Looking Back, Part 2

Our first fall retreat season

Although we have lived up at Camp Barakel for about a year and a half now, this fall was our first fall season with retreats running. We were really glad to have a full retreat season this fall. Each season at camp has its own rhythm, and retreats definitely bring a whole different rhythm than summer. We got a taste of that last winter during the partial retreat season, but this fall we “fell into it” more fully with a longer set of weeks as well as different weather, activities, and age groups from last winter. Here’s a brief rundown of our involvement in the ministry this fall retreat season:

  • We kicked off the fall lineup with Family Camp over Labor Day weekend. This is a big event, three nights rather than two, with lots of activities and classes geared toward all ages of family members. During family camp we host all ages, from retired grandparent-aged adults all the way down to infants in need of nursery care during chapel. So it comes with a lot of prep and setup and a great need for workers and helpers. This fall I worked with one other staff lady to coordinate the 5-6 year old class during chapel times, thankfully with a lot of help. In fact, due to being sick the week before I had to hand over the materials and rely on others to actually carry out the class for part of the weekend. 
  • Following Family Camp, we hosted 7 weekends of guests. Married couples, fathers and sons, ladies, ladies, and more dear ladies, men, more men, and finally college aged young adults who came to work and prep the place for the change of seasons. Each of these groups brings a different feel around camp, different menus in the dining hall, different needs to fill on the work schedule. Some programmed activities are the same from weekend to weekend and some are changed up to match the interests of the guests. It really is a grand thing to help provide a place that is a respite and haven for so many. May we, as staff, never lose the joy and delight in preparing this place for the work that God does here.
  • Things Jim did during the weekends: worked the zipline; drove a bus in endless loops around camp property, shuttling guests from one side to the other (it’s a good thing he is enjoying this new skill of bus driving!); washed dishes; prepped and served the nighttime snack; worked check-in; hosted in parking lots welcoming guests and helping with luggage.
  • Things I did during the weekends: learned to run the cash register in the Trading Post (camp store); served seconds and did cleanup at some meals; played piano at some meals; set up for the banquet style dinners; hosted and welcomed guests at ladies retreats; played flute in some chapels; played piano for late night hymn sings during ladies retreats.
  • Things Jim did in between retreat weekends: weekly cleaning assignment; made liability release forms for non-summer seasons; worked to start up more communication with and from member churches; took over making the hosting and serving schedule (this tells us all where to be and when during a retreat. It takes only one line to tell about it, but it is a MANY lined document with many, many moving pieces!); worked on part of the big East Side cabin project, planning the network expansion that was part of it; worked to make some website changes including online donations.
  • Things I did in between weekends: my weekly cleaning assignment had a bit of a learning curve to it, as I more fully took over an area that I had only cleaned half of previously; Wednesday morning bake days with the other staff ladies (someone has to bake all those famous Barakel cookies!); some Friday mornings I helped with food prep in the kitchens.
  • Our homeschool year got off to a good start in September. Mary Emma is a senior, and only has part-time academics. She is doing a concentrated ballet year with private training and conditioning at a studio in Oscoda. She has hopes of pursuing professional dance somewhere after high school, so this year is an intense prep year for that. She is even staying in Oscoda overnight two nights each week with someone from our church up here. The Lord has opened these doors and provided all throughout this process, so we are watching and waiting for what comes next for her. Lydia is a freshman (HOW did that happen?) and doing well with a bit heavier academic load this year. She has gotten to the years when school really does seem to take all day, sometimes into the evening. One thing we did during the retreat schedule was to switch our school days. At camp we have Mondays off, so we decided to take Mondays off school and ballet as well. Our school week runs Tuesday-Saturday, so we can have Sunday afternoon and Monday off as a family.
  • One of the hardest things we find about the retreat season, and life at camp in general, is not being able to attend church during those weeks. Last winter we did well by carving out time for that Sunday evening or Monday. We listened to a sermon series as a family and enjoyed that. This fall, admittedly, we didn’t do as well with that. Next retreat season we need to do a better job of putting this in for our family. 

Thank you for your continued prayers and support. We are thankful for each one of the churches, families, and individuals who make our work here possible. We do not take it for granted; we are continually humbled and amazed at God’s graciousness to us through the giving of His people. Thank you for whatever part you have played in that!

Rachel, for the Bennetts

Grace and her boyfriend, Soren, came up for family camp. They enjoyed the activities as well as time with family.
Jim at the top of the zip tower.
It’s a good thing he enjoys driving these!
Hosting at the office during ladies retreat check-in, offering cider and doughnuts. This was a quiet moment. Often the porch was full of ladies!
Inside the office during check-in
At the piano ready for a late night hymn sing. This was a joy to do each Saturday night during ladies retreats.
A group from one of our supporting churches came during a ladies retreat. They blessed us with a gift that had been raised by their children’s classes. 
The obligatory first day of school pic

Looking Back, part 1

How we finished our summer

A bullet point flashback for the last half of our summer. In no particular order here are some of the things that kept us busy and living life.

  • Grace and I went to the Chicago area to drop off and then pick up Mary Emma from her ballet intensive there. This is the second summer we have taken her to a far away dance program, and it now feels like it should be tradition. To leave home in the north woods, drive and drive, make random stops as needed, or not, depending on how short on time we are, in which case drive and drive and make no stops whatsoever regardless of how badly anyone needs to stop. We of course have no experience with that last thing.
  • At camp on July 17, one year after the fire that burned the carpenter shop, we had a dedication for the two new Maintenance Area buildings that have been constructed since the fire. Amazing to reflect on God’s goodness and provision. In just one year he provided for two new buildings to go up, totaling the 8,000 square feet of space that was lost in the fire.
  • I played piano for two more weeks of camp. Still a blessing, and I am so thankful to have served in this way.
  • Mary Emma and Lydia were able to go on a camping trip to the Upper Peninsula with the youth group from our sending church. We are so thankful for their ability to still stay connected to this group, and for the friendships that just pick up where they left off.
  • Jim drove a bus for multiple more weeks of camp either picking up or dropping off campers. He now has some experience under his belt with the routines and traditions of bus driving. And I suppose he could tell you about things like nervous young campers with questions about camp or the singing of the camp song when the buses pull on to the property. He seemed to enjoy this role.
  • Jim wrote some policy documents for our state licensing consultant. His favorite task has always been writing. 😉
  • Grace and I got some experience being the ones to be quarantined away from camp. Not a huge thing for me, since it did happen during a week I wasn’t scheduled to be playing piano. But a pretty big thing for Grace as she was wearing many hats this summer, and in her particular roles she had constant contact with many summer staff. At the end of July, on a Monday as campers were arriving, she exhibited enough symptoms to require a Covid test. Unfortunately she was positive, which led to a significant round of required contact tracing, which led to a significant shortage in summer staff. She was, of course, not the only one to have this struggle this summer, but it was a challenge for her to walk through. 
  • Jim (and several other staff members here) got pretty good at some things they didn’t want to be good at. In the new world of Covid and contact tracing and health department requirements, there was more than one occasion when our staff had to contact parents with the sad news that they needed to come pick up their camper. This is never something we wish to do and it was a heavy thing for all who were involved, and even all who were just around watching it happen. But it was, even so, part of the summer that God ordained for us and we saw signs of His goodness through it. There was ample opportunity to extend and receive grace, and both happened regularly.
  • Toward the end of the summer, Jim (and helpers) began removing many, many old phone line pedestals from around camp’s property. This was physical work and he was glad for the young summer staff helpers who could share the load. And 54 phone pedestals are quite a load!
  • Mary Emma camped as a high school camper in August, and followed that by working as a technician (high school volunteer) during cleaning week. This was her last year as a camper and a tech. She was blessed by a great experience with both.
  • We hosted several movie nights in our home for the summer staff group referred to as YAPS (young adult program staff). These are the young people who are running all manner of things during a week of camp, but not counseling. They were one group that Grace oversaw this summer, so she took advantage of having a home at camp to bring them to. We packed out our little living room with the group of varying size depending on the week and who was free. It was a fun way to get to know some of them better.
  • As staff we had two cleaning weeks at the end of the summer this year rather than one. We spread it out over two weeks because during the last high school week we didn’t have campers on the other side of the lake. So we spread out the work and had some high school aged helpers pitch in to start cleaning the West Side one week, followed by cleaning the East Side the next week. Lots of cleaning in lots of places you might not normally think about. Two areas I helped clean that I never had before: the sound booth in the West Side Chapel, and the museum in the West Side Chapel. Did you know there is a museum at camp? There are a lot of items on display there and they allllll need to be cleaned (and cleaned around) from time to time. I was thankful for a couple of high school techs who worked with me.
  • We got Grace moved back to Hillsdale, which also happened to fall during the busyness of cleaning week. It was a little more of a task to move her back this year because she had changed dorms which meant all of her college belongings had moved home, and all of them had to be moved back. Not something she could do on her own in her little VW Bug! So down we all went with our big SUV to help.
  • At the end of August, after all the weeks of camp and cleaning, the staff has a week off. We were thankful for that, and enjoyed it at one of our favorite places to vacation, Door County, Wisconsin. My parents came with us and we enjoyed the time with them as well. Since Grace was already back on campus this was our first glimpse into a family vacation without all of our kids, so that was weird. A natural part of life, but still weird.

You may wonder why bother revisiting all of this summer detail now. Clearly time got away from me a bit and these things are faded into the past already. But I will end with this thought. SUMMER IS COMING! Yep, even in the fall around here, talks and trainings and preparations are happening for the summer of 2022. One of our most urgent matters of work and prayer, even already, is that of the summer staff. Every week of summer camp there is a need for around 70 college aged summer staff, and another 30 or so high schoolers. Every week. These blessed volunteers come and work directly with campers as counselors; they work to run program areas like the archery range, riflery range, or waterfront; they work in the kitchen; they play piano; they do laundry; and they do many more things than I can list here. Without them we simply cannot run camp. And this past summer, because we were at times without enough of them, we did not run camp, at least not at all to our full capacity. So the effort has already begun to seek staff for next summer. Pray with us for this important provision. Do you know someone who could be a good fit for a summer role here? Get us connected so we can tell them more about it!

Rachel, for the Bennetts

From the building dedication at the Maintenance Area
An attractive view of some of the pedestals that were removed from around camp
The theme for the high school weeks this year was Barakel Goes West! Our girls had fun with that. Mary Emma has been ready for this one for a while with her Canjo! Canjo?? Yes. Like a banjo but with a tin cup on the end and only one string. So, a bit more simple than a banjo.
Nothing like getting caught behind the covered wagons on the camp road!
During the second and third high school weeks Grace led square dancing during the banquet at the end of the week. This was also held in the newest maintenance building. I’m not sure who had more fun, the campers participating or Grace calling it out!
More square dancing!
Grace planned group activities for the YAPS each week. One week she planned an Amazing Race challenge around camp. We did have fun helping her come up with ideas for this and running a couple of the tasks they had to complete. Here she is getting it started. Grace is often at her happiest when she is explaining games to people. (Why has she never been a camp programmer???)
Our cozy living room filled up with summer staff for a movie night. These were really fun. A simple movie and some popcorn and you have some very appreciative young people!
Move in day for Grace. She is an RA in a dorm she hasn’t lived in previously, so it was back to a traditional dorm room for her this year. She does have her own room, however, so that is nice.

