Building Godly Young Men = Deerfoot’s Incredible Opportunity/Challenge #192

After being the Director of Sky Ranch, where it was necessary to develop a camp/conference program, design the buildings, over-see the construction schedule (outside contractors), establish a camping ministry at a new location, and begin a conference ministry – where, after 7 years, there was a full time staff of 11 that served 8,700 people that year…

Nothing could have looked better than to become the Director of a ministry where I could be directly involved with young people.  The program was good, the location was choice, and the buildings were solid.  The fact that camper attendance was down 50%, the buildings were in poor repair, much equipment needed to be repaired or replaced – these were problems that could be used to build godly young men.

The building process included teaching Biblical truths in a variety of ways, teaching skills most of mankind had been using for thousands of years – while celebrating the joy of living in the wonder of creation.  To do this with an incredibly supportive and helpful Board of Directors that sought to be Christ-like men – while knowing that an ever increasing number of people of all ages were actively praying for Deerfoot and sharing their skills, money, and all manner of equipment…could it get any better?

It is a beautiful day at The Lodge:  mist coming off the water, fishing in the still of the morning, sun rising over the Dugs, sailing in a moderate breeze, learning to canoe in circles and in a straight line.  What fun climbing a hill or mountain, stopping to see a beautiful flower or waterfall, and at the top seeing the view.  How many places can you watch a beaver slap its tail?  Watch a loon from 30’ and hear its call at day break, at noon, and after taps?  Supper is great around the camp fire or in the dining hall.  Flex time provides good choices.  Capture the Flag or Prisoners and Bases pump adrenalin.  Singing choruses with a piano and 5 guitars or hymns with the piano, trumpet and cello encourages the heart.  Being part of a staff that desires to be and build godly men creates a climate for personal growth.

What a privilege it was to live in Christian community where having “stuff” did not matter and the distractions of advertising, television, and movies did not exist.  Healthy Christian living was the norm – including forgiveness when needed.

Much of what we did was routine – a calendar was prepared that showed when everything should happen and a 400 page staff manual explained how everything routine should be done.  Every After Breakfast Bible Study was developed on the same format.  Every summer ended with 1 on 1 walks with the summer staff – always informative, frequently challenging.  Doing the routine with excellence built godly men and enabled the ministry of Deerfoot Lodge to be effective.

Yes, there were enough problems to keep us humble and challenged – broken vans, broken arms, broken engagements, broken hearts, and broken rules.  Stupid things were done – by me too!  Dealing with these situations built godly men as did Bible studies, cabin devotions, and lying on our backs looking up at the stars.

Many Campers became Guides, and most Guides became Counselors and Support staff.  A few of these became Section Chiefs, Guide leaders or the Director’s Assistant.  Most Deerfooters became fathers, leaders in their homes, their churches, their place of work, and their communities by sharing their lives – by celebrating life.  Hundreds became ministers and missionaries, and several went into Christian camping as their vocation.

Deerfooters who seek to be godly men have daily time alone with the Lord, fight being caught up in much of what is considered normal by the majority of Americans.   Deerfooters enjoy sharing the wonder of God’s creation with their families and the young people at church.  True Deerfooters celebrate the life God has entrusted to them.

My dad ended a letter to me with “God bless you, Love Dad.  P.S. can you imagine anyone being given an opportunity for a greater impact on lives than you are having right now?”   Sally Jo and I couldn’t!

Singing In Our Hearts, From Our Hearts #191

I woke up this Sunday morning with words of Mendelssohn’s “Hymn of Praise” in my head, words I would be singing tonight as part of the Jubilate Concert – 90 minutes of great choral music.

The words:  “I waited for the Lord, He inclined unto me.  He heard my prayer, He heard my prayer…”  I had been rehearsing this music for three to five hours a month for six months – plus four hours the previous day and many hours on my own.  The words were firmly into my memory and my heart.

After church, I was stopped by a member of the choir who said there was person who was in need of prayer.  I turned to see a friend, his wife and three others huddled together, all in tears.  As I walked toward them I was told that my friend’s wife had learned on Friday that she had Huntington’s disease – a non-curable nerve degenerative disease.  We prayed together ….   Heavy.   “I waited for the Lord, He inclined unto me.  He heard my prayer.”  After the concert I saw the lady, opened my arms, and as she came for her hug smiled and said “I’m ok now.”

