Does Someone Care About Me? #219

I am sitting, right now, in a restaurant in the Charlotte, NC airport. The music filling the room is of a broken person crying out “Everyone needs to know someone cares!” I have thought about writing this for many months.

At DL, a car with a very uneasy 1st time camper drives up to the gazebo. A Guide welcomes the family, asks for the name of the camper, checks the list, gives the driver a sheet telling about the registration process, and helps the camper get his “stuff” out of the trunk The car is parked, the family is together again. Another Guide walks up, asks the camper his name, picks up much of the campers “stuff” and the two of them talk as they walk toward Founder’s Lodge. The camper checks in, gets a stick-on name tag, and is given his cabin assignment…again, name! A Woodsman Assistant Counselor calls him by name and they go to his cabin where the camper is greeted by his counselor – by name. His counselor can look at the name tag, but often he has previously seen the camper’s picture in the staff lounge. … Every effort is made to help the camper quickly feel he is welcome, that he is important, “that somebody cares”.

This “someone cares” takes a very different form if the camper is returning for his fifth summer. The car drives up, and the camper hops out with a huge grin…”Boss!” He’s back, and he knows his DL friend from New Jersey will be there, and he’s seen on the DL Tracks staff list who his Section Chief will be – “I know him”. As he heads for the Island he sees a few more familiar faces – and on the Island…laughs, hugs, stories. “I’m back!”. Gong rings, line up for flag lowering. I am there, just like I have been every session he has been in camp. This is Deerfoot. Nothing much changes.

This “someone cares” is so very important when the camper comes from a troubled home, that is better described as a house. Yes, mom may take her son to soccer practice, but he knows she sees this driving a necessary evil…an interruption of what is really important to her, an irritation. For some, when the boy arrives home from school, no one is home so he gets some food and goes to his room with his computer so he can play his video games and talk with his “Facebook” friends. No one listens to what has happened at school, be it good or bad. It is lonely. That someone cares means so much to the quiet student with bad complexion who goes to a large school where he is bullied. Yes, he has thought about suicide. A smile, a hug, a word of encouragement means so much. And to get this treatment all day…incredible! Yes, Deerfoot Lodge is God’s place – but it is also their place, and they know this.

You and I are no longer at Deerfoot Lodge. I smile when someone calls me by name and asks about my wife, or our dog. And Linda, or Bernice, or Judy smile when I walk into the plant nursery and call them by name, and then we talk a few minutes…what about does not really matter. We care about each other. (I have their names written down…memory is not my strong point!!!)

Does it really matter if they know I am a Christian? If I live In Partnership With God, should not the reality of Jesus’ love come through regardless? Do I really need to think…”I must love them because Jesus loves me?” Love is a Fruit of the Spirit. Everyone I meet is God’s creation…loved by God, just as I am – Jesus died for us. Can we really be indifferent to the people we meet, particularly to those who see themselves as one of the least… like the woman at the cash register at Wal-Mart. It takes only a moment to bring a smile to their face.

Sally Jo and I are friends with a couple at church. On a very difficult day the wife shared with us how one of high school teachers said she was the worst looking girl in the school. She finds it hard to believe anyone really cares about her. On a very difficult day she said to me, “Chuck, I think I could walk around this church stark naked and no one would notice.” Sally Jo and I have worked at demonstrating we really do care about her – for years! So much scar tissue.

The Bible clearly tells us to love…others, our neighbor, our enemies, our brothers in Christ. Loving requires caring.

Do we consistently bring the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness?

Showing love may take but a moment, or years. It may be easy, or very difficult.

God’s Less Obvious Miracles – prepared for DL Staff 2014 #218

It is always good to tell God’s provision for DL in terms of “miracle stories”: Money given, Protection from a storm…

But most of God’s provision for Deerfoot Lodge has come through people. People who had been through tough experiences. They had found God faithful, but life not easy! With feelings of failure and pain, these people believed in God’s faithfulness. They accepted their struggle, determined to do God’s will. For these people, God’s plan was DL.

I came to DL after being asked to resign as Director of a Christian camp in TX. Total shock!! Then my mom died. Sally Jo and I turned down what appeared to be wonderful job/ministry opportunities. None “felt right” for us. I was invited to apply to become Deerfoot’s Director. I was told DL was in a mess: the previous summer, many staff members had not lived as God’s men. For many reasons, over time attendance had dropped from about 100 to 48 per session. Program equipment was broken or missing. Annual operating contributions were down to $13,000. The facility was in poor repair.

The good? The Deerfoot Board recognized all of this and wanted to provide the support necessary for the right person to turn things around! Sally Jo and I both felt Deerfoot was God’s provision for us – and we could be God’s provision for Deerfoot Lodge. This proved to be true. After becoming Director, I spent the first 5 months mostly away from my family who were in Texas. Through overnights with most every Board member, I learned the philosophy and the program of DL. I soon learned that the program developed by Dad Kunz over a 23 year period was excellent…and camp grew. But much of what he had developed was lost during the 24 years and 7 Directors after Dad Kunz had retired. A major challenge for me was to bring back Deerfoot Lodge as it had historically been.

