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Camp Community is Crucial for Faith

Posted by on November 1, 2019

Camp Community is Crucial for Faith:
One Mom’s Perspective

by Susan Bradley Arico, Deer Run Alumna & Camp Mom

 

Camp is in my blood, and in the blood of my family. I came to Deer Run as a camper for six summers in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I even did a month-long “January term” winter study at camp in 1995, sandwiched between a summer as a cabin counselor and two more as an LDP counselor. I met my closest friends and even my husband at camp! And when our oldest was ten, my husband and I became camp parents.

For the past four summers we’ve been camp parents—to one, two, and now three of our four kids. Despite my deep love for Brookwoods and Deer Run, though, I had no way of knowing at the start of our parenting journey how meaningful it would be to send our kids there, and how much they would need it.

You see, our family lived in Greece for the past three years, and it was a dry time spiritually. The Greek Orthodox church is the church of Greece, but very few Greeks attend services, let alone non-Greeks. Since our family spoke little Greek, it wasn’t an option for us. There were three tiny international churches in our city, each with a congregation of less than 50. In the Hellenic Ministries church plant we attended, there were virtually no children other than ours. During the sermon my husband and I ran an informal kids’ “Sunday school class,” and nine times out of ten the only participants would be our own four kids. This made for tricky dynamics, as you can imagine.

By the time we left Greece in June 2019, our children were 13, 11, 9, and 8. Because their main (and often only) Christian fellowship was with their immediate family, we were always looking to engage them in meaningful fellowship with other believing kids. But we had few options.

This is why camp was and is such a lifeline. For two weeks each summer, our kids are immersed in a vibrant community of faith. They’re singing praise songs and participating in Bible study. They’re spending time with Christian role models and hearing first-hand stories about God. They’re doing activities with same-age peers who also follow Jesus, and interacting with them around shared faith. These are things they didn’t have the opportunity to do in regular life in Greece. What a gift!

Our son had the same Brookwoods counselor, a guy who’s as fun as he is godly, two out of four summers and has bonded closely with him. His presence and voice of encouragement in our son’s life has been an answer to prayer. Our daughters have also enjoyed their counselors and learned many things about faith from them. This summer, one daughter came home from camp saying that Bible study and worship time each morning was her very favorite thing about Deer Run. It’s tidbits like these that prompt me to bow my head in gratitude to God for providing our kids with a place where they can drink from this spiritual well after a comparative drought throughout the year.

Camp Brookwoods, Deer Run, and Moose River Outpost give a tremendous gift to its community, and really the whole region, by being a hub of Jesus-centered faith that’s easily accessible to kids. It’s a place where parents can know that their children will be exposed to God in winsome ways, and where their kids will meet and interact with engaging models of permeating faith. These types of communities can be hard to come by, and being able to plug into one is an amazing blessing. We’ll always be grateful for the central role that camp is playing in our children’s spiritual upbringing, and how God has used it to help close the spiritual gap for our children.

Susan Bradley Arico was a Deer Run camper from 1986-1991 and was on staff in 1994, 1996, and 1997. Her husband York was on Brookwoods staff for three years in the 1990’s. The Aricos now reside in Connecticut. You may contact Susan, or view more of her writing on her blog, or her facebook page.

 

 

 

Impact of Camp

Posted by on October 25, 2019

The Impact of Camp

by Daniel Forkner, Brookwoods Alumni

I started going to Camp Brookwoods when I turned eight years old. I remember being unsure if I was really going to like this strange place that I would spend two whole weeks. I had no idea that Brookwoods would be one of the most impactful places of my life. Over 11 summers, I spent 52 weeks at Brookwoods, not including multiple Alumni Camps and Winter Reunions.

Building a fire is a great life skill.

One of the greatest parts of camp is the skills that kids learn. Throughout my years at camp, I learned many different skills that my friends from outside of camp seldom possessed. Some of these skills include: how to sail, use a band saw, water ski, wind surf, SCUBA dive, shoot a bow, shoot a rifle, rock climb, throw a Frisbee, build a fire, read a map and compass, catch fish, save lives, canoe through whitewater rapids, build a shelter, set up a tent (quickly in the rain), mountain bike, ride a horse, serve others, be vulnerable, teach Bible studies, and so much more. Without a doubt, there are other places that kids and young adults can learn these skills, but there is nowhere besides camp where they can learn such a bevy of diverse skills in the context of a Christ-centered outdoor experience.

