The Dirty Work

By | Life at Camp, Summer Camp | No Comments

This week Miracle Camp is full of activity in a different way—rather than cabins full of campers, our campus has been full of teams of workers helping us ready the facility for summer. While prayer comes first on the to-do list, next comes rolling up shirtsleeves and getting to work!

From flower beds to fire suppression, our Operations Team leads the way in making our facility safe and beautiful. Kitchen and Housekeeping Teams dutifully carry out jobs like taking out the trash, doing the dishes and making sure the facilities are clean and sanitary. Each of these teams model servant leadership for our whole staff! Even though they enjoy the quiet and unrecognized service, we enjoy pointing to their action as a worthy example and praise God for each member and how they serve!

Humility, servanthood and a willingness to be last: traits that will not win blue ribbon awards, yet Jesus described kingdom greatness just that way. While His disciples continually asked when he would become king or which of them would be in charge, Jesus pointed them toward selfless service every time.

While our teams continue to pray for fruitful ministry this summer, we are thankful for the work of our every single volunteer, contractor and team member to make our campus guest ready!

Smooth Transitions Start With Prayer

By | Life at Camp, Summer Camp | No Comments

Spring is when everything outside changes in Western Michigan! Seemingly overnight, brisk days of lingering winter give way to full flowering trees and birds returning for summer. While the weather takes a turn for the good, behind the scenes the Miracle Camp team changes pace as well, just in time to prep for summertime.

This year, beginning May 15, we will be hosting campers every day throughout the summer season until mid-August. We are so thankful to God for filling our calendar again with so many different groups and guests to serve! Each year our team works hard to prepare, so that every camper has the best week ever. But prayer is the precursor to everything we do as God’s people. That step cannot afford to be missed.

We know as a team that so many of our guests are also the key supporters of our ministry, and we are thankful for your prayers. Each Friday, we spend special time as a team praying that our guests would arrive safely and encounter Jesus through our ministry. This Friday, please join us in prayer for the following 3 needs as summer approaches:

  1. The home stretch of the Evergreen Project. Pray for a safe and timely finish with everything approved and ready for our summer campers!
  2. Three new interns will join our team this month; pray for their safe arrival and quick transition into summer ministry and gospel community!
  3. Program Office and Summer Staff begin training in early June, and this Summer we are growing the Camp Aide Program; pray for us as we build and train servant leadership among our groups!

Again, we are thankful for the many relationships we share with our guests and appreciate each prayer offered toward the ministry at camp. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all!

A Season of Gratitude

By | Women's Retreat | No Comments

Excited conversations, smiles, and laughter describe this past weekend as women arrived for our first Women’s Retreat weekend of 2019. For women to be able to step away from their usual schedules at home is a commitment, so we strive to program a balance of new experiences and restful unplugging at each Women’s Retreat weekend. This past weekend was full of fellowship, activities, crafts, but most importantly times to worship and hear truth shared from our speaker, Robyn Dykstra. As women departed Sunday, the peace-filled joyfulness of the women was evident and something we praise God for.

Women’s Retreat is designed to provide women exactly this…a retreat. A change of pace from the normal day to day routine so they can reset and refocus during their time away. Not only is it a fun time spent with friends doing activities that are out of the ordinary, it is a time for women to hear God’s voice and spend time with Him, learning what it means to know Him more. Starting the day in prayer, spending solo time after lunch, singing praises to God and hearing Biblical teaching all provide opportunities to do this outside of the normal routines at home.

Thank you to all of the women who have attended and those who have yet to attend our Women’s Retreats. We are continually amazed at those who prioritize coming back year after year —and for those who have come for the first time and now are excited about returning again! Praise God for allowing Camp to be a place where women grow closer to God and commit to following Him even after they leave from this place.

We are thankful to God for the stories we’re already hearing from the women about how they encountered God this weekend as they paused to hear His voice. Join us in praying for this upcoming weekend when more women will step foot on our campus for our second Women’s Retreat of the year. Our prayer is He is glorified again this weekend through the work of our team!