To go back to the past required that the bicycle and cross country camps, kayaking and rock climbing instructional areas had to be discontinued. Board members agreed that the 5:00 PM Bible study should be discontinued. All agreed that Bible teaching should be done through Deerfoot Lodge staff members, and not through bringing in different Bible teachers. These decisions were not difficult. No miracles needed!!

I had never seen Deerfoot Lodge in operation. I had never directed a wilderness camp. I had no clear picture of how to get camp operational for the summer. I pretty well knew how Deerfoot Lodge needed to change, but I also knew changes brought by a new Director are often not welcomed. When chosen by the DL Board to be the Director I was told “Chuck, we believe you are God’s man for the job. Remember this when things get tough!” Lord Help Me!!

God provided through major, non-dramatic miracles, the exceptionally qualified people needed to get Deerfoot Lodge back on track. I had no clue the following people would be available. Neither did they!

Not long before camp was to begin, I was desperately trying to find a nurse for the summer. I learned that nurse Lynn Gosling might be available. Bill Gosling had been asked to resign from his position in a Christian school. We hired Lynn and also got Bill. Lynn was the camp nurse for 15 summers, and that 1st summer Bill, an experienced writer and editor, was a key person in the development the 1st DL staff manual. Deerfoot was God’s provision for Bill and Lynn, and they were God’s provision for Deerfoot Lodge.

When Bud Williams, PhD, who taught at a Christian college and at their summer camp, returned from his sabbatical, he was told by the camp Director that his teaching was no longer needed. Bud taught camping philosophy and programming and had considerable wilderness camping experience. Bud provided the outline and core content for the DL staff manual which now is over 400 pages. Now over 800 camps around the world have copies. Deerfoot was God’s provision for Bud. Bud was God’s provision for Deerfoot Lodge, and through DL to many other camps.

When Dave Naysmith, Deerfoot’s Chef for many years, returned after taking a summer off because of the timing of the birth of their daughter, Dean Dover/Wazican, whom Nay had trained, was the chef. Dave stepped out of the kitchen and co-ordinated much of Deerfoot’s camping program, and ran tripping. Chief Nay needed a new position at Deerfoot – Deerfoot needed Chief Nay’s knowledge/skill set.

During that first summer, many staff and camper discipline issues had to be dealt with. I remember the wisdom gained by talking with this leadership team. At first I really had to be really tough. Theft was the norm. At the beginning of each session I went through the paddle wheel, stood up and told the campers and staff that if we learned they were stealing, they would go through the paddle wheel, and I would explain the stealing and the discipline to their parents. We took some campers off the mailing list. My staff interviews and background checks became very extensive.

You will face huge challenges this summer: You will have campers that are incredibly difficult to relate to, much less to build as godly young men. Consider that they have been entrusted to you by God! Endure, perhaps triumph! You may have a serious injury on the trail, a seeming million miles from the help at camp. Not your choice!! Trust God as you do your best.

Throughout your life you will have major difficulties, disappointments, challenges – call them what you will, but they will come. How many people in the Bible can you think of who did not have real struggles? When the bewilderment comes, remember God’s love, depend upon His faithfulness. God is preparing you for the next work He has for you to do. That work may seem insignificant. Don’t believe it! When I returned to school for my second master’s degree, I took a very small church so I could focus on my school work: 219 members, with an average attendance of 8. One of those 8 was Chris Philips, a high school student. Today he is the founding minister for a church with a Christian school of about 600 students.

Remember Paul’s charge to Timothy: You know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings — what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. The Lord rescued me from all of them. Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus — II Timothy 10-11, 2:3

Remember that the Apostle Paul prayed several times that the Lord would remove his thorn in the flesh, whatever it was, and this did not happen! Paul endured, and was used by the Lord, perhaps more than any other Apostle. “Press on!”

Deerfoot Lodge is “His Place”, and it is your place this summer – to do the work God prepared in advance for you to do. Hopefully you will have tough challenges this summer – challenges to your faith, your skills, your self discipline. Here God is further preparing you for the work He has waiting for you to do. Do not disqualify yourself through willful disobedience to His will, His way. Yes, God does forgive…and yes, God knows your heart – which can be good news or bad news.

It’s Staff Training Time at “The Lodge”! #217

Deerfoot’s purpose is to build godly young men. As the Director of DL, my primary focus was on building the staff as godly young men. There were several reasons for this.

1. Most of what is learned during staff training is useful in many contexts. In the staff manual, under Operational Objectives it says “give evidence that they are developing as Christian leaders.” Our world is desperately in need of capable, Christian leaders in churches, businesses, communities…

2. All of what is taught in staff training is put into use during the summer camping program. The staff works with the campers under very careful supervision, and throughout the summer the staff was/is coached to improve their skills.