Thoughts from Psalm 143

It amazes me how fleeting time can be. It’s crazy that the last time I posted to update you all was 3 months ago. So often I have thought it was time to let everyone know what we are up to, but then I wouldn’t quite get to it, and more time would pass, and the longer it had been the more I wondered what to even share! How many things in life are like that, right? An easier task if we just stay on top of it, and yet we don’t, so the task grows and becomes a much bigger task and we question where or how to even begin.
       Today I begin here: with something from God’s Word that struck me yesterday morning. Perhaps I still really need to fill everyone in on the details of life from the finishing of summer and now almost an entire fall retreat season. And I aspire to send some more details about all of that in coming weeks. But first, I thought maybe the best thing to share is simply some truth that I read afresh yesterday morning from Psalm 143. I’ll include the whole Psalm here so you don’t have to go get your Bible. 😉

143 Hear my prayer, O Lord;
give ear to my pleas for mercy!
In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!
Enter not into judgment with your servant,
for no one living is righteous before you.

For the enemy has pursued my soul;
he has crushed my life to the ground;
he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.
Therefore my spirit faints within me;
my heart within me is appalled.

I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all that you have done;
I ponder the work of your hands.
I stretch out my hands to you;
my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah

Answer me quickly, O Lord!
My spirit fails!
Hide not your face from me,
lest I be like those who go down to the pit.
Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love,
for in you I trust.
Make me know the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.

Deliver me from my enemies, O Lord!
I have fled to you for refuge.
10 Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God!
Let your good Spirit lead me
on level ground!

11 For your name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life!
In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble!
12 And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies,
and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul,
for I am your servant.

       I love that this whole thing is a prayer. And ok, maybe that can be said of all of the Psalms, but this one is a prayer with the whole thing written in the first-person. All the way through it is filled with pronouns like I, me, my, you, your. Don’t you just love that? The Psalms that are written this way are so easy to just put as our very own prayers to God. It’s like God knew that we would need some simplicity. Just write it out for us so we can pray it back to him.
       It begins with asking God to hear and listen. And oh, the beautiful truth that He will. Maybe on this earth, in these broken lives we live, we won’t always feel heard by someone who listens. But God. In His faithfulness and His righteousness, He will hear and listen. Then it goes on to verse 3-4, confessing the condition of our lives. We are crushed, we sit in darkness, our spirit faints, our heart is appalled. So very broken.
       But next as we read, we turn our thoughts to what we know to be true about God. Verses 5-6 lead us to remember God’s works and what He has done, which is, of course, loaded with love and faithfulness and goodness. What is your first thought when considering what God has done? It could be many things. As is common in the Psalms, we could recall God’s provisions for the Israelites in the Old Testament. Or maybe we think of some very recent answer to prayer in our present day lives. And surely it also points to Christ and what He accomplished on the cross. In these verses, we are directed to remember and ponder. Who God is. What He has done. After considering that, verse 6 leaves us in a posture of needy humility with our hands outstretched to God and in need of all He has and is. How beautiful.
       The Psalm continues as a heart cry to God, having acknowledged His sufficiency and our lack. In the midst of that heart cry, in verse 9, we plead with God to “deliver me from my enemies.” Sometimes when I come across this phrase in the Psalms it can feel out of context of my actual life. I don’t have an army chasing me down or pursuers seeking to take my life. But this morning I wondered, what might my enemies be? In my defensiveness or pride I might want to think that is other people; maybe those I am in conflict with, are frustrated with, or feel wronged by. Is it our coworkers? Our families? Kids, parents, husbands, wives? But in reality, I think often our enemies are the things right in ourselves – the lies we believe and our own sin. The discouragement, the anger, the hopelessness, the disillusionment, the unmet expectations or thoughts of “I deserve…”. So we say in the Psalm, deliver me from all of that, Lord; I have fled to you for refuge. We don’t flee to a quick fix, a person, or a better circumstance. We flee to the Lord and His sufficiency to make all things new.
       I also love in verses 9-11 how the Psalm leads us to continue asking for actions. Practical help. Deliver. Teach. Lead. Preserve. Bring. We can look to God expectantly for Him to be doing these things in our lives. We can ask Him for these actions knowing He is good and more than able.
       Then at the end, in verse 12, the Psalm concludes with a return to those enemies, but this time instead of asking to be delivered from them, it is a confident statement of bold faith. “In your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies, and you will destroy the adversaries of my soul.” Because of God’s plan for salvation through Christ, our enemies, those adversaries of our soul, need have no power over us. We can trust Christ’s power to conquer them all. And why? “For I am your servant.” Turning again to humility and full dependence on God. Trusting He is great enough and able to deliver and heal.
       I pray this Psalm is an encouragement to you as it was to me yesterday morning. It made for a long post, but of all the things I knew I should have been sharing over the last 3 months, this was the thing that I suddenly knew I wanted to share. Look for some more practical-life updates in the coming weeks. We are busy, we are well, and we are so very thankful for each and every one of you who helps to support our work here. Thank you for your part in our ministry.

Rachel, for the Bennetts

Our summer so far

“Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.”

Psalm 33:22

Yesterday we said goodbye to the third group of youth campers. Tomorrow we welcome another group. Summer is off to a great start! Since our last update, there has been one more week of summer staff training followed by three weeks of campers. The first week we hosted 4th-6th graders on the West Side and 7th-9th graders on the East Side. After that we hosted 4th-6th graders on the West Side and 9th-12th graders on the East Side. And last week we had 3rd-5th graders on West and 7th-9th on East. As always there are a lot of moving parts to make everything happen. Before we lived here when I would come volunteer for a week it always amazed me to see how many different pieces all work at the same time to run a week of camp. And now living here I am no less amazed at the same thing. I honestly feel like such a small, small part of the whole.

Jim continues his role running things in the office which keeps him pretty sufficiently busy these days! He has jumped fully into all of the business end of camp. I’m quite sure I previously underestimated the amount of “business” required to run camp! This year some things are running along the same as they always have, some things are new and different due to updated state regulations and our own camp schedule change this summer. I am certainly not the expert on all that keeps Jim busy in the office, but one thing I do know is that it is amazing to see skills that Jim has gathered all through his years of work experience be used in the ministry here. The Lord really has been preparing Jim for years to be able to come and fill needs here.

Separate from his office work, Jim also completed his bus driver’s training over the last few weeks. First, he studied at home and had to pass several written tests. Then a week ago, he spent Sunday-Thursday in Owosso doing the actual driving and hands on portion of the training. He passed all of that, completed the actual licensing at the Secretary of State, and yesterday drove one of the buses headed south with campers! If you know the drill with parents and their kids at the Barakel buses….photos in front of the buses, videos as they drive off….yep, that was me yesterday morning with my husband!

As for me, I have continued to be on the work schedule some weeks playing piano in chapels. I played for the East Siders right away the first week of campers and again this past week. Although the need for piano players is due to less summer staff than normal, I am actually very thankful for the opportunity to fill that need. Different environments, be it various churches, camps or other worship groups, all have their own niche of worship music and how it gets ‘fleshed out’ in a service. I am glad for the chance to get practice in the Barakel chapel niche of worship music. To be honest, it almost feels like cheating to be on the work schedule for something as lovely as playing music in chapel. I thank the Lord for the background I have that can now be useful to Him in this setting.

Here is a little update on each of our girls, youngest to oldest since we almost always list them the other way around. 😉

Lydia has had some variety that last few weeks. She’s had some very quiet time at home spent reading, which she always loves; she has spent time “staff-kidding” around camp; she has happily helped me with some gardening chores improving the outside of our staff home; she was a camper this past week on east side and loved the chance to fully “belong” in the camp schedule. Pray for her as she navigates the different seasons of staff kid life.

Mary Emma is currently beginning her third week at a ballet intensive outside of Chicago with a dance company called Ballet 5:8. It has been a good fit for her this summer for a couple of reasons. Since she had to audition for the particular level she is in, it assured that she would spend the three weeks working at a level that would challenge her and push her ahead, but at a sustainable pace. Also, as a Christian ballet company, it provides a hard-to-find blend of her passion for the art of dance with her Christian faith and worldview. This is not at all an easy thing to find in the world of fine arts and we are so thankful that she can go and grow with a group of people who “speak both languages.” Pray for her (and us!) as she makes decisions about her future course of study with ballet, even as we consider various options in the fall for her senior year.

Grace continues to serve in the leadership of summer staff. She is overseeing and supporting the female counselors, and is also helping to coordinate the young adult program staff which functions as a somewhat separate group from the counselors. These roles are often filled by separate people, but much of the leadership are playing more than one role due to the smaller number of staff this year. She is doing well with that, although it is for sure overwhelming at times. She has the gift of a joyful spirit, and it is serving her well this summer. But even the most joyful people can become discouraged under strain. Pray for her as she continues to serve through the last half of the summer.

Thank you for catching up with us, if you’ve read this far, and for supporting us prayerfully or financially. We are doing well in the north woods, even as we continue to learn through our first summer here.

Rachel, for the Bennetts

Lydia and her friend, Bella, from our sending church. They were so excited to go to camp together.
He drove the fish bus yesterday
Ready to roll!

Reflections on Hisability Week

Saturday we said goodbye to the Hisability campers. They arrived on Tuesday as the first bus-load of campers to come in 672 days. They were excited, we were excited, counselors were excited….and very nervous!  Our family was blessed to be a part of this week on East Side with these beautifully unique campers. Jim continued normal office work as well as covering a few other tasks. I played piano in chapels for the campers. Grace oversaw the female counselors for the week. Mary Emma was an east side kitchen tech in the program for high school aged workers. And Lydia went in and out of camp having fun with the various activities.  So all of us, in different ways, were able to be around and interact with the campers. You’ll not likely see a more appreciative group of campers around Barakel than the Hisability campers. Adults between the ages of 18 and 50, with a variety of different physical and mental impairments, many of whom come year after year. Many of them are enthusiastic in ways that most of us are too inhibited to allow ourselves to be. Often unfiltered and earnest, they come to learn and have fun, but in the process all of us who work with them learn and have fun right alongside of them. I found myself reminded of valuable things as I observed and participated in things this week.

First, I was reminded to slooowwwww dowwwwnnnn. Our world has gone and gotten itself in a big hurry. And even up here in the north woods, while it often moves at a slower pace than downstate, life at camp can encourage hurry. There’s a certain value put on speed and efficiency while working at camp, although most often unspoken. I’ve personally been aware of it many times as one of the “new ones”. When tasks are being completed – perhaps cleaning or baking – I don’t move with the same efficient speed as the more experienced staff. I don’t know where things are or how things are done and have to ask lots of questions. That often irks the perfectionist side of me. I don’t like the feeling of not knowing the right way or of being uncertain what to do. It’s much more comfortable to know exactly what needs to be done and to be the one efficiently moving through tasks. In the last year I’ve had to learn to sit with that discomfort a bit. And this week gave me a very tangible reminder that it is ok to slow down and not feel like fast and hurried is the only way.  Sure we want to be good stewards of our time. But there is value in slowing down, listening, learning, being present with people. This was a great reset button while we collectively plow forward into summer. A great reminder of putting the people we serve over the tasks we complete in order to serve them.

