Spring is quickly approaching and we have already started preparing for Women’s Retreat! We are so excited for all the amazing activities we have planned for this year. Here are some the activities you can expect to see at this year’s women’s retreats:
Engaging Bible teaching
Comfortable, modern facilities
Workshops to dig deeper
Paintball and Trap Shooting
Time and space to hang out with friends
We also are excited to offer a few different Pinterest crafts throughout the weekend! Here are a couple of the crafts we have plans for this year:
As the first weekend of our Man Camp season is just a week away, we wanted to take the time to reflect upon how God worked last year at our Man Camp weekends. The following story is from Nate Hamblin, who is a church planter in Adrian, Michigan. Nate, who has been in Adrian for just over a year now, describes his experience of bringing a group of guys from a local ministry to a weekend of Man Camp last year:
As a pastor, and one in the process of planting a church, I am personally thankful for the lengths Miracle Camp goes to make all feel welcome. Regardless of background or where people are at in relation to Christ, MC knows the power of genuine hospitality.
Last year at man camp, we had the privilege of bringing a small group of men from a local men’s mission enrolled in a year long addiction recovery program. While excited, these men were NERVOUS coming to man camp. Having more experience in drug houses and jail cells than church services, they had no idea what to expect. And on the way to camp, it was clear they feared the worst. One man in his late 20’s in particular, let’s call him “Joe”, asked me a question less than 10 minutes into his trip. “Pastor Nate, are there going to be guys like us at this thing?” “Sure, what do you mean. There will be all kinds of guys up there,” I said. “No you know what I mean…like US?” (Men who’ve hit bottom and struggled with drugs & alcohol their whole lives.) “Joe,” I said. “You’ll be fine and no one will think any different of you.”
And that’s what I love about Miracle Camp. I could speak that to Joe without doubt or hesitation. I knew he would experience the welcome and embrace of Christ without judgment or being singled out. Sure enough, the Lord used that weekend to remind Joe and every man with us, that He has created them to be men. Men who enjoy Him and his creation without the need for any substance to compliment the experience.
And on the way home, as the guys were reminiscing and sharing stories, I interrupted. “Hey Joe! Were there any guys like you up at Man Camp?” “Yeah Nate, I’d say they were all like us.”
It is stories like this that keep us motivated in doing what we do at Miracle Camp. With still more registrations to come in, we are already over 700 men who are registered across our four spring Man Camps who will be coming to experience a weekend just like Nate and his group did last year.
Every year, there are numerous men who come up to Man Camp a day early for our work day and give their time to help make various improvements around camp. These projects through the years have ranged from putting new roofs on our buildings, to making improvements to our zipline tower, to building a new trap shoot range last year. We have been able to accomplish some amazing things with the gracious help of men who have volunteered during our Man Camp work days.
Our operations director, Larry Wyse, is in charge of all of the grounds and maintenance and is our staff member who directs all of the work and projects during those days. Larry has been working to line up several work projects for our expected volunteers to work on during our four Man Camp Fridays in which work projects will be taking place. A large portion of the work that needs to be done this year is cutting down and cutting up trees to make room for some of our upcoming projects including the renovation of Evergreen. While a lot of the focus will be spent on the various areas that we need wood being cut and moved, here is a more thorough list of projects that Larry has on the docket. All projects, of course, are dependent upon weather, number of volunteers, experience of volunteers, and timeframe of projects that take priority.
Taking down, cutting up, and moving out 26 large trees that currently surround Evergreen
Clearing out some areas in the Back 40 for potential new activity areas
Forming and installing some concrete steps that go down to the lower level of a staff duplex
Building the man grill
Building a new bridge that goes across the toboggan run to the paintball course
Repair work on a section of the roof on the gym
Building some shelves in closets throughout camp
The more volunteers we get, the more projects we can complete and the faster our staff can move onto future projects! Coming to the work day is not an extra cost, you will get breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a mid-morning coffee and donuts break, and you can come in Thursday evening or Friday morning. If you would like to be a part of this great experience to help continue to improve Miracle Camp, email firstname.lastname@example.org to let them know and we will fill you in on more details and get you connected with Larry.