Camp is definitely one of the most fun places on Earth. At the same time, camp is also incredibly challenging and stretching. There were periods at camp that weren’t necessarily ‘fun’, but those were the moments when I was learning the most important skills—those that build character. I learned focus and respect during Bible studies, and perseverance through immense knee pain on my 1st year LDP 6-day hike. I learned support, brotherhood, and community through talking about tough teenager stuff in the Ranger cabin during LDP, and I learned patience in leadership by being a counselor.

Woodchucks 2016, Daniel far right

The Holy Spirit moves powerfully and intentionally on camp’s sacred grounds; there is no place on Earth like it. One of the most impactful lessons that I learned at camp came during my last summer there, when I was one of the counselors in the Woodchuck cabin. I had thought long and hard about returning for another summer on staff and I just wasn’t sure if I wanted to come back. I did return, but towards the end of the summer I was overwhelmed, stressed, and doubting that I had made the right decision. At the Closing Campfire, campers have an opportunity to share with the entire camp something that they had learned and one of my campers stood up and said, “This summer I learned that Jesus Christ is my Savior.” I teared up. Foolishly, I was regretting my decision to work at camp. Little to my knowledge, God was working through me and using me in this camper’s life. In an instant, the hard work of being a counselor was worth every minute. God used me in bringing this camper into the saving grace of Jesus. In that moment, God reinforced the most important lesson—camp is not about me. Camp is about the Gospel. As Bob Strodel famously says during Staff Week, “The entire summer is worth it if one camper comes to Christ.” The impact of camp, camper and counselor alike, is life-changing. Come to camp, and experience it for yourself, you won’t regret it.

Daniel Forkner graduated from Wheaton College in 2019. He moved to Colorado Springs, CO where is he working in the financial technology industry. He’s spending as much time outside as he can, doing the things he learned at Brookwoods, like rock climbing, fishing and hiking! Find him on Facebook or email, dcforkner@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

Post Camp RE-ENTRY

Posted by on August 23, 2019

Post camp RE-ENTRY:
How Parents Can Help Children Transition Well

by Andrea Gurney, PhD, Deer Run Alumna,  & Camp Mom

 

Campers investigating Frog Pond

The sweet time on the shores of Winnipesauke and Heald Pond have somehow come and gone. Campouts, blobbing, Color wars, waterskiing, Narnia, morning devos, and Chapel times filled and nurtured our children’s hearts, minds, and bodies. And now it’s over. Our kids are back home, getting ready to transition to the school year yet still holding on to the memories of camp. How can we help them re-enter smoothly? Here are some quick tips to help both parents and campers reboot.

 1. Give your kiddo space. Like all of us, kids need time and space to process an experience. Although we as parents are incredibly eager to “hear all about it”, let’s be mindful that our children are still mulling over their camp experience and insisting that they share it all right away impedes their process.

2. LISTEN actively when your child wants to share about camp. Refrain from questioning, correcting, or giving instruction, as this undermines the choices they made and ultimately, their competence and confidence. Simply take the posture of a listener and allow stories and memories to be shared over time!

3. Related to the first two points, remember that being away at camp has given kids psychological ownership – the feeling that it belongs to them. It’s one of the reasons (whether we realize it or not!) that we send kids to camp. We want them to grow and be challenged, develop grit, and become more independent. So be intentional and respectful of their psychological ownership– what happened to them at camp belongs to them. What a freeing gift!

4. Continue to foster independence. While our kids were away at camp, they took care of themselves. They applied their own sunscreen, packed their backpacks for the overnight, brushed their own teeth, and maybe even showered once or twice. They even did chores in the cabin and undoubtedly, learned new skills. Often, they are eager to show off their newfound abilities. (Anyone else have campers who are arguing over who gets to be “Jennie or Waiter” for the day?) So let’s be mindful to continue to foster their growth and independence! It’s way too easy to slip back into the pattern of doing things for our kids; our brains, after all, prefer what is automatic and to change an old routine requires more attention and mental energy.