If you missed out on booking this Spring, good news! We are also excited and look forward to the addition of our third Women’s Retreat this year! Programmed the same as our spring retreats, we hope this will provide an additional option for those looking for a retreat at a different time of year. Registration is already open for Women’s Retreat 3 (September 27-29)!

The Evergreen Project – $100,000 Gift-Matching Opportunity

By | Keeping Faith | No Comments

Help us complete the Evergreen Project!

As part of Miracle Camp and Retreat Center’s (MCRC) financial sustainability initiative, the Evergreen Project helps us meet the needs of the groups we are currently turning away due to lack of space. While MCRC has 400+ beds, one of our weaknesses is available meeting spaces; we only have two large meeting rooms. That means that while we can comfortably host two church groups of 100-125 each, those groups will potentially only fill about 250 beds, leaving 150 beds empty.

More importantly, the Evergreen Project allows us to share the love of Jesus with the next generation. The new Evergreen building will expand MCRC’s summer camp capacity and will enable us to sleep 118 girl summer campers, 100 boy summer campers, 28 camp aides, and 52 summer staff. This is compared to our previous numbers of 108 girl summer campers, 88 boy summer campers, 22 camp aides, and 47 summer staff. That means more lives touched with the love of Jesus!

But, we need your help. Initially, we expected to be able to fully pay for the building with the cash from the $800,000 in donations we received during the primary campaign. Thank you for the support that has brought us to this point! Unfortunately, a disagreement between state and county regulators added $425,000 to the cost of the project midway through the build. These added costs raised the Evergreen Project’s construction costs from $800,000 to $1.25 million. As such, we are working to make up the difference.

Thankfully, we were able to work with the Christian Service Foundation (CSF) and attain a loan of $425,000. These funds will hopefully allow us to finish Evergreen’s construction by summer camp. While I am thankful CSF has made these funds available to us, I desire to use as little of those funds as possible. Our prayer is that we will be able to raise most of these funds before occupancy.

We are excited to announce a $100,000 gift-matching opportunity. By God’s grace, we have been able to line up donors who will match all Keeping Faith contributions until June 30.

The stories of lives changed are more than I can count; from decisions to follow Christ, to growth and encouragement, to repentance from persistent sin. I cannot emphasize enough the eternal impact your generosity is making possible. Thank you for helping us support the ministry of the local church and for helping us set the stage so that the love and message of Jesus can shape hearts.

Keep faithful. Keep praying. And, thank you for supporting!

Sincerely,

Jonathan L. Hyde
Executive Director

A Million Thanks

By | Men's Retreat (Man Camp) | No Comments
2019 has already turned out to be a banner year for Man Camps at Miracle Camp. One of the many joys for the Miracle Camp team is hearing stories of God’s faithfulness during our weekends. Maybe now more than ever, Christian men need a place to be within the brotherhood. The freedom experienced in Christ when we are unplugged from the everyday is something that can be hard to find between shifts, trips for work, family obligations and taking care of everyday life. Man Camp weekends allow the space for men to reconnect with God and each other.
This Spring, 853 Men joined us for four consecutive weekends of grilling meat, talking around fires, playing camp games for bragging rights and finding the space to open up about the challenges and victories that are part of following Jesus. Both early morning prayer times and late night fireside ribbing give men time to grow together. With a weekend to gather with other men and disconnect from the routine, men get much needed space to pray and refocus themselves on work and relationships waiting back at home.
We were honored to partner with FEC pastors Mike Drury, Nate Hamblin and Jake Mills; this year we also were able to send off longtime Man Camp speaker Tom Harmon, who spoke about Finishing Well. Centering discussions around weekend themes such as biblical manhood and forging relationships took small group discussions a level deeper, setting the table for old groups and new friends to find common threads to discuss and grow closer to God together.
From the men who make Man Camp part of their annual routine, to our first timers this Spring—Thank You. Two simple words that go unspoken too often. By expressing our gratitude, most of all we want give glory to God for the work He does at our camp.

Did you miss us this Spring? Good news! Registration is open for our fall Man Camp Weekend this coming Oct. 4 to join us!