As Man Camp is quickly approaching, we are starting to get everything ready for the hundreds of men that will be up here at camp this spring! We are so excited to have guys from Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and all over the midwest up here to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ preached. We are also excited for all the activities this year! Here are some of the awesome things we have planned for Man Camp this spring:
Camp Aiding is the best of both worlds. As a Camp Aide, you have the incredible opportunity to be partnered with a counselor and assistant counselor to gain an inside look at what goes into being a part of Miracle Camp’s summer staff team. Camp Aiding has greatly impacted my walk with Jesus Christ and I am so thankful for the opportunities and lessons I have learned through being a Camp Aide.
Camp Aide’s have a truly unique position for the two weeks they are serving at Miracle Camp. Each is assigned a specific cabin with campers who will learn together, have fun together, and experience Christ in many ways, especially through two chapel sessions every day and cabin devotions. When Camp Aides are not with their assigned cabin, they are out doing things like personal devotions, group devotions, and camp maintenance (which let me tell you, is much more fun than it sounds). It’s awesome to form deep, Christ-centered relationships with other Camp Aides who share the same hope and purpose; to proclaim the Gospel. Camp Aides are constantly being pushed into a deeper understanding of Jesus Christ.
Trying to narrow down my favorite part of Camp Aiding is extremely difficult because almost everything could be my favorite. One thing I really loved about Camp Aiding, though, is realizing different parts of who I am that I didn’t know beforehand by being encouraged and pushed to step outside my comfort zone. Being pushed out of your comfort zone is difficult, but I believe it is important part in understanding what Jesus wants to teach you. Camp Aides also get the experience of late night staff worship, which is incredible because it allows you to take the focus off yourself and respond to all that Christ is. All of these opportunities not only result in amazing relationships made with people at camp but also with an increased love for your own personal relationship with Christ. Camp Aiding will challenge you mentally, physically, and most importantly spiritually. It will impact you in a way that makes you want to tell someone because you can not keep the joy of Christ inside.
The greatest spiritual impact on me, through Camp Aiding, has been through personal devotions. Spending time in one part of scripture really quiets your mind and allows the Word of God to impact you. Getting to discuss what Christ is doing in the lives of other Camp Aides inspires me to grow as well. These discussions strengthen the relationships between other Camp Aides and shows how God speaks differently to people. Most importantly, as I touched on above, I am so thankful for how being a Camp Aide has impacted me in my own life by pushing me out of my comfort zone. I’ve been able to see that there is a bigger picture, that our God is constantly active, and that there is nowhere better to be than to be experiencing Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Being surrounded by Christ followers, and Jesus, for two weeks will leave you wanting more, and will set a fire inside your soul to experience and tell others about what Christ is doing in your life. Camp Aiding has impacted my life for the long run and I am so thankful for all the opportunities, lessons, relationships, and applications being a Camp Aide has taught me over the years. If you are going to do one thing this summer, consider applying to Camp Aide at Miracle Camp. It will not disappoint.
Watch this video to see a glimpse of what Camp Aiding is like!
We are very excited about our upcoming Women’s Retreats this spring. Our Women’s Retreat weekends are full of all kinds of exciting opportunities for the women who attend including our four 75-minute sessions that include a main speaker. We have two wonderful speakers for our weekends who we are very excited to work with as they will be presenting the message of the Gospel through Scripture to the 200+ women who attend each event. Here is a short bio and some details about who our two speakers are for this year.
Joanne Kraft ~ Women's Retreat 1 ~ April 21-23
Joanne Kraft is a mom of four and the author of The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids and Just Too Busy – Taking Your Family on a Radical Sabbatical. She’s been a repeat guest on Focus on the Family, Family Life Today, and more. Her articles have appeared in ParentLife, Today’s Christian Woman, In Touch, Thriving Family, P31 Woman, and more. Joanne and her husband, Paul moved their family from California to Tennessee four years ago, and happily traded soy milk and arugula for sweet tea and biscuits.
Joanne is a good friend of Teasi Cannon, who has spoke at our Women’s Retreats several times in the past, and is similar in style to Teasi. Joanne will be coming to Miracle Camp for the first time as a speaker and we are excited to see how God is going to work through her during this weekend. She has plenty of experiences from her past to share about which include meeting her husband in a police station over a homicide when she was a dispatcher and he was a police officer in California. Her stories that are sure to engage will be added in with solid biblical teaching that applies to women in all stages of life. To find out more information about Joanne, feel free to visit her website at www.joannekraft.com.
