“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.
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!
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
“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!
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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!
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.
Our mailing address: Jim and Rachel Bennett PO Box 159 Fairview, MI 48621
Visit our Prayer and Giving page to sign up to receive our more frequent email updates coming soon!
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
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com 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.”
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.”
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!
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?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in joining our support team!
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?
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.
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.’
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.
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.
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.
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’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.
We are preparing to send out our letters to friends, family, and churches. We are trusting that the Lord will use them to begin raising up a team of supporters, which will then allow us to go and do the work He has called us to do!
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.