3. It was impossible for me, with a staff of 70 and up to 160 campers, to provide focused attention on 230 people.

4. As staff members received more training, gained more experience, they were able to use their abilities to assist me, and those working under them. I worked at never having a person in the counseling staff serve in the same position twice. As a staff member gained more experience, they received greater responsibility. A Guide became an Assistant Counselor, and then a Counselor. After being counselor, many different positions became possible: Section Chief, Guide Leader, Assistant to the Director, Water Front Director, Tripping Director, Crafts Director. Being on the Maintenance or Kitchen Staff is an option. Section Chiefs, Guide Leaders, and the Assistant to the Director, Tripping Director were all given teaching responsibilities during staff training.

In the three days before staff training began, I would have the Section Chiefs, Guide Leaders and my assistant to our home to talk through plans for staff training, and these changed a bit each summer. After the schedule was finalized, teaching assignments were made.
In February one year I had a pace-maker “installed.” In May the meds I was on were not having the desired effect and I was heading towards congestive heart failure. On the Sunday morning staff training was to begin, I went to the hospital and those involved in planning staff training went to DL and began the staff training program. After a week I was given clearance by my cardiologist to go straight from the hospital to Deerfoot. As I regained my strength I was able to begin to participate in the staff training program. The quality of the men, and the years of DL training and experience, enabled the leadership team to do an incredible job!!

While Director I was privileged to have many top quality young men at DL for 8 to 13 summers. What an incredible discipling / training opportunity. An example of the training possible through DL is Chief Ron, now the Director of Deerfoot Lodge. While I was Director, Ron was a Guide, Assistant Counselor, Counselor, Section Chief, Guide Leader, Tripping Director, and my Assistant. While Ron was my Assistant, I was able to take the Allagash River trip as the assistant to Nick Dotti. After his summers at DL, and before he became Deerfoot’s Director, Chief Ron was able to provide pastoral leadership in 3 churches.

Garret Larson, Craig Boronow, and Rich Sylvester went through this training and became Camp Directors. Eric Heipel directs a camp/conference center in MN. Seth Coates did the above and worked on maintenance under Ken Hoffman, and is now the Director of Windfall Rafting, and works with Craig at Moose River Outpost for the off-season retreat ministry. Russ Boronow worked in several positions at DL and now heads the retreat ministry of Mont Lawn, a camp/conference center in PA. It is interesting to note that all of the above men became Deerfoot Lone Eagles.

I sought to live In Partnership With God as did all of the leadership team at DL. Our challenge was to build godly young men, men who would live In Partnership With God. What a privilege!

Perhaps only parents have a greater opportunity to build godly young people – and when parents focus their time and energy on this unique privilege, Deerfoot Lodge is able to reinforce the work done by parents. This is the norm for DL staff.

Endurance! #216

Deerfoot Lodge is good at developing endurance: “the ability to withstand hardship, adversity, or stress” – Webster’s Dictionary

The staff arrives for three weeks of training and the first thing on the agenda is to carry the treated lumber dock sections (heavy!) from Founders Lodge to the waterfront. The sections are taken from a stack 6’ high, out the door and carefully lifted up and over the padded railing to a waiting group of 6 staff members who then slowly go down the uneven hill to the waterfront. Try this in the rain. Yes, it builds unity.

The staff needing life guard certification receives their training in Whitaker Lake when the water is 50–60 degrees. This training is really tough on cool, breezy days when the black flies are biting!

Consider what it takes to carry a 45lb pack up and down 4 of the High Peaks in one day. Now change your picture from a sunny to a rainy day and you are heading up where water is pouring down the rocks at you. I’ve done it many times. I remember the staff training hike when there was so much water that in normally soggy areas the wooden walk ways were floating. Do you step up onto them – and they sink, or go around them into what is certainly deep mud. Moisture absorbing socks swelled inside my boots…pain! Quit? How?

The kitchen is really hot in July. Taking 104 pizzas out of the ovens – endurance. How can you quit? Stir a boiling pot of spaghetti sauce. Wash pans in hot water….

Endurances must mix with patience and kindness when, every night, a Woodsman camper, afraid of the dark, wakes up his counselor to go with him to the Waldorf – and still wets his sleeping bag every night. This same camper complains bitterly on his overland hike, even though his counselor is carrying everything the camper is taking, except his sleeping bag!

I gave the stroke test for the Master’s in canoeing: 16 different strokes plus docking the canoe with the middle thwart hitting my toe.If a person was really struggling, he knew we would change places so I could demonstrate how the stroke should be done. To pass, each stroke and the dock landing had to be perfect. Counselor David Peterson, now a Vermont State Trouper, failed the test 9 times – passing on his 10th attempt. David knew he had mastered his strokes.

“Hey Chief Chuck, its upsetting to lose you – I mean who is going to check my strokes for like the 10th time, but you have made me stronger in the Lord.” Ricky – in the notes from Islanders to me when I retired.

Notice how he tied the physical/mental endurance tied into what is required in our walk with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Endurance: devotions almost every day, exercising, studying hard to get even a C, hugging a child who did his best, and did not make the cut for the soccer team. Endurance: working through a tough marital relationship, caring for a mentally or physically challenged child. Endurance: a parent with Alzheimer’s. Endurance: waiting for an answer to prayer.

The Apostle Paul’s Charge to Timothy: “You know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings–what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.” I Timothy 3:10-11, 2:3