Shelley Sysum ~ Women's Retreat 2 ~ Apr. 28-30
Loving the experience of growing up in Stryker, Ohio, Dr. Sysum always knew she would return to small town living. After her Masters in Social Work at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Shelley finished her doctorate in Clinical Psychology at Wheaton College. She then found her husband at Willow Creek Church in Chicago, moved to rural Michigan, and after ten years in a hospital setting, opened a private practice. Dr. Sysum approaches the study of the Bible with an exegetical style, wanting to dig into, rather than just read, God’s Word. Her upbeat, frank personality allows her to be real with her audiences, discussing the joys and struggles of having four hysterical children, two high strung goats, ten too many chickens, six sweet – but doomed – turkeys, a worthless guinea hen, a blind dog, a bunny in the basement, and a cat who turns on the barn radio.
Dr. Sysum is a long time friend of Miracle Camp and has spoke here in various capacities before including leading a workshop at Women’s Retreat the last couple of years. We are excited to have her here as she is an extremely engaging and capable speaker who really looks to go deep into Scripture with her teaching.
If you would like more information about our Women’s Retreats, feel free to check out our Women’s Retreat webpage at www.miraclecamp.com/womensretreat. It’s not too late to register! If you or someone you know is interested in attending a weekend of our Women’s Retreats this spring, you can register by going on our Women’s Retreat webpage and selecting register now.
Selecting our speakers for our chapel sessions is one of the most important tasks in preparing for our retreats. Everyone has different backgrounds on what they are used to and what they are looking for when it comes to messages, so we seek to find speakers who can most effectively communicate messages based in Scripture in a way that many people find applicable. Our hope is that our speakers for our Man Camp weekends will be able to relate to men in all stages of life and be able to teach the fundamental message of the Gospel in a clear way to those who are not following Christ, while also challenging those who are more mature in their faith. Here are a few details about our speakers for our four weekends of Man Camp coming up in the spring.
Brian Clay ~ Man Camp 1 ~ March 17-19
Brian Clay is from Fort Wayne, IN and will be returning for his second consecutive year as a Man Camp speaker. He is a financial advisor who works for Edward Jones and he also has pulpit experience at Brookside Church, which he attends with his wife and three children. Brian was well received by our Man Camp attendees last year as he combined his witty humor, with refreshing messages focusing on the idea of sharing your story. He encouraged many men to be open with one another and simply share the story of their lives with other men. Brian is a fun-loving guy who is easy to talk to when he is off stage and easy to listen to when he is on stage.
Kevin Green ~ Man Camp 2 ~ March 24-26
Kevin is going to be joining us as a speaker this year for the first time. Kevin is from a small town in Michigan called Barryton which has a population of 359. Kevin has a lot of ministry experience as he has previously planted three different churches, worked for Zondervan publishing company, and now currently speaks at many churches, camps, and conferences, specifically focusing on speaking at men’s events. Kevin is a very adventurous man and has many stories to tell, including experiences from completing the Spartan Race Trifecta and handbuilding his own family’s log home. We are excited for the opportunity to partner with Kevin this spring and have him bring the Word of God to the men who attend this retreat. For more info on Kevin, you can visit his website at www.kevingreenwired.com.
Tom Harmon ~ Man Camp 3 ~ March 31-April 2 ~ Man Camp 4 ~ April 7-9
Tom Harmon has been a long time staple as a speaker at our Man Camps. Tom is a proud father of four and grandfather of 22. Yes, you read that right, 22! Between all of his experiences with his family, his years playing college football, and his 11 years of being a Michigan state trooper, his stories are sure to bring plenty of laughter. Tom is a great man of the Lord and has been doing ministry since 1984 when he stepped down from the police department and pursued God’s calling on his life to go into full time ministry. He pastored a church in Michigan for several years and has been doing itinerant preaching in churches, camps, and conferences for the past 25 years. Tom brings an overwhelming amount of wisdom and experience to our Man Camp weekends as his ability to quote Scripture from visual memory is part of his unique teaching style that is sure to engage, teach, and challenge the men who attend. For more information on Tom, you can visit his website at www.tdharmon.com.
If you would like more information about our Man Camps, feel free to check out our Man Camp webpage at www.miraclecamp.com/mancamp. It’s not too late to register! If you or someone you know is interested in attending a weekend of our spring men’s retreats, you can register by clicking here or going to our website!
