It has almost been a year since we all met at Flint Valley to begin our training for ministry and the building of our community. I wanted to express my deep gratitude to you in more ways than just a letter, but it seems fitting now as you all may be journeying back to the valley or on to something different. Whatever is ahead for you, please take a step back to last summer with me and remember the excitement, heartache, and lessons we all learned from the summer of 2020.
From the moment you all showed up, you were bought in. You were thrown curveballs almost every week you were in Flint Valley. Whether it was a two-week in-camp ordinance, being pulled to quarantine, or not seeing family all summer, you sacrificed a lot to make the ministry of New Life Ranch happen.
I do not want to ignore your sacrifice. It was substantial. You already came in with your summer laid down for ministry, but as summer continued, you gave up more than you expected. Some of you gave up weeks in-cabin to serve in the kitchen or on work crews. All of us sacrificed time with friends, family, and even co-workers because of the protocols that were thrown our way. All along, your attitude was fixated on the Gospel. You saw it better to see the Gospel advance over your personal agenda. Please, do not forget this attitude, this comradery that you felt for Jesus Christ and the advancement of his Kingdom.
I now want to call out some specific groups of people and thank them for their ministry during summer 2020.
To the Ladies,
You all are some of the most servant-hearted women I have ever seen and worked with. Your heart for the Lord, sharing his joy, and being present in every moment was so contagious last summer. All of you had to make more sacrifices than what was seen. Since we had more of you on staff, the women on staff had to be moved around to fill our out-of-cabin roles all summer. Some of you were hired as a full counselor and maybe only got to have one or two cabins. This didn’t hinder your desire to serve the Kingdom of God. You became “Aunts” for cabins, you wrote encouraging notes to counselors who were struggling, you prayed for your co-workers, and you did it with a heart that was full and ready to serve. Thank you for being the confident women of God that you are last summer. We could not have made it anywhere near as far as we did last summer without each and every one of you laying down your expectations and answering the call. Your character reminds me of Ruth from the Bible. Despite all the reasons for Ruth to leave, she remained with her mother-in-law, Naomi, and was faithful to God to provide for her and Naomi’s needs. Your faithfulness to the LORD and to the mission of New Life Ranch was so evident and necessary. Thank you!
To the Men,
I love you guys. You all were some of the most genuine, fun, and intentional men I have worked with on staff. Your BTTW mentality was evident all summer. While there were fewer of you on staff than the ladies, you were placed in cabin more frequently than you may have expected. Although you were met with exhaustion, spiritual fatigue, and challenges along the way, you remained resilient. You served the women and children of New Life Ranch with open hands. You were ready to take on any challenge that was thrown your way and lead your campers into the unknown next steps with a smile on your face. Your ability to remain present was also so incredible to see. While there was a lot going on behind the scenes that the campers never saw, you put those things aside to make sure you were present with your kids and made every moment worth it for them. Your resilience and presence remind me of Paul. He faced so many challenges to his ministry and yet remained grateful and present wherever he went. Whether he was in chains or being stoned, he praised God in everything because through him, God’s Kingdom was advancing. Thank you for remaining and being resilient.
To all of Leadership Development,
The LD SAL’s, Tim Team, and Nehemiah Leaders, you were phenomenal. I know a lot of you personally from working together in 2019. Seeing you continue your faithful relationship with your campers was amazing to watch. You all were thrown some of the toughest curveballs of the summer as well. However, the loss of day camp or some of our last session Soma’s due to quarantine didn’t change your heart to challenge and equip these young leaders for ministry. Thank you for demonstrating to all of us what discipleship looks like. Thank you for demonstrating to all of us how it looks to take a challenge head-on and come out the other side. Thank you for being some of our best friends!
To Support Staff,
Support Staff, you deserve SO MUCH applause and honor for your service. I imagine a huge standing ovation for all of you right now. You all were the backbone of camp and made the summer of 2020 possible. Housekeeping, you ladies were the most unseen, and not-thanked-enough people. You worked all day to disinfect and make our camp safe every day this summer. The fact that you disinfected the cabins in-between meals is daunting to me. Your service shouldn’t go unnoticed. Lifeguards, you all made the pool and creek safe and so much fun! Some of my favorite memories were at soggy sock time and I believe those were some of the camper's favorite memories too. You were all so flexible to work a whole new schedule. A special shout-out is necessary for Emily Suse; a legend and servant of others if I have ever met one. Emily was an essential part of our programming this summer. Without her help and flexibility to plan and make camp moments at the pool and creek for everyone, we wouldn’t have had such a fun summer. Nurses, the women who made our camp safe and cared for us and the campers amidst a global pandemic. Bailey, Claire, and Elise, you all did a phenomenal job in your roles in a summer that had so many question marks and fear surrounding a disease we knew little to nothing about. Yet, you all went above and beyond your job description in helping set up or tear down summer programming while still keeping track of temperatures. Maintenance, your ability to continue to make camp beautiful is amazing. Your ministry to the Leadership Development kids is so needed and important for our ministry to be fully effective. Our Rech-Tech, our Queen, Delaney Knorr. This woman averaged a half-marathon a day on her feet this past summer. She would set up laser tag, overnight sites and fires, night games, squad challenge games, and help with literally anything else camp needed to be done. She absolutely KILLED it last summer. Thank you for your hard work and joyful attitude. Kitchen, you all were the BEST people to interact with. You made our meals so much fun and safe. You also served NINE meals a day, five days a week. Thank you for making the dining hall another moment for the kids to remember in an effective and safe way. Wranglers, your service to the campers this summer was incredible. You saw more faces than you ever anticipated in the barn because of the activity class rotations. You made every moment of a trail ride or being in the barn important to every kid. Kids who may not be able to afford this class and meet you got to meet you and experience your kindness and grace. Media team, you were able to capture the craziest summer of New Life Ranch history. Your effort was seen in how you all would run around to each squad and take photos or videos of games, time at the creek or pool, or on the overnight hikes. These pictures and videos help all of us remember the amazing life change that happened this past summer! Our Office Assistant, Megan Hutto. Megan crushed her time in the office this summer. She handled frantic parents, fearful phone calls, and helped reassure these camper’s parents that their kids were safe and having fun. Gatehouse saw a lot of different summer staffers this summer, so to anyone who was there, thank you for keeping our camp safe and being our first impression as people came in. Lead Ropes and Wilderness Trip Leaders, thank you for making Patmos and the LD trips so memorable. Your job is not easy at all. You practically lived on Patmos or in the woods all summer. However, you made each place special for every kid that came through. Even though it could get old to do the same old hike or harness check, you greeted every kid with a smile and made them feel special.
To Alaska, Mace, and Gilly,
You guys were the best SAL co’s I could’ve asked for. Dreaming, planning, and working with you three was such a privilege last year. I did not deserve the friendships I gained from you three. You all served full-heartedly all summer and left everything you have in that Valley. I will never forget our rap sessions, our late-night hangs in the conference room, our tears, our laughs, or our all-out stressful moments (lol @ the overnight, MCP’s, and theme parties). You all sharpened me into a better man and follower of Jesus. I love each of you so much and thank God for each of you.
I could go on and on for everyone who made this summer happen, but I wanted to focus on the people who were in the mission alongside me for the summer of 2020. This was for the summer staff of Camp Messy. Cling to Christ, pursue holiness, never forget his faithfulness to us. I hope your memories of summer 2020 are filled with joy, gratitude, and longing for the coming kingdom. Thank you for answering the call and completing the task.
“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me — the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” — Paul in Acts 20:24