Six month summary

It’s hard to believe it has been five months since our last email! Here is what we’ve been up to in that time. Kudos if you can stick with me to the end! Five months is a long time!

In October we continued fall retreats each weekend. In total, between September and October there were 6 weekends of retreats, plus one work weekend at the end. Retreats included Father/Son, Married Couples, Ladies, and Men. During the work weekend we hosted college-aged volunteers who came and helped us prepare for the seasonal transition, preparing buildings, grounds, and program areas for the transition from fall to winter.

In the office, Jim is always working several seasons ahead. So as we ran fall retreats he was working on configuring the campdoc and campminder systems, which we use to manage staffing and medical information for everyone who comes to camp. He completed the yearly analysis of how much camp charges for each event, in order to help determine if the amounts are what they should be. He compiled reports for the annual business meeting. He worked on the schedule of events, family camp brochure, and mailing list.

At the end of the final retreat, I left with Lydia for an extended time away in South Carolina with Grace and Soren and the awaited baby. We planned to be gone about a month, and were welcomed into their home in the sunny south right as the leaves were getting ready to fall up north. We got settled into the spaces they had for us there, and enjoyed spending some time together, arriving a week before the due date. I jumped in to help with the tasks and chores that Grace hadn’t gotten to at the end of pregnancy while still working parttime, and Lydia kept moving along on her schoolwork. A big advantage of homeschooling is that it is fully portable!

The only picture we took to represent all weekends of the fall retreats! We need to get better about taking pictures of us working during events! This was the handcraft project during a ladies retreat. I spent a bit of time during each ladies retreat helping at this activity.
Lydia has quite a knack for plants, so in her free time she happily spent some time refreshing some of Grace’s plants and gave them a little TLC.
The day before the due date!
Grace and I made a whole bunch of freezer meals so they would be well stocked in the early weeks after the baby was born.
We decided if there was no baby by the due date then we would go get some due date pedicures. As we were out that evening we were hopeful there would be a baby soon since she was having some contractions. But no such luck, we would wait another week! 

November at camp brings a much needed maintenance season. In the office this means lots of preparations for the coming seasons, especially summer. Jim spent time finalizing summer camp policies for 2024. He also updated the reports that team leaders use to build their budgets for the next year.
Meanwhile in South Carolina, we all waited for what I considered the main event of the fall! Soren continued to teach, Grace was done teaching her classes and had transitioned them to a sub for her time off. On November 7, two weeks after Lydia and I arrived, the sweet baby made her arrival. I summarized these weeks in my social media post back in December:

“I was blessed beyond measure to be present for the birth of my sweet granddaughter, Ella Magdala Moody. Lydia and I were in South Carolina with them for a month – two weeks before Ella’s birth and two weeks after. We prepared, we cleaned, we meal planned, we bought groceries, we caught up on tasks left undone during the last part of Grace’s pregnancy. I learned my way around Columbia, SC and found all of their customary go-to stores. Lydia did her homeschooling like normal, but with the added benefit of a Latin-teaching older sister. We meal planned again, we bought groceries again, we got bored, we watched late night tv, we made freezer meals. We went to church, we did bedtime family prayer, and we sang. And finally, after waiting contentedly and waiting impatiently, “the time had come!” (Anyone know this reference?)

WHAT A GIFT to be there helping, caring, serving, and just living. So amazing for Lydia and I both to be welcomed into not only a home, but also into the beautiful moment of a new, created life entering the world. And so precious to see my daughter begin to nurture a daughter of her own.”

As it says above, we stayed for two more weeks after Ella was born, helping them through that newborn transition, and being Grace’s hands and feet around the house, as she ended up mostly on bedrest through those couple of weeks. What a blessing to be able to be there through that time. Wonderful that it was timed when I wasn’t missing any events at camp! Jim and Mary Emma came down after she was born and stayed for nearly a week so they could meet her and be part of those sweet early days. Lydia and I stayed until the Monday before Thanksgiving, and then started the long drive home. I’ll be honest and say it was a really sad departure. We thoroughly enjoyed our time there in so many ways. The closeness created by walking through those days together; the experience for Lydia of watching the beautiful process of birth and then bonding with a little newborn; the lovely extended warmer days during a time when we normally have a steady temperature drop. Somehow even doing chores in someone else’s house is more appealing for a while! Anyone with me on that one? But say goodbye we did, and we arrived home two days before Thanksgiving. It was a different kind of Thanksgiving with just the four of us at home. We didn’t travel downstate to be with family since Lydia and I were just arriving back home. We even decided to do the unthinkable and had BBQ ribs for dinner, and saved the turkey for Christmas when we would have more people!

We welcomed Ella Magdala Moody on November 7 at 10:11am. She was 8 pounds and 22″ long.
Lydia was a big fan of holding Ella any chance she got. Even while doing schoolwork if she could!
It was very sweet that Mary Emma could come down with Jim to meet Ella too.

The calendar turned to December; we settled back in at home; we adjusted to the cold weather and winter clothing. The work continued at camp; Jim finalized the configuring of the campdoc system; he helped finalize the camp budget; he completed the fire inspection action plan; he prepped the work schedules for winter retreats. In December is also when we do staff training for CPR and First Aid. On one weekend toward the middle of December, we went downstate for the Tech & Engineer Reunion and the Summer Staff Bash. This was an afternoon spent in Lansing with gatherings of both the high school and college-aged workers from the summer. It’s a chance for them all to get together and have some fun, but it’s also a chance for us to talk to the different groups about the next program they can serve in, or whether they hope to be back the following summer. Another work responsibility that started by this time was processing summer staff applications. While I was still in South Carolina, applications for summer staff opened up, so our tasks in running the YAPS program got a rolling start.

Earlier in the month of December, we enjoyed another performance by Mary Emma in Oscoda. It was great to see the progress she had made after a few months of such intense training. We also did get to enjoy a visit from Grace, Soren, and Ella. They came the week before Christmas and stayed with us. We also got a chance to go downstate with them before they headed further south, so that they could see my parents and brother’s family. Ella had gotten a bit sick at that point, so she was pretty fussy, but it was still really sweet for the new great-grandparents to meet her. The four of us came home a couple of days before Christmas and had a very quiet Christmas here.

The aunts, still happy to spend time with Ella.
Our delayed turkey dinner that we didn’t make at Thanksgiving
Ella experiencing the cold of northern Michigan
The new great-grandparents meet Ella.
Four generations

January and February
We started in with winter retreats on January 5, and hosted those all the way through February, making 8 weekends of retreats. We hosted college-aged young adults, fathers/sons, fathers/daughters, and lots of teens in their youth groups. Our normal weekly rhythm during retreat season is to work Tuesday through Sunday, and then have Monday off. We settled back into that routine this winter, with Lydia adjusting her school days to Tuesday through Saturday so she can be off with us on Monday. During the 8 weekends of retreats, the weather threw us a few curveballs! There were some weekends that were run more as spring retreats because there wasn’t enough cold and snow to run winter activities. Then there was one weekend that the weather overcompensated and tossed in a blizzard, complete with power outages. We are really thankful for the programmers at camp who worked so hard to maintain a program for campers each weekend, in spite of having to roll with the bizarre changes in weather.

In the midst of the weekend retreats, we also got a good amount of YAP interviews in. Since the YAPS are this year’s high school seniors, many of the applicants come with their youth groups for a winter retreat. We try to get their interviews in while they are here. Most of the time that ends up being one or two on any given weekend, ramping up a bit more through February. The record setting number was the last weekend when I had 8 interviews between Friday and Saturday. That required some good note taking to keep them all straight! The biggest weekend event for Jim was February 10, when, in the midst of a retreat, we also opened up summer camp registration. I still am not sure how we covered all the retreat jobs that weekend with so many staff needing to be in the office at least through the morning, and some of them all weekend. It all went quite smoothly, with good communication between parents and camp staff as questions and issues arose.

During January, Lydia participated in a newer program we have at camp called Bible Immersion Week. One of our seasonal volunteers runs this program for one week for high school aged students. Lydia went and participated in that and spent most of a week learning effective ways to dig into God’s Word and really seek to understand it. It was a good opportunity for her to be in with a small group of high schoolers and to really focus in on how to study the Bible better.

During all of January and February, Mary Emma has been in the thick of audition season for ballet. She has worked so hard to prepare choreography, get good videos recorded, get required photos, get updated headshots, and get registered for some in-person auditions. She had a line-up of about a month of weekends traveling to those in-person auditions. After several of these weekends on her own, there was one weekend with a bit more in it, driving into downtown Chicago, so we decided it was best if I went with her. Over the course of the five days that we were gone, she did three auditions, one of which was a second round audition. Plus we took Lydia along and she and I got in a college visit during Mary Emma’s full-day audition!

We had quite the large amount of snow right before one of the retreats, which left us without power for part of the weekend.
During my full weekend of interviews I made use of spare minutes to get information entered into our personnel system while my thoughts were still fresh. This was during a meal in the dining hall while Lydia played piano for the mealtime. 

Here we are almost halfway through another month! Our weekend events are done until late April, and we have started the annual spring tradition of….cleaning! Many hours during March and April (and actually this year even some in February!) are spent cleaning. YAP interviews will continue as their applications continue to come in. Later this month we will take a week and go down to South Carolina to again visit Grace, Soren and Ella. We are thankful for connecting through technology, but we are really excited to see our little granddaughter in person! She’s changed a lot since before Christmas!

In the coming months…
We appreciate your prayers in the coming months. We will continue with maintenance things here at camp, especially a lot of cleaning. We will continue to interview YAPS. We will work on smoothing out the schedule for summer staff workshop which begins after Memorial Day. We will pray earnestly for more summer staff applications, especially counselors and leaders. Our summer depends on more staff! Jim will train Katelyn, our new bookkeeper who is just recently fully supported to join staff (praise the Lord!). Jim will upgrade the trading post computer system. Jim will update the document templates that we use as tools for summer. Rachel will choose music and prepare to lead singing at the spring mother/daughter retreat. Rachel will help choose music for Hisability week at the beginning of the summer. Rachel will get summer music to the potential piano YAPS and begin to help them in learning it. In our family, we will likely help Mary Emma find housing and prepare to move her to her next training location, which is tentatively decided and would mean a move in early June (except that’s when all this summer stuff really gets going!). And Rachel and Lydia will likely squeeze in some more college visits before everyone’s spring semesters are finished. As I type all of that and think about all of these plans that are underway for the coming months, I take a deep breath and remind myself that I only need to be in today, and I can trust God to be fully in control of all of the tomorrows. Praise Him for that! 

Thank you for sticking with me to the end of this long update! We appreciate each and every one of you who support us in prayer and financially. We could not be here continuing in this work without you and your generosity. We love you and praise God for you!

Rachel, for the Bennetts

October Family Update

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.'”
Lamentations 3:23

Our last update was primarily about our work at camp throughout the summer, so I thought I’d send an update about our family and what each of us are up to. We have seen some of you around camp in the recent weeks so we have been able to share some of this individually. But I figured it would be nice to get all of you updated at once!

Our youngest daughter Lydia is in 11th grade and still homeschooling. She has a school load that is keeping her very busy so far this year. She enjoys playing piano and is quite self-motivated with it, so she improves consistently. She practiced our summer camp songs gradually throughout the summer, and by the time some of our shorter-staffed weeks rolled around she was able to play in chapel. She served as piano player one week on West Side and one week on East Side. It met a need for camp and was a great learning experience, as well as a great joy for her. She also practiced some photography skills during the summer and filled in as media YAP when we were in need of help in that role. During those weeks she made her way around camp taking photos of campers and activities and then contributed those to the video that is put together at the end of the week. One week she even doubled up helping with both piano and media which kept her very busy! Lydia also plays violin and just a couple weeks ago started attending a small string ensemble program in Alpena that we are going to on Thursday evenings. Our hope is that with an ensemble experience she will regain some interest that had waned a bit. She is still finishing up learning to drive. That slowed down a lot in the summer, so we hope to get her back practicing that more this fall. 

Lydia’s first week playing piano in chapel was on West Side for junior campers. The chapel leader was Matt Kirkland, and the speaker was Kirby Huseby. For those that know either or both of those men, she couldn’t have had a better, more supportive group to be in chapel with!
She enjoyed learning more about cameras and photography this summer. She has a natural, artistic eye so it was a good fit for her to gain skills in that area.

Mary Emma is in her second year out of high school and will turn 20 next week! She finished her school year at Joffrey Ballet School in NYC in May. We were able to go see her final performance there and move her out. It was fun having a reason to go several times to New York City throughout the year, and we were thankful that we were able to reasonably work it around the camp calendar each time. After returning home, she jumped right into training at the ballet studio in Oscoda. She did a performance with them in June and then continued to train there Monday through Friday over the summer. She decided to stay here this year and continue training at this studio rather than go back to Joffrey. She loved being in the city and learned a lot about the ballet world while she was there, but the training in Oscoda is such high quality and so efficient!  At the end of the summer, the Lord provided a place for her to stay in Tawas with another dancer who has also come to train there. This means the two girls can share their classes and work together. It also means that Mary Emma has a shorter drive each day compared to living at home. The Lord also provided a way for her to make some money by cleaning homes for two ladies. This has been a great situation as well since her schedule is quite full with the dance training, so it doesn’t work well to get a job anywhere with traditional time shifts. With the cleaning she can work it around her schedule, and both ladies have a connection to the dance studio so they are very willing to work with her availability. So far she is loving the training and is thrilled with the progress she is making. Audition season comes at the very beginning of next year so we will see what opportunities the Lord brings her way.