A Better Friday

By | Food for thought, Life at Camp | No Comments

The typical Friday routine begins by putting finishing touches on the grounds and finalizing last minute details in the office. Afternoons, our team gathers to pray and ask for God to work in the lives of our guests. While those regular parts of our Friday around the office will be missing, this week we will be taking time instead to remember Good Friday.

Miracle Camp is a place where lives are changed. For over fifty years, FEC churches and countless guest groups have encountered the tangible grace of God spending time having fun here. Good Friday reminds us that the fun and joy we share at camp is not without cost. The cost for Jesus was real to reconcile us to Himself and remembering the goodness of this day reminds us that we are dead to sin and alive in Christ.

The real catalyst for us to know faith in Jesus as Lord is the atoning sacrifice freely offered at the cross. (1) The Apostle Paul writes that He who knew no sin became sin so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2) This infusion of life offered to us in Christ was the world changing event by which everyone who truly knows God has access to Him.

While all of our guests are at home with their families and churches during Holy Week we want to remind them on Good Friday–without the events of this remembered day, our campground would be empty every weekend. But because the tomb is empty, we have life and love to share in Christ.
 
The Miracle Camp Staff want every bed made, every building built and each event we program to be fueled by the atoning work of Jesus on the cross. On Good Friday let our team commend to you what we tell ourselves constantly: Jesus did it all. Our role is to facilitate His work, by his grace, for his glory. Today we join our FEC partner churches and congregations everywhere to remember the weekend Jesus died, was buried and rose from the grave.
1. Catalyst is a word meaning rapid change or action from within. We use it on the MCRC team to describe how we partner with God’s work among our campers.
2. 2 Corinthians 5:21

New Seasons & Next Steps

By | Internships | No Comments

Miracle Camp & Retreat Center’s Internship Program is designed to serve exiting high school and college students who are launching into years of obtaining skills for work or considering educational options. Rather than staying caught in the middle between what is now and “what’s next”, this internship exists to step in and help prepare participants for a lifetime of fruitful vocation while they work alongside the MCRC team serving groups, churches, and individuals through multiple avenues.

We are excited to introduce two new interns who will be joining the Miracle Camp team this May!

Preston Alger is originally from Flint, MI and first heard of Miracle Camp through his local church’s connection. He experienced Miracle Camp during an Ice Camp with his youth group, and he eventually applied to the Camp Aide program. Through this, he spent two weeks growing deeper in his faith and learning more about himself and God. Following this experience, he decided to join camp’s part-time staff serving in the kitchen. “Working in the kitchen, I had the pleasure to work with the interns and learn more about the program,” which is what led him to apply. Additionally, he was not sure of his plans after high school, so he decided to take this gap year opportunity. Preston is looking forward to discovering more about how Miracle Camp runs and how he can serve, especially as he works with digital design. “I also cannot wait to just learn about God with the intern devotionals we will be doing,” he adds.

He loves anything involving the outdoors, such as swimming, hunting, skateboarding, and enjoys building things. He also enjoys playing soccer and is an avid disc golfer.
Gavin Engler is also a senior in high school about to graduate. He is from Paw Paw, MI and heard of Miracle Camp from his former Bible quizzing coach, Beau Graf, who is Miracle Camp’s Dining Services Director. He began working in the kitchen as a part-time staff member in January 2018 and enjoyed the work as he served Miracle Camp. Gavin was undecided about his plans after high school and the internship appealed to him because, “camp seemed like the best option.” He is excited to begin the internship program in May and is ready to see what this year holds: “I am really looking forward to learning as much as I can and continuing growing in my walk with Christ.”

Gavin has really enjoyed his involvement with Bible quizzing the last two years. Also, he has been on the Varsity Bowling season team for four years and was the Captain his senior year.

We would love for you to pray for these guys as they prepare for their time here and seek all God has in store for them during their internships. To find out more about our internship program, click the button below!

