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.