Our last day in the city before heading toward home. This was walking the High Line. We for sure enjoyed our opportunities to explore Manhattan. You can’t get more opposite than Fairview!
On our day off each week of the summer, one of my favorite places to go is the beach in Oscoda. This worked particularly well this year since Mary Emma was there doing ballet class anyway. I could drive over, catch the last hour or so of her class, and then we would head to the beach mostly to read and rest. I was determined enough to even go when it was a bit rainy and cold. This particular day we were a little too ambitious and didn’t stay long in the sideways rain!
On one day in the city, we took Lydia to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Both of our older girls were there years ago, but Lydia had never been, so we snuck this in while we had the chance. That evening we went to Mary Emma’s performance and the next day was move out day.

Grace and Soren just celebrated their first anniversary and are still living in Columbia, South Carolina. They are teaching for a second year there, although Grace is only teaching a small amount….on account of expecting their first baby at the end of October! We are very excited to be grandparents soon!  They are doing well and enjoying preparing for a baby. Everyone’s first question: are they finding out what it is? The answer is: they are not, until it is born. We look forward to knowing what sweet little one the Lord has been knitting together over these months. 

Grace and Soren are enjoying experiencing life in the south for a while, although they aren’t fond of being far away from both sides of their family. For now they are soaking up the southern culture and year-round warm weather.

The end of our summer brought some rest and also some unexpected sorrow. We had a two week break between cleaning week and preparation for family camp, and we had a vacation planned that almost filled those two weeks. Unfortunately, during our second day there we found out we would need to return home early. Jim’s mom had been in the hospital for several weeks at the end of the summer, and we knew she was not seeming to get better. We also knew that it was a risk to leave town then, but things were pretty locked in with our travel dates and we didn’t have any flexibility to postpone plans and travel later in the year. So we hoped for the best, but then had to regroup and make plans to return home early. Jim’s mom wasn’t doing well and after the weeks she had been in the hospital they were suggesting it was time to change her to comfort care rather than continuing testing and treatments. We couldn’t get flights home for four of us right away, so we ended up having 6 nights away before flying home. We arrived home on a Monday and went right to the hospital in Ann Arbor. I can only be honest and say it was the hardest way to end a vacation that we’ve ever had. To fly home from what was supposed to be a good respite at the end of the summer season, and to walk into final goodbyes with a parent. It was heavy and daunting. But at the same time it was a beautiful gift to make it back to spend those final hours with her and the immediate family. We made the most of our days of resting and being away, and then we walked through the next week of goodbyes and closure and funeral plans. The following Monday was her funeral service. We spent Tuesday handling some more details and came back north on Wednesday. Family Camp started that Friday. It made for a somewhat disorienting start of fall retreats for us again this year. Last year it was moving Mary Emma, Grace’s wedding, and another family funeral during those same weeks. In our humanity, we don’t think of those kinds of line-ups as the ideal, or something we would choose. But we do trust God in them and through them. He knows our hearts better than we do. The thing about starting into a new season of ministry when you feel even more depleted than when you left for vacation, is that it forces us to rely on Him rather than to have any false ideas that we can manage on our own. We came here by His call, we remain here by His provision, and we will be sustained in our work here by His strength alone. 

Heading out on vacation from a layover
We did our best to balance seeing things and resting in the days we had away
Jim’s mom, Sue, loved all things beautiful and feminine. Instead of the formal black, all of the girls in her immediate family honored her by wearing florals and pretty colors at her funeral service.
While we were all dressed up we actually remembered to get a family photo with all of us in it.

Some specific prayer requests:

  • For our support level. We are currently under our recommended level of monthly support by about $620 a month. We have many very faithful churches and individuals who regularly support us. But to help with rising costs it was recommended by Barakel’s treasurer that we seek to increase that amount. We have already had a few supporters increase their giving, some before they even knew the need. We are continually amazed to see the Lord provide for our needs of living here, sometimes even out ahead of the need. But we do need to raise an additional $620 a month to be at our recommended support level.
  • For our healing hearts after the loss of Jim’s mom. Jim was 12 when he lost his dad, so this was his last parent. That brings an additional depth to the loss.
  • For our zeal for the ministry as we continue through the fall
  • For Grace and Soren and baby Moody as they prepare for this exciting arrival in just about a month
  • For staffing needs at Barakel. We are undeniably short staffed across the board. I think it’s safe to say that everyone is feeling the strain. On that note….
  • For the two individual ladies raising support to join staff. Katelyn Leach and Arianna Hassenzahl are both in the process of raising support. Katelyn is a little over halfway, and Ari is just starting out. Pray the Lord would bring them at just the right time, but that perhaps that time would be soon! 

Thank you for your prayers and support as we continue in the ministry here.

Rachel, for the Bennetts

July 2023 Update

(Originally written and emailed on July 25, 2023)

“Sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Tell of his salvation from day to day.”

1 Chronicles 16:23

Greetings from Camp Barakel, where we are already through many of our summer camp weeks! The weeks move by at their typical, brisk pace and suddenly it is six months since our last update!

The summer weeks are going well, as we juggle the many details and different pieces of camp we are involved in.

Jim continues to oversee the office team, which includes registration and accounting as it always has. Those areas follow a fairly predictable rhythm each week, dictated by the cycle of campers coming and going. With each group of campers comes the repeated details of registration, balances, cancellations, additions from the waitlist, and transportation arrangements. All of these things filter through those who work with registration and accounting. New under Jim’s “office umbrella” this year is the health officer role. With our previous health officer leaving in the spring, the oversight of that role transitioned to the office team. That brought a large amount of administration and procedural duties to his plate this summer. He is thankful for another staff member who has stepped into the role of health officer, as well as a large number of both short term and long term nurses to fill the many health needs over the summer. It has been a large amount of extra work for several people, but the Lord is faithful to provide and that team is staffed as needed for the summer, sometimes just when we need it but not before.

Jim also continues to drive a camp bus this summer. He has driven many Saturdays taking campers back downstate at the end of their week. We have more volunteer drivers this summer, so he hasn’t had to drive on Mondays this year. This has been a huge blessing with all of the other areas he is involved in on arrival day. Last week on Monday at one point I turned to him and said, “How were you even gone on a bus last year on Mondays!?” There are always details of health, or registration, or staffing that have changes on Monday that he is looped into, so it has been very nice to have him on property that day.

Both of us continue to work with the group of summer staff known as the YAPS (Young Adult Program Staff). That group is doing very well so far this summer. We began the summer with barely enough to run activity areas, but as we get to each week, the holes are filled enough that we haven’t had to close any areas. Some of it has taken some creative thinking doubling people on jobs, but we are making it work each week. We are VERY thankful for a summer staff leader who serves as our YAPS PA (PA stands for personnel assistant). She is here all summer and she helps us run the YAPS program, living in the housing with them and being the coordinator of all the chaos. We are enjoying our time with all these young people we are helping to coordinate. Many are this year’s high school grads, a few are a bit older. All are giving multiple weeks of their summer, some their whole summer, filling activity areas and doing so many jobs around camp. 

Helping run the YAPS program is a large portion of the work I am doing this summer. As part of that, I am in charge of scheduling piano players each week of the summer. Playing piano at meals and in chapel is a potential YAPS job, but it requires screening players, getting them the music, and helping them get the music ready and consistent for chapels. Have you been following our ministry at Barakel for a while? If so, you may remember that just a short time ago, as we were first being led to consider joining the staff at Barakel, I became convicted that it was time for me to work on playing piano for congregational singing. I had the music background and experience playing in other settings but had never played hymns and praise songs for group worship. I mention that here to say, it wasn’t very long ago that I was new to that role, and was nervous, easily flustered, and not very confident stepping out and learning a new skill. This also means that now I easily have a heart for the young piano players that come my way, desiring to grow in their skills and to use their abilities in worship at Barakel. I am by no means an expert or the most talented piano player. But because I tackled the same thing not long ago, the Lord has equipped me to be able to relate to these players and to be able to come alongside them and help them improve their skills. Some of them are able to play during the summer at meals or in chapels, some aren’t quite yet. But my hope is to build interest in some of the high school aged players so that by the time they are of summer-staff age perhaps they will be equipped to serve in this way. And for all of them, who knows where the Lord will take them and use the skills they are building now. It has been a part of my role here that I have really enjoyed so far. 

Depending on our staffing each week, there are some weeks we don’t have 2 YAPS to cover piano playing (2 of them because of 2 sides of camp, thus 2 chapels). On those weeks sometimes I am on the schedule as a piano player, which means playing at meals for a short time as well as in morning and evening chapel. It makes for a full week, but it is a joy to be part of helping campers learn the summer songs and worship God. I think my favorite part is hearing the difference in singing from the beginning of the week to the end. I do not tire of the enthusiastic, heart-felt singing of a chapel full of children or teens. 

Despite the fact that I wanted to get this written and sent many weeks ago, this week we are in the second to last week of campers. It is a full house this week, however, with both sides of camp fully registered with as many campers as we can house. Due to lower staffing, most camp weeks were registered at a lower number of campers than full capacity. However, this week is full, with one side having high school campers, and the other side having middle school. Our staffing is tight, with very little margin, but we praise the Lord that we have enough counselors and that activity areas are just covered. 

Please continue to pray for us as we finish the summer season over the next couple of weeks. Be praying for the health and stamina of the resident staff and summer staff as we seek to fill next week’s staffing needs. Like this week, it is tight next week having enough to cover all of the needs. Also be praying for the summer staff as they work toward finishing the summer well. Pray for their spiritual growth as they close one season and move on to the various things they have in the fall. It can be a bumpy transition leaving Barakel after a season of intense growth and ministry. Thank you for your support, both in prayer and financially, which allows us to continue to be here. You all mean so much to us. We love to see you and visit with you when you come to camp either as campers during retreats or as workers filling one of the many volunteer roles. Stay in touch and let us know how things are going for you!

Rachel, for the Bennetts

We hosted a movie night for YAPS at our house on a Friday evening. This is a good number of them, but not all, since they aren’t all here on any given week. They are a GREAT group of young people!

Working through Winter

Since yesterday’s post was all about fall, but we are now well into our winter retreat season, I figured I would move quickly on to a brief look at winter as well as some specific ways you can be praying for our family. 

We have had two weekends of winter retreats so far and are in the midst of the third. We will have 9 weekends of retreats total, with events for college aged young adults, fathers and sons, fathers and daughters, junior high teens and senior high teens. Our first two retreats were a little low on, well, winter! They were not low on campers, however, so our creative programmers did what they do best – created fun! Sometimes in the winter that even involves hauling snow from around camp to the tubing hill, which in and of itself is not fun (although I’ve never personally been involved!), but it helps provide the fun of the tubing hill for campers even when snow is scarce. Thankfully, this past Thursday some snow arrived, so we have winter fun this weekend without hauling snow. Not quite all of the activities are open yet (the ice rinks are still getting set up and we couldn’t quite open cross-country skiing), but hopefully this snow will stay and create a base for more. 

In the midst of wishing for winter weather and running winter events, we are actively planning for summer. We are already receiving summer staff applications, which makes us very happy! Remember that new system I mentioned Jim setting up to handle volunteer applications? Those of us working with summer staff are all getting used to using it. Adjusting to new technology usually feels a bit awkward at first as we try to find the information we need to see. But we’re getting at it and starting to process applications and do interviews. Jim and I are again working with the group who will be high school graduates this year – the YAPS as we call them. As we learned the ropes last year, hopefully this year it won’t be all new things to us. It is even fun to see our YAPS from last year start to apply as counselors this year! 

Another big happening yet to come in early February is the opening of registration for summer camp, followed by the opening of registration for the STEP program a week later. At that point we will have a framework beginning to form of summer staff, summer campers excited to come, and high school volunteers being assigned to vital work roles. Summer memory verses have been chosen, songs for summer chapels are being chosen, handbooks are being designed. So even as we pray for more snow, we look ahead to summer. Somehow even a brief update about our winter work is also about summer!

As always, however, it must be a balance. We work, and we wait. We plan, and we trust. We do what we can with the parts we can work on today, and we trust the Lord with all the pieces we don’t yet know how to fit together. Looking ahead to summer, there are several fairly large unknown pieces. As we have had several Resident Missionary Staff leave recently, and we face more leaving in the coming months, it leaves us wondering how it will all work out and all the roles get filled. It tempts us to perhaps think of working harder, thinking harder how to come up with solutions and ideas. And while there is a place for working and thinking harder, we also are forced to recognize that it is not by our own doing, or striving, or working that any of this is possible. Our ministry here is possible because of Christ and what He has done for us. Our very salvation is possible not by our own doing, but by the work of Christ. So as we work through winter and plan for summer, we look to Christ to do what we cannot: bring volunteers, bring staff, and equip all of us for another summer of proclaiming His greatness and His glory.

Some specific ways you can be praying for Barakel and our family:

  • Perseverance and motivation in the work as we plan for summer with less staff
  • For summer staff as they are considering serving here and applying
  • For the open positions in the Resident Missionary Staff
  • Our support level – we are being asked to raise more support to compensate for inflation. It is a hard thing to ask when everyone feels the strain of the economy
  • Protection for Mary Emma – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually
  • Spiritual growth for Mary Emma even in the midst of a worldly city
  • Direction for Mary Emma for the next step, deciding whether to stay in New York next year (it is not an economical choice!), switch to the Dallas, TX location of the same school, or seek a different training opportunity
  • Direction for Grace and Soren as they decide whether to teach another year in South Carolina or seek the next thing.
  • Continued contentment for Lydia as she gets through sophomore year as the only kid at home. So far we are doing well and it is a sweet time with her.
  • Safety for Lydia (and us!) as she finished up driver’s ed in December and got her permit just last week!

Thank you for your support and for your prayers. 
Rachel, for the Bennetts

Fall Flashback!

