a small campfire while his counselor tells that Jesus must have done a lot of camping.  As he crawls into his tent, he hears the wind blowing in the trees and hopes one does not fall on his tent!  In the morning, while in his sleeping bag, he hears frogs – and the loon again.   The pancakes and bacon are really good!

The next summer he returns as Pioneer.  To get to his cabin on the Point, he walks in the woods along the edge of the lake – it’s about a half mile.   He learns that on the Point there are two outhouses – no Waldorf with a light in it all night.  Monday morning he begins working on his Basic in canoeing, learns how use a compass and geological survey map.  He starts a pottery project in crafts.  On Thursday his cabin climbs the Dugs – a tough hike with a back pack.   Incredible to be able to look down onto camp.  He goes with his assistant counselor to the small spring on the top of the mountain. He assembles his own hobo dinner and puts it in the coals of the fire.  Really good!  Then s’mores…and devotions by the campfire – This is his world.

Two summers later he is an Indian.  His first night it rained – really rained!  Noisy, but he stays dry.  He signs up for a canoe trip!  He has his advanced…ready!  The next summer he takes the Allagash River trip – canoes some rapids!  Selected to be a Guide, he gains confidence, sharpens his skills, canoes for two weeks on big lakes and rivers in Canada, and hikes for two weeks in the Adirondack High Peaks. He spends a three days in the woods – just himself and God.  He reads his Bible, thinks, prays, journals…then runs the last 10 miles into camp.  The woods have become another home for him.  He is ready, and he knows it!  Ready to be a counselor, lead a hike, teach canoeing,   Ready for college.  He is committed to being God’s Man!!

Deerfoot men know the answer to Richard Louv’s question: “What would our lives be like if we were as immersed in nature as we are in technology?”  Life gets back into perspective.  God becomes real – personal.

A University of Michigan 2008 study demonstrated that after an hour of interacting with nature, attention spans improve by 20%.  Perhaps this is one reason why boys who struggle at home and in school thrive at DL.  In 2012, University of Kansas research reported “a 50% boost in creativity for people who were steeped in nature for a few days”.  Perhaps this is why campers and staff come up with crazy stuff to do.

How can you spend time each week surrounded by God’s creation?   Why would this be worth the effort?

Be still, and know that I am God….I will be exalted in the earth”.  Psalm 46:10

Stick in His Eye – God’s Delegation #184

Phone call:  “Chief, one of my campers got a small stick stuck in his eye – we are taking him to the hospital at Tupper Lake.  We don’t know how bad it is”.  What happened?  “We were walking down the trail.  He looked behind to talk with his friend, and when he turned back, he turned directly into a small stick…it went through his eye lid…which bled.  There looked to be some clear fluid, so it probably went into his eyeball.  We left a piece of the stick in the eye, covered the other eye so he would not move his eyes, and I ran for help.  We carried him to the car.  That’s all I know.”  The stick slid along the side of his eyeball – no significant damage.  We thanked God that the eye ball was not damaged, and we were thankful the counselors knew what to do in the emergency.

It is so easy to say “Don’t worry, God is in charge!”   Ultimately He is…but in the mean time, to a huge degree, I was!!  God delegated to me, as the Director of Deerfoot Lodge, the responsibility to choose and prepare each person on the staff for the expected, and the unexpected, that happened to every counselor every summer, be it starting a fire in rain, canoeing on a stormy lake, caring for a very homesick camper – or the camper who gets a stick in his eye.

What follows is based upon what was in last week’s IPWG (#182  2/4/13) about the Deerfooter who became Director of TIMO, which provides a 2 year training experience for young people seeking to gain a foundation in un-reached people ministry. I encourage you to take a minute to review the material.

Before “TIMO” received his staff contract, through my interview and his recommendations, I was convinced he had a good knowledge of the Bible, was solid theologically, enjoyed kids of various ages, desired to build godly men, enjoyed the wilderness, and was a self-starter with good energy levels.  I explained that 38 of the 43 counseling staff had previous DL training and experience as counselors and in the instructional areas.  Most had Life Guard, Wilderness 1st Aid, and CPR certifications.   For 3 weeks, 6 days a week, from 7 AM to 10:30 PM, TIMO pushed himself to gain basic DL training – mostly taught by returning DL staff.

During the next three summers he served as a counselor in all 3 sections and co-led a 12 day Allagash River canoe trip in Maine. Next came a summer working with other Deerfooters at a camp in Venezuela begun by Deerfooter Peter McMillan.  Two summers later TIMO was 1 of 4 Guide leaders who worked for 8 weeks with 28 of the previous summer’s top DL campers who had potential to become future staff.  The 4, using provided materials, planned and led this challenging program.

When you hear someone say “the Lord did it” – ask yourself “What did God directly do – and what had He delegated human beings to do”?  Perhaps it is more honest to say “to God be the Glory – great things He has done.”  God enables us to serve Him.

And so I challenge you: whatever you do, do well, PARTICULARLY within the Christian community. As you seek to live day by day In Partnership With God, take seriously what God, through His people has delegated you to do.  Carefully prepare each lesson.  As a pastor, elder, or youth leader, carefully plan how your church can be used of the Lord to build godly people – be they young or old!  Remember: Plan your work – work your plan.

God has delegated much to each of us!!!  He will provide what we need to carry out the delegation.  God can step in and re-direct – do a miracle, but this is not the norm.  If the Lord did everything for us, we would not grow as TIMO did.   We are to live In Partnership With God.  Partners work together!