A Deerfooter was with his wife in the delivery room as they waited for the birth of their baby – a baby they knew would be still born.  The Holy Spirit brought to the Deerfooter’s mind:  “Jesus is with me wherever I go; Jesus is with me I know.  Over the mountains, the land and the sea, Jesus I know is with me.  As oft through the valley of sorrow I go, His hand is upon me I know, I know.  Jesus is with me wherever I go, Jesus is with me, I know.”  As a camper and staff member, this Deerfooter had sung this chorus after every candle light service, at every Circle of Friendship for probably 12 summers.

At the end of every Lone Eagle ceremony everyone stands to sing: “Stand up, stand up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross.  Lift high His royal banner, It must not suffer loss.  From victory unto victory, His army does he lead, Till every foe is vanquished, And Christ is Lord indeed.”

One of the joys of living in the Director’s cabin, The Lookout, was that a trail to the point was about 3’ from the back of the cabin and 5’ from the front porch.  At the beginning of the sessions we would hear the campers talking about life back home, often trying to impress each other…movies…cars…soccer games. After a few days we would begin to hear campers going by singing choruses they had been singing after breakfast and at campfires.

In the staff manual is a list of 29 hymns from which are chosen 5 for the Sunday morning worship service.  These, and many others, are sung at the Breaking of Bread Service.  Over time these hymns become integral to the lives of campers and staff.

When I hike alone it is a privilege to sing to the Lord “Holy, Holy, Holy” and other great hymns of the faith.  On the night before my Lone Eagle ceremony I stood on Lone Eagle Rock, high above camp, and sang joyfully to the Lord!  The next morning, I stood to sing again and I vividly remember that nothing would come out right…the words, the notes…I quit.  I climbed down from the rock to the 2 Lone Eagles waiting for me.  As we hiked silently down the Dugs, my Lone Eagle name came to mind.  “Gentle Rock” This is what my parents had been to me.   At the lower lean-to about 35 Lone Eagles were waiting for us.  After Breaking Bread together, I saw a canoe coming quickly across the lake – not a good sign.  When the canoe was about 10’ from shore I realized the bow paddler was my wife, Sally Jo.  She came to tell me that during the night my father had died.  He was with the Lord.

In 1996 Deerfoot recorded its first CD, 26 choruses, 12 hymns.  The singing is alive, vital…intense.  The CD was mailed to that year’s campers and staff, and to all those who had made contributions to DL in the previous year.  Frequently first year campers arrived having learned the songs from their brother’s CD.  Many DL families sing the songs together.

“Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.  Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.  Know that the LORD is God… Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD. Ps 100/150

Victory = Al Dence #190

In 1947, when the dining hall was being completed, chairs were purchased for the end of each table from a lodge that was closing.  The first time I was in the dining hall, I noticed the caned seats of most of the sturdy chairs had broken through.  After camp, when we had returned home, I learned that Al Dence, a retired minister, did caning.  Al was 85 and had been a paraplegic since he was 74. He and his wife lived in his son David’s home, about 5 minutes from our home.

When I went to meet Al, he was in his small workshop in a closed-in porch. He greeted me warmly.  I remember thinking he looked about 60 – and that he was very muscular from the waist up.   I explained who I was, told about DL, and asked if he could replace the cane seats of perhaps 30 chairs.  I explained that there was no deadline as the campers and staff could sit on the benches if necessary.  Al said he would like to do the work as a gift to Deerfoot.  This was wonderful as Deerfoot Lodge had almost no money.  I would bring the chairs from DL to our home.  Al called when he was ready for 3 more chairs, and I would pick up 3 repaired chairs.  When summer came he, his wife, and his daughter would move to Al’s 50 acre farm in Wells which he had bought while a pastor in Northville in the 1930’s.  He continued to re-cane the chairs, sending a message to camp (no phone) that he needed more chairs.  He did excellent work and I looked forward to the 25 minute trip.

Al always greeted me with a smile – often a laugh!  We would talk for a half hour or more.  Being with Al was always an encouragement.  As a child, Al had lock-jaw and was fed with a straw through a hole from a broken tooth.    As he grew up, Al had enjoyed athletics.  He served in the U.S. Army.   As a pastor of small country churches, he enjoyed working with the congregations to up-grade their facilities.  When a church in town could not hire anyone to repair their very tall, steep steeple, Al did the work.  When he was 74, Al began to stumble.  Three months later he was a paraplegic. His daughter-in-law, Ann, says that she never her Al complain – Never.  He was thankful for the full health and strength he had enjoyed for so many years.  As he got older, his mind remained razor sharp, but he became hard of hearing, and always prayed out loud.  One night, when Al was 96, Ann went in to check on him before she went to bed.  She heard him praying “I know, Lord,  it won’t be long now. I can tell things are different”. He died within a few weeks.