We had a great fall at Camp Barakel and in our family, and it’s time to get you all updated!  After the steady crescendo of our year leading up to some big family changes this fall, it was relieving to finally walk through the long-planned events and out the other side of them smoothly. As you may know from our three most recent emails/blog posts, camp life and work were punctuated with some big family things this year.

As summer ended, we got Mary Emma moved to New York City where she is attending Joffrey Ballet School. This has been a large change for her from living in Fairview the last couple of years! She has enjoyed her adjustment to life in the big city and we have enjoyed seeing her rise to the challenge and show a whole new level of responsibility. The Lord has gone before her and seems to be active and working in her as she navigates the city, the school, and the arts world. As parents we pray continually for her protection not only physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well. All of these things can come under attack in the secular arts world, so we are trusting her to the Lord’s care. Having her there just reveals our need to entrust our children’s futures to the Lord no matter where they are. We thank the Lord as we see her seek to walk wisely there. A particular praise is her persistence in finding a church to attend that she feels is a good fit. She finished up her first semester in mid-December and we headed there to see her school’s performance of The Nutcracker. She has been in a Nutcracker performance every year since she was 8 (except 2020), so it was pretty exciting to go see her in the big city! We traveled home with her for Christmas break and enjoyed a month with her home. She returned to school for second semester which goes until May. We appreciate your prayers for her as she continues to navigate life in the city.

We got connected with a photographer in the city who works with Cru, specifically with artists in the city. Mary Emma met up with her for some free dance photos – fun for Mary Emma, good practice for the photographer!

After the performances were finished in December the girls did some city ice skating. Things we learned: 1. ice skates are allowed through airport security in a carry-on suitcase, 2. skating at Bryant Park Winter Village is free and less crowded than at Rockefeller, 3. plastic snowmen that kids push around the ice for stability can in fact beat you up (ask Lydia sometime!)

She danced 5 shows for the Nutcracker. For some of the shows she was in Waltz of the Flowers.

For some of the shows she was in the Russian dance

After moving Mary Emma, then getting back to camp to run Labor Day Family Camp, we headed off to Maryland for Grace and Soren’s wedding. We have had a lot of the question, “Why Maryland?” Soren’s family lives there and has some lovely farmland, so Grace and Soren decided to get married there. It ended up being an absolutely beautiful location for a wedding. Rolling farmland, fields of sunflowers, and a large riding barn for the reception. And better than all of that were the efforts and hospitality of the Moody family. My goodness. What a week it was! Just a ton of work to pull together a home venue like that, but we were blessed beyond measure by how the two families worked together so naturally and by an impressively large network of their friends and family who were helping every day. I can’t think of another time I saw so many people come together to run one event like that except, well, here at Barakel! But here we have a facility designed for it and a staff and a whole established structure for the volunteers who make it possible. Imagine that kind of thing, but at a home, on private property, with a big open barn, and a bunch of family and friends trying to make it all happen. It was exhausting and stretching, but so so beautiful and precious. It all went smoothly, felt like a massive blur once it got in motion, and then we all were left processing for what felt like weeks! But Mr. and Mrs. Soren Moody went on their way and are now settled in Columbia, SC, both teaching at a classical Christian school. We appreciate your prayers for them as they continue to get settled and adjust to the early months of marriage.

We had a small but mighty group of Barakel friends make the trip down for the wedding. Fun to have some of Grace’s close friends from summer staff be there!

After all of that travel and change, we headed home to our house of three, just Jim, Lydia, and me. We were ready to settle into a fall routine which included school at home, driver’s ed, and fall retreats.

That finally brings us to…fall retreat season at Barakel! That’s the real reason for these updates after all, right? Our work at Barakel! Through September and October we ran 6 weekend retreats followed by one co-labor work weekend. We hosted couples, fathers and sons, fathers and daughters, and multiple weekends of separate ladies’ and men’s events. I personally enjoy the fall retreat season. I like the rhythm of the weeks, and the retreats set amidst the more gentle weather as compared to the winter season. This year the predictability of the fall schedule even felt like a bit of a breather compared to the summer and big family stuff.

The packed out chapel during a double-sided ladies retreat. 
Jim’s spot greeting during a men’s retreat. Men are welcomed with hot dogs as they arrive!

After fall retreats we get a bit of a maintenance season around camp. This is time for some projects to be done that might not fit in at other times. For Jim this year these weeks kept him going pretty steadily. He was able to get all the West Side buildings connected with Camp’s fiber optic network.  With all the buildings connected to the network, he was able to build a system to notify camp staff if a building is having trouble with its fire alarm.  Additionally, he was able to get a new system configured for organizing volunteer applications.  December is also his time for planning camp’s budget and updating policies for the 2023 year.

November and December also include time for some staff training. We did a refresher on our CPR/First Aid training; and Jim led a staff training on Microsoft Excel. As camp has implemented more and more technology tools, there is a need for staff to know how to use those tools!

After two and a half years on staff, we can see a little more of the big picture of how Jim fits here at this place in Barakel’s history. If you wonder how he fits here or what exactly his role is at camp, I recently described it this way: it’s like he has to take his background in technology for businesses, discern what applies to the ministry at Barakel, implement it, and help people know how to use it. I would lean into the word “discern” in that sentence. Businesses have a lot of technology and tools. Not all of them apply to running a ministry, but some do. A ministry has some unique needs and different ways of running compared to a business.  But there is a common ground of things that help both to run better and to have responsible procedures and practices. That common ground is the space where Jim works. I recently heard it said that living at camp is a calling and a lifestyle. It can be a challenging place to live, set in the culture of “up north Michigan,” which we are learning is really a thing of its own. To be honest, during this busy year we have struggled with the distance and the confines of the calendar. We can be tempted to covet the freedom and ease and comforts of life lived more traditionally. But when we look at Jim’s role specifically, and how he fits into the work here, we find assurance that this is still where the Lord is calling us to be.

I recently finished the book Forgotten God by Francis Chan. In one chapter it discussed the idea of being led to live and work in a particular place, and how often perhaps we prefer to think we are led to be somewhere because it is comfortable or we like it there or it is convenient. I was both challenged and encouraged by that chapter (and the book as a whole!) This following section particularly encouraged me as I applied it to our life and work here at Barakel, and I pray it will encourage you as well as you consider where you are settled and what work God has for you there:

“It is true that God may have called you to be exactly where you are. But it’s absolutely vital to grasp that He didn’t call you there so you could settle in and live out your life in comfort and superficial peace. His purposes are not random or arbitrary. If you are still alive on this planet, it’s because He has something for you to do. He placed us on this earth for purposes that He orchestrated long before we were born (Eph. 2:8-10). Do you believe you exist not for your own pleasure but to help people know the love of Jesus and to come fully alive in Him? If so, then that will shape how you live your life in the place where you are.”

We continue to trust in the Lord to equip us for the work He has for us here.
Rachel, for the Bennetts

End of summer (Ha!) – Update #5: A Very Late Update on Lydia

(Emailed on 11/5/2022)

At the end of the summer, I sent an update about Grace and one about Mary Emma. Next up was Lydia, but then family events took over and fall retreats were in full swing after that. So here I finally am to give some due credit to our youngest daughter, Lydia. You see, it might be easy for Grace and Mary Emma to take all the attention this year since they had the big life changes. But in the background, quietly, not asking for much attention of her own, is their younger sister, Lydia. What a year it has been for her having both sisters graduate, both sisters move far away, and one get married. It has been a lot for her to tag along for, to be a constant support and helper for. She has done so in the most admirable way, showing so much stability and emotional maturity. Sure, I’m mom, so I’m biased. But really, if I boast, then I boast in what God has done. In her younger years, life was a journey of struggle for Lydia, and consequently for us. Now I simply marvel at the growth that has occurred slowly, faithfully, over time.  What a dear one she now is to us, and her stability has blessed us in so many ways this year.

Toward the beginning of the summer, Lydia turned 15. Her birthday happened to fall on a Wednesday, our family’s day off. We went downstate that day for some appointments, but then made sure to fit in some things just for Lydia. One of those things was to go get sushi for dinner. Asian food is Lydia’s love language. 🙂 

Lydia had a mix of things planned throughout the summer. A little bit of being home to be a staff kid, a week as a camper, a couple of weeks volunteering as a tech, as well as a couple of things away from home. She was registered to attend Blue Lake Fine Arts camp for visual arts, and she was hoping to volunteer at our sending church in Brighton to help with VBS. It was scheduled out to be a pretty busy summer for her. Unfortunately, only some of those things went as planned. Her session at Blue Lake was cancelled the day before it started due to Covid among their staff. One of her tech weeks at Barakel she was sick and couldn’t do it. And she decided not to work the VBS week because of how the timing worked out with the other two sisters being home, all together for the last time before the moving out started. Some disappointments for sure, but she took all of it in stride and made the best of the last-minute changes. It did allow her more time with sisters and more time enjoying camp with the other staff kids.

The technicians (techs for short) spend a lot of time wiping tables

One fun thing Lydia did get to do mid-summer was go down to Cincinnati with both sisters. Mary Emma was already there for her three-week ballet program, and Grace and Lydia went down for a long weekend. They joined Mary Emma with the family of one of Grace’s college roommates, where Mary Emma had already been staying. Mary Emma had been blessed with having such a great place to stay all through her ballet intensive. Grace was blessed having all but one of her bridesmaids there as they worked on some wedding projects. And Lydia was blessed in a way uniquely all her own. The Wong family they were staying with is of Chinese heritage, so Lydia was able to soak in some of the cultural things that we are a bit deficient in! We have been thrilled that as Lydia has grown, she embraces her Chinese ethnicity with a wonderful balance. She feels fully American and the same as the rest of us in the family, and yet she really enjoys Asian culture of all kinds. With the Wongs, she was surrounded by a great family who shared all sorts of Asian culture with her – hair, makeup, cooking, snacks. I started calling it Camp Wong and I’m pretty sure Lydia was delighted by about every minute of it.

One very adventurous thing the girls learned to make with the Wongs was some basic sushi! We felt very accomplished to pull that off at home! It was actually more doable than I would have guessed – as long as I can get some correct ingredients at an Asian market.

Another Asian meal I tackled was Beef Lo Mein. It was so good and again, not actually hard once I had the magic ingredients. Lo Mein for dinner, leftovers for breakfast and lunch. That’s how Lydia rolls!

After summer camp finished, the next phase of busy began for us, and Lydia was along for the ride on a lot of it. She went along to move Mary Emma to school and she enjoyed her first trip to New York City! She said she was the most impressed with Times Square. Of course, she had seen it on tv and assumed she knew what to expect in person, but then in real life it was so much bigger and more impressive than she had expected!  After about five days there, we said goodbye to Mary Emma and headed home with three rather than four. A teen could find reason to be grumpy or full of attitude at a time like that, but Lydia embraced it with sweetness and calm. What a blessing to us as parents.

Lydia’s first time in Times Square

The next big transition came less than a week later as we once again took to the road to head to Maryland for Grace’s wedding week. Lydia was a steady helper with anything from loading the car (NO SMALL TASK!), to slicing vegetables for the reception, to fitting candles in candlesticks, to supporting her sister as a bridesmaid. When the wedding was over and the happy couple had departed, the next phase of helping began, and Lydia quietly plugged away at that too. There was so much cleanup to be done the next day and so much packing up the day after that; and all in the midst of what felt like a whole succession of goodbyes: goodbye to Grace and Soren, goodbye to Mary Emma heading back to school, goodbye to grandparents and other family who had traveled down, goodbye to close friends who had been by our side during the whole event, even goodbye to Soren’s family who had hosted us at their home and property for the week. Again, a teen could find reason to be glum. In those bittersweet days, she was a sweet companion for us to share it all with, feeling the range of feelings while we said more and more goodbyes until it was once again just the three of us heading off in the car on the long road toward home.  

So what is Lydia up to now? She continues to be homeschooled and is in 10th grade. We’ve often taken school in the car when we are headed places, but this year was the first year we purchased curriculum and actually began the year in the car!  A long car ride to Maryland was a great time to start Geometry! Then after returning home from all the travel, she got a rolling start on all the other subjects. She is continuing to learn piano at home with me and is continuing violin lessons virtually with her teacher she took lessons with downstate. She has started driver’s ed this fall. The class is virtual with in person drives. So far we are a bit frustrated with the management of it and the very slow scheduling of drives. At the rate they are scheduling the drives she will be many months getting the 6 drives in, which will unfortunately slow down her timeline a bit.

We have taken these photos at the beginning of the school year since we started homeschooling. This was the first year with only one student. It seemed a little lonely so we added in our tiny aquatic frog.

We sold Grace’s college car this fall, the red VW Beetle. Lydia wanted a chance to drive it before we got rid of it, even if it was just driving it in circles around the maintenance yard.

Thank you for allowing me to boast about our youngest a bit. She wasn’t the one with the big, exciting, attention-seeking events. But she was there for all of it, quietly and supportively, and with a surprising amount of mature calm through it all. We sure do thank God for placing her in our family. 

Rachel, for the Bennetts

End of summer – Update #4: Mary Emma

(Originally emailed on 8/25/2022)

This “week long” update hasn’t exactly stayed true to the timeline, but that’s ok, I’ll keep at it and get you all filled in. With all of the large transitions for our family this year it feels worthwhile to give it the words it deserves and fully update those who are sincerely concerned and supportive. If you are reading these, that is you. We continue to be so thankful for the care we have been shown by so many. Being transparent and sharing our lives the best we can is one way we feel we can honor that care. Today I’ll get you caught up on our second daughter, Mary Emma. 

Mary Emma, or Memzy as we sometimes call her, is our high school graduate this year. The last I shared about what she was doing, we were planning a trip for some more ballet auditions in April. It took some waiting through ambiguity since then, but she finally has a plan and we have been along for the ride as it has fallen into place. 

