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Keeping Faith Rewind: Katy Small

By | Keeping Faith, MC Squared, Staff, Summer Camp, Video | No Comments

Last week we started reviewing some of the Keeping Faith stories that we produced last year. These are great reminders of God’s work through the ministry of Miracle Camp and Retreat Center. This year we want to feature Katy Small’s story. Since the making of this story, Katy has been married to Darren VanMeekeren (which happened at camp…see the picture below). They met on summer camp staff and we are excited to see what God does with their lives in the future.

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In the meanwhile, enjoy the rewatch of Katy’s Keeping Faith story.

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Summer Camp 2016 Has Come To A Close

By | Keeping Faith, Staff, Summer Camp | No Comments

We just wanted to stop for a minute and say thanks to everyone who made this year’s summer camp season a success. There were 1,546 campers who attended a summer camp or service camp this summer and many who made commitments to follow Jesus and many others who grew closer to God during their time at Miracle Camp. So here’s our thanks…

Thanks so the staff. Seriously, you’re all amazing. Thanks to the 50 college students who gave sacrificially of their time to impact the lives of campers. Thanks to the full time staff for doing the “behind the scenes” work that never gets honored or glorified, but is necessary.

Thanks to families. Thanks for trusting Miracle Camp. Thanks for your faithfulness, for spreading the word to your friends, and for growing close to God together.

Thanks to donors. Every camper who comes to Miracle Camp is because of your faithful support. We appreciate you so much. Thanks for giving to God’s work and being faithful stewards of what he has given you.

Now, it’s on to serving around 12,000 more people this year until next summer camp season! So be praying for all the full time staff during this 10 months of continued ministry!

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Keeping Faith Rewind: Annette Walker

By | Keeping Faith, MC Squared: Retreat Organizers, Video | No Comments

Last year we published new stories every couple weeks, highlighting what God has done at Miracle Camp and Retreat Center. We want to continue that this year and republish this stories in case you missed them.

So this week is Annette Walker’s story. Be sure to share the stories and praise God for the work he has done.

Here’s the link to her full storyhttp://www.miraclecamp.com/keepingfaith/annette-walker/

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Like Father, Like Son – Why parent/child retreats are so beneficial

By | Father/Son Retreat, MC Squared: Parents, Mother/Daughter Retreat | No Comments

When I was young, my father and I went on a father/son campout with our church. I was probably 8 or 9 years old and to me, my father was the coolest person in the world. Yes, quite soon after that my father became the least cool person in the world while I was in junior high and high school, but you will be glad to know that he is once again top of my list now that I have children.

Looking back at that campout, I am amazed that I liked it. The camp we went to was in terrible shape, had very little to do, the food was terrible, and I’m sure we barely slept.

But it was amazing.

I remember cooking food (once again that tasted terrible) over a campfire in a tin can and roasting hot dogs and s’mores. I loved that my dad prepared something different (and semi-tasty) in the tin cans while everyone else was left with burnt potatoes and terrible beef. I remember playing games in the dark and thinking it was super fun to sleep in a sleeping bag (I mean…who doesn’t like sleeping in a sticky container that you can barely move in). I remember trying to climb a “cliff” with my friends while our dad’s watched. I”m sure in retrospect is was a 15 foot sleep hill, but it still felt cool.

But the thing I remember the most was waking up before everyone else with my dad. The fire had gone out from the night before and I was disappointed. I loved watching the fire. But then, my dad did something I will never forget. He said, “hey, you want to see something cool?” Of course I did. He then got down on one knee, gathered some dry leaves and stick, peeled back the ashes until there were a few barely glowing embers and began to blow gently. At first, nothing happened, but then the coals began to glow a little brighter, then the leaves began to smoke a little, and then in front of my wondering little eyes, we had a roaring morning campfire.

My dad was the coolest.

A few years ago I had the privilege of showing my son how to start a campfire from nothing. I’m not sure he had the same reaction that I did when I was young, but it was fun to pass something along.

This is the power of a parent/child retreat. I have noticed that my children mimic my actions more than they mimic what I say. At Miracle Camp’s father/son retreat and mother/daughter retreat, your children will be able to be with just you for an extended period of time (in much better food and housing conditions I might add). They will be able to watch and observe what you say and do, and I think you’ll find that they will have some memories that stick with them for the rest of their lives.