Second, this week was a great reminder of the need for compassion, compassion, compassion. True Christlike compassion. Our humanity so often gets in the way of that doesn’t it? It’s so easy to be harsh and judgmental, being hard on others when they frustrate us or offend us. This week creates a moment by moment need to love people as they are, with no judgement for what they can or cannot do. To remember that everyone carries a struggle of some sort. Maybe with these campers that struggle was very visible and obvious, but all of us have a struggle even if it isn’t easily visible to everyone we meet. So it was good to be reminded to look with more compassion on others.

At the end of the week our family had opportunity to all “debrief” a bit together over the weekend. And as we did, the conversation hovered continuously around our experiences with Hisability week. The conversation might lull or change direction for just a moment, but then it came right back to something about our experiences that week. Each of us had interactions with campers to share, or things we learned and noticed, or challenges we stepped in and helped with, or ways we were blessed in knowing these campers. We even had the songs from the puppets in chapel stuck in our heads, rather like a week working at VBS coming away with those songs stuck in our heads!

It is not a glamorous week to be a part of. Not polished or perfected. Rather it can be messy and awkward and draining. But in the midst of that, God’s grace comes shining through. In the campers’ often off-key singing in chapel, in their sometimes loud enthusiasm, in their testimonies at the end of the week, in their loyalty to come back year after year after year. In the summer staff’s perseverance and growth as they work with their campers, in their laughter with each other as they find humor in the various challenges they find themselves in.  It was truly a blessing for us to be a part of this week. Sign us up next year!

Rachel, for the Bennetts

The buses pulling in at the start of Hisability camp
Some campers shared a song during chapel. During this one a counselor and his camper sang the chorus of “Lord I Need You”. The camper had specifically requested Grace to play piano for them. After they sang it once, we had them do it again for everyone to sing along. 
Grace helping a camper into chapel. God’s Helping Hands comes with their puppet ministry to speak to the campers each year for Hisability week
A clip from the first evening in chapel

The couple of weeks past and the couple of weeks coming

Some random work and life happenings from the last couple of weeks:

  • We had to sit out the first two co-labor weekends while we waited to be healthy and not spread anything to people we would work with. But then the third work weekend we were able to jump in and help out with the work. Jim raked with a crew of helpers from one of our supporting churches, and I cleaned Boys’ Dorm with a couple of able helpers. I even successfully recruited Mary Emma and Lydia to come help with my crew, which made a big difference in the speed that we moved through the work. 
  • Jim jumped back in to the work waiting for him in the office once he could go back. One thing pressing to be finished was the Covid guidelines document to be sent out to parents of campers. It has been a large time-consuming task of team leaders to wade through the current state guidelines and form Barakel’s summer policies accordingly. Of course, they no sooner get that done and decisions made, and everything changes! But such is the world we live in right now. We are most of all just thankful to be preparing to run summer camp this year even if that currently comes with additional planning.
  • Mary Emma got her driver’s license! It has been a long time coming, but she finally finished all the learning, practicing, and testing. It has been a new but very nice thing to have another licensed diver in the house!
  • We made a trip down state to help move things out at Hillsdale as Grace was finishing her junior year there. We loaded up our truck and brought it all home; she finished up the following week, stayed to watch friends graduate, and then headed home. In the week since she arrived at home there has been a steady stream of unpacking and sifting through the pile of “campus life” loot. She is home for a couple more weeks and then she will be a part of summer staff.
  • Jim and I celebrated our 24th anniversary this month. We were able to go for one night just the two of us to stay in Petosky at a nice place right on the water. Neither of us had ever stayed in Petosky so it was fun to see that area. It left us wanting to get back there sometime again. It wasn’t warm at the beginning of May, but it was sunny and beautiful just the same. 
  • This past weekend we hosted the College and Career Retreat. It was a fairly small number of campers, but a joyful group to have visit. Some new to camp, some previous summer staff, some previous campers, some who will be here this year for summer staff. It was great to host guests again and this group in particular makes us look forward to summer!

Some things coming in the next couple of weeks:

  • This coming weekend we are running a Mother/Daughter Retreat on West Side and a Men’s Retreat on East Side. We will be plugged in to the work schedule for those, including Grace and I in chapel for the Mothers and Daughters. She is playing piano and I will play flute and help lead some singing.
  • The following weekend will be Memorial Day Family Camp. We look forward to an “all hands on deck” kind of weekend around here. 
  • The day after Memorial Day is the start of summer staff workshop, when we all begin preparing and training for the summer season. It is coming soon!

PLEASE PRAY: We are very low on numbers for staff this summer. There are needs pretty much across the board. There is a large need still for college aged people to serve as counselors and to work in program areas. With the numbers as they are we simply can’t run summer camp the way we would like to or are used to. In addition to those roles, there are also openings for medical staff, kitchen workers, and bus or semi drivers. Please join us in praying God would raise up workers to help in this ministry this summer. We trust His provision and know that the summer and our work here belong to Him.

Boys’ Dorm, Woodchips, and Square Cleaning

Springtime at Barakel brings a scheduled maintenance season. I say ‘scheduled’ in contrast to last year when the whole summer and even into the fall ended up being all maintenance season! But spring is normally a maintenance season here, so this year we have been a part of that. There are many projects that can go on during this time in addition to a lot of cleaning. Outdoor projects getting the grounds ready for summer, indoor projects fixing things, perhaps building projects depending on the needs each year. This year there is even a project making improvements to the carpentry and wiring in Boys’ Dorm to make it ready and safe for the Techs and Engineers (our high school aged volunteers). Jim has had a big part in this project in organizing communication between the different trades, volunteers, and inspectors.

For cleaning, we have two separate weeks, one in March and one in April, where all of the resident staff clean for three full days. In March the cleaning was done on West Side and in April we cleaned on East Side. Also spread out through March and April, the staff ladies have 1 or 2 mornings each week that we clean in various buildings around camp. All of these cleaning days are not just the standard cleaning that gets done in between each group of guests, but rather a full deep cleaning. My favorite phrase I’ve heard to describe it is: This isn’t round cleaning, it is square cleaning; we clean every square inch. And boy is that true! Ceilings, walls, edges of the floor, ceiling fans, bathroom fans, light fixtures, drains, under furniture, inside furniture, windows, doors, linens, mattresses….you get the idea! I now know why the Camp Barakel facility is generally in such good shape after more than 75 years! Certainly not all of this work has been terribly fun. But it’s good to be a part of it. It’s good to know that we are working to prepare for spring and summer campers. And it’s also good that we spread it out so we aren’t too overly drained by it all at one time. Maybe the high school volunteers can handle that during the cleaning week in August, but us middle-mixed-age adult staff have to pace ourselves! 

Another thing that typically happens in maintenance season just got started this weekend. In April and May there are three weekends we title Co-Labor weekends. We are happy to host volunteers who come up to work alongside us in many tasks, both cleaning and grounds maintenance. Yesterday was the first of those. There were helpers here working on the Boys Dorm project, and there was a crew here starting on the large task of raking the grounds. Our family had to sit this one out – we’ve had some illness going through our family this week. Lydia had it first, and later this past week it hit Jim pretty hard. So we’re hanging around home getting over whatever this is! But when I went into camp to pick something up on Saturday evening, it was encouraging to see a path of fresh woodchips laid around west side by the workers who had been here. It is like a sign of summer coming!

There is space for more helpers during the next two weekends. If you can work a rake, you are qualified to help! We even enjoyed coming for these years ago when our girls were younger, but able and eager to help. We raked alongside Lee Brown and enjoyed visiting while we worked. In fact the Lord even used our time at one of those weekends to work in our hearts and begin to call us here.

Thank you for your prayers and your financial support. The Lord is meeting our needs through the giving of His people and we are so grateful. 

Rachel, for the Bennetts

He is Risen!

“But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.'”

Matthew 28:5-6

We’ve been a bit absent on email updates last month.  We have stayed busy with cleaning and other maintenance season tasks, which have required more hours of mine than normal spent in camp each week. More on those routine topics coming soon, but this weekend we write to wish all of you a joyous weekend celebrating the resurrection of our Savior! 

I’m sending a few links for some of our favorites for Easter weekend. We hope you listen through them and enjoy reflecting on all that God has done and provided through Christ’s work on the cross. 

First, an old hymn done here by one of our favorite singers, Fernando Ortega. I’ll include the words to the hymn here as well if you would like to read them as you listen.

Stricken, smitten, and afflicted,
See Him dying on the tree!
‘Tis the Christ by man rejected;
Yes, my soul, ’tis He, ’tis He!
‘Tis the long-expected prophet,
David’s Son, yet David’s Lord;
By His Son, God now has spoken
Tis the true and faithful Word.

Tell me, ye who hear him groaning,
Was there ever grief like his?
Friends thro’ fear his cause disowning,
Foes insulting his distress;
Many hands were raised to wound him,
None would interpose to save;
Yet the deepest stroke that pierced him
Was the stroke that Justice gave.

Ye who think of sin but lightly,
Nor suppose the evil great
Here may view its nature rightly,
Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the sacrifice appointed,
See who bears the awful load;
‘Tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed,
Son of Man and Son of God.

Here we have a firm foundation,
Here the refuge of the lost;
Christ, the Rock of our salvation,
His the name on which we boast.
Lamb of God, for sinners wounded,
Sacrificed to cancel guilt,
None shall ever be confounded
Who on him their hope have built!

Second, a video of a famous sermon clip by S.M. Lockridge. We first heard a video of this at our home church several years back and we continue to love it. Sunday’s comin’!

Third, two different songs from the same album by another of our favorite singers, Andrew Peterson.  The first is called “God Rested” and the second is “His Heart Beats.” 

We hope you can take a little time in the midst of your Sunday to listen through these few videos, even if maybe you are already familiar with them, but especially if you are not. Perhaps even share them with your family or someone you know who needs the hope of the risen Savior. May they be an encouragement to you.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support for our family. He is risen!

Rachel, for the Bennetts

Winter Highlights

We made it through our first retreat season and now are headed into our first “planned” maintenance season. Before we get too far away from the end of winter retreats I wanted to send an update about the highlights of our season. The winter weeks fell into a rhythm of their own for us as a family, and at the same time each of us had a slightly different twist on the weekends. Here is a rundown of the weekend highlights for each of us, listed youngest to oldest:

Lydia: She enjoyed the winter activities in snow valley, although it took a couple of weeks for her to remember that she could go into camp and enjoy those things! By the last three retreats she spent more time in there enjoying the tubing hill and the skating rinks. She was very persistent in learning to skate with the ice skates she was given at Christmas, and she was motivated by watching the long-time staff kids who are very proficient at skating. In a general sense, she learned how it feels to be a staff kid during retreats.

Mary Emma: Like Lydia, she enjoyed the winter activities once she remembered they were an option! She also really enjoyed helping me with my shifts working in the skate hut. Her opportunities to be at the activities were a little more limited because some Saturdays she had ballet commitments. A couple of the Saturdays she had a ballet lesson in the morning at the studio she attends in Oscoda. And one Saturday we had to make a trip down to Troy for an audition for a summer ballet program she is going to attend. The last weekend was a fun highlight as she worked with her sister in the West Side dish room.