At the beginning of June, we honored the end of her high school work with both an open house as well as a Sunday morning service at our sending church. They have a graduation Sunday each year and as homeschoolers we have made that a priority as a simple way to publicly acknowledge our graduate. This year they planned it on June 5, which was the last Sunday of summer staff workshop for us at camp, and the day before Hisability campers arrived. If we were going to be down for a Sunday morning we decided to plan her open house the same day at the church. The weeks before, we prepped food and got as much ready as we could, then brought it all down with us Saturday evening to set up. When I write it all summarized in one sentence like that it sounds almost comically simple! But in fact, a lot of time leading up to it was filled with all of the planning and preparations. On the one hand, it was easier to plan an open house at a location that wasn’t our home, on the other hand it was more difficult to have to plan the logistics of pre-making everything and transporting it all down! It all came together though, and it was really nice to visit with our family, church family, and friends who came to celebrate Mary Emma. She got very practiced at explaining that she still didn’t know where she was headed in the fall, and sharing what her current options were. 

A week after her open house, Mary Emma had her final performance with her dance studio up here in Oscoda, Northeast Academy of Dance. We enjoyed seeing how much she has improved just since December with the intense training she has had since then.

Toward the end of June, Mary Emma left to attend a three week ballet training program in Cincinnati. The Cincinnati Ballet was one place she was considering for fall and attending their summer program served as an audition for their year round programs. In the end, she didn’t end up preferring to go there even though it did end up being an option for her. Even with a decision not to attend there in the fall, the three weeks she was there were such a provision for her. She danced everyday in their collegiate level program, but rather than staying with the collegiate dancers on a nearby college campus, she stayed with some friends who live just north of the city. This is a family of one of Grace’s college roommates and bridesmaids, and the provision of Mary Emma staying with them was amazing. They are a vibrant, Christian family with three girls, they were all home for the summer, and they welcomed Mary Emma like one of their own. It was a provision financially of course, since we didn’t have to pay for housing at the University, and they spoiled her the whole time with amazing food. But beyond that it was a provision spiritually as they live such Spirit-filled lives and Mary Emma was able to do life with them for those weeks. We are so thankful for the Lord’s working in her life there, right as she was making a decision for fall and preparing to head away from home for the first time.

One of the few pictures we have from her training in Cincinnati. It has certainly been fun watching her improvement over the last two years!
The Wong family, who Mary Emma stayed with for the three weeks in Cincinnati. They spoiled her and loved her like their own. What a blessing that was for her and for us!

That brings us to what comes next for her! She has chosen to attend Joffrey Ballet School, which is one of the schools we visited in Dallas in April. The original location of the school, however, is in New York City, and that is where Mary Emma has chosen to go. When accepted at the school, a student can choose either location, and can even switch back and forth by the year or by the semester. It is definitely more of a leap of faith since we only visited the Texas location. But after several months of praying and seeking and considering, she was more drawn to the New York location and the opportunities there. It is pretty amazing to us to see how God has opened this path and provided opportunities literally through our move to the woods. Who would’ve thought? It continues to make me smile and shake my head when I think of all that the Lord knows and has under control. Why are we continually surprised when He does amazing things that we simply couldn’t foresee?

Along those same lines is how we must think as we prepare to take her to NYC to live for this year. Right in Manhattan, in the secular arts world, which feels about like the center of worldliness. But we choose to remember how the Lord has surprised us with this path after moving here, and so we trust He goes before her into the city and will keep her set apart for His purposes. During the last week of campers, I enjoyed hearing some messages for high schoolers about Daniel in Babylon. The challenge to campers was to be in the world but not of it; to learn to cooperate with the culture without compromise. That is our prayer for Mary Emma as we take her to what feels a bit like Babylon. We leave this Saturday and will head home next Thursday as she starts classes. Pray for her and for us as we juggle all of this. There are a lot of details to figure out, supplies to gather, miles to drive, and costs involved. We seek to trust the Lord one step at a time!

Rachel, for the Bennetts

Last week of summer camp – Update #3: Grace’s shenanigans

(Originally emailed on 8/13/2022)

In the midst of our spring and summer seasons here at camp, we have had a lot going on in our family as well. One daughter at a time, one day at a time, I’ll fill you in on what they’ve all been up to and what comes next. No, this isn’t exactly an update about our ministry here at Barakel. But we were called to our family first, and these family happenings have certainly occupied our time, hearts, and minds this summer. Today, I begin with our oldest daughter, Grace.

Toward the beginning of May we enjoyed a weekend down in Hillsdale to attend Grace’s graduation. We enjoyed a beautiful Baccalaureate service as well as the graduation ceremony. Grace graduated with a major in English and a minor in Latin. Her fiancé, Soren, also graduated so we enjoyed time with him and his family that weekend as well. In fact, we all shared a rental house and squeezed in together. Humorously, we made plans quite a long time ago to share a rental, after they had only been dating a short time. We told them that if they were going to break up then they had to wait until after graduation, or that it better be on really good terms or staying together would be really awkward!  Alls well that ends well, it all worked out and we had a great time with soon-to-be in-laws!

Grace then tried out life on the road for a bit. We brought her things home from college, and she went to Maryland to stay with Soren’s family for a couple of weeks in order to do some wedding planning there. Luckily they also bought a car while they were there, which luckily turned out to be a pretty reliable little thing, because they then drove some circles around the eastern US. They attended a wedding in Northern Michigan, dropped Soren off in North Carolina where he would spend the summer working at Camp Deerfoot, then Grace went to South Carolina to register their vehicle, went back to Maryland to finish some wedding tasks, then drove home. A lot of miles logged and we were thankful for her safety along the way, especially being in an entirely untested used car!

Once home, her projects began. There was a fence painting project here at camp on the staff road where we live. There were 60 candlesticks to thrift and spray paint. There were glass goblets to thrift. There were wedding invitations to design, order, and send. There were 20 cheesecakes to make and freeze. Yes, 20. There were two wedding showers, one here at camp and one downstate. Basically, all things wedding. There was square dancing to teach to the next “generation” of summer staff. There were belongings to sort through and pack up. There were two more road trips thrown in for good measure. During this time she also secured a job teaching at the same school where Soren will be teaching. They will both be at a Classical Christian School in Columbia, SC.

All in all it was a very busy time, always with a trail of projects strewn about our house. There was always something to discuss, always something to start, work on, and only occasionally finish. The days were filled with not a small amount of chaos and mess set amidst summer camp, but the days were over all too soon. On July 22, after all of the shenanigans, we loaded up her trusty car with as much as it could carry and she headed out. For four years we’ve gotten used to waving goodbye as she drives away, but this one was different. This time “home” was moving with her. She headed first to North Carolina to spend a little bit of time at Camp Deerfoot where Soren has been. Then when that summer camp was finished, they both headed to South Carolina. 

They have temporary places to stay from now until the wedding on September 10. They begin teaching this coming Monday.  Pray for them as they begin these new jobs, as they look for a place to live after the wedding, and as they go through these last weeks before marrying. It is a happy time for sure, but it is also an overwhelming time as they step fully into adult mode!

One last go around with calling square dancing. As the cart says, camp is fun!

Last week of summer camp – Update #2: YAPS

(Originally emailed 8/9/2022)

I have previously referred to a new role we had this summer working with a group of our summer staff. We were the coordinators for the YAPS program. As I’ve mentioned before, YAPS stands for Young Adult Program Staff. The group is made up of mostly high school graduates who come to serve in a variety of jobs that are needed to keep camp running. They run archery and riflery ranges, help in the kitchen, work at the waterfront, run the camp store and handcrafts area, take pictures and videos, work at the zipline, and do laundry. Besides their main job, they do countless other jobs like sort mail, help at Ambush (the all-camp evening game), run sound in chapel, host camper arrivals on Monday before the buses arrive, and on and on. 

After reviewing applications and interviewing applicants through the winter and spring, we welcomed around 35 young men and women throughout the summer. They came for a couple of weeks, the whole summer, or anywhere in between. It has been a great experience working with all of them, but also a large learning curve! We prepared the best we could and we continued learning on the job as the summer got going. We were beyond thankful to have a summer staff leader helping us, Mercy Olson. She was what we call a YAPS PA, or Personnel Assistant. It was a great provision for us during our first year in this role that we had an organizational guru for our YAPS PA! She made our jobs infinitely easier by handling her tasks so well. She even did work to improve the program next year and make the job easier for whoever fills her role next year. 

So, what did we do on a weekly basis? We continually scheduled and rescheduled the YAPS into their main jobs, which is a bit like aiming at a moving target. Just about the time we would get it all set and feel accomplished, something would change and we’d be back shuffling and figuring again. We helped run, and then mostly just attended and oversaw, the couple of weekly meetings for the YAPS. Jim ran the Bible study one evening for the boy YAPS, Mercy ran the study for the girl YAPS, I just attended when I wasn’t playing piano in chapel at the same time. We hosted them nearly every Friday night in our home after the combined chapel, not gathering until 9:15. That was a fun opportunity to just have them over for some form of fun; watching a movie, building a fire and making s’mores, or playing a game. Squeeze a bunch of hard-worked young people into a small living room, feed them popcorn or cookies or brownies, and you’ve got some appreciative people who just like to relax, laugh, and spend some downtime together. We were glad to be able to do that each week. In between these things, add in a couple more meetings with the personnel committee to make sure we are all on the same page, and that kept us plenty busy around our other camp responsibilities. 

We have learned a lot this summer about the YAPS program. We look forward to sort of debriefing this fall to go over what went well and what should go better. We know a lot more now than we did at the beginning of the summer. And yet, Mercy is the true master of allll the details, so if we continue in the same role next year I feel like there is still more for us to learn. There is no doubt it is a program with MANY details and moving parts. 

Throughout the summer I repeatedly turned to a book of prayers and liturgies to use with the YAPS as encouragements. It became our routine frequently at our Monday night meeting that Mercy would expertly cover all the details with them from the weekly schedule to their cleaning chores to any last minute changes. We would often share highs and lows from the previous week. And then I would end the meeting with a reading, often from the book Every Moment Holy. At first I felt like I was sort of this weird end to the meeting that everyone sort of tolerated. But then the more I read each week, I began to get questions afterward about what book it was or if they could get a copy of part of it. I think my favorite was one week when talking to one YAP afterwards, I got compared to green beans. It was the part that they sort of listened to because they knew it was good, but then learned to like it the more they had it. I thought that was fantastic and I was more than happy to be the green beans of the YAP meeting! Here is a small excerpt that I read early in the summer. It represents well the types of things we sought to teach them through their time serving in the YAPS program. 

”Teach me to shepherd the small duties
of this day with great love,
tending faithfully those tasks
you place within my care
and tending with patience and
kindness the needs and hearts of
those people you place within my reach. 

Nothing is too hard for you, Lord Christ. 
I deposit now all confidence in you
that whatever these waking hours bring,
my foundations will not be shaken. 

At day’s end I will lay me down again to sleep
Knowing that my best hope is well kept in you. 

In all things your grace will sustain me. 
Bid me follow,
and I will follow.”

Rachel, for the Bennetts

A team building activity we did with the YAPS during workshop. 
One of our Monday night YAPS meetings
The week we had the most YAPS of the whole summer was the first week we had them out to our house on a Friday night. It was one crowded living room!

Last week of summer camp – Update #1: Highs and Lows

(Originally emailed 8/8/2022)

Today we welcomed the last group of summer campers. It’s what we refer to around here as “Week 12.” The first group of youth campers came Week 4. Before that we had two weeks of summer staff training and one week of disabled adult campers. Since Week 4 we have hosted 7 weeks of junior campers, 1 week of middle school campers, 6 weeks of junior high campers, and 2 weeks (plus 1 more this week) of high school campers.  All of those campers have sung of God’s greatness, heard the gospel of Christ, and discussed many other truths from God’s Word. It’s why we do what we do at Camp Barakel. In fact, we’ve been so tied up in the work of summer camp that it has been 4 months since our last update! The more time that passed, the harder it was to figure out what to share in an update. In order to catch you up on what has been happening, this week I am going to send a short update each day, each one about a different piece of what has occupied our time and efforts. 

Today, besides just the general update, I’m going to use something we’ve made use of throughout the summer. One of our roles this summer has been to work with a group of the summer staff called the YAPS: Young Adult Program Staff. Every Monday night we have a meeting with the YAPS covering the many details of the week. Many weeks we would begin that meeting by sharing highs and lows from throughout the previous week. It was a great way to build connections in the group; to hear the various joys and struggles that each one had as they served in their individual jobs. So today we each share several highs and lows from our summer. These aren’t necessarily the highest of the highs or the lowest of the lows. In a rather public ministry, sometimes the highest and lowest points are things that we can’t even share publicly, which is something I do struggle with when it comes to writing updates. But these things are some simple joys and challenges we have met along the way during the last 12 weeks. 


– Running the YAPS program, especially working with the young people who were part of the program this year. 
– Building a way to send personalized emails to parents for each camper the week before they come; those emails now include all the important information, customized for each camper
– Watching the YAPS grow spiritually throughout the summer. It was a privilege to be a part of that. 

– The scheduling struggles that came along with trying to corral such a large group of young people! It was surprisingly cumbersome all of the summer trying to keep track of who was coming and going when. 
– Mondays we’re especially long days, in particular when driving a bus. The day starts at 4:30am, then I’m driving and on the go until the YAP meeting at night which sometimes starts as late as 9:15pm. 
– Having to get out of bed at 12:30 one night to fight a bat with a piano book and a broken down cardboard box. 