Around that same time in my life I started reading through my Bible regularly. You know why I did it? Because I saw my father reading his Bible at the kitchen table every single morning at 6:30am.

You never know the power of your little, every day actions.

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RELEASE: Annual Ministry Report

By | Keeping Faith, MC Squared: Church Leaders, Projects, Safety, Staff, Updates | No Comments

God’s Continued Faithfulness

I once heard it said that there are two ways to study history: as a scholar or as a soldier. Scholars look at what people used to do, while soldiers see what remains to be done. Those who are scholars study history to gain information or knowledge; those who are soldiers study it for the sake of mission.

I have come to the conclusion that, as Christians, our job is to approach life as both a scholar and a soldier. We praise God for His past faithfulness while allowing the knowledge of His faithfulness to drive us as we take part in the most important mission in the history of the world.

This directive is derived from Acts 1 and Matthew 28.

In Acts 1 the author says he recorded for us “all that Jesus began to do and to teach.”

The keywords here are “do” and “teach”, referring to Jesus’ works and his words. In the book of Luke, Jesus fed the hungry, gave sight to the blind, played with children and showed kindness and compassion to the less fortunate. But he also said, “I am God,” “I am Savior,” “I am Creator,” “I am the Judge of the living and the dead,” and “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father but by me.” At Miracle Camp, we work to be very unapologetic about Jesus, preaching what Jesus said and did, and preaching the Truths found in scripture.

Matthew 28 speaks to the resurrection and validates, proves, and upholds the life and ministry of Jesus.

In this chapter Jesus takes it one step further and tells His disciples to go make disciples. They are given the authority to lead the church, and here, in His last words, Jesus confirms His Kingship and tells the leaders of the Church to begin the work of the great commission, and to do this work on His behalf. He is giving them authority and power to accomplish the spiritual work.

It is worth noting that this authority does not give His disciples the power to take land with the sword. The authority he provided is much more complicated. It is to go into the world and connect to people’s hearts so that people are prepared to listen to Jesus; that they would be moved from the inside out.

Those two points sum up everything we do.

Our hope and prayer is that our camp and retreat programs and our facilities are not for our benefit.

They are built to assist the local church to do the work of the local church. We first want to help the local church accomplish its goals and disciple its people. We want to help the ministry of the local church bond its people together around Jesus. Our prayer is that our facilities are utilized to develop relationships and facilitate discipleship so that, as Iron sharpens Iron, individuals in the local church can live life together and spur each other on in love.

As I look back at this year, the thing that sticks out to me the most is how faithful God has been. He has provided staff when we were short handed. He provided financially and organizationally – unifying the staff to implement a contingency fund, restructuring of the organization, updated policy to meet today’s changing world, and developed a healthy, conservative budget to bring camp back to a solid financial position. Most importantly, God has provided his Spirit. We continually hear stories of His faithfulness; individuals crossing the line of faith, families being strengthened, individuals recommitting their lives to Christ, and marriages being transformed.

He has provided Miracle Camp with guests. Throughout the entire year, we served a total of 13,188 people, representing 32,906 camper days. Of those people served, 6,652 were from Miracle Camp’s programmed events and 6,536 were from guest groups programming their own events. We praise God for His continued faithfulness; not just in growing numbers, but in continuing to change the lives of each person who attends Miracle Camp.

This year (2015 and 2016) we served the following numbers of people in our main programs:

The highlight of this past year was our 50th Anniversary. Throughout the past 50 years, there have been countless staff members, donors, and volunteers who have made Miracle Camp what it is today. Miracle Camp’s impact was not the result of one person, but the result of many many people working together. We are, first and foremost, your camp.

Our 50th birthday party also kicked off a capital improvement project. This campaign is geared toward increasing capacity, safety, flexibility for the events held on our campus. The campaign also intends to create reserves that will allow us to maintain the beauty and facilities we have been entrusted with. This includes items like building staff housing (so we have staff available to better serve our guests), adding a number of new meeting spaces, updating and fixing the gym, remodeling and/or rebuilding a number of the the cabins, beautifying our campus, and purchasing additional land for our programed events.