Hey! My name is Rob Haworth. I am a recent graduate of Olivet Nazarene University in Illinois and I am currently a youth pastor in Omaha, Nebraska. During my years at Olivet, I spent three summers at Miracle Camp (two as a Counselor, one as Head Male Counselor). I still cherish the relationships I built there and count those as some of the most incredible, God-filled times of my life. In the next few paragraphs, I’ll try to describe just what Miracle Camp means to me. It’s an impossible task, really. Try fitting Miracle Camp’s one and only Bankson Lake into a water bottle and you’ll know the struggle; but, as many before me have done, I will try my best to do justice to this amazing place.
The word that comes to mind when I think of camp is “impact.” In almost every testimonial, from staffers and campers alike, the word is everywhere. Miracle Camp’s own mission statement is completely focused on “facilitating life change.” That impact is reflected by the vast majority of summer staff that work at camp because they’ve spent their lives there. The counselors they’ve had, the friendships they’ve made, the messages they’ve heard: it all contributes to a deep desire to invest in that same kind of change in the lives of students. The memories they have and the culture in which they’ve grown up motivate them to serve. I love those stories. But that is not my story.
I was 18 years old, a freshman at Olivet, and I had no clue there was a place called Miracle Camp. I met a guy on my floor, now a good friend of mine, who had worked there before. He talked about it so much, almost like it was a dream. I know what he was feeling now, but back then it kind of freaked me out! He ended up showing me the staff video and, although it looked different than anything I had ever experienced before, it also seemed like a ton of fun. With Christmas break over and the summer looming on the horizon, my search for a job intensified. I knew God was calling me to work with youth, but I didn’t know where. Finally I submitted my application and, long story short, I got the job. I was a counselor at this mystery Christian camp in Michigan.
Staff training arrives and I pull up to camp. The grounds were beautiful and it was all very impressive, but the staff was what blew me away. Immediately I was accepted. I was supported, cared for, and taken into the family. As staff training went on, I began to learn more about what Miracle Camp does, the mission behind it, and the goals it seeks to achieve. Every week during my first two summers as a counselor, I was able to touch the lives of campers and learned more about what Miracle Camp is. Every single day this last summer as head male counselor that I tried to lay down my rights, comfort, and time for the staff so that they could show love painted a clearer picture of camp’s purpose.
The main way camp helped me grow was that it brought 1 John 3:16 to life. I thought I understood the verse, which reads, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters,” before I worked at camp. Looking back, I had no idea what it meant, but I quickly grew in my understanding, prompted by a mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion that brought me to the end of myself. Even now, as I continue striving to look more like Christ , I view that lesson as one of the most valuable that I have ever learned.
Sitting here racking my brain for the words to express everything camp that is into a neat concluding paragraph, I understand that this is an impossible task. I can’t think of words or phrases to sum it up. This isn’t writer’s block, though. My mind is anything but blank. The issue is that when I think of camp, I don’t think of words; I see faces. The people serving next to me all summer; the campers having a blast in a game or experiencing God in a chapel service; the laughter, the exhaustion, the tears: they all come flooding back bringing with them memories that perfectly describe what Miracle Camp is. What make Miracle Camp special are the people. It’s a staff united by one faith, energized by one Spirit, striving towards one mission. It’s God working through His servants to bring joy, show love, and build His Kingdom. That’s what Miracle Camp is. That’s Bankson in a bottle.
Check out this video from my first summer at camp to see a tiny glimpse of some of the things that I’ve experienced here at Miracle Camp and Retreat Center.
My name is Maddie Short, and I am a senior at Indiana Wesleyan University. I have grown up going to camp since second grade and been apart of the camp aide program. The past three summers I have taken the role of assistant counselor and lifeguard, waterfront director, and videographer!
I almost think it might be easier for me to write about what summer camp HASN’T taught me, because I have really learned that much from my experiences.
Equating the experience of a summer at camp to a couple paragraphs is like trying to describe a color. You can’t formulate a sentence that fully gives an idea of what it looks like, without seeing it firsthand. Thus, camp is truly something that you have to experience in order to fully understand it.
When you work at Miracle Camp you choose to work for an organization that truly lives out their mission statement every day. You work with a group of people who plan their entire summer around that mission statement, and stick to it. Working here has taught me more about living life, and helped me gain a multitude of skills.
The motivation that one has to work at camp may be different from another. Personally, my inspiration came from the fact that I have gone to camp my entire life. To this day, there are certain counselors and assistant counselors that I still look up to. It might have only been one thing they said or did during my week at camp, but somehow it stuck with me until now. I remember each of my counselors and the summers that they gave me. I remember the way they loved the Lord and how they encouraged me to pursue my own relationship with the Lord. After having worked at camp for three summers, campers’ have reached out and contacted me directly outside of camp. They share small, simple stories or words of encouragement regarding what they learned at camp, and how it impacted them years later. It is these small reminders from campers that make the time invested all worth it.