– Playing piano in chapels some weeks. Like last year, a top favorite of that was Hisability week. What a fun group to be involved with. 
– Having all 3 of our girls home, coming and going some, everyone busy with slightly different things, but all here together and overlapping some. That was how we enjoyed it until late July. 
– Having people we know come here for camp weeks. Teens from our sending church, family, supporters we enjoyed visiting with, volunteer staff we don’t get to see very often. Visiting with people we know and love has been an encouragement. 

– There was this one weekend where everything seemed to go wrong. Lots of ridiculous things all piled up, like an overflowing toilet, mice getting into my cleaning assignment building, and wasted time doing things I later found out didn’t need to be done. 
– Conflicts with people. I wish this wasn’t in my lows, but we live in a fallen world, so sadly conflicts happen no matter where we are. 
– Toward the end of July, Grace loaded up as many belongings as she could into her car and headed off toward the next season of life. I marvel at how things in life can simultaneously seem heartbreaking and the most natural thing in the world, all at the same time. Having our oldest move out was one of those things. 

It seems simplistic to say the last four months have been busy. Of course it has been busy, but so has your life, and most lives everywhere. I think sometimes if there’s one thing we reliably share it is our busy-ness. Partway through the summer I started trying to avoid using the word “busy” to answer the question, “how is your family?” Or “how is camp going?” Or “how are you doing?” Of course it has been busy. But it has been many other things as well, and frequently many of the things have opposites that have been equally true. It has been exciting, but sometimes mundane. It has been encouraging, but sometimes discouraging. It has been challenging, but mostly manageable. It has been fast paced, but some days slower paced. It has been people-filled, but sometimes lonely. Highs and lows. The good with the bad. The bitter with the sweet. 

We thank you so much for any part you have played in keeping us here, sustaining us, supporting us, caring for us. Your care and provision has meant so much to us as we have journeyed through this summer. I hope you will enjoy our updates this week as we share about the various things that have kept us…busy?…no…how about some synonyms…engaged, occupied, knee-deep, industrious, flourishing, absorbed, immersed, bustling. 

Thank you again,
Rachel, for the Bennetts

Catching up

Playing catch up here! The next few posts will be a series of emails I sent as end of summer updates. I never got them copied onto here for those who follow us here. And the very last “end of summer update” just now finally got sent today! So here goes…the next five posts will fill in the large gap from April through the end of summer and into the beginning of fall.

February Finishings, March Maintenance, and April Anticipations

After our last update in February, we finished out the month with three more teen retreats and a father/daughter retreat. We barely held onto our winter weather in order to finish out those retreats with some winter activities. Not to say the cold promptly left after that, but the snow had thinned considerably and the ice rinks were not suitable for skating. We were glad to have gotten through the retreats with enough activities to fill the weekends.  In and around the retreats, Jim and I really got going with some summer staff interviews for our Young Adult Program Staff (YAPS). We have learned the application and interview process, and we have really enjoyed beginning to get to know these young people who are interested in serving here for some or all of their summer. We have also enjoyed working alongside Jon and Stacy Ford, Dan and Sarah Haines, and Luke and Katie Benninger, the other staff members who are working to steward this summer’s group of teen and young adult volunteers that the Lord is sending our way.  At home, we juggled several extra things throughout the rest of February as well. Mary Emma had two ballet auditions that we had to travel short distances to; one in Troy, MI and one in Columbus, OH. These were for summer programs as well as to initiate interest in professional training programs for next year. I was also able to go down to Hillsdale College to visit Grace and meet with her professors one last time before she graduates. Looking back, it was a lot to fit in around the camp schedule, but I am thankful I was able to be a part of those extra things for our girls. The time is fleeting while they are still in the years of being more centered at home.

March went by in a blink, kicking off the maintenance season here at camp. We have a couple of weeks where all the staff do a spring deep cleaning of many buildings around camp, so both Jim and I were part of that. In addition to that, the staff ladies continue the deep cleaning in some other buildings on select mornings throughout March and April. It can be overwhelming at the beginning, but we have found (in our short two years of experience) that you just get at it one task at a time, and sure enough it gets done. Bluetooth earbuds and audiobooks make the time pass rather pleasantly!

Toward the beginning of March, all of the resident staff as well as some of our seasonal staff went down to Gull Lake Ministries in Southwest Michigan for the Christian Camping and Conference Association (shortened to CCCA, colloquially known as 3CA, which I might feel cooler for knowing now). For three days, we had our first experience at a conference filled with other people who run Christian camps around the state. We felt simultaneously like the new kids on the block and the old folks. I say that because Jim and I are very new to the world of full time camping ministry as well as to vocational ministry. And I also say that because, as we saw, a good amount of others who are in camping ministry around the state are in their 20’s and maybe 30’s. So that was an interesting and somewhat entertaining combination for the few days we were there. We did, however, attend some informative and inspiring sessions and came away with a much more informed “big picture” of Christian camping in Michigan.

After that conference we came home and had a one day turnaround, then left again for a spring break week in Charleston, SC. It felt pretty fast to be taking a vacation again, if I’m honest, since we just took a trip in December. But it was likely our only chance this year, so we took advantage of one last Hillsdale Spring Break before Grace and Soren are off living adult life wherever the Lord takes them. We felt really blessed to all be able to go together, including Soren, and just spend some time being a family. Plus it was an added bonus to enjoy some warmth and sun for a few days. One neat story of God’s provision: toward the end of our trip we had some car trouble. One problem led to the diagnosis of a different, more hidden problem that hadn’t been giving us any signs of trouble. Either issue could have left us stranded somewhere on the drive home from South Carolina, but the noise from one problem allowed us to find both issues. And when we decided the noise was bad enough to take it in somewhere, we just happened to be driving right past a little auto shop where we found a very helpful mechanic. He helped us for a day and a half diagnosing the problems, getting parts, and doing the repairs, basically clearing his schedule of other jobs simply because he knew we were set to leave the following day. It was neat to see God provide a solution even in a less than ideal situation of having car trouble on vacation. 

Jim’s claim to fame during one cleaning week was that he washed the feet of 22 men. 22 tiny, plastic men on the foosball table!
My claim to fame was braving ladders. And if that wasn’t enough I also did the iconic moose cleaning! Never done that before so I figured it was picture worthy. Not quite as impressive as the guys who clean the moose way up in the chapels, but this ladder was plenty high for me!
We had heard about Gull Lake Ministries for many years, but neither of us had ever been there. We enjoyed visiting and seeing their facility.
I went to a two session series on trauma and its effects on kids. They were excellent sessions. This slide was showing the difference in brain development between a child who has not experienced trauma and a child who has. Entirely different areas of the brain become more acutely developed in children who experience trauma.
Getting used to squeezing another person into our family selfies! Jim is enjoying having another guy around!
After the double car repairs down south, this happened in the parking lot dropping off Grace and Soren at Hillsdale! The rear window literally fell off in my hands, hit the trailer hitch on the way down, and shattered to pieces. Ugh. It was not a great couple of days for our SUV. On the upside, if this had to happen, in the parking lot of Hillsdale was about the best spot it could have happened. We were dropping off two passengers so we didn’t need things packed up next to the window anymore, we were able to get large trash bags and duct tape from Soren so we could tape on a makeshift window for the drive home, and the glass mess was easier to clean up in a paved parking lot than in our gravel driveway at home!

April has us continuing some of what we were doing in March, such as finishing up deep cleaning. We are also continuing to interview summer staff and are praying the Lord will send more workers for the summer. We are encouraged by those who have already applied and been accepted, but there is a large need for more, especially men. Of course, it always feels better to us to have what we need plenty in advance of when we need it. But often the Lord provides what we need just when we need it, and in the process we are kept in a place of more trust and dependence on Him. We look expectantly for Him to provide workers for this summer as He has so many summers before. As a family, we are continuing to plug away at our school year. Lydia is pushing to finish up her schoolwork before the summer gets going. She is looking forward to several exciting things this summer, including working as a tech here at camp for the first time. Mary Emma is finishing up her last year of high school, with an intense focus on ballet training. She has three more auditions later in April to which we again need to travel. We expected that the auditions in February would be all she needed, but those opened the door to some other possibilities, so we are exploring those. This whole process is new to us, so we are figuring it out as we go and trusting the Lord to open doors and illuminate a path for her. Another trip out of state was definitely not on our radar, but off we will go (just me and Mary Emma) later this month to visit three ballet companies where she will audition for their training programs, two in Dallas and one in Sarasota. The whole thing sometimes feels a little on the crazy side, set in the context of our life here at camp. But it has been truly amazing to see the opportunities the Lord has opened up for Mary Emma as a result of moving here and finding a little gem of a training studio up here in the quiet north. We appreciate your prayers for her as she pursues this passion and waits to see where the Lord would have her next year, and for us as we help her navigate this process. 

Thanks for keeping up with us and for following the adventures of our family. We feel like we are juggling a lot this year, and are trying our best to serve both camp and our family well. Some days the pull between work and family feels taut. But we take comfort continually in the sure promises in God’s Word. Lamentations 3:22-24 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I will hope in Him.'” When life stretches us, we do look to the Lord to be our portion and we do hope in Him. We pray you are doing the same as you perhaps encounter the things in life that stretch you. 

Rachel, for the Bennetts

Terrific times two on 2-2-22

Last Wednesday turned out to be a pretty great day. Two things made it that way, one from our camp life, one from our family life.

At camp, 2-2-22 was summer registration day!  This is a pretty big day for Jim, as the office guy and tech guy, and he gets pretty excited about it. In fact, I think it’s probably his favorite work day of the year. A tech guy on registration day is a little bit like a kid on Christmas. He had been preparing for it since October and he said he was finished getting everything ready on January 29. A couple of days to spare! This year saw the biggest update to the registration system since 2016 when it first went online. Two things that were part of online registration that haven’t been in the past: the waiting list and trading post money. Both of these things were previously handled the old fashioned way with paper systems. Now a camper can be added to the waiting list for a week of camp right on the website. And parents can add spending money for their camper to use at the camp store as part of registration as well. 

This is a screenshot of the website activity on the morning of registration. It opens at 8AM. I bet you can tell where 8AM is on the graph!

As a family, 2-2-22 turned out to be pretty exciting as well. You see…there’s been this boy….dating Grace…and then there was this question….and then there was a yes…so now Grace and Soren are engaged to be married! And we’re pretty thrilled about the whole thing. Starting Tuesday night until Friday morning we hosted Soren’s family and enjoyed getting to know them. Yep…they were visiting during Jim’s biggest office day of the year. Because why not throw in a little more fun and excitement!? Both families were in on the big secret and we all kept it successfully from Grace. And that’s saying something since twelve family members had to keep it quiet until the big day! It was a really wonderful few days of family and winter fun and fellowship, interspersed with some normal work responsibilities. And now the planning begins. To answer everyone’s first question, no, there is not a date set! I’m sure they will be working on that soon, and will be tackling something akin to lining up planets. For now, we praise God for this answered prayer of many years. We have prayed for years for the men our girls would marry, as well as for their families. Our hearts are glad as we see the answer to that prayer. 

Rachel, for the Bennetts

January Update

We are back at retreats up here in the cold north!  After a vacation over Christmas and some sickness upon returning home, January found us playing catch up as retreats kicked off promptly on New Year’s Day.

That first retreat ran Saturday-Monday and was our College/Career Retreat.  We welcomed young adults for the first retreat of the season.  They are always a fun bunch.  Since some of them have been on summer staff in the past, many know each other and are glad to reconnect.  It is also a great time for these former summer staff to begin thinking about returning for another summer or to bring friends who are possibly interested in serving here as well.  

The next three weekends, including this past one, we have hosted Fathers and Sons on the East Side and Teens on the West Side. We have been thankful for some great winter weather that keeps the tubing hill and ice rinks running!  And yes, it is a sacrifice of praise for me to say “great winter weather,” since I find more and more that winters are not my thing!  Jim?  He’s as happy as can be with snow falling and cold temperatures.  But after a warm weather vacation over Christmas, it was a cold, hard reality for me to come back to single digit temps!  But praise the Lord for it we must, as our winter camping activities depend on it!

A big day coming soon is February 2 – the day summer camp registration opens!  Mark your calendars and set your alarms for 8am if you have campers to sign up, especially if you have high school campers.  High school weeks fill VERY fast, some within the first hour.  The countdown to that day is keeping Jim very busy and we’re praying for everything to go smoothly. 

Jim and I are taking on a new role this summer: the YAPS coordinators.  YAPS?  If you aren’t familiar with this acronym, it stands for Young Adult Program Staff.  They are a group of our summer staff made up mostly of those who have just graduated form high school.  They come for a portion or all of the summer and fill MANY roles around camp.  Most that are straight out of high school don’t step right into counseling, so we instead plug them into a whole variety of program jobs.  Archery range, riflery range, handcrafts, camp store, piano, kitchen, laundry, zipline, media, bike shop, office, waterfront… is a long list of places that these workers are needed.  Then you add to that countless other tasks that they fill their week with around their main roles.  I’m new at this, so I can’t even tell you all the tasks the YAPS take care of in a week!  All that to say, someone needs to oversee them, and this year that is Jim and I.  Applications are already coming in and interviews have started.  Over the next four months we will watch the Lord assemble this group of servants and we will prepare to coordinate them once they all arrive for summer.  Know a high school graduate this year?  Send them our way if they are looking for a place to serve the Lord this summer and grow amazingly in the process.