The Tech Effect: Summer Camp

By | Summer Camp | No Comments

Here at Miracle Camp we are dedicated to being a learning-based Youth Service Organization that responds to and implements technology in appropriate ways, while also sharing what we learn with parents desiring to train a godly generation in a media saturated culture. Serving thousands of students each year, the Miracle Camp ministry team sees the need for balance and even boundaries that will protect and influence the next generation of Christ followers. In this three part blog series we hope to provide rationale behind implementing our device free policy for Summer Camps in 2019.

 

He waves goodbye to the other boys in his cabin as he gets into the car with his mom on the last day of Summer Camp. This high school sophomore spends the first 30 minutes on the drive home talking nonstop about his favorite games, the new friends he made, and the ways God changed him. He doesn’t think to ask for his phone until his mom tells him it is in the backseat. Glancing back at his phone, he shrugs and continues talking to his mother. To her surprise, he says, “I didn’t realize how much I wouldn’t miss it.”

When considering the place of technology in everyday life, there is a dichotomy between “the real world” and “the virtual world.” However, in the age of smartphones, social media, and a dependence on electronics, “we’re no longer in a time when we should be viewing digital communications as not being the “real world.”[1] Electronics have infiltrated nearly every part of life. Rather than trying to separate their influence, which would be nearly impossible, they need to be regulated. With this thought process, we believe that a device-free Summer Camp can deepen the awareness of the technology addiction and give insight to managing it a healthy way.

We are asking for campers to leave their devices at home for the week they attend Summer Camp. Our goal is to stimulate healthy conversations regarding technology use and motivate kids to change, resulting in impacting others in terms of phone use. While this is a big picture thought, there are many other benefits of no phones. In a study reported by the CCCA of camps who implemented a no-device policy, 80% of kids were less stressed and anxious without the expectation to keep up with social media.[2] Kids were astonished at how well they connected with others; 92% said they got to know people better because they did not have their phones.[3]

One camper said that with phones, “people would not talk to each other or try new things and just be in their cabin all day. No one would ever leave and everyone would just be zombies.”[4] Kids recognize the detriment that phones would have on their summer camp experience. 72% of campers said camp would have been worse with their phones.[5] When asked how camp would have been different if phones were allowed, one camper said, “I’d want to put everything on social media. No one would make new friends or learn anything.”[6]

A device free week allows students to be fully present in the camp experience without being torn between Summer Camp and their lives back home. This also leads to less drama, bullying, and gossip that comes through social media. Cabin leaders will be trained to facilitate discussions and strategically encourage campers to reflect on their screen use habits during cabin devotion time, natural conversations during activities, and waiting for meals or games to start.

While the device policy is changing, it will not negatively affect parent-child connectivity. Parent e-mails can still be sent through our website and will be delivered to campers each night at dinner. Homesickness calls to home are always available as well and dealt with through the camp nurse. Non-emergency calls can be made on a case-by-case basis—campers simply need to talk to their cabin leader to set up a time to use the office phone. In every case though, we hope that campers enjoy their week so much that calls home are hardly necessary. As always, parents can stay connected through viewing the daily photos (uploaded by 5:00pm the following day). This way, parents can see the fun their kids are having, and campers will be able to look back on their memories when they get home.

Our policy includes the following:

  • Campers cannot bring digital devices to camp. This includes cell phones, tablets, handheld video games, smart watches, mp3 players, laptops, drones.
  • Digital/disposable cameras are allowed.
  • If a camper brings a device, Miracle Camp will send it home with parents or retain possession of the device until the camper’s departure.

We want campers to know what it feels like to be device free. Eliminating devices eliminates the distractions and allows them to fully experience camp, make new friends, and most importantly grow deeper in their relationship with Jesus. After camp and looking to the future, they can make an informed choice as to how and when they utilize phones, social media, and more.

If you have any questions regarding the new policy, feel free to contact us at info@miraclecamp.com!