Grace: She was at college for the whole retreat season….except for the last weekend! She came up from Hillsdale with her boyfriend to work in the West Side dish room. They had a fantastic weekend enjoying camp and it was a fun family endeavor to all be working in camp for the weekend. Grace got a feel for coming to “work a retreat” while also living at camp. 

Rachel: I enjoyed learning the routines in the East Side kitchen during Food Prep Fridays and the Sunday lunch cleanup routine. I also really enjoyed working with the other staff who had been assigned to East Side for the winter. It was a particular joy that the three new staff families – us, the Mirons, and Kathleen Anderson, were all on ES together. So we were all figuring it out together, brought along by some of the experienced staff who were on east with us. I also enjoyed learning how to work the skate hut, which often was during the late shift Saturday night. Besides these things at camp, I also was on taxi driver duty getting Mary Emma to her ballet things on some of the Saturdays. 

Jim: He worked each weekend in the ES dish room and got that down as an efficient routine, working with a new crew each weekend. Each Friday night he worked check-in for the east siders greeting the groups as they arrived. A highlight of this was seeing some new administrative processes work well that he had put in place. Things such as the ministry partner agreement and the new liability form. Also, because of the new network, they were able to run check-in from two different places on camp at the same time. A highlight from the last weekend was to have Covenant Life Community Church stream their Sunday morning chapel service online and have the new network be able to support that. 

It has been a great retreat season and was a blessing to host guests. Now we move into cleaning week and maintenance season! 

Rachel, for the Bennetts

Willing workers

“Whatever you do, work heartily,
as for the Lord and not for men”

Colossians 3:23

A lot of jobs at camp are behind the scenes. It could be scraping food off of dirty dishes, sweeping the kitchen, or mopping the dish room. Peeling a bunch of ice cold hard boiled eggs, shoveling snow from entryways, handing out ice skates, or tying wet laces together on returned skates and then spraying them with sanitizer. There are visible jobs at camp, and there are invisible jobs at camp. There are jobs that appear fun and enjoyable, and there are jobs that are less than glamorous. But all of the various jobs add up to a place well run, well cared for, and ready to accommodate people who love to come and spend time here. That’s what Barakel is about. People coming, making this their place, their camp, their retreat away from the pace of life. And for so many it is a place where they can hear from the Lord and retune their hearts to sing His praise, as an old hymn says. In order for this to continue to be a place people can come and do those things, it also needs to be a place with faithful workers, both those who live here year round and many, many who come and volunteer their time and effort. That is one thing we do appreciate in a whole new way as we adjust to the rhythm of a retreat season: the helpful volunteers who come and labor with us to keep the place running during a retreat. We really don’t exaggerate when we say that we could not do it without all of the volunteers that come for each and every event that is held here. In fact, that is such a unique thing at Barakel; the way the Lord sends workers to cover all of these jobs. There is no way the resident staff could possibly cover all of the jobs alone! And possibly the best part? The fact that the helpers come, and THEY enjoy it too. They come with servants’ hearts and willing hands and fresh energy; they leave tired, but refreshed. Because even when they come to work, they still come and find a place of retreat separate from the pace of normal life. They find a place with fellowship and a community of believers. And they find a place with devotions, chapel, and music. Where their hearts, along with the hearts of the teen campers, are tuned to sing God’s praise. 

We are thankful to be here in this work, for all of those who come to help us, and for those of you who give to make it possible.

Rachel, for the Bennetts

It was a great winter weekend up at Camp Barakel!

The weather radar Thursday evening showing the system that was headed for us. God’s visible blessing on the start of winter retreats.

Our first retreat as Resident Missionary Staff is in the books! Here are some fun facts for you:

  • We hosted 63 people on West Side and 57 people on East Side (a smaller than normal number for sure, but mighty in enthusiasm!)
  • We had 30 volunteer workers including those in the kitchens, dish rooms, in program areas like the tubing hill, as well as musicians and speakers
  • It had been 340 days since camp last had guests. That’s a long time!

Overall it went very well, especially considering many things are needing to be done a bit differently than the “camp norm” as we seek to follow state guidelines. (What!? Mealtimes that are not the traditional 8:30, 12:30, and 5:30? Shocking!) In the weeks leading up to the retreat, the program staff has been very busy rethinking the schedule and flow of activities, and the cooks have been busy planning how to adapt to the spread out mealtimes. It was such a blessing to hear the sounds of winter camp and to see the campers going about their schedule happily and undeterred by the changes. God is so good to bless this ministry! In fact, he even blessed the beginning of winter retreats with a layer of fresh snow on Thursday night. What neat timing to have a fresh layer of white to welcome the guests to their retreat. Also pretty cool that I’m seeing more fresh snow on the way this Thursday as well. 

As for our jobs this past weekend, Jim got some experience in the East Side dish room, which included shifts a bit longer than normal because of the spread out serving times. But as an added blessing there was more time than normal for good conversations with the volunteers who were helping with the dishes. In between those times he worked on some needed tasks in the office and was on call for any trouble with the operation of the new Trading Post software, which was used for the first time this weekend. I helped out with some food prep on Friday morning; it has been a joy to work with another staff family who moved here just a month after us, Dave and Rita Miron, as they take on the East Side kitchen and make it their place of ministry. I also covered a small but necessary new task of sanitizing a game room in between groups. And then Mary Emma and I took the late shift out at the Skate Hut on Saturday night. We learned the ropes of hockey skate sizes and how to tell left handed hockey sticks from right handed hockey sticks. We were thankful for heat in the Skate Hut on a very chilly night! 

Our family did not go into any of the chapels since we are limiting the capacity of people in them, but we know that God’s truth was eagerly proclaimed and we trust it was active in the hearts of the youth that came. 

Thank you for your support that enables us to be here in this ministry. And thank you for your prayers for the next four weekends of winter retreats. Bring on the snow!

Rachel, for the Bennetts

Campers are coming!

“The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.”
Lam. 3:25

Not a long update this week, because it won’t take long to tell you about the two things that have us most excited this week. The first thing is, for the first time since last winter, campers will arrive this Friday! We are moving ahead with plans to host 5 weekends of winter retreats for teens. There will be smaller numbers of campers, less mixing of groups, a schedule of activities that is put together a bit differently than normal, and even multiple seating times for some meals. But it will be the same camp song sung in chapel, the same beautiful creation to enjoy, and the same gospel proclaimed as it always has been. The second thing we are excited about is, summer registration opens on Wednesday. Praise the Lord as we once again take registrations for a summer of camping ministry! Perhaps things will be run a little differently this year in winter as well as summer, but God’s plans and purposes will be accomplished and will certainly not be thwarted by masks, viruses, or regulations. We are thankful for your prayers this week as we prepare for these guests to arrive as well as for the larger season ahead in the summer.

Ways you can pray for us:

  • Pray for us as we get into a new routine and schedule of working weekends and preparing throughout the week, while also continuing our family’s schedule of homeschooling and some evening activities.
  • Pray for the health of the staff as well as all the guests as we go through the next 5 weeks.
  • Pray as the Lord brings those that He will, that their hearts would truly seek Him.

Rachel, for the Bennetts

A Word from Jim

“Rejoice in the Lord always;
again I will say, rejoice!”
Phil. 4:4

I’ve been reflecting on how long we have been part of the resident missionary staff here at camp compared with how long it has been since camp has held an event. I’m thinking it must be some sort of odd record for new staff residing at camp without hosting an event! Although that’s not really a record we want to have claim to!

I was listening to a sermon recently which focused on Philippians 4:4&5.  “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!  Let your gentle spirit be known to all men.  The Lord is near.”  We are glad we can continue to rejoice even in these times of uncertainty. 
Even without hosting events, my work has steadily continued. Here are some technology things that have been accomplished in the last 8 weeks:

  • Migrate the financial system to camp property
  • Migrate camp’s website to a cloud service
  • Install anti-virus software on all camp’s computers
  • Wire up the new carpenter shop to camp’s network
  • Configure wifi for the maintenance area
  • Complete wiring for the Westside chapel network
  • Configure backups for camp’s desktop computers
  • Finalize the new Trading Post software configuration
  • Configure VPN service for camp
  • Preparing to better manage Summer staff applications and STEP applications for summer camp

 And here are some administration tasks as well:

  • Planning the details of summer events
  • Making decisions about canceling events for the winter
  • Preparing the Summer camp brochure and the mailing list
  • Preparing the Spring & Family camp brochure and its mailing list
  • Ensuring that Teen groups are kept informed of events & decisions and rescheduled if necessary
  • Organizing camp’s vehicles

As you can see, even when there are not retreats happening, the Lord allows for constructive work to be done and preparation for the time when camp will be open.  I give thanks to the Lord for this time of preparation.  We are rejoicing in the Lord – in His work laid out before us.
We continue to pray for the Lord’s timing for camp to reopen.
Jim for the Bennetts

This too shall pass

We are all a bit disappointed around here to have to once again delay the hosting of guests. We had planned for this weekend to be the first of the winter retreats, but with the extension of some of the restrictions we had to delay until February. Not what any of us had in mind as our first choice, but I go back to a phrase constantly used in my family growing up: this too shall pass. We know this won’t be forever. We know God is still at work and He surely still has plans for this place, so we know we will once again host guests and run events. There will be campers talking and laughing, the bustling noise in the dining halls, and footsteps on the woodchip paths (or boots in the crunching snow). There will be the whirring of the zipline, the smack of ice hockey sticks, and screaming on thunder express or the tubing hill. There will be singing in chapel, prayer and devotions in serene places, and the proclaiming of God’s Word. Can’t you just hear it all? When we think of all that camp normally includes we are so saddened by this very long pause in the work that is done at Camp Barakel. So we remind ourselves that this too shall pass; and we continue to work at things now to prepare for the day when campers can arrive. Pray with us that that day can be soon. Right now the plan is to begin retreats the first weekend of February. Join us in praying that can happen!

Thank you for continuing to support us through this time. You are an important part of God’s provision in keeping Camp Barakel running even during this long pause in the normal schedule. Thanks to the regular giving of many of God’s people, Barakel is able to be run without a payroll and with staff who are not paid in a traditional sense. This means that the Lord has provided a way for Barakel and the staff here to be sustained even through a temporary closure. Thank you for playing a part in this!

Rachel, for the Bennetts

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

We’ve been pretty quiet on technology the past couple of weeks over the holiday. I’ve had multiple times when I thought of posting something on Instagram or sending something out through email, but then the moment passed and time skittered on by. We have been enjoying time with each other and time celebrating the birth of our Savior, and we pray you have been doing the same. For so many of us, this holiday season looked different in one way or another. Were you able to gather with family? Is your church meeting virtually or in person? Did you shop more online rather than in person? Or perhaps you shopped in person and found quieter stores and less lines. So many things about this year have caused so many differences to what we expect as normal. But I have to say that this Christmas, in the midst of so many things looking and feeling different, one of my favorite lines from a classic children’s Christmas movie came to mind. 
“He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming. IT CAME! Somehow or other Christmas came just the same!”
As the Grinch found out in the classic story, Christmas came whether things looked the same as they always had or entirely different. And in 2020 of course Christmas came just the same, whether we celebrated the same or entirely different. The reality of Christ’s birth is not dependent on any earthly thing. No one can “cancel Christmas” because it has never truly been about how we celebrate or what traditions we keep. It has always been about God’s perfect plan of salvation for those who would trust in Him. So in 2020, with all of the things that have been different, I’m so thankful for the one thing that will always be the same: God is sovereign. His plans are still perfect and will still prosper, regardless of how uncertain things on earth may seem. 