Some praises and prayer requests for our family:

  • We have settled back into a retreat rhythm and are again thankful for our flexible school schedule that allows us to have Saturday as a school day and Monday off.
  • Praise the Lord for Mary Emma’s safety as she drives frequently back and forth to Oscoda where she does her ballet training.  We are also very thankful for the provision of a place for her to stay in Oscoda two nights each week with someone we know from church up here.  It really has been amazing to see Him put together a plan for her this year even as we live and work in such a nuanced place.  Which brings me to a request….
  • Pray for Mary Emma over the next few months as she explores her options for next year.  She has several auditions in February and is considering locations in many places to continue her ballet training next year, including one place overseas.  So many decisions and thoughts to navigate!  Pray first and foremost that she would seek the Lord first, and all the rest will fall into place.
  • Pray for Grace as she finishes her last semester at Hillsdale.  She, too, is in a position of seeking what God has next for her, both this summer and after.
  • Pray for Lydia as she homeschools for 9th grade.  It is an isolated place up here for a homeschooler, and she spends quite a lot of time at home.  Pray that her heart would be open to the limited group of friends that are in the area, and that she would continue being content in this circumstance, which, praise the Lord, she really is most of the time. 
  • Pray for the next 5 weekends of retreats. For the teens that come, the speakers who proclaim God’s Word, and the many volunteer staff who make the weekends possible.
  • Pray for us as we really get rolling with the YAPS coordinator position.
  • Pray that the Lord would continue to send young adults interested in serving here for the summer. 

The Lord continues to use this place for His glory and we are so glad to be a part of it.

Rachel, for the Bennetts

Looking Back, Part 2

Our first fall retreat season

Although we have lived up at Camp Barakel for about a year and a half now, this fall was our first fall season with retreats running. We were really glad to have a full retreat season this fall. Each season at camp has its own rhythm, and retreats definitely bring a whole different rhythm than summer. We got a taste of that last winter during the partial retreat season, but this fall we “fell into it” more fully with a longer set of weeks as well as different weather, activities, and age groups from last winter. Here’s a brief rundown of our involvement in the ministry this fall retreat season:

  • We kicked off the fall lineup with Family Camp over Labor Day weekend. This is a big event, three nights rather than two, with lots of activities and classes geared toward all ages of family members. During family camp we host all ages, from retired grandparent-aged adults all the way down to infants in need of nursery care during chapel. So it comes with a lot of prep and setup and a great need for workers and helpers. This fall I worked with one other staff lady to coordinate the 5-6 year old class during chapel times, thankfully with a lot of help. In fact, due to being sick the week before I had to hand over the materials and rely on others to actually carry out the class for part of the weekend. 
  • Following Family Camp, we hosted 7 weekends of guests. Married couples, fathers and sons, ladies, ladies, and more dear ladies, men, more men, and finally college aged young adults who came to work and prep the place for the change of seasons. Each of these groups brings a different feel around camp, different menus in the dining hall, different needs to fill on the work schedule. Some programmed activities are the same from weekend to weekend and some are changed up to match the interests of the guests. It really is a grand thing to help provide a place that is a respite and haven for so many. May we, as staff, never lose the joy and delight in preparing this place for the work that God does here.
  • Things Jim did during the weekends: worked the zipline; drove a bus in endless loops around camp property, shuttling guests from one side to the other (it’s a good thing he is enjoying this new skill of bus driving!); washed dishes; prepped and served the nighttime snack; worked check-in; hosted in parking lots welcoming guests and helping with luggage.
  • Things I did during the weekends: learned to run the cash register in the Trading Post (camp store); served seconds and did cleanup at some meals; played piano at some meals; set up for the banquet style dinners; hosted and welcomed guests at ladies retreats; played flute in some chapels; played piano for late night hymn sings during ladies retreats.
  • Things Jim did in between retreat weekends: weekly cleaning assignment; made liability release forms for non-summer seasons; worked to start up more communication with and from member churches; took over making the hosting and serving schedule (this tells us all where to be and when during a retreat. It takes only one line to tell about it, but it is a MANY lined document with many, many moving pieces!); worked on part of the big East Side cabin project, planning the network expansion that was part of it; worked to make some website changes including online donations.
  • Things I did in between weekends: my weekly cleaning assignment had a bit of a learning curve to it, as I more fully took over an area that I had only cleaned half of previously; Wednesday morning bake days with the other staff ladies (someone has to bake all those famous Barakel cookies!); some Friday mornings I helped with food prep in the kitchens.
  • Our homeschool year got off to a good start in September. Mary Emma is a senior, and only has part-time academics. She is doing a concentrated ballet year with private training and conditioning at a studio in Oscoda. She has hopes of pursuing professional dance somewhere after high school, so this year is an intense prep year for that. She is even staying in Oscoda overnight two nights each week with someone from our church up here. The Lord has opened these doors and provided all throughout this process, so we are watching and waiting for what comes next for her. Lydia is a freshman (HOW did that happen?) and doing well with a bit heavier academic load this year. She has gotten to the years when school really does seem to take all day, sometimes into the evening. One thing we did during the retreat schedule was to switch our school days. At camp we have Mondays off, so we decided to take Mondays off school and ballet as well. Our school week runs Tuesday-Saturday, so we can have Sunday afternoon and Monday off as a family.
  • One of the hardest things we find about the retreat season, and life at camp in general, is not being able to attend church during those weeks. Last winter we did well by carving out time for that Sunday evening or Monday. We listened to a sermon series as a family and enjoyed that. This fall, admittedly, we didn’t do as well with that. Next retreat season we need to do a better job of putting this in for our family. 

Thank you for your continued prayers and support. We are thankful for each one of the churches, families, and individuals who make our work here possible. We do not take it for granted; we are continually humbled and amazed at God’s graciousness to us through the giving of His people. Thank you for whatever part you have played in that!

Rachel, for the Bennetts

Grace and her boyfriend, Soren, came up for family camp. They enjoyed the activities as well as time with family.
Jim at the top of the zip tower.
It’s a good thing he enjoys driving these!
Hosting at the office during ladies retreat check-in, offering cider and doughnuts. This was a quiet moment. Often the porch was full of ladies!
Inside the office during check-in
At the piano ready for a late night hymn sing. This was a joy to do each Saturday night during ladies retreats.
A group from one of our supporting churches came during a ladies retreat. They blessed us with a gift that had been raised by their children’s classes. 
The obligatory first day of school pic

Looking Back, part 1

How we finished our summer

A bullet point flashback for the last half of our summer. In no particular order here are some of the things that kept us busy and living life.

  • Grace and I went to the Chicago area to drop off and then pick up Mary Emma from her ballet intensive there. This is the second summer we have taken her to a far away dance program, and it now feels like it should be tradition. To leave home in the north woods, drive and drive, make random stops as needed, or not, depending on how short on time we are, in which case drive and drive and make no stops whatsoever regardless of how badly anyone needs to stop. We of course have no experience with that last thing.
  • At camp on July 17, one year after the fire that burned the carpenter shop, we had a dedication for the two new Maintenance Area buildings that have been constructed since the fire. Amazing to reflect on God’s goodness and provision. In just one year he provided for two new buildings to go up, totaling the 8,000 square feet of space that was lost in the fire.
  • I played piano for two more weeks of camp. Still a blessing, and I am so thankful to have served in this way.
  • Mary Emma and Lydia were able to go on a camping trip to the Upper Peninsula with the youth group from our sending church. We are so thankful for their ability to still stay connected to this group, and for the friendships that just pick up where they left off.
  • Jim drove a bus for multiple more weeks of camp either picking up or dropping off campers. He now has some experience under his belt with the routines and traditions of bus driving. And I suppose he could tell you about things like nervous young campers with questions about camp or the singing of the camp song when the buses pull on to the property. He seemed to enjoy this role.
  • Jim wrote some policy documents for our state licensing consultant. His favorite task has always been writing. 😉
  • Grace and I got some experience being the ones to be quarantined away from camp. Not a huge thing for me, since it did happen during a week I wasn’t scheduled to be playing piano. But a pretty big thing for Grace as she was wearing many hats this summer, and in her particular roles she had constant contact with many summer staff. At the end of July, on a Monday as campers were arriving, she exhibited enough symptoms to require a Covid test. Unfortunately she was positive, which led to a significant round of required contact tracing, which led to a significant shortage in summer staff. She was, of course, not the only one to have this struggle this summer, but it was a challenge for her to walk through. 
  • Jim (and several other staff members here) got pretty good at some things they didn’t want to be good at. In the new world of Covid and contact tracing and health department requirements, there was more than one occasion when our staff had to contact parents with the sad news that they needed to come pick up their camper. This is never something we wish to do and it was a heavy thing for all who were involved, and even all who were just around watching it happen. But it was, even so, part of the summer that God ordained for us and we saw signs of His goodness through it. There was ample opportunity to extend and receive grace, and both happened regularly.
  • Toward the end of the summer, Jim (and helpers) began removing many, many old phone line pedestals from around camp’s property. This was physical work and he was glad for the young summer staff helpers who could share the load. And 54 phone pedestals are quite a load!
  • Mary Emma camped as a high school camper in August, and followed that by working as a technician (high school volunteer) during cleaning week. This was her last year as a camper and a tech. She was blessed by a great experience with both.
  • We hosted several movie nights in our home for the summer staff group referred to as YAPS (young adult program staff). These are the young people who are running all manner of things during a week of camp, but not counseling. They were one group that Grace oversaw this summer, so she took advantage of having a home at camp to bring them to. We packed out our little living room with the group of varying size depending on the week and who was free. It was a fun way to get to know some of them better.
  • As staff we had two cleaning weeks at the end of the summer this year rather than one. We spread it out over two weeks because during the last high school week we didn’t have campers on the other side of the lake. So we spread out the work and had some high school aged helpers pitch in to start cleaning the West Side one week, followed by cleaning the East Side the next week. Lots of cleaning in lots of places you might not normally think about. Two areas I helped clean that I never had before: the sound booth in the West Side Chapel, and the museum in the West Side Chapel. Did you know there is a museum at camp? There are a lot of items on display there and they allllll need to be cleaned (and cleaned around) from time to time. I was thankful for a couple of high school techs who worked with me.
  • We got Grace moved back to Hillsdale, which also happened to fall during the busyness of cleaning week. It was a little more of a task to move her back this year because she had changed dorms which meant all of her college belongings had moved home, and all of them had to be moved back. Not something she could do on her own in her little VW Bug! So down we all went with our big SUV to help.
  • At the end of August, after all the weeks of camp and cleaning, the staff has a week off. We were thankful for that, and enjoyed it at one of our favorite places to vacation, Door County, Wisconsin. My parents came with us and we enjoyed the time with them as well. Since Grace was already back on campus this was our first glimpse into a family vacation without all of our kids, so that was weird. A natural part of life, but still weird.

You may wonder why bother revisiting all of this summer detail now. Clearly time got away from me a bit and these things are faded into the past already. But I will end with this thought. SUMMER IS COMING! Yep, even in the fall around here, talks and trainings and preparations are happening for the summer of 2022. One of our most urgent matters of work and prayer, even already, is that of the summer staff. Every week of summer camp there is a need for around 70 college aged summer staff, and another 30 or so high schoolers. Every week. These blessed volunteers come and work directly with campers as counselors; they work to run program areas like the archery range, riflery range, or waterfront; they work in the kitchen; they play piano; they do laundry; and they do many more things than I can list here. Without them we simply cannot run camp. And this past summer, because we were at times without enough of them, we did not run camp, at least not at all to our full capacity. So the effort has already begun to seek staff for next summer. Pray with us for this important provision. Do you know someone who could be a good fit for a summer role here? Get us connected so we can tell them more about it!

Rachel, for the Bennetts

From the building dedication at the Maintenance Area
An attractive view of some of the pedestals that were removed from around camp
The theme for the high school weeks this year was Barakel Goes West! Our girls had fun with that. Mary Emma has been ready for this one for a while with her Canjo! Canjo?? Yes. Like a banjo but with a tin cup on the end and only one string. So, a bit more simple than a banjo.
Nothing like getting caught behind the covered wagons on the camp road!
During the second and third high school weeks Grace led square dancing during the banquet at the end of the week. This was also held in the newest maintenance building. I’m not sure who had more fun, the campers participating or Grace calling it out!
More square dancing!
Grace planned group activities for the YAPS each week. One week she planned an Amazing Race challenge around camp. We did have fun helping her come up with ideas for this and running a couple of the tasks they had to complete. Here she is getting it started. Grace is often at her happiest when she is explaining games to people. (Why has she never been a camp programmer???)
Our cozy living room filled up with summer staff for a movie night. These were really fun. A simple movie and some popcorn and you have some very appreciative young people!
Move in day for Grace. She is an RA in a dorm she hasn’t lived in previously, so it was back to a traditional dorm room for her this year. She does have her own room, however, so that is nice.

Thoughts from Psalm 143

It amazes me how fleeting time can be. It’s crazy that the last time I posted to update you all was 3 months ago. So often I have thought it was time to let everyone know what we are up to, but then I wouldn’t quite get to it, and more time would pass, and the longer it had been the more I wondered what to even share! How many things in life are like that, right? An easier task if we just stay on top of it, and yet we don’t, so the task grows and becomes a much bigger task and we question where or how to even begin.
       Today I begin here: with something from God’s Word that struck me yesterday morning. Perhaps I still really need to fill everyone in on the details of life from the finishing of summer and now almost an entire fall retreat season. And I aspire to send some more details about all of that in coming weeks. But first, I thought maybe the best thing to share is simply some truth that I read afresh yesterday morning from Psalm 143. I’ll include the whole Psalm here so you don’t have to go get your Bible. 😉

143 Hear my prayer, O Lord;
give ear to my pleas for mercy!
In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!
Enter not into judgment with your servant,
for no one living is righteous before you.

For the enemy has pursued my soul;
he has crushed my life to the ground;
he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.
Therefore my spirit faints within me;
my heart within me is appalled.

I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all that you have done;
I ponder the work of your hands.
I stretch out my hands to you;
my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah

Answer me quickly, O Lord!
My spirit fails!
Hide not your face from me,
lest I be like those who go down to the pit.
Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love,
for in you I trust.
Make me know the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.