[1] Hunter, G. (2018, August/September). Make it work for you. InSite Magazine, 3. 22(4).
[2] CCCA conference. Miracle Camp is associated with Christian Camp and Conference Association (CCCA) and has benefited tremendously from their network and resources on this topic. More information can be found at https://www.ccca.org/ccca/Vision,_Mission,_Values.asp
[3] CCCA
[4] CCCA
[5] CCCA
[6] CCCA

The Tech Effect: Finding Balance

By | Summer Camp | No Comments

Here at Miracle Camp we are dedicated to being a learning-based Youth Service Organization that responds to and implements technology in appropriate ways, while also sharing what we learn with parents desiring to train a godly generation in a media saturated culture. Serving thousands of students each year, the Miracle Camp ministry team sees the need for balance and even boundaries that will protect and influence the next generation of Christ followers. In this three part blog series we hope to provide rationale behind implementing our device free policy for Summer Camps in 2019.

 

At Miracle Camp, the following scenario is not an uncommon one.

A 7th grader steps off the church bus, taking in the sights around her: Summer Staff cheering, kids finding their cabins, and plan-scheming to get in all the best activities. Though a busy excitement fills the air, she can’t help but sense a loneliness. Instinctively she reaches to her jeans pocket, only to find the void is deeper than the space where her phone used to be; it comes from the disconnect from her world of “followers,” “likes,” and messages. She wonders how she is supposed to have “the best week of her life” at camp if she doesn’t have a way to “talk” to anyone.

This situation is not too different from what adults experience when accidentally leaving their phones at home when they go to the store or attend an event. Constant connectivity inevitably changes us, often in unseen ways. If not used properly, it leads to an addiction resulting in underlying consequences that are taking a toll on kids physically, socially, mentally, and more.

Technology is consuming cognitive capacity, therefore leaving huge gaps in the realm of development. Kids are not getting enough sleep or exercise and end up snacking more than necessary[1]. Their ability to interact with others socially is declining as they depend more on the virtual world for relationships while neglecting their family and friends in front of them. This can lead to feelings of isolation. According to CCCA, 69% of kids recognize that in-person interactions are more gratifying and wish they could spend more time socializing with friends face-to-face rather than online.[2]

Due to the stimulation kids are exposed to through technology, shorter attention spans lead to difficulties in many areas, but particularly academically. “The brain is trained at a young age to multitask to such a high degree that it is often incapable of focusing on one task or thought at a time.”[3] Children who spend a lot of time on electronics “have trained their brain to receive heightened stimulation and the accompanying dopamine boosts. They are therefore susceptible to similar symptoms as a child with ADHD—as he or she may also begin to have difficulty focusing on classroom instruction or chores.”[4]

With technology infiltrating nearly every aspect of life, it has created tremendous pressure on students. 41% of kids are overwhelmed by the notifications they receive online, and 58% feel they are expected to respond instantly[5]. The way it is marketed, kids are not able to say “no.” It is difficult to manage an addiction in the first place, but it is an entirely different battle when the addiction is something that kids want a break from, but is constantly in our faces thanks to marketing, media, and more. This requires an extra level of intentionality, for students, parents, and institutions like summer camps.

Rather than being a slave to technology, we need it in its rightful place. It is a tool to work for us, not the other way around. “While it is too simplistic to say that we are a product of our technologies or tools, it is indisputably true that in many ways our technologies do shape us,” Tim Challies of LifeWay Research says[6]. Because technology is a normal part of everyday life for most people, we don’t see the addiction and the ways it is changing us. To live wisely in this digital world, “it’s critical for us and for the next generation to be able to step back and see how technology is actually shaping us.”[7]

Setting limits on technology is not limiting us, like many view it, but rather freeing us from the grip of technology’s addiction. Monitoring screen time both for yourself and your kids is a way to gain balance in technology usage. Choose to participate in other screen-free activities, such as reading a book, taking a walk, playing a board game, etc. Taking televisions, computers, and phones out of your children’s rooms at night helps them improve their focus and attention spans, as well as help them relax for a good night’s sleep.[8] As part of the initiative to gain control over the technology addiction and to ensure the best week for kids, we have created a device free policy for Summer Camp 2019. Next week will wrap up our technology blog series with more about practically implementing the new policy and how it will benefit campers in a multitude of ways.