We recently finished a tunnel project to provide safety for campers crossing 80th Avenue during their camp weeks. This project was designed, built, and managed entirely by volunteers! Again, God has provided. We are also working toward building a new meeting space and renovating Evergreen this fall. This project will allow us to host more groups and better serve the groups we are given the opportunity to host.

If you haven’t already seen the stories of Keeping Faith, be sure to visit our website at miraclecamp.com/keepingfaith. It is incredible to hear the stories of how God has used Miracle Camp through the years.

Finally, below is a summary of our 2016 financial report. We are always striving to be good stewards of what God has given us and what you pay for fees to attend events.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support!

Respectfully submitted,

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Jonathan L. Hyde, Executive Director

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What Makes Miracle Camp Unique?

By | MC Squared: Church Leaders, MC Squared: Retreat Organizers, Staff | No Comments

Sometime, when people are considering multiple camp options they will ask us a question like “what makes you unique?” or “how are you different from other camps?”.

For us that is a very difficult question to answer. For one, we really appreciate the work that is done by all the Christian summer camps in the Christian Camp and Conference Association. We are all trying to accomplish the same purposes and to say we are unique, sometimes sounds like we think we’re better than others…and we don’t think we are. But another reason is that there isn’t necessarily one thing that makes Miracle Camp unique.

Rather, it’s a combination of things that makes us unique.

We think that the most unique thing about us isn’t a thing at all…but rather an atmosphere that’s created by four strategies that we employ as we create each event and train our staff. We think of it kind of like a recipe. There are many recipes to make chocolate chip cookies, but my wife’s chocolate chip cookies are unique and, for me, are the perfect combination. We think that our “recipe” of how to do camps and retreats is kind of like that.

Gracious Hospitality

We believe that it is every single person’s job to serve the guests that come to Miracle Camp. We don’t view people as our customers, in fact, we try to never say the word “customer”. We believe that everyone is our guest and we hope to treat them like that. We want to smile, go the extra mile to serve others, listen to requests, respond quickly to any problems, anticipate needs, and much more. We think that our staff is consistently one of the most friendly, hospitable staff teams around. My favorite story is from a few years ago when a group arrived at 1am and realized that they had forgotten some of their supplies. One of our staff at the time, Kyle, told them to give him a list of what they needed and he made a trip to Walmart (at 1am!!!!) to get what they needed so they could get rest. Our stories aren’t always this out of the ordinary, but we do think that you’ll get a big smile when you check in and that our staff will take your needs seriously.

Affordable Quality

This is a very difficult strategy to define, because to each person it is different. But in general, we try to reach a balance between what is quality and what is affordable. There are many places that are quality, but are expensive and many places that are affordable, but lack quality. So we try to be as nice as possible, while still remaining affordable for the average person. We think we’ve done a pretty good job at this. All of our buildings are air conditioned, heated, and have bathrooms with each room (rather than walking outside). We received a donation of mattresses from Tempurpedic which gives us affordable, yet quality beds. In all areas, food, lodging, activities, meeting space, etc, we seek to find this balance of functionality, cost, and excellence.

Creative Programs

We have found that creativity isn’t as complicated as it sounds. And often, creativity is simply improving something that already exists. Take Apple for instance, they weren’t the first company to think of a tablet, a smartphone, a smart watch, or a device that plays digital music. But they were the most creative. We like to take things that we see or things that we already have an improve them in creative ways and turn them into something that people love. This is why our waterfront (in our opinion) has structures that have been creatively designed with a large floating blob tower that also includes a waterslide. It’s why our zip line and tower have been designed to cut down on waiting times and walking distances. It’s why our high ropes course has stairs to get in rather than a system that takes 45 minutes for everyone to reach the course. And it’s why we install sound systems, fire rings, and benches in so many places…they’re all creative improvements.