We pray this Christmas season and into the new year that you will look to Jesus as your only hope for life here on earth and into eternity.

Wishing you a very blessed 2021!
Jim and Rachel Bennett, Grace, Mary Emma and Lydia

“Christmas came just the same”. Complete with outdoor singing all together.

Winter Weather

“For to the snow he says,
‘Fall on the earth’…”
Job 37:6

(Originally sent out via email this past Monday, 12/14, but I forgot to come over here and post it! )

I’m no stranger to Michigan winters having grown up here (although does anyone else think we used to get a lot more snow 30-40 years ago?) and I’m no stranger to driving in the snow. I’ve lived in Kalamazoo with the lake effect snow, visited my brother at college at the top of the Upper Peninsula, and come up north plenty of times in the winter. However it is also true that for the last 15 years I’ve lived in SE lower Michigan and in Indiana for three years before that. So living in the up north weather is new. And what would update emails be without some mention of the adjustment to the winter weather?!

This past Saturday we got the first big snowstorm of the season which dropped 12 inches on us in a day. It was quite the day to be out on the roads, as you may know if you had reason to be in any of the snowy areas! We were brave enough to have two of us driving to Oscoda (an hour away) and back, and to have one of us driving up from Hillsdale.

Mary Emma had a ballet lesson scheduled in Oscoda and, being December, I knew there wasn’t going to be another great Saturday to reschedule it. Plus I figured we live up north now, so if I cancel something every time it snows then we’ll always be cancelling. So off we went at 9am in our 4-wheel drive truck. I was very thankful for that 4-wheel drive! Her lesson was long, so we didn’t leave Oscoda until 2:30, and while Oscoda only had wind and rain during all that time, Fairview (and the roads to Fairview) had steady snow the whole time. But we made it safely, and were even blessed to follow a snow plow during one stretch of the drive when the roads were particularly bad. Ironically, the only trouble we had during the drive was after returning home. We needed to go into main camp to pick something up, and since we live across the highway we figured we would do that on our way home before returning to our house. As we drove in the snow covered camp road we noticed low power lines and even some fallen trees under the weight of the snow. One tree was across most of the road, but I was able to go around it – again thankful for that 4-wheel drive! Another tree was across the road but I was able to take a different road to get where I needed to go. But then after completing our errand, on our way back out the main camp road, there was a new fallen tree across the road that hadn’t been there on the way in. There was no going around, and no other road out! I briefly considered playing car limbo with the fallen tree but decided I didn’t want to risk damaging our vehicle. So after all of that driving in bad weather, the place we got stuck was in camp! We only had a short wait as one of the seasonal staff guys went and got a chainsaw and took care of it. I was thankful he happened to be there when it fell and when I came up to it a minute later.

Grace was also driving that day, heading home from Hillsdale. Luckily the weather for most of her drive was only rain. She didn’t hit the snow until about the time she got off the highway. Her hour drive the rest of the way also included following a snow plow for part of the distance. Pretty neat how we both had that provision of safety for part of our drive. Her trip was even complete with someone who waved and cheered for her as she went through Mio. Only up north in Michigan do you get a guy on a bike in a snowstorm who cheers as the little red VW bug drives by! 

We were thankful to have all arrived home safely that evening and we are greatly enjoying the beauty of God’s creation as it is now covered in white!

Rachel, for the Bennetts

A tree permit, bright colored vests, and a glue gun

On Thanksgiving weekend we enjoyed a fun first of living up north. That Friday we started talking about getting a Christmas tree and wondered what our options might be for doing that up here. Tree lots are an hour away, and we didn’t even know where to find a tree farm. So to find out what our options were we turned to the experts around here: the other resident staff! I have found it is valuable, if I don’t know something, to just ask someone who has lived here for a while. They are a wealth of information! Come to find out, one can go to the forestry office and get a permit to cut down a tree in the national forest. We questioned if it would be open the Friday after Thanksgiving, but after looking at their website we found out we could purchase the permit online for an extra $2.50 fee above and beyond the normal $5 fee for the permit. Sounded like the cheapest live tree we’ve ever purchased! 

So we borrowed some bright colored vests and headed off into Huron National Forest out of the gate at the edge of Barakel’s property. We did find it quite alarming that when we got out of our car to walk around and look for a tree, the first sound we heard was a gun shot! We were thankful for the borrowed vests and a couple of bright colored coats of our own! For the first little while of walking around one of our girls turned on some Christmas music on her phone so that we would make extra noise and alert any hunters that we were not animals. So there we were, strolling through the national forest, in our hodgepodge of bright colors, accompanied by an iphone playing “Sleigh Ride” at top volume! 

It took us quite a lot of driving around, getting in and out of our car, and debating as we usually do even at a tree farm about which tree would be best. Although this time it wasn’t so much a matter of debating which tree was best, in the sense that it normally is at a tree farm. This was more a matter of debating which tree could work, in the sense that it had enough branches to hold some ornaments, wasn’t so wide it would take up our whole living room, or didn’t need to be pruned back so much that it wouldn’t have any more needles. 

But find a tree we did. It’s a cozy little tree and quite unlike any that we have had before! It is strung with lights (after no small effort!); it is “gently” decorated, so far with only a small number of homemade ornaments that weigh very little; and it awaits further decoration with either more light-as-air ornaments or perhaps some popcorn and cranberry garland if we can find the time to make one. Sure it looks a bit different than those of previous years. But so do a lot of other things this year. And as we have been learning, there can be blessings hidden away in “different.” Overall, we enjoyed how quirky and adventurous it felt to go into the forest to cut down a Christmas tree. And we are appreciating the authenticity of having a tree that looks like it was cut down in a forest! 

Oh…and I almost forgot the best part. We learned that when you get a rather sparse tree home, and realize there is a fairly noticeable section of trunk with no branches, it can in fact be fixed with some spare branch cuttings, a drill, and a hot glue gun. Word to the wise, from the Bennetts. 

(Also, we got a good laugh out of the “Need to Know’ section of the information from the forestry service, pictured below. “Carry tire chains, shovels, and a tow chain. Bring plenty of food and water with you as well as an overnight survival kit…” Goodness. It seems we went a bit unprepared!)

Critters, Hunters, and Daylight

Things we’ve learned about life in the woods

  • We recently put a birdfeeder just outside our kitchen window. Close enough to the house to hopefully discourage bears from pursuing a snack, but easily able to attract some of the birds that frequent the area. We’ve enjoyed watching them from the kitchen as they have found this new source of food. But this feeder also means that we have a stash of birdseed to store somewhere. We don’t have a closable outdoor storage building that is near enough the house to make it practical for retrieving birdseed. We do have a shed right near the house that stores many things, but it has an open doorway so critters have free access to go in and out. With our new stash of birdseed I figured I would try an experiment and put it in a closed plastic bin to see if that was sufficient to keep unwanted critters out. A couple of days later I went outside and as I walked past the shed I was startled by a scurrying noise inside. As I got closer a small red squirrel came firing past me anxious to escape being caught in his thievery. Good news was that I discovered it before he had gotten all the way in to the seed. Bad news was that I discovered squirrels will persistently chew their way through plastic bins to get at the forbidden treasure inside. So we now have a bin full of seed with a hole chewed in the lid sitting inside in our entryway…for now. Of course if I leave it there very long then I will likely tempt mice or other friends to come in and make themselves at home as well. Thanks to the advice of our experienced neighbors, I know a solution that is time tested and seems reliable. New on the list of things to acquire: a metal can with a lid, and a cement block or other heavy item to hold the lid on!
  • As many of you may know, about a week ago was opening day of deer season in Michigan. As non-hunters, this is not something we paid a whole lot of attention to in the past. But up here it was talked about, anticipated, and even warned about for weeks in advance. Turns out, it’s a pretty big deal when you live up north in the woods! Towns get busy with travelers, cars park along the roads where hunters venture into the woods, even the schools close for the day. So as we are getting used to the various nuances of having Huron National Forest border our backyard, we have learned another one: when it is deer season, one is safest not to venture too far away from their house toward that forest, and one is also safest to wear bright colors when they do so!  Another new item on the list of things to acquire: some orange safety vests to wear while walking!
  • As we all changed our clocks recently and adjusted to the fall time change, we all feel the difference as the days shorten and we have more hours of darkness. It’s a normal part of fall heading into winter. But this year, being just a little further north on Earth’s lines of latitude, we have noticed an actual difference in the hours of daylight and angle of the sun compared to life just a few hours south. The way I described it recently was that I was aware each day that the sun felt like it was in slightly the wrong place at the wrong time, and the sunlight coming in my kitchen window was at entirely the wrong angle. My houseplants agree with my slight irritation at this change. New item to acquire: a growing light for our poor struggling houseplants!

It is interesting how each new season in a new place brings those small details that we have to learn as “normal.” Thank you for your prayers and support as we continue to adjust to the new details of life.

Rachel, for the Bennetts

Our hearts were encouraged

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and

proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”  Mark 16:15

Last week on Wednesday evening, Mary Emma, Lydia, and I were able to attend the Wednesday night service at our sending church in Brighton. It was somewhat of a last minute plan, but we had an appointment in Brighton that afternoon so we had already planned on doing a quick trip downstate and back in the same day. A few days before, we realized it was on a Wednesday, so why not stay for church and just drive home late. Even better it was a missions focus week, and while they weren’t able to do as much for that week as they would normally do, we were glad to be able to attend when they were giving extra focus to their missionaries.

There was a missionary presentation that night by a family who is raising support to go live and serve in Myanmar. This is a family we know and and they go to join another of their family members in the ministry in Myanmar. This simple thing of hearing a missionary presentation was such a blessing to me that night. Partly, it was fun for both me and my girls to sit and listen to someone else’s ministry presentation after having been through that ourselves. We all had a bit more understanding of how it feels to be up there presenting something as personal as your calling to ministry. 

But it wasn’t only an empathetic connection that blessed us. It was hearing about the great need in that country and the way God is working and providing there. It was being reminded of the large numbers of people in bondage to Buddhism and the futility of devoting their lives to that idol worship. It was being convicted that our mission isn’t about our circumstances or our comforts, but about our desire to share the good news of the gospel with a lost world. It is so easy in our country to get caught up in our comforts, conveniences, and even our rights. And while all of these things are good and helpful and even perhaps allow us to continue on with what we’ve been called to do, they are not in and of themselves the end goal. So if we are frustrated or inconvenienced by restrictions, elections, and cancellations; if we are weary of the argument “to mask or not to mask”; if we feel surrounded by an endless drama of debate and disagreement; it does us good to remember that our calling is still possible even in what feels limiting and sometimes unfair. It was so good for me to remember all of this as I listened to a presentation about God’s work on the other side of the world, in a culture that is filled with all different challenges than the culture in which I live. 