So that’s the inspiration behind it, now what did I learn from all my experiences and how did I grow? Well, first and foremost, I gained an understanding of selflessness. I didn’t fully understand this concept until I started working at camp. Camp taught me what it means to lay down the “rights” I think I deserve, and instead put the consideration of others first. Honestly, when I work at camp, I don’t really have a choice to be selfish. It’s almost is a natural way to teach myself how to serve others in the way God calls me to, with a humble heart and with the desire to serve those around me.
The list of practical and intangible skills could go on and on. I have developed better communication and relational skills with campers, parents, staff members, and superiors. Without effective communication, camp could not run. So, clear and concise communication is practiced throughout the entirety of the summer. One of the greatest takeaways I’ve gained is the ability to creatively think. Creative thinking happens in all different forms: group collaboration, self-initiative, when in a time constraint, or during planning sessions throughout the start of the summer. Nonetheless, creative programming is one of camp’s values, so it has been instilled in my blood since I have started working there. There have been many times where we had something planned, and due to weather or another circumstance, we had about 15 minutes to come up with a new plan for 200 campers. Surprisingly, situations like this were more frequent than the staff hoped, but looking back, these were some of my favorite times. Honestly, some of the best games were developed through situations when we were under pressure! There are so many opportunities at camp that allow for creativity within group collaboration.
One of the greatest blessings from working at camp results in the immense growth that takes place within. The entire summer is centered around Christ, so it gives the unique opportunity of practicing putting Christ at the center of all we do. I learned how to rely not on my own strength, but to rely on him through times when I was tired from a crazy week. There are so many opportunities to grow spiritually. I found myself growing the most through the set aside time for personal devotions, as well as the opportunity to listen to many different speakers presenting the gospel to the kids each week! There was always someone on staff who was willing to talk or listen, and grow alongside of me. Because the foundation of these friendships rests on the truth of Christ, I have formed some my best friendships through camp.
Aside from the intangible skills, I have also learned practical “camp” skills. You name it: ziplining, paintballing, outdoor games, campfire building, beach preparation, boat care, driving tubers, dodgeball, and essentially, turning anything into a game. In my role as the videographer, I stepped into it with zero knowledge. Up until the month before coming to camp, I had essentially never picked up a camera. Nonetheless, I knew my staff would support me in this role and it was a skillset I was excited to learn. It took a lot of research, time, and dedication, but because of camp, I learned video skills that I can use outside of camp, and are now contributing to my future today.
To wrap all of this up: I work at camp because I love the campers. I love that my creativity, confidence, and faith has been developed. And I love the relationships with staff members that I have developed. I work at camp because the Lord has given me the ability and opportunity to bless others by working for him through this ministry.
A summer at camp isn’t just a period of time in your life, rather it becomes a part of who you are and helps shape who you become. Words limit the fullness of my own personal camp experience, so I encourage you to experience it yourself and see what I have tried to describe. My greatest advice to anyone interested in working on summer staff? Apply now.
It is through your generosity that we were able to raise $334,000, during the month of December, for the Keeping Faith Campaign. We received $167,000 from individual donors that was matched by another devoted friend of camp. Your generosity is evident and appreciated.
I am humbled by the faithfulness of God’s people. I am humbled by how God uses this place to aid the local church and further His kingdom. The work that is done here is because of faithful friends like you.
For us, there is no greater calling in this world than preaching Jesus, living Jesus, loving Jesus and worshipping Jesus. When Jesus is the main focus and impacts a life, the ripple effect is immeasurable.
In the long run, the Keeping Faith Evergreen Project provides us with the opportunity to become financially sustainable by increasing our income so that it matches our expenses. This, in turn, will allow us to focus our donations on facility upkeep, the guest experience, maintaining affordable programmed camps and improving the campus.
You can still help. Every donation counts. We have until the end of 2017 to raise another $133,000. Funds that can all be matched!
As you reflect on how God has impacted your life, and thousands of other lives, please prayerfully consider joining us in this mission with a financial gift and/or volunteering your time to help construct this project. Your gifts help us share the hope that is found in Jesus, impact lives for the Kingdom, and strengthen the ministry of the local church.
Our ministry depends on the generous support of churches and individuals.