Biblical Focus

This, of course, is the most important thing to us. Without this, we feel that the first three strategies have gone to waste. We believe that God’s word (the Bible) must be preached and preached with authority. When we look for speakers we don’t necessarily look for excellent speakers (though that is important)…we look for people who have a commitment to preaching the Bible. We believe that God speaks to people’s hearts through his word, and that his word speaks powerfully. And so we carefully make sure there are times for people to listen to God through his word in multiple settings.

So there you have it…we’re not unique at all. Many places do things like this. But we do think that you’ll find our special combination of ingredients to be quite unique, special, and will leave you wanting to taste more!

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Bible Reading Plans

By | Family Camp, MC Squared: Church Leaders, MC Squared: Parents, Summer Camp | No Comments

One of our biggest hopes for campers is that they keep pursuing God in faith as they head home from camp. We don’t expect them to always feel the same emotions they felt at camp, but we pray that they will have the same commitment to Christ at home that they did at camp. One of the best ways to do that is to spend time in prayer and time reading the Bible. Our favorite method is for parents and children to read through a plan together. Here are a few Bible reading plans that can get you started:

5 Minutes a Day Plan – This is the easiest plan and in 5 minutes a day you can read one chapter of the New Testament and finish in 1 year

1 Year Chronological Plan – Read through the whole Bible in one year by reading 3 chapters each day

1 Year Blended Plan – Read some of the Old Testament and the New Testament each day and complete the whole Bible in one year

Read New Testament in 90 days – This plan has you read several chapters of the New Testament each day and you can easily finish in 3 months.

To pray, we encourage campers to simply talk with God. Prayer isn’t all about making requests, though that is part of it. It’s also about sharing life with the person who cares the most about you. You can talk to Him about how you feel about things at school, you can ask Him for advice when you’re discouraged, and you can thank Him for the good things happening in your life. The more time you spend with God in prayer, the closer your relationship will be.

Here’s an acronym that we like to use sometimes to help guide our prayer times:

  • A – Adoration – this simply means to praise God or to tell Him what you like about him. Give God some complements!
  • C – Confession – sometimes there are things that get in the way of our relationship with God. It’s important to apologize for those sins and wrong decisions we’ve made.
  • T – Thanksgiving – this is a time to simply thank God for the positive (and even sometimes negative) aspects of our lives. When we follow God, everything has a purpose and we can thank him for that.
  • S – Specific Requests – this is what most people think of when they think of prayer. It’s an important part, but it’s not the only part. In this section simply talk to God about your needs and to ask Him to work in the lives of people you know and around the world.

As always, if you need any guidance or other resource ideas, please feel free to contact us. We’d be happy to help you and your family grow close to God.

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Meet our 2016 Summer Staff

By | MC Squared: Parents, Staff, Summer Camp, Updates | No Comments

We are now two days into summer camp and are having a great time. Campers are hearing the Bible taught in a relevant way and of course, any week of summer camp is always filled with fun.

We wanted to send you a sheet that includes all of our staff for this summer. We would love it if you would pray for a different one each day, that God would give them strength, that God would work through them and in them, and that they our ministry would be safe and effective this summer.

Thanks so much for joining our team by lifting us up in prayer!

If you would like to download a PDF of these summer staff pictures to print and hang on your wall as a reminder just click the link below:

Download – 2016 Face Sheet Final

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Things We Teach Our Camp Counselors – Part 4

By | MC Squared: Parents, Staff, Summer Camp | No Comments

Unity and Teamwork – The Unsung Heroes of Training

When people think about training for a job they think about all the practical aspects: safety, knowledge, emergency preparedness, etc. However, very often fun, unity, and teamwork is overlooked. Obviously, the first and most obvious parts of training are super important. But if bonding and team building isn’t part of training, somehow the other things seem to fall apart. Team building and bonding during staff training is the glue that holds all the other parts together.

We pay our staff for a whole week before any camper shows up, and we ask them to come a few days early before that week of training just for some fun. We’ll do things such as taking a camping trip to northern Michigan, an Olympic opening ceremony for the first night, sharing testimonies with one another, and our favorite…an all staff Amazing Race all around southwest Michigan!

Throughout the summer we will continue to build unity among our staff by helping them plan trips to area cities, going to a Chicago Fire soccer game, providing weekly worship times, going to church together, and praying together. When people have fun together, they also work and collaborate really well together.