God’s work goes on. The ministry at Camp Barakel goes on. And we are so thankful to be a part of it. 

Rachel, for the Bennetts

Jim, the wi-fi guy

Camp Barakel’s biggest technology
infrastructure upgrade since the 1970’s

Joining the Resident Missionary Staff at Camp Barakel allows for many opportunities to do many different kinds of jobs. One of those for Jim has been to handle the technology needs of camp, including an idea that has been talked about for a couple of years: a fiberoptic network for high speed internet. Being so remote in this area of Michigan, there hasn’t exactly been a lot of availability of technology connection at Camp. Perhaps if you have been here you have used, or tried to use, the internet in the dining halls. What camp had was functional, but limited by DSL modems and phone lines, making it spread too thin for the tasks it needed to cover. An upgrade was needed, and this year’s extended maintenance season allowed the time and ability to finally give consideration to this project. So starting in June shortly after moving here, Jim began working on this plan.

It was a long list of tasks to be “trenched through”. Researching options, planning the network, ordering equipment, configuring equipment, digging trenches, laying fiber cable, wiring buildings, installing equipment, connecting everything up, and praying it all works. He has been extremely thankful for more than 10 volunteers at various points in the process who have helped to make all of it happen. Some of these have been very specific provisions from the Lord, such as a seasonal staff member who recently completed a degree in networking, and another volunteer who runs network wiring for a living. How good God always is to provide the expertise needed at just the right time! 

Once the network is up and running, it will help many functions at camp to simply run smoother. The Trading Post, the camp store, will be able to run better. The facilities team can better monitor maintenance needs and perform various functions of upkeep. The summer medical volunteers can have more efficient ways to complete their daily routines serving campers. The chapel speakers will have access to internet resources helping them prepare for or deliver their messages to the campers. Of course in addition to these things, guests at retreats will have better access to technology connection should they have a need for it. Add to these a list of many more behind-the-scenes ways that staff will be helped by this network as they seek to keep camp running for the guests that come. 

And what is the timing on this project? He expects it to be “lit up” this week. Picture a grand Christmas tree lighting…except underground…not visible to anyone…and with lasers…

So this is a piece of the work that Jim has been doing since we arrived in June. We are grateful for the opportunity to be here and for those that God has brought alongside of us to allow that to happen. 

Stay connected,
Rachel, for the Bennetts

“Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” 2 Cor. 9:15

At staff fellowship last week, one of our staff men shared a message from 2 Corinthians chapter 9 challenging us on giving and generosity. Verses 11 and 12 say,

“You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.”

Listening to the message, I was struck by the awareness that we are now the constant recipients of the generosity and giving of others. Our family relies daily on this generosity for our material needs. And furthermore, we are unable to repay this giving and generosity. Through it we are able to work in the ministry at Camp Barakel, but there is no way to repay our supporters. And yet, despite this, you have invested in our family. Perhaps you view it as investing in camp as well, and the ministry work of camp. And it is that. But it is an investment into our family on a daily basis, and we are so thankful for that. Which brings us back to verses 11-12. Your generosity, “through us, will produce thanksgiving to God.” Your giving is not only supplying our needs, but is “overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.” We are thankful to be partnering with you in this scriptural example of bringing glory to God! And verse 15 goes on to say, “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!”

September update

Hindsight is 20/20

It seems that the best time for our family to move and make a major life transition was during a pandemic. During the whole two years we raised financial support we never could have anticipated that the time we would reach 100% and be able to move to Camp Barakel would be during a worldwide virus outbreak. But as the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. Looking back over the last six months there are so many reasons why this unexpected timing really was best for our family.

*We were able to all be home together, in the home we were preparing to leave, for a piece of time that we otherwise would not have had. So much family time!

*We had way more time at home, free from schedules or activities, in which to prepare for a move. We had grossly underestimated the amount of work we really had left in order to get ready to move!

*It allowed us to list and sell our house during a totally different market, when we were free from the typical professional photo shoots and staging of the home. We even were blessed with a lesser real estate commission since the work a realtor could do was so limited.

*We were given flexibility as to which week and day was best to move rather than being locked in between finished commitments downstate and the beginning of summer camp up north.

*It “sheltered us” a bit from what may have been a rather overwhelming time of saying goodbye to all of our activities, people, and normal routines that had been part of our lives for so long. All of our “lasts” were during all of the cancellations of the stay-at-home order. Sad in a way, but quite possibly a gentler end to these things for the particular personalities in our family.

*We had a ‘softer start’ up in the Northwoods with plenty of time to get unpacked, settled, and to finish the time-consuming work of downsizing.

*It gave us even more family time, still with all 5 of us, to begin to have this new place feel like home. And to combat homesickness together. We are a close family, so this is not just a small blessing for us. It really has made all the difference!

God knows our needs so much better than we know our own.

A send-off prayer and tearful goodbye before leaving our home on June 16
Most of our unloading crew when we arrived at Barakel

Golf carts are fun!

One small piece of staff life we have had some fun with is our golf cart! Small joys, right? The golf cart that has been assigned to our family is technically a two person cart, with a section of the back that can hold two golf bags. Except that we don’t have any golf bags to transport, but rather have 3 girls! So what does this translate to? Three people squeeze on the seat, and two girls stand on the back, with the straps for the golf bags secured around their legs to help hold them in! This also seems to encourage the “back-riders” to let go, wave their arms in the air, and play music on their phones to accompany our drives. So if you are visiting camp and hear what sounds surprisingly like MarioKart music, that would be the Bennetts on their golf cart!

Looking ahead…

It is the end of this very different summer at Camp Barakel, and we are heading into a very different fall. There are no weekend retreats as there normally would be here, so our family will continue to adjust to camp life in yet another very quiet season. And we will continue to trust that is exactly the best timing for our family, just as we have seen in the past six months. But we will definitely look forward to when guests return to the property as campers, and we can be in the group to welcome them back!

In the meantime, we keep on. Jim continues to work in the office, heading up a variety of projects including laying fiber in camp (internet!), a new retaining wall by the office, and helping with our ACA accreditation. I (Rachel) am excited to be mostly unpacked and organized in the house, and so am finally now giving some thought to what our needs are for our homeschool year. Better late than never! Thankfully I have learned with homeschooling to lay aside my perfectionism and that everything always works out ok in the end. Grace was able to settle into our new home with us, as well as participate in the summer staff work crews in camp. Now she has joyously headed back to Hillsdale College for her junior year and is thrilled to be back on campus. It is a wonderfully grounded place and we have been very impressed with how they are handling the unique challenges of this pandemic. Mary Emma is in 11th grade this year, and is growing a lot through this life transition away from the only home she remembers. One surprise blessing for her was the ballet studio that we found up here for her to be a part of! Sure it’s an hour away, but so is everything! And it is run by two fantastic teachers who can help her move ahead in her much-loved passion. Lydia is in 8th grade and has been a testimony of God’s goodness through this whole long process. She was the one we expected to struggle the most, but she has sailed through joyfully and rather easily. Praise be to God—He is the only one who could have brought about such a change!

Things we are thanking the Lord for:

· The faithful giving of our supporters.

· Jim’s part-time employment with his previous employer during a month or so of our transition. That was very helpful as our support gradually began to come in.

· Our home here at camp. It has been good to begin to make this house our home. Hard at times, but good. And even fun in a way to creatively use this space that God has provided for our family to live.

Contact us:

Our mailing address:
Jim and Rachel Bennett
PO Box 159
Fairview, MI 48621

email: bennetts@barakel.camp

Visit our Prayer and Giving page to sign up to receive our more frequent email updates
coming soon!

Blessings upon blessings

From one home to another. From one group of hard workers to another. A loving but teary send off on one end and a joyful welcome on the other. Soon I will try to post a more complete reflection on today. But at this very late hour I will simply share a link for a song that I just now heard. My phone randomly chose it earlier today as we began our drive north. I looked at the title and thought, “what song is that and why did my phone randomly begin playing that?” Then I proceeded to turn off the music and not listen to anything the whole drive. Turns out God picked that song for this moment, late late at night as everyone else is asleep. It was already cued up on Spotify so, intrigued by the title, I put in my earbuds and hit play. A perfect way to end this day, praising God for all that was, all that is now, and all that is to come.

And hear me say, yes and amen
Tomorrow You’ll be faithful again

And I’ll praise You, God, for all You are
And all I am, for You are my portion
Forever, for all that was
And all that is now
And all that is to come

Rachel, for the Bennetts

Loading day

At the beginning of this day I posted on Instagram and if I’d had a spare minute I would’ve shared it here too. Here’s what I said there:

Thankful for a sunny temperate day to load the truck. Praying for joyful spirits, safety as we load, and energy that will last like Elijah’s jars of oil.

The Lord provided that and more. No less than 38 helpers worked enthusiastically to load everything they possibly could. They were so zealous in fact, that they outpaced us by about 2pm. Meaning that we couldn’t finish packing and dealing with things fast enough to keep everyone loading. That right there is one good problem to have on moving day. So beyond blessed by our family and church family today. And the best part? I can’t imagine a more joyful group to do this work. Adults of 80 or 90 all the way down to 4 year olds, all pitching in and working together. Problem solving, restocking boxes and tape, getting a second truck (yikes!). Overwhelming? Yes. Exhausting? Yes. But so good for such a large task. Honestly, moving days can make the best of people “spikey”. But this crew? Nope. Laughter. Endless conversation. Joking around. Teamwork among unlikely pairs. Thank you, dear people, for the way you blessed us today.

And our girls. Wow. Again so thankful. Top notch kiddos. Running on not nearly enough sleep, keeping good attitudes even if they are struggling with this big transition. And after the long day, a scrap of downtime, and some dinner, those three girls stayed up with me until almost 1am to finish packing up what was left. And had fun doing it. The grace of God right there.

Oh and did I mention, Lydia turned 13 today. What a 13th birthday! We joked that she had a huge party – it was just a strange one where the guests took everything out of our house.

So now we rest a short night – the last night in our house of 15 years. Then tomorrow we finish loading up and drive it all up to Barakel, where we have another whole group of people waiting to welcome us and help us unload.

Thank you for your prayers as we travel and make this transition. And thank you to our financial supporters who make it possible for us to go and work at Barakel. We are so blessed by your giving.

Rachel, for the Bennetts

Getting our ducks in a row

I recently came across this photo…

We feel like it’s an accurate description of our move preparations! Moving is not for wimps! Here is a humorous list of some of our scattered ducks:

  • We’re moving to a camp at the beginning of a summer that they have no campers.
  • We listed our house for sale during the original stay-at-home order.
  • We were trying to finish downsizing when neither garage sales nor donation centers were allowed.
  • For our new house, we have three addresses but no house key.
  • We are moving from a zip code with NO mail delivery to a zip code WITH mail delivery. Which will seem curious if you know Fairview.
  • We have had 17 showings, 6 offers, 2 contracts, 1 backup offer, and now finally we are moving ahead into appraisal, inspection, and Lord willing, closing!
  • Last time we moved, at the time of the move, we had a refrigerator but no kitchen, this time we will have a full kitchen and no refrigerator.
  • We have a furniture delivery that is somewhere between Columbus, OH and Grand Rapids, MI that was ordered at New Year’s…
  • …because of that, despite the fact that we have bought 6 dressers and sold 6 dressers, we are still short 1 dresser.
  • In the two weeks before the move we will have been to Ohio, Fenton, Fairview, Troy, Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, Lansing and maybe Hillsdale. (And remember…stay at home order)

One week from today the truck pulls out and heads north, hopefully full of our carefully lined up ducks.