5. Cultivate emotional intelligence and problem solving. Remember that while our kids were at Camp Brookwoods, Deer Run, or Moose River Outpost, they navigated emotional, social, and mental challenges without you! They figured out how to interact with a bossy bunkmate, listen to others who had a different perspective, problem solve when they didn’t get their first or second choice activities during sign-ups, make new friends, navigate group situations, and the list goes on. So when you’re tempted to jump in and help rescue your kiddo from a sticky social situation, don’t! Instead, acknowledge the difficulty, provide comfort and empathy, and then give them the time and space to figure it out on their own, just like they did at camp.

Camp friends already! This crew is following their parents’ camp footsteps. (Susan Bradley & York Arico, Kate Bradley MacLeod and Dan DiBase) Andrea’s Deer Runners, Madeline and Kate Hashbarger, are pictured far right.

6. On a more sentimental note, keep the memory of camp alive! For my girls, that includes things such as: displaying their rockets made at camp in their rooms; having their camp song book on our kitchen table so we can sing a camp songs together; continuing to use their camp devotional book; watching the chapel and banquet clips posted on Instagram and Facebook from their session; watching the July and August finale videos on YouTube, and reviewing and sharing the Bible verses they learned at camp.

Camp offers so many gifts to not only our children, but to us as parents. May we continue to reap the benefits of what our children learned at camp as we welcome them home and build our fall routines.

Thank you to all of those at Camp Brookwoods, Deer Run, and Moose River Outpost for investing in the lives of our children. You have challenged them, cared for them, nurtured them, and loved them well. This is, I believe, perhaps the greatest thing we can be a part of —nurturing another soul and building Kingdom relationships.

 

Andrea Gurney, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist, professor of psychology at Westmont College, and author of Reimagining Your Love Story: Biblical and Psychological Practices for Healthy Relationships. An East Coast camp girl at heart, and Camp Deer Run (Alton, NH) staff alumna, she currently lives in Santa Barbara, CA with her husband, two daughters, and playful goldendoodle. Connect with her at AndreaGurney.com or Instagram @andrea_gurney for practical tips and insights on life!

 

 

 

Prayer Makes a Difference

Posted by on August 16, 2019

Prayer Makes a Difference

Madeleine Schlenz, RN and Camp mom

Camp nursing is different from serving in a hospital: it’s a little bit of mothering, a lot of community health and a ton of smiles and reassurance. Whenever possible, I take time to pray with the kids who come to receive care, and this week I was reminded of the difference that makes.

Homesickness strikes early at camp. Within the first few days we see some kids struggle with being away from family. One that I met this summer will stick with me forever.

A young camper attending Camp Brookwoods from overseas came to visit the Loon on his first night. He was clearly fighting back the tears and just wanted to go home. We spent time with him, encouraged him and prayed with him. Then, he reluctantly went back to his cabin.

The next night he stopped by, less weepy but still wanting to spend time with us. When I asked him if I could pray for him, his demeanor changed and he quickly told me he would love that.

Three nights in, he melted my heart.

While other campers were getting ready for bed, he walked into the Loon (our medical facility) smiling, and just stood there. We asked him about his day. He smiled as he told us what he had done and about all the fun he had. Then we asked if he needed a good night hug. He shook his head, no.  We asked if he wanted some water or if he needed anything medical. Again, he shook his head, no. Puzzled, we asked what we could do for him.

He dropped his head, kicked his feet a bit, then looked up and shyly asked, “Could you pray for me? It really makes a difference.”

I about lost it. I ran to him, hugged him, and wanted to keep hugging him. The other medical staff joined me as we thanked God for this child and prayed for him, lifting him up to a Heavenly Father who is well aware of everything the boy felt and the struggle he was having.

Oh, to have the faith of a child; to simply come and ask for help through prayer! This boy didn’t have a concern with how he looked or what others would think to keep him away. He just came. He wasn’t caught up in his own pride or self-sufficiency. He was vulnerable. He took one small step toward us and we all rushed to meet his request.