Why is unity important?

To be an example for the campers

In John 17, Jesus prays for his disciples that they will be one (unified) so that the world will know that Jesus is sent by God. This is our prayer for our staff that they may have a love for one another that is obvious to parents and campers that Jesus is real and changes lives. We want their unity to be the best example of the hope, joy, and full life that God has given us.

To improve work quality

We believe that when a team is unified and they like each other, they do their work better. We find that a unified staff has a better emotional maturity and mental maturity to take care of the kids in a fun safe way. They aren’t as distracted as a staff that is thinking about a problem they have with another staff member. Instead, they are enjoying their work, enjoying being with each other, and are happier for the kids.

To help us select better staff in the future

We have found that the best way to recruit staff is by word of mouth. And the best staff tend to be friends with other really good potential staff. It’s kind of a guilt by association, but in reverse. So we find that when we focus on unity during training and during the summer, the best staff are more willing to talk about what a great time they had with their friends. And that in turn, helps us have an even better summer staff each consecutive year. You can never only just focus on the summer in front of you…you have to always think for the future.

There are many other reasons for focusing on unity, but those are a few. But the main thing…

It’s Biblical…and it’s the right thing to do…

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” -Eph 4:1-3

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Things We Teach Our Camp Counselors – Part 3

By | MC Squared: Parents, Safety, Staff, Summer Camp | No Comments

For the past several weeks we have been covering the topic of things we teach our summer camp counselors. Last week we talked about how we train our summer staff to handle emergencies at summer camp.

Unfortunately, we can train our staff to be perfect counselors, we can train them how to respond in emergency situations, and Miracle Camp and Retreat Center can be a perfect place, but there will still be problems.

That’s because more than one camper comes to camp each week!

This week’s topic – handling problems caused by campers

As soon as two campers come to camp there are bound to be problems. Unfortunately sometimes there is bullying caused by another camper, or maybe another camper is being rude and disruptive during a cabin time, or maybe it’s as simple as a homesick camper that requires extra attention. Whatever the situation we want our staff to follow some steps to help preserve an amazing week for the other campers in their cabin.

Step #1 – Intervene Immediately

The first and most important step when there are problems is to do something. This seems like it shouldn’t need to be said, but in American culture, often our first response to problems is to walk the other way or to pretend like it didn’t happen. We don’t like to confront people and we don’t like dealing with problems. Sometimes we hope they will just go away on their own.

However, while we are caring for other children, it’s important that we intervene right away. Sometimes children will not speak up for themselves so we try to train our staff to recognize when a camper might be bothered by other camper’s behavior. The most important thing is for our staff to stop the disruptive behavior…and we provide them with some steps to do that.

Step #2 – Tell Someone (Probably someone on the program team)

The other things we’re not very good at as human beings is telling someone about the problem. We so often want to be independent and try to take care of things on our own, as if that were a sign of strength. But in this situation we want our staff to involve our leadership team early. This is so we know about the problem before it turns into a bigger problem. Our leadership team is a group of staff who are veterans in camping. They have experience in handling problems and difficulties and are excellent at giving advice and lending a hand when needed.

The other reason we like the program office to be aware of the problems early is because we want to do Step #3 really well…

Step #3 – Involve Parents Early

There’s no one who knows your camper better than you. We train our staff that if they are in doubt about whether they should call home or not, they should call home. Sometimes a camper who is homesick can be calmed down by a quick word of advice from the parent to the counselor. Sometimes a camper who has been bullied doesn’t feel alone and singled out if they know their parents are behind them. And we have found that parents feel much more secure when they know that we’re paying attention to the condition of their camper.

We’re not perfect

Every week isn’t perfect and we’re not perfect at stopping problems caused by other campers, but as our trained staff follow these steps and seek to make every week an amazing week for every camper, we believe for your camper it will be pretty close to a perfect week!

Our promise to parents is that we will do our best to recognize problems, address problems quickly and effectively, and involve your advice early if needed.

And as always…if you have a concern…give us a call. We use phone calls from you as an opportunity to improve our training for our next group of staff, and sometimes even in mid summer. We enjoy hearing from you and how we can improve!