 

The Tech Effect

By | Summer Camp | No Comments

Here at Miracle Camp we are dedicated to being a learning-based Youth Service Organization that responds to and implements technology in appropriate ways, while also sharing what we learn with parents desiring to train a godly generation in a media saturated culture. Serving thousands of students each year, the Miracle Camp ministry team sees the need for balance and even boundaries that will protect and influence the next generation of Christ followers. In this three part blog series we hope to provide rationale behind implementing our device free policy for Summer Camps in 2019.

 

Recently in the Bankson Lodge lobby, a senior high boy boasts, “122 likes…Look!” after sharing his afternoon activities on Instagram. Meanwhile on the other side of the camp, another camper walks alone and retreats into their screen, deciding to try and steal away a few moments with friends “back home.”

Both are examples of how our tech offers us constant connectedness today. With voice command assistants at the ready as instant fact-checkers at our command or the temptation to snap a selfie and share a moment with friends far and wide, today’s campers, known as digital natives, thrive on Instagram likes or taking enviable snaps as everyday life activities.

The PC, tablet, and smartphone adoption rate in the last decade have topped out and now are giving way to even newer generations of wearable technology and smart devices. Intended to make life easier, technology manages tasks faster, more efficient, while simultaneously offering a new realm of creativity. While these optimizations may add simplicity to our lives, we also seem constantly distracted by them, if even dependent at times. Being connected is a powerful tool we must help our students steward well.

Technology provides a path that allows people to channel their human drives, such as connecting with others, portraying social status, competing and achieving objectives, learning and acquiring knowledge, and more. It is also highly customizable, engaging individuals through unique and personal interests (CCCA). Morally neutral, technology gives humans an entire world at the tips of our fingers, offering us an infinite capacity to use it for good or allowing it to expose the darkness of the heart.

In today’s world, “from the moment we get out of bed until we crash at night, life feels like a buzz of attention-grabbing technology and busyness.” (1) As technology has infiltrated nearly every aspect of society, dependency has given way to indulgence.

The underlying danger in our inability to limit use can be affirmed with data. For example, of people ages 18 – 24, 78% use Snapchat on a regular basis, and 95% of teens either have, or have access to a smartphone (Pew Research). 45% of teens indicate that they are online “almost constantly” (see chart). Still yet, the culture of busyness is starting at younger ages each year making it more challenging for summer campers to unplug and connect with God. (2)

What many find surprising to hear for the first time is that social media likes trigger the same brain activity as drug use. Social media platforms “leverage the very same neural circuitry used by slot machines and cocaine to keep us using their products as much as possible.” (3)

Though the addiction can be subconscious, many kids are aware. According to CCCA, 50% of kids recognize they are addicted and 65% wish they had a better ability to self-limit the amount of time on their phones. 26% would even report they wish someone would impose limits on their screen time. Not only is the addiction a concern, but kids are finding technology to be emotionally burdensome, even anxiety inducing. (4)

We work for Summer Camp to be an intentional time away from what is familiar for a student to own their faith in Jesus; often times the constant presence of devices gets in the way. We want to help students find a balance of technology in life, using it as a tool for God’s glory, while living free from the grip of its constant allure. Without the constant buzz in pockets, even just for one week, this freedom allows students to focus on spiritual formation, relationship building, and being fully present in the life right in front of them. While screen time boundaries are nothing new to savvy parents, we find value in the practice of a regular detox that reinforces healthy boundaries and rhythms.

For the first time this summer, we are asking parents to help create a safe and undistracted environment by leaving devices at home. Having a conversation about why this policy is important with your students may help them prepare for any anxieties related to detaching from devices. Check back next week for the second installment of our tech series as we share more of the thought process behind making summer camp the best week ever!

1. Quote from article found at https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2018/july-web-only/how-to-witness-to-distracted-world-disruptive-witness-noble.html
2. Stats taken from sources at http://www.pewinternet.org/2018/03/01/social-media-use-in-2018/
3. Quote from http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2018/dopamine-smartphones-battle-time/
4. MCRC is affiliated with CCCA and has benefited tremendously from their network and resources on the topic. More info can be found at https://www.ccca.org/ccca/Vision,_Mission,_Values.asp