Deliver me from my enemies, O Lord!
I have fled to you for refuge.
10 Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God!
Let your good Spirit lead me
on level ground!

11 For your name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life!
In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble!
12 And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies,
and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul,
for I am your servant.

       I love that this whole thing is a prayer. And ok, maybe that can be said of all of the Psalms, but this one is a prayer with the whole thing written in the first-person. All the way through it is filled with pronouns like I, me, my, you, your. Don’t you just love that? The Psalms that are written this way are so easy to just put as our very own prayers to God. It’s like God knew that we would need some simplicity. Just write it out for us so we can pray it back to him.
       It begins with asking God to hear and listen. And oh, the beautiful truth that He will. Maybe on this earth, in these broken lives we live, we won’t always feel heard by someone who listens. But God. In His faithfulness and His righteousness, He will hear and listen. Then it goes on to verse 3-4, confessing the condition of our lives. We are crushed, we sit in darkness, our spirit faints, our heart is appalled. So very broken.
       But next as we read, we turn our thoughts to what we know to be true about God. Verses 5-6 lead us to remember God’s works and what He has done, which is, of course, loaded with love and faithfulness and goodness. What is your first thought when considering what God has done? It could be many things. As is common in the Psalms, we could recall God’s provisions for the Israelites in the Old Testament. Or maybe we think of some very recent answer to prayer in our present day lives. And surely it also points to Christ and what He accomplished on the cross. In these verses, we are directed to remember and ponder. Who God is. What He has done. After considering that, verse 6 leaves us in a posture of needy humility with our hands outstretched to God and in need of all He has and is. How beautiful.
       The Psalm continues as a heart cry to God, having acknowledged His sufficiency and our lack. In the midst of that heart cry, in verse 9, we plead with God to “deliver me from my enemies.” Sometimes when I come across this phrase in the Psalms it can feel out of context of my actual life. I don’t have an army chasing me down or pursuers seeking to take my life. But this morning I wondered, what might my enemies be? In my defensiveness or pride I might want to think that is other people; maybe those I am in conflict with, are frustrated with, or feel wronged by. Is it our coworkers? Our families? Kids, parents, husbands, wives? But in reality, I think often our enemies are the things right in ourselves – the lies we believe and our own sin. The discouragement, the anger, the hopelessness, the disillusionment, the unmet expectations or thoughts of “I deserve…”. So we say in the Psalm, deliver me from all of that, Lord; I have fled to you for refuge. We don’t flee to a quick fix, a person, or a better circumstance. We flee to the Lord and His sufficiency to make all things new.
       I also love in verses 9-11 how the Psalm leads us to continue asking for actions. Practical help. Deliver. Teach. Lead. Preserve. Bring. We can look to God expectantly for Him to be doing these things in our lives. We can ask Him for these actions knowing He is good and more than able.
       Then at the end, in verse 12, the Psalm concludes with a return to those enemies, but this time instead of asking to be delivered from them, it is a confident statement of bold faith. “In your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies, and you will destroy the adversaries of my soul.” Because of God’s plan for salvation through Christ, our enemies, those adversaries of our soul, need have no power over us. We can trust Christ’s power to conquer them all. And why? “For I am your servant.” Turning again to humility and full dependence on God. Trusting He is great enough and able to deliver and heal.
       I pray this Psalm is an encouragement to you as it was to me yesterday morning. It made for a long post, but of all the things I knew I should have been sharing over the last 3 months, this was the thing that I suddenly knew I wanted to share. Look for some more practical-life updates in the coming weeks. We are busy, we are well, and we are so very thankful for each and every one of you who helps to support our work here. Thank you for your part in our ministry.

Rachel, for the Bennetts

Our summer so far

“Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.”

Psalm 33:22

Yesterday we said goodbye to the third group of youth campers. Tomorrow we welcome another group. Summer is off to a great start! Since our last update, there has been one more week of summer staff training followed by three weeks of campers. The first week we hosted 4th-6th graders on the West Side and 7th-9th graders on the East Side. After that we hosted 4th-6th graders on the West Side and 9th-12th graders on the East Side. And last week we had 3rd-5th graders on West and 7th-9th on East. As always there are a lot of moving parts to make everything happen. Before we lived here when I would come volunteer for a week it always amazed me to see how many different pieces all work at the same time to run a week of camp. And now living here I am no less amazed at the same thing. I honestly feel like such a small, small part of the whole.

Jim continues his role running things in the office which keeps him pretty sufficiently busy these days! He has jumped fully into all of the business end of camp. I’m quite sure I previously underestimated the amount of “business” required to run camp! This year some things are running along the same as they always have, some things are new and different due to updated state regulations and our own camp schedule change this summer. I am certainly not the expert on all that keeps Jim busy in the office, but one thing I do know is that it is amazing to see skills that Jim has gathered all through his years of work experience be used in the ministry here. The Lord really has been preparing Jim for years to be able to come and fill needs here.

Separate from his office work, Jim also completed his bus driver’s training over the last few weeks. First, he studied at home and had to pass several written tests. Then a week ago, he spent Sunday-Thursday in Owosso doing the actual driving and hands on portion of the training. He passed all of that, completed the actual licensing at the Secretary of State, and yesterday drove one of the buses headed south with campers! If you know the drill with parents and their kids at the Barakel buses….photos in front of the buses, videos as they drive off….yep, that was me yesterday morning with my husband!

As for me, I have continued to be on the work schedule some weeks playing piano in chapels. I played for the East Siders right away the first week of campers and again this past week. Although the need for piano players is due to less summer staff than normal, I am actually very thankful for the opportunity to fill that need. Different environments, be it various churches, camps or other worship groups, all have their own niche of worship music and how it gets ‘fleshed out’ in a service. I am glad for the chance to get practice in the Barakel chapel niche of worship music. To be honest, it almost feels like cheating to be on the work schedule for something as lovely as playing music in chapel. I thank the Lord for the background I have that can now be useful to Him in this setting.

Here is a little update on each of our girls, youngest to oldest since we almost always list them the other way around. 😉

Lydia has had some variety that last few weeks. She’s had some very quiet time at home spent reading, which she always loves; she has spent time “staff-kidding” around camp; she has happily helped me with some gardening chores improving the outside of our staff home; she was a camper this past week on east side and loved the chance to fully “belong” in the camp schedule. Pray for her as she navigates the different seasons of staff kid life.

Mary Emma is currently beginning her third week at a ballet intensive outside of Chicago with a dance company called Ballet 5:8. It has been a good fit for her this summer for a couple of reasons. Since she had to audition for the particular level she is in, it assured that she would spend the three weeks working at a level that would challenge her and push her ahead, but at a sustainable pace. Also, as a Christian ballet company, it provides a hard-to-find blend of her passion for the art of dance with her Christian faith and worldview. This is not at all an easy thing to find in the world of fine arts and we are so thankful that she can go and grow with a group of people who “speak both languages.” Pray for her (and us!) as she makes decisions about her future course of study with ballet, even as we consider various options in the fall for her senior year.

Grace continues to serve in the leadership of summer staff. She is overseeing and supporting the female counselors, and is also helping to coordinate the young adult program staff which functions as a somewhat separate group from the counselors. These roles are often filled by separate people, but much of the leadership are playing more than one role due to the smaller number of staff this year. She is doing well with that, although it is for sure overwhelming at times. She has the gift of a joyful spirit, and it is serving her well this summer. But even the most joyful people can become discouraged under strain. Pray for her as she continues to serve through the last half of the summer.

Thank you for catching up with us, if you’ve read this far, and for supporting us prayerfully or financially. We are doing well in the north woods, even as we continue to learn through our first summer here.

Rachel, for the Bennetts

Lydia and her friend, Bella, from our sending church. They were so excited to go to camp together.
He drove the fish bus yesterday
Ready to roll!

Reflections on Hisability Week

Saturday we said goodbye to the Hisability campers. They arrived on Tuesday as the first bus-load of campers to come in 672 days. They were excited, we were excited, counselors were excited….and very nervous!  Our family was blessed to be a part of this week on East Side with these beautifully unique campers. Jim continued normal office work as well as covering a few other tasks. I played piano in chapels for the campers. Grace oversaw the female counselors for the week. Mary Emma was an east side kitchen tech in the program for high school aged workers. And Lydia went in and out of camp having fun with the various activities.  So all of us, in different ways, were able to be around and interact with the campers. You’ll not likely see a more appreciative group of campers around Barakel than the Hisability campers. Adults between the ages of 18 and 50, with a variety of different physical and mental impairments, many of whom come year after year. Many of them are enthusiastic in ways that most of us are too inhibited to allow ourselves to be. Often unfiltered and earnest, they come to learn and have fun, but in the process all of us who work with them learn and have fun right alongside of them. I found myself reminded of valuable things as I observed and participated in things this week.

First, I was reminded to slooowwwww dowwwwnnnn. Our world has gone and gotten itself in a big hurry. And even up here in the north woods, while it often moves at a slower pace than downstate, life at camp can encourage hurry. There’s a certain value put on speed and efficiency while working at camp, although most often unspoken. I’ve personally been aware of it many times as one of the “new ones”. When tasks are being completed – perhaps cleaning or baking – I don’t move with the same efficient speed as the more experienced staff. I don’t know where things are or how things are done and have to ask lots of questions. That often irks the perfectionist side of me. I don’t like the feeling of not knowing the right way or of being uncertain what to do. It’s much more comfortable to know exactly what needs to be done and to be the one efficiently moving through tasks. In the last year I’ve had to learn to sit with that discomfort a bit. And this week gave me a very tangible reminder that it is ok to slow down and not feel like fast and hurried is the only way.  Sure we want to be good stewards of our time. But there is value in slowing down, listening, learning, being present with people. This was a great reset button while we collectively plow forward into summer. A great reminder of putting the people we serve over the tasks we complete in order to serve them.

Second, this week was a great reminder of the need for compassion, compassion, compassion. True Christlike compassion. Our humanity so often gets in the way of that doesn’t it? It’s so easy to be harsh and judgmental, being hard on others when they frustrate us or offend us. This week creates a moment by moment need to love people as they are, with no judgement for what they can or cannot do. To remember that everyone carries a struggle of some sort. Maybe with these campers that struggle was very visible and obvious, but all of us have a struggle even if it isn’t easily visible to everyone we meet. So it was good to be reminded to look with more compassion on others.

At the end of the week our family had opportunity to all “debrief” a bit together over the weekend. And as we did, the conversation hovered continuously around our experiences with Hisability week. The conversation might lull or change direction for just a moment, but then it came right back to something about our experiences that week. Each of us had interactions with campers to share, or things we learned and noticed, or challenges we stepped in and helped with, or ways we were blessed in knowing these campers. We even had the songs from the puppets in chapel stuck in our heads, rather like a week working at VBS coming away with those songs stuck in our heads!

It is not a glamorous week to be a part of. Not polished or perfected. Rather it can be messy and awkward and draining. But in the midst of that, God’s grace comes shining through. In the campers’ often off-key singing in chapel, in their sometimes loud enthusiasm, in their testimonies at the end of the week, in their loyalty to come back year after year after year. In the summer staff’s perseverance and growth as they work with their campers, in their laughter with each other as they find humor in the various challenges they find themselves in.  It was truly a blessing for us to be a part of this week. Sign us up next year!

Rachel, for the Bennetts

The buses pulling in at the start of Hisability camp
Some campers shared a song during chapel. During this one a counselor and his camper sang the chorus of “Lord I Need You”. The camper had specifically requested Grace to play piano for them. After they sang it once, we had them do it again for everyone to sing along. 
Grace helping a camper into chapel. God’s Helping Hands comes with their puppet ministry to speak to the campers each year for Hisability week
A clip from the first evening in chapel

The couple of weeks past and the couple of weeks coming

Some random work and life happenings from the last couple of weeks:

  • We had to sit out the first two co-labor weekends while we waited to be healthy and not spread anything to people we would work with. But then the third work weekend we were able to jump in and help out with the work. Jim raked with a crew of helpers from one of our supporting churches, and I cleaned Boys’ Dorm with a couple of able helpers. I even successfully recruited Mary Emma and Lydia to come help with my crew, which made a big difference in the speed that we moved through the work. 
  • Jim jumped back in to the work waiting for him in the office once he could go back. One thing pressing to be finished was the Covid guidelines document to be sent out to parents of campers. It has been a large time-consuming task of team leaders to wade through the current state guidelines and form Barakel’s summer policies accordingly. Of course, they no sooner get that done and decisions made, and everything changes! But such is the world we live in right now. We are most of all just thankful to be preparing to run summer camp this year even if that currently comes with additional planning.
  • Mary Emma got her driver’s license! It has been a long time coming, but she finally finished all the learning, practicing, and testing. It has been a new but very nice thing to have another licensed diver in the house!
  • We made a trip down state to help move things out at Hillsdale as Grace was finishing her junior year there. We loaded up our truck and brought it all home; she finished up the following week, stayed to watch friends graduate, and then headed home. In the week since she arrived at home there has been a steady stream of unpacking and sifting through the pile of “campus life” loot. She is home for a couple more weeks and then she will be a part of summer staff.
  • Jim and I celebrated our 24th anniversary this month. We were able to go for one night just the two of us to stay in Petosky at a nice place right on the water. Neither of us had ever stayed in Petosky so it was fun to see that area. It left us wanting to get back there sometime again. It wasn’t warm at the beginning of May, but it was sunny and beautiful just the same. 
  • This past weekend we hosted the College and Career Retreat. It was a fairly small number of campers, but a joyful group to have visit. Some new to camp, some previous summer staff, some previous campers, some who will be here this year for summer staff. It was great to host guests again and this group in particular makes us look forward to summer!