I asked 86 year old Al Dence if he would speak to the campers and staff on a Sunday morning.   “I would be delighted to!”   We built a ramp and a raised platform.  When Al was to speak, we rolled his wheel chair up onto the platform so everyone could see him.

Al spoke on Victory!  He may have talked about being a paraplegic, but what I remember is when Al told about joining the United State Army.  His first night in his military barracks Al knew he had a decision to make.  Every night, when he was growing up, he had gotten down on his knees by his bed to pray.  His decision:  Did he have the courage to do this in the military barracks?  Was he going to let his situation control his actions because of possible ridicule?   Al decided he would get down on his knees – for he was not ashamed of his commitment to his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

“That was VICTORY” Al shouted, and in his excitement he pushed himself straight up in his wheel chair.

I have never forgotten that moment, or the man who lived a victorious life as a pastor, and during the 21 years in his wheelchair.  Al Dence lived “In Partnership With God”.

The Apostle Paul wrote “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile”.  Romans 1:16”  Paul wrote of what happened as the result of his sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. “Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea “ II Corinthians 11:25

Hub Baehr = Consistency #189

Hub Baehr was a DL staff member in 1933 when Deerfoot Lodge moved from its location on the Kunjamuck River to Whitaker Lake.   That summer Hub arrived before camp began, riding in his brother Conrad’s 1922 Buick open touring car     – “a heavily built vehicle with a strong frame, a powerful engine, a tough transmission and clutch, and 21” wood spoke wheels”.  The car was loaded with all manner of stuff needed for the new facility: coils of wire, hanks of rope, picks, shovels, pails, step ladders – and Connie’s “custom made” wheels –rims to which were welded pieces of angle iron.  The road into camp was almost non-existent – it took 2 ½ days to go the 2 ½ miles.

Hub helped to create the ball field – an open area used for a saw mill many years before.   Hundreds of trees, 2” to 6” in diameter were cut off at about 4’.  A chain was wrapped around the stump, fastened to the Buick, and yank…That summer he also milked the camp’s two cows, drove the horse team, and carried water from the spring, up the hill to the kitchen located in Old Hardwood.

Dad Kunz chose Hub and nine others to begin the Lone Eagle program in 1935. These were men who had excellent camping skills and were “well qualified in the areas of cooperation, initiative, spiritual maturity, leadership ability, and physical ability.”

In 1982, when I became the Director of DL, Hub was a member of the Board of Directors.  At age 70 Hub moved to senior status.  Those in senior status served in the same manner as did regular Board Members, except that they were not expected at every meeting.   Hub continued to attend every meeting, a consistently warm, supportive, encouraging man.  Occasionally he would make a brief comment, or ask a thought provoking question, often opening up new avenues of thinking.  He was the man who challenged the assumption that Sunday at DL should look like Sunday at home.  He was the catalyst for having the DL 75th reunion at DL in 2004, when over 500 came for the weekend.  After two years of tentative discussion to change/clarify the DL doctrinal statement, Hub quietly said “I worked with Dad Kunz on the original – I think he would be pleased.”  Approved unanimously.

When Herb was about 78, he returned home from a Gideon meeting to find his wife, Lilly, dead on the laundry room floor.  She had been stabbed.  Three weeks later Hub went through with previously scheduled triple by-pass heart surgery.  A few weeks after the surgery, Sally Jo and I went to Hub’s home to visit him.  His preparation for our coming included pre-heating the tea pot and placing slices of pound cake on a beautiful plate.

We were having a wonderful visit with this gentle giant of a man when he asked if we had the Deerfoot slide show with us.  As we watched the slides together he would frequently tell a brief story.  Sometimes we would laugh together, and at other times, through tears he would quietly say “The Lord is Good, the Lord is Good”.  We looked, laughed and cried together for a couple hours.

Recently Sally Jo and I attended Hub’s memorial service.  His family was there, and I think every male in the family had been a Deerfoot Lodge camper, most had been staff members.  The majority of those present I did not know.  These were people who knew Hub in the context of his church, the Gideon’s, and from his years as the Assistant Superintendent of a large school district.  Many of these people gave testimony to confirm that Hub was the same quiet, steady man I had known.   Hub consistently lived his life as God’s man.

I have often thought of Hub as my Abraham – tested, and found trustworthy.

He lived In Partnership With God.