Our staff that night consisted of two RNs and an MD, we had plenty of skill, we were confident in our ability to diagnose and treat physical issues, but God wanted us to remember the importance and the power of prayer, because, “It really makes a difference.”

The staff at the Loon is usually busy caring for the physical needs of campers. But this summer, God used a young boy from another country, to show us how much He cares for us, to lift our heads and hearts upward to a God who wants to be brought into everything we do, and to remind us of the value of childlike faith.

 

Madeline and her husband Jeff live in Annadale, VA and they had three campers at Brookwoods and Deer Run this summer, Benjamin, Christopher and Karisa. Before coming to Brookwoods and Deer Run she served on the medical team at Camp Sandy Cove in WV. Her favorite thing to do at camp is fellowshipping with the larger body of Christ and being reminded of God’s involvement in different parts of the world, as well as enjoying the super amazing slushies in the Camp Store. Visit her blog at TurnAside.org (it’s a work in progress :-).

Indispensible Anchor Points of Great Living!

Posted by on July 26, 2019

Indispensible Anchor Points of Great Living!

by Uncle Woody Strodel, Brookwoods alumnus

 

“This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.”  Psalm 118: 22-23

The Strodel Family

On behalf of the entire Texas Strodel family and my dear departed wife, “Aunt Dawn,” I want to express my deepest joy to Camp Brookwoods and its current leadership on this marvelous 75th Anniversary. We celebrate this time remembering Miles and Grace Strodel and their many years of camp leadership in Massachusetts, Maryland and New Hampshire. Dawn and I had the privilege to walk beside them and assist in many years of service together—these years have provided incredible focal points in my Christian camping ministry and guided me as I served as executive director at First Presbyterian Church Camp in Pittsburgh years later.

Camp Brookwoods Staff, 1959 Uncle Woody first row, 2nd from the left

I firmly believe when we blend home, school, church, and Christian camp, four key anchor points of true discipleship in Jesus Christ are born. Brookwoods has emulated the perfect example nation-wide like no other institution of such a framework. It has done this with huge success over these 75 years and I have no doubt will continue.

Much of my personal Christian growth at Brookwoods was due to the kindness of Dr. Harold Ockenga, who released me from Park Street Church in Boston during the summer months to assist and learn from Miles. Enormous pleasant memories are still with me, as I recall initiating the Maine Wilderness trip, Chibougamou adventures, the 100-mile bike trip in New Hampshire and Maine, golf trips, and many teen camps (after the regular camping season). Serving alongside my brother, much as Bob and David Strodel do today, was a joy and privilege I hold dearly.

“Uncle Woody & Aunt Dawn” by the stone wall

I lean on those early years and have so many fond memories from silly dining hall skits, to driving the ski boat, or playing softball on the Brookwoods backfield. There were countless great Biblical discussions as we poured our hearts into teaching others about the importance of trusting the Lord and gaining Christ-centered tools for life. I learned so much from Miles including how to be grateful. I remember Miles telling me “God has blessed us with balance, good choices, mentors, and good wives.” He also advised me to “Preserve the core and stimulate progress,” from author Jim Collins. These are moments I will never forget. I have been blessed beyond measure as there are so many others from my days at camp that molded me personally and professionally. To this day, I still quote Uncle Nubby who told me to “always bring your criticism up to date.” Powerful stuff.

Time will only tell the depth of Camp’s impact for the Kingdom of God because of the unique endeavors that stem from Brookwoods. Psalm 118  from Euguene Peterson’s translation titled, The Message Bible, says: “This is the Lord’s work. We rub our eyes – we can hardly believe it! This is the day God acted – let’s celebrate and be festive!”

Sadly, I’m unable to attend this great event, but I am delighted to share my deepest appreciation and love for Brookwoods and its legacy through this letter. God Bless you all, and God bless Brookwoods, Deer Run and Moose River Outpost.

 

With love and gratitude,

Uncle Woody

“Woody” Strodel and his family happily worship and serve our Lord at Highland Park Presbyterian Church in Dallas, TX. After more than 50 years of active ministry, he is retired but continues as Pastor Emeritus. Woody would love to hear from you, wdstrodel@aol.com