Some things coming in the next couple of weeks:

  • This coming weekend we are running a Mother/Daughter Retreat on West Side and a Men’s Retreat on East Side. We will be plugged in to the work schedule for those, including Grace and I in chapel for the Mothers and Daughters. She is playing piano and I will play flute and help lead some singing.
  • The following weekend will be Memorial Day Family Camp. We look forward to an “all hands on deck” kind of weekend around here. 
  • The day after Memorial Day is the start of summer staff workshop, when we all begin preparing and training for the summer season. It is coming soon!

PLEASE PRAY: We are very low on numbers for staff this summer. There are needs pretty much across the board. There is a large need still for college aged people to serve as counselors and to work in program areas. With the numbers as they are we simply can’t run summer camp the way we would like to or are used to. In addition to those roles, there are also openings for medical staff, kitchen workers, and bus or semi drivers. Please join us in praying God would raise up workers to help in this ministry this summer. We trust His provision and know that the summer and our work here belong to Him.

Boys’ Dorm, Woodchips, and Square Cleaning

Springtime at Barakel brings a scheduled maintenance season. I say ‘scheduled’ in contrast to last year when the whole summer and even into the fall ended up being all maintenance season! But spring is normally a maintenance season here, so this year we have been a part of that. There are many projects that can go on during this time in addition to a lot of cleaning. Outdoor projects getting the grounds ready for summer, indoor projects fixing things, perhaps building projects depending on the needs each year. This year there is even a project making improvements to the carpentry and wiring in Boys’ Dorm to make it ready and safe for the Techs and Engineers (our high school aged volunteers). Jim has had a big part in this project in organizing communication between the different trades, volunteers, and inspectors.

For cleaning, we have two separate weeks, one in March and one in April, where all of the resident staff clean for three full days. In March the cleaning was done on West Side and in April we cleaned on East Side. Also spread out through March and April, the staff ladies have 1 or 2 mornings each week that we clean in various buildings around camp. All of these cleaning days are not just the standard cleaning that gets done in between each group of guests, but rather a full deep cleaning. My favorite phrase I’ve heard to describe it is: This isn’t round cleaning, it is square cleaning; we clean every square inch. And boy is that true! Ceilings, walls, edges of the floor, ceiling fans, bathroom fans, light fixtures, drains, under furniture, inside furniture, windows, doors, linens, mattresses….you get the idea! I now know why the Camp Barakel facility is generally in such good shape after more than 75 years! Certainly not all of this work has been terribly fun. But it’s good to be a part of it. It’s good to know that we are working to prepare for spring and summer campers. And it’s also good that we spread it out so we aren’t too overly drained by it all at one time. Maybe the high school volunteers can handle that during the cleaning week in August, but us middle-mixed-age adult staff have to pace ourselves! 

Another thing that typically happens in maintenance season just got started this weekend. In April and May there are three weekends we title Co-Labor weekends. We are happy to host volunteers who come up to work alongside us in many tasks, both cleaning and grounds maintenance. Yesterday was the first of those. There were helpers here working on the Boys Dorm project, and there was a crew here starting on the large task of raking the grounds. Our family had to sit this one out – we’ve had some illness going through our family this week. Lydia had it first, and later this past week it hit Jim pretty hard. So we’re hanging around home getting over whatever this is! But when I went into camp to pick something up on Saturday evening, it was encouraging to see a path of fresh woodchips laid around west side by the workers who had been here. It is like a sign of summer coming!

There is space for more helpers during the next two weekends. If you can work a rake, you are qualified to help! We even enjoyed coming for these years ago when our girls were younger, but able and eager to help. We raked alongside Lee Brown and enjoyed visiting while we worked. In fact the Lord even used our time at one of those weekends to work in our hearts and begin to call us here.

Thank you for your prayers and your financial support. The Lord is meeting our needs through the giving of His people and we are so grateful. 

Rachel, for the Bennetts

He is Risen!

“But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.'”

Matthew 28:5-6

We’ve been a bit absent on email updates last month.  We have stayed busy with cleaning and other maintenance season tasks, which have required more hours of mine than normal spent in camp each week. More on those routine topics coming soon, but this weekend we write to wish all of you a joyous weekend celebrating the resurrection of our Savior! 

I’m sending a few links for some of our favorites for Easter weekend. We hope you listen through them and enjoy reflecting on all that God has done and provided through Christ’s work on the cross. 

First, an old hymn done here by one of our favorite singers, Fernando Ortega. I’ll include the words to the hymn here as well if you would like to read them as you listen.

Stricken, smitten, and afflicted,
See Him dying on the tree!
‘Tis the Christ by man rejected;
Yes, my soul, ’tis He, ’tis He!
‘Tis the long-expected prophet,
David’s Son, yet David’s Lord;
By His Son, God now has spoken
Tis the true and faithful Word.

Tell me, ye who hear him groaning,
Was there ever grief like his?
Friends thro’ fear his cause disowning,
Foes insulting his distress;
Many hands were raised to wound him,
None would interpose to save;
Yet the deepest stroke that pierced him
Was the stroke that Justice gave.

Ye who think of sin but lightly,
Nor suppose the evil great
Here may view its nature rightly,
Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the sacrifice appointed,
See who bears the awful load;
‘Tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed,
Son of Man and Son of God.

Here we have a firm foundation,
Here the refuge of the lost;
Christ, the Rock of our salvation,
His the name on which we boast.
Lamb of God, for sinners wounded,
Sacrificed to cancel guilt,
None shall ever be confounded
Who on him their hope have built!

Second, a video of a famous sermon clip by S.M. Lockridge. We first heard a video of this at our home church several years back and we continue to love it. Sunday’s comin’!

Third, two different songs from the same album by another of our favorite singers, Andrew Peterson.  The first is called “God Rested” and the second is “His Heart Beats.” 

We hope you can take a little time in the midst of your Sunday to listen through these few videos, even if maybe you are already familiar with them, but especially if you are not. Perhaps even share them with your family or someone you know who needs the hope of the risen Savior. May they be an encouragement to you.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support for our family. He is risen!

Rachel, for the Bennetts

Winter Highlights

We made it through our first retreat season and now are headed into our first “planned” maintenance season. Before we get too far away from the end of winter retreats I wanted to send an update about the highlights of our season. The winter weeks fell into a rhythm of their own for us as a family, and at the same time each of us had a slightly different twist on the weekends. Here is a rundown of the weekend highlights for each of us, listed youngest to oldest:

Lydia: She enjoyed the winter activities in snow valley, although it took a couple of weeks for her to remember that she could go into camp and enjoy those things! By the last three retreats she spent more time in there enjoying the tubing hill and the skating rinks. She was very persistent in learning to skate with the ice skates she was given at Christmas, and she was motivated by watching the long-time staff kids who are very proficient at skating. In a general sense, she learned how it feels to be a staff kid during retreats.

Mary Emma: Like Lydia, she enjoyed the winter activities once she remembered they were an option! She also really enjoyed helping me with my shifts working in the skate hut. Her opportunities to be at the activities were a little more limited because some Saturdays she had ballet commitments. A couple of the Saturdays she had a ballet lesson in the morning at the studio she attends in Oscoda. And one Saturday we had to make a trip down to Troy for an audition for a summer ballet program she is going to attend. The last weekend was a fun highlight as she worked with her sister in the West Side dish room.

Grace: She was at college for the whole retreat season….except for the last weekend! She came up from Hillsdale with her boyfriend to work in the West Side dish room. They had a fantastic weekend enjoying camp and it was a fun family endeavor to all be working in camp for the weekend. Grace got a feel for coming to “work a retreat” while also living at camp. 

Rachel: I enjoyed learning the routines in the East Side kitchen during Food Prep Fridays and the Sunday lunch cleanup routine. I also really enjoyed working with the other staff who had been assigned to East Side for the winter. It was a particular joy that the three new staff families – us, the Mirons, and Kathleen Anderson, were all on ES together. So we were all figuring it out together, brought along by some of the experienced staff who were on east with us. I also enjoyed learning how to work the skate hut, which often was during the late shift Saturday night. Besides these things at camp, I also was on taxi driver duty getting Mary Emma to her ballet things on some of the Saturdays. 

Jim: He worked each weekend in the ES dish room and got that down as an efficient routine, working with a new crew each weekend. Each Friday night he worked check-in for the east siders greeting the groups as they arrived. A highlight of this was seeing some new administrative processes work well that he had put in place. Things such as the ministry partner agreement and the new liability form. Also, because of the new network, they were able to run check-in from two different places on camp at the same time. A highlight from the last weekend was to have Covenant Life Community Church stream their Sunday morning chapel service online and have the new network be able to support that. 

It has been a great retreat season and was a blessing to host guests. Now we move into cleaning week and maintenance season! 

Rachel, for the Bennetts

Willing workers

“Whatever you do, work heartily,
as for the Lord and not for men”

Colossians 3:23

A lot of jobs at camp are behind the scenes. It could be scraping food off of dirty dishes, sweeping the kitchen, or mopping the dish room. Peeling a bunch of ice cold hard boiled eggs, shoveling snow from entryways, handing out ice skates, or tying wet laces together on returned skates and then spraying them with sanitizer. There are visible jobs at camp, and there are invisible jobs at camp. There are jobs that appear fun and enjoyable, and there are jobs that are less than glamorous. But all of the various jobs add up to a place well run, well cared for, and ready to accommodate people who love to come and spend time here. That’s what Barakel is about. People coming, making this their place, their camp, their retreat away from the pace of life. And for so many it is a place where they can hear from the Lord and retune their hearts to sing His praise, as an old hymn says. In order for this to continue to be a place people can come and do those things, it also needs to be a place with faithful workers, both those who live here year round and many, many who come and volunteer their time and effort. That is one thing we do appreciate in a whole new way as we adjust to the rhythm of a retreat season: the helpful volunteers who come and labor with us to keep the place running during a retreat. We really don’t exaggerate when we say that we could not do it without all of the volunteers that come for each and every event that is held here. In fact, that is such a unique thing at Barakel; the way the Lord sends workers to cover all of these jobs. There is no way the resident staff could possibly cover all of the jobs alone! And possibly the best part? The fact that the helpers come, and THEY enjoy it too. They come with servants’ hearts and willing hands and fresh energy; they leave tired, but refreshed. Because even when they come to work, they still come and find a place of retreat separate from the pace of normal life. They find a place with fellowship and a community of believers. And they find a place with devotions, chapel, and music. Where their hearts, along with the hearts of the teen campers, are tuned to sing God’s praise. 

We are thankful to be here in this work, for all of those who come to help us, and for those of you who give to make it possible.

Rachel, for the Bennetts

It was a great winter weekend up at Camp Barakel!

The weather radar Thursday evening showing the system that was headed for us. God’s visible blessing on the start of winter retreats.

Our first retreat as Resident Missionary Staff is in the books! Here are some fun facts for you:

  • We hosted 63 people on West Side and 57 people on East Side (a smaller than normal number for sure, but mighty in enthusiasm!)
  • We had 30 volunteer workers including those in the kitchens, dish rooms, in program areas like the tubing hill, as well as musicians and speakers
  • It had been 340 days since camp last had guests. That’s a long time!

Overall it went very well, especially considering many things are needing to be done a bit differently than the “camp norm” as we seek to follow state guidelines. (What!? Mealtimes that are not the traditional 8:30, 12:30, and 5:30? Shocking!) In the weeks leading up to the retreat, the program staff has been very busy rethinking the schedule and flow of activities, and the cooks have been busy planning how to adapt to the spread out mealtimes. It was such a blessing to hear the sounds of winter camp and to see the campers going about their schedule happily and undeterred by the changes. God is so good to bless this ministry! In fact, he even blessed the beginning of winter retreats with a layer of fresh snow on Thursday night. What neat timing to have a fresh layer of white to welcome the guests to their retreat. Also pretty cool that I’m seeing more fresh snow on the way this Thursday as well. 

As for our jobs this past weekend, Jim got some experience in the East Side dish room, which included shifts a bit longer than normal because of the spread out serving times. But as an added blessing there was more time than normal for good conversations with the volunteers who were helping with the dishes. In between those times he worked on some needed tasks in the office and was on call for any trouble with the operation of the new Trading Post software, which was used for the first time this weekend. I helped out with some food prep on Friday morning; it has been a joy to work with another staff family who moved here just a month after us, Dave and Rita Miron, as they take on the East Side kitchen and make it their place of ministry. I also covered a small but necessary new task of sanitizing a game room in between groups. And then Mary Emma and I took the late shift out at the Skate Hut on Saturday night. We learned the ropes of hockey skate sizes and how to tell left handed hockey sticks from right handed hockey sticks. We were thankful for heat in the Skate Hut on a very chilly night! 

Our family did not go into any of the chapels since we are limiting the capacity of people in them, but we know that God’s truth was eagerly proclaimed and we trust it was active in the hearts of the youth that came. 

Thank you for your support that enables us to be here in this ministry. And thank you for your prayers for the next four weekends of winter retreats. Bring on the snow!

Rachel, for the Bennetts

Campers are coming!

“The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.”
Lam. 3:25

Not a long update this week, because it won’t take long to tell you about the two things that have us most excited this week. The first thing is, for the first time since last winter, campers will arrive this Friday! We are moving ahead with plans to host 5 weekends of winter retreats for teens. There will be smaller numbers of campers, less mixing of groups, a schedule of activities that is put together a bit differently than normal, and even multiple seating times for some meals. But it will be the same camp song sung in chapel, the same beautiful creation to enjoy, and the same gospel proclaimed as it always has been. The second thing we are excited about is, summer registration opens on Wednesday. Praise the Lord as we once again take registrations for a summer of camping ministry! Perhaps things will be run a little differently this