Rachel, for the Bennetts

Full support, moving ahead!

We are fully supported and our house is on the market! As I said in our last post, what a crazy time for us to be at this point in our process. But as a friend reminded me this week, God is never early or late, always right on time. That is what we are trusting, and we are sure glad that we can! This would undoubtedly be a stressful whirlwind of a time were we relying on our own wisdom and understanding. We are thankful daily that the Lord has all of it planned, accounted for, and provided for. And we pray that, whatever situation you find yourself in during this time in our country and world, you would also be resting in the fact that if you look to the Lord he has all of the details of your life planned, accounted for, and provided for.

“I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?”

Last week as I was reading in my chronological Bible, I came upon Jeremiah chapter 32. It was set in a long line-up of daily readings about the foretelling of the destruction of Jerusalem. Actually, it wasn’t even just the destruction of Jerusalem, but many places: Egypt, Ammon, Moab, Edom, and Philistia. It was following daily readings about God’s judgement on Pharaoh, Jeremiah’s imprisonment, lists of Jerusalem’s sins, and prophesies about Babylon’s coming attack on Judah. So there in my reading for that day was this story, which sometimes seems randomly placed, about Jeremiah buying a field. I’m certain I have read it in the past and thought, why on earth is this here? What is this random story, in the middle of all this prophesy, about a routine business transaction? But on this day, as I read it, it was so clear to me that it isn’t random at all.

Leading up to chapter 32, there is Jeremiah, repeatedly warning God’s people that His judgment is coming, making the king very angry in the process. As a result, Jeremiah is being held by the King in the courtyard of the guard at the palace; rather like a ‘house arrest’ where he is not free, but people can come to see him. Surrounding the city are the Babylonians, occupying the land around the city and beginning to attack the city just as he has been warning the people. And in the midst of that…the Lord tells him to buy a field. Oh, and not just any field. A field that was in Jeremiah’s family, so he had the right of inheritance to it; which meant that it was God’s intention that the land would not leave a particular bloodline, but would be redeemed by their family if the need arose. It would symbolize longevity in the land. A family staying and living and remaining. AND, it just happened to be land that was already occupied by the attacking Babylonians. That’s right, as Spurgeon said, “it was purchasing an estate which was utterly valueless.” But Jeremiah proceeded as asked. He paid for it, registered the deed, put them in clay jars as was usual at the time, which was like a time capsule – sealing it up to preserve it, trusting it would be needed in the future. Why did he do all of this? In obedience to the Lord, because the Lord had said to him, “Houses, fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land.” Even in the face of what looked grim, he acted in obedience and trusted the outcome to the Lord.

Following this purchase, Jeremiah prays to the Lord, and it is recorded for us in chapter 32, verses 17-25. He begins with, “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” He acknowledges God’s power and might, and then proceeds to affirm many ways that God has provided for his people throughout history. And then at the end of the prayer there is something that I find very comforting, because it’s a very relatable human reaction. Jeremiah reminds God, as though he needs to, that the Babylonians are in fact attacking the city, just as God said they would. And that the city will in fact be handed over to the Babylonians, just as God warned it would. And then he seems to share his confusion at why on earth God would choose THIS TIME to have Jeremiah buy a field, symbolizing longevity in the land. Verse 25 says, “And though the city will be handed over to the Babylonians, you, O Sovereign Lord, say to me, ‘Buy the field with silver and have the transaction witnessed.'” Or in our modern words perhaps, “Now Lord? Why would this even make sense now…when our whole city is going to be captured?”

“Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: ‘I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” In his answer, the Lord confirms that, yes, Jerusalem will indeed be handed over to the Babylonians, because the people of Israel and Judah have done nothing but evil in God’s sight. But it doesn’t end there. God also continues to tell of when He will restore his people. “I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety. They will be my people and I will be their God…I will make an everlasting covenant with them…I will never stop doing good to them…Once more fields will be bought in this land…and deeds will be signed, sealed and witnessed…” If you read further in chapter 33, God goes on to promise peace, health, and healing, and ultimately a redeemer, that is, Christ.

On the particular day that I read this passage, I had been feeling admittedly quite defeated about all of the crazy things happening in our world and country. The negative news had bombarded me and left me discouraged and impossibly uncertain. We have been obediently following God’s call to camping ministry for two years now. We have waited for God’s perfect timing, with our support level slowly climbing. We found ourselves getting very close to being fully supported and now, in fact, are at 97% of our needed support. We have been making plans for a transition, prepping our house to sell, waiting on one last project to be finished before listing, choosing a tentative week to move. All the things we have been waiting for. But looking at all of the new uncertainty happening in our country, facing closings and shutdowns of what feels like everything, I had found myself feeling a bit like Jeremiah in this passage. And we feel a bit like saying to the Lord, “And though our country is being ravaged by a destructive virus, You, O Sovereign Lord, say to us, ‘Sell your house, quit your job, and move north.'” Oh how thankful I was to read of Jeremiah’s struggle with what the Lord asked him to do, at what seemed like an impossible time. And how much more thankful I was to read of the Lord’s reply: “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?”

One month ago, this looked like perfect timing to us. It was all lining up just so. Now, if we succumb to our humanity, it would look like a terrible time. How do you sell a house when words like ‘quarantine’ and phrases like ‘social distancing’ are the rules of the day? How do you quit a job when words like ‘recession’ are flying around economic reports? Well, all we can hope is that we do these things with the same faith that Jeremiah had. A faith in the Sovereign Lord, who says, “Is anything too hard for me?”

Please pray for us in the days ahead. We are knocking on the door of being fully supported, and are faithfully but cautiously moving forward with the same plan we have felt called to all along: to serve the Lord, the God of all mankind, and to proclaim His greatness at Camp Barakel. And we are preparing to see God show that truly nothing is too hard for Him.

Rachel, for the Bennetts

Small changes, big plans

Just to keep everyone up to date, we are currently at 89%. A small change, but as we get closer we want to keep our progress current. And while it may seem like a small step forward, we are encouraged! We are beginning to make plans for a move north in May, and we are trusting that the Lord will work out all the details necessary for that to happen. And there are many! Getting our home ready to sell (including one more repair project that needs to happen), navigating that sale, finishing the task of downsizing, finding a home for our kitty :(, raising the last 11% of our support, bringing closure to the many things we are involved in here in the Brighton area, not to mention the whole process of actually packing up and moving. It is a daunting list, and if we dwell too long on it, we will be quickly overwhelmed and undermotivated. So instead, we take one day at a time, one task at a time, focusing on what we can do now and letting go of what is yet unknown or unresolved. God is fully able to bring about this transition in the very best time, in the very best way, for our good, and for His glory.

Now is the time to join us!

Winter Update

We praise the Lord we have 79% of our support committed! Our hope is to be at camp by this summer. Wouldn’t it be great if we could make the move north in May 2020, in order to be settled and ready to join in the work of the big summer camping season? If you have been considering joining our wonderful team of supporters, now would be a great time to do so! We hope to see it pick up speed at the end as people jump in to help us get there.

So what does that remaining 21% look like? Based on the amount set by the Barakel board of trustees, we need around another $1000 per month to be fully funded. It may seem like a lot, but broken down into individual supporters and churches, it all adds up. We are confident in our calling, and know that God will bring more of His people to provide the remaining funds.

Why do we even need to raise money to go live and work at Barakel? Well, in order to keep camper costs as low as possible, and to trust fully in the Lord’s provision, there is no payroll at Camp Barakel. The resident staff who live and work there year round are not paid anything by camp. Rather, they seek the Lord’s provision through those that He would send to give regularly so that the work of camp can be accomplished. We are thankful for this opportunity to learn to rely fully on the Lord for all we have. After all, everything we have comes from Him anyway, so why not take that to a whole new level of faithful living? And it is all through the amazing network of His people that this can happen. Please contact us if you are interested in being a part of our ministry at Camp Barakel! Call us at 810-623-9917, email us at bennetts@barakel.camp or go to our prayer and giving page.


I recently read an Instagram post by someone waiting to grow their family. Another a while ago by someone struggling through an unemployment wait. We wait and pray for lots of things in lots of different seasons. Starting a family, growing a family, finding a job. Waiting for a spouse to come back, for a wayward child to repent, for healing, for recovery. Sometimes we can work at the process and help it along. Sometimes we can’t. Always we can pray that the Lord would work. That He will bring the desired end at the right time. That He will change our hearts in the process. And we can trust, as we heard in a message while visiting a supporting church, that He will even make our prayers perfect when we no longer know what to pray for as we wait.

“For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”

Romans 8:26

Our ministry update? We continue to wait. We still trust in God’s call and plan to lead us into full time ministry at Camp Barakel. But in order for that to happen, we wait on God’s provision of our financial support. We wait as He moves to bring commitments from churches, families, and individuals to be a part of our monthly support. We currently have commitments for 73% of our required monthly support. We trust the Lord has a plan to provide that remaining 27%. We know He has a perfect time for us to make the move north. We trust the truth of the verse that comes just a bit after the one above:

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Romans 8:28

We find encouragement in all of those who have already committed to support us in ministry. And we seek more to come alongside and join us. What might that look like? If 28 families or individuals committed $50 a month, or if 14 families committed $100 a month, or if 3 or 4 more churches join us, any of these would meet our goal. So we continue to pray that the Lord will work. That He will bring the desired end at the right time. And that He will change our hearts in the process, making us more like Him.

Blessings to you and your family as we head into this season of thanksgiving and joy!

Rachel, for the Bennetts

“To live and serve our best”

Last week I had the privilege of playing piano for the middle schoolers on West Side at Camp Barakel. At the beginning of the week, the campers were hesitant and uncertain in their singing, and I’m sure I was equally so in my playing. Although I have been to many Barakel chapels, I had not played piano in any, so I was getting a feel for how that worked and how to transition smoothly through them. Some of the campers had also been to many Barakel chapels, but this year’s camp choruses were new to them. And other campers had never been to Barakel at all before, so chapel was new to them and all of the choruses were new to them, including the classic and well loved song “Camp Barakel”. So for the first couple of days, we were all figuring it out together (thankful for our experienced song leader who was neither hesitant or uncertain!) and the singing was quiet and perhaps a bit disjointed.

But come about Friday, I was more comfortable, the campers were more confident, and then the songs really started to pull together. Then those choruses really began to do what they are intended to do: turn the hearts of the campers to their creator and to the many truths of which they are singing. I could tell when the nostalgic camp song was no longer new to any of them. When the campers who were at Barakel for the first time had begun to make this “their camp.” When they sang out with enthusiasm,

"Camp Barakel, Camp Barakel, We're glad to turn again,
To this bless'd place where truth and grace from God's own Word abound;
Our lives anew we give to Him to live and serve our best,
Camp Barakel, We'll ne'er forget, For surely God has blessed."

“Our lives anew we give to Him to live and serve our best.” What wonderful words to hear those campers sing with more confidence and more ownership. I couldn’t help but smile as I played them through it and heard what sounded like double the singers compared to the beginning of the week. And that is just one line from the camp song. They sang 10 different choruses over and over throughout the week, each filled with truth.

"Who is like the Lord our God? Strong to save, faithful in love.
My debt is paid and the vict'ry won: The Lord is my salvation."

"Christ the sure and steady anchor, while the tempest rages on,
when temptation claims the battle and it seems the night has won.
Deeper still then goes the anchor, though I justly stand accused.
I will hold fast to the anchor; it shall never be removed."

"Rock of Ages cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.
Let the water and the blood, from Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure, Save from wrath and make me pure."

"All praise to Him who reigns in love,
Who guides the galaxies above,

Yet bends to hear our every prayer,
With sovereign power and tender care."

"The Word of God is light in my darkness,
hope for the hopeless, strong and true.
The Word of God is strength for the weary,
a shield for those who trust in You."

"Lord, I need you, oh, I need You.
Every hour I need you.
My one defense, my righteousness,
Oh God, how I need You."

What an absolute blessing to help lead those campers in better learning these songs so they can worship God more fully. What an encouragement to know that they will go home with those songs and those words rolling around in their heads. Some of the kids, like mine when they were young campers, will go home and sing them for their parents, in turn getting the words rolling around in their parents’ heads. What a potentially far reaching impact just from some simple camp choruses learned during a week of camp. I’m so thankful for the role I was able to play in that process. And I am equally thankful for the way those words impacted my own heart over the week.

“Our lives anew we give to Him to live and serve our best.” Well that’s the very thing we are seeking to do on this path He has us on, isn’t it? We are seeking to give our lives anew to Him, following where He has called us to live and serve our best. We currently have commitments for 70% of the needed support. We would love to get that remaining 30% and make the move by the end of the year. Would you pray for us as we continue raising our financial support to go live and serve our best at Camp Barakel?

Rachel, for the Bennetts

June update

Here’s a bit of an update about some of the things we have been up to over the past couple of months relating to our coming move to Barakel! Over Memorial Day weekend we went up during Family Camp, stayed at our empty camp house, and started on some work in the house. Some painting, some electrical, some general planning for when we live there. Here are some photos from that weekend….

The first Sunday in June, we went for a second visit to one of our supporting churches, New Hope Church of Oxford. We have been so blessed to visit this church and meet some of the people there. They are a small but mighty church with a large vision for impacting the world for Christ. We are so blessed to have this group of believers on our support team!

This particular Sunday we shared our testimony of how the Lord led us to serve full time at Camp Barakel. We were so encouraged by how those in attendance seemed to connect with our story and relate to the concepts we were sharing. Much of our story revolved around our calling to ministry and the balance between working toward that calling and waiting on the Lord. Here is a link to the message we shared from the live facebook stream that morning! (I personally was glad that I didn’t know for sure we were streaming live until we were all done!)

We made another weekend trip to camp during the first week of summer camp. Mostly we did more painting (I’m sure we’ll be mentioning painting multiple times in the future…), Jim did some work in the office, we got to say hi to Grace as she was counseling her first week, we went to Sunday morning chapel which is always a blessing, Mary Emma and Lydia got to try out being staff kids for a couple of ambushes, and I spontaneously filled in playing piano for West Side Chapel one evening. That was great fun! It was my first opportunity ever to play piano for chapel and it was such a blessing to help lead those young voices in praising God! A little last minute since I’d never played the songs before, but helped along by our future neighbor with her copy of the music and her piano that I could practice on. 😉

We continue to enjoy these adventures as we wait on the Lord to provide the rest of our support. We currently have 65% of our needed support and we eagerly await the remaining amount so that we can make the move north. In the meantime, we wait some and we work some, making the most of our time the best we can. Thank you for your prayers during this process! Please contact us at bennetts@barakel.camp if you are interested in joining our support team!

Rachel, for the Bennetts

Our April prayer letter

Just this past week we sent out our latest prayer letter. You can read it using the link below. One update to what the letter states is that we are now at 64% of our financial support.

We praise God for continuing to raise up a group of prayer and financial supporters to allow us to soon make the transition to full-time ministry.

Update on our percentage!

It has been a year since we sent out our first support letters, and we are thankful to have 60% of our support committed. Thank you to those of you who have been praying for us and for those who have agreed to be a part of our support team!

We are excited to get the remaining support needed so that we can join in the work up at Barakel. They are in a season of preparation getting ready for their big summer season hosting hundreds of campers. They would welcome another family to join in the work, so we would love to be headed that way soon! Would you pray with us that God would provide the support we need to move the move north?

Past halfway!


We have finally passed the halfway point in our support raising! We currently have 52% of our support committed. We are excited to have passed the halfway mark, and continue to look to the Lord for his provision of the other 48%. We sent letters out in December and forgot to post them here, so we will do that now with a slightly updated version of that most recent letter. We do continue to seek individuals, families, and churches who would partner with us in this ministry. We cannot move to Barakel and begin our work there until we have raised 100% of our needed support. Thank you for praying with us, and feel free to spread the word of our need. If you have a church who may be interested in hearing about our ministry, or perhaps a Bible study group or small group where our need could be shared, please do contact us.

February 2019 Update Letter

We are at 49%

We are excited to be at 49% of our needed monthly support! It has been exciting to watch God work as people are moved to commit their support.  We are almost halfway there, but we still have another half to raise!  We don’t know where this remaining support will come from, but we know God does, and he will work it all out in His time.  At our Commissioning service we were encouraged  by Paul Gardner’s message, in which he quoted King George VI from his Christmas address in December of 1939. Of course, our unknown path and uncertainty does not compare to that which the world was facing at the time of WW2.  But the response to look to God and trust Him in uncertainty is applicable now as it was then.

“I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’ And he replied, ‘Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be better than light, and safer than a known way.’

Commissioning service 11-11-18

Last Sunday evening our church held a service to officially commission us to the ministry at Camp Barakel. The evening was so many things. It was encouraging, it was humbling, it was exciting, and it was even a little over-whelming. The service was part of a Missions Emphasis week where we focus, as a church, on our mission families and how the Lord is working in their lives. What a surreal experience to be included in that group! We were joined by many of our family and friends, a couple members of the Barakel Board of Trustees, some of the Barakel staff, as well as much of our church family.

The evening began with a dinner, which is what our church calls an International Banquet. It ties in with the missions theme by incorporating dishes from around the world in a potluck style meal.


The service followed the dinner, and began with an introduction from our pastor with an overview of all of the mission families our church helps to support.


That was followed by a slide-show presentation given by Jim about our calling, some general information about Barakel, and our future roles there. We were so glad to be able to share this information with our church family since we have been sharing it with churches we are visiting, but many in our sending church were still relatively unfamiliar with Camp Barakel and our involvement there.







Following Jim’s presentation, we were blessed to hear a short message by Paul Gardner, Camp Barakel’s director. We were challenged and encouraged through this to keep strong in the faith as we continue in this journey.

Finally, the last portion of the service was the commissioning of our family by our pastors and deacons. What a privilege to be prayed over and committed to the Lord by our church as we seek to be sent off into a full time ministry.


Encouraging, humbling, exciting, and a little over-whelming. Both sobering and celebratory. So good to remember that this is the Lord’s work and always has been. It’s not ours, and it’s not about us. We are simply willing to go if He is willing to use us. We are simply finding work that the Lord is already doing, and looking to see how He can use us there.

Support update and Family Camp video

We are making exciting progress with our support! As of today we are at 41% of our needed monthly support! We are excited about how many supporters the Lord has already brought our way, and we are looking to Him to continue providing the rest of the needed monthly support.

Over Labor Day weekend, we once again went and helped out up at Family Camp at Barakel. Our whole family worked in various areas, minus Grace, who had just the week before moved to Hillsdale College to begin her first year there. The rest of us worked in the dishroom again, like during Memorial Day weekend. Now we’re really getting that hang of it! Rachel, Mary Emma and Lydia also helped out in children’s chapel classes. Jim got some experience serving snack one evening, and also running Thunder Express one afternoon. Mary Emma and Lydia also enjoyed some free time hanging around with staff kids and getting to know them better. At both family camps, they have enjoyed being on the “staff kid” team for the teen activity called “Ambush” one evening.

Jim finishing his shift in the dish room with Kevin Pierpont


Mary Emma and Lydia enjoying time with a couple of staff kids

Rachel enjoyed playing flute during worship in Saturday evening and Sunday morning chapel times. Here is a video clip from that blessed time!


We still have a long way to go and we can’t move to Barakel to begin working until we are fully supported.  If you would like to know more about how you can help us reach our goal, check out our Prayer and Giving page.

We have 29% of our support committed!

Throughout the summer we are thankful to have continued to add slowly to our committed support and are currently at 29% of our needed monthly support.  We are praying and trusting that this fall we will see this increase at a faster rate, but we trust the Lord knows just the right timing for our family.

This summer we have stayed busy with lots of things as a family, sometimes with several of us going in different directions.  We kicked off the summer at Barakel over Memorial Day weekend working in the dishroom as a family.

When we headed home on that Monday, we left Grace there for the summer to serve on summer staff.

In June, Mary Emma was kept busy with driver’s ed, and at the end of June, we took a family vacation to Ohio and Kentucky. We were glad Grace could have two weeks off to be able to go with us and also to have 4th of July at home once we got back.

We participated with our church in the 4th of July parade, and July also had us busy with a week of VBS at our church.

The first week of August, all of us except Jim headed up to Barakel for a week.  Rachel worked in the kitchen, Mary Emma and Lydia were campers, and Grace was glad to have us all join her there!

The Monday we came home Jim had already left for a mission trip with our church to New York City.

In just a week from now, we will take Grace to start her freshman year at Hillsdale College. And we will finish off our summer back at Barakel to once again work in the dishroom, this time for Labor Day family camp.

Please pray for us as we continue to raise our financial support.  We are talking to several churches, and we do have one we will visit in September. We are thankful for this opportunity and trust the Lord will use it to connect us to more that would be willing to support us in our ministry.

We are at 23%!

We’ve had a busy first month of raising support. We are doing some new tasks directly related to support raising like writing and sending a support letter and getting prayer cards. But we are also busy doing lots of normal life May activities like finishing our school year, having a garage sale, and getting ready for a ballet recital. Then throw in some special events like having our first homeschool graduate and an open house! It’s keeping us plenty busy! But in the midst of all of that, the Lord has been busy too, putting together the beginning of our group of supporters. It has been fun watching the percentage start to climb.

0.3%…3%…5%…11%…12%…18%…and finally 23%!

We’re excited to be joined by people who want to support our ministry. We’re grateful to have raised 23% of our needed monthly support.  And we’re eager to see God’s plan and timing for the future. Contact us if you would be interested in joining our team of supporters. Check out the “contact us” portion of our website for all of our contact info. Also check out the “prayer and giving” page for more details on that.

The start of our ministry

On March 29, we received word that our application for resident missionary staff had been approved by the Camp Barakel board of trustees.  This was the next step in a 3 year process to follow the Lord’s leading to serve Him in full-time ministry work at Camp Barakel.  We are now able to start the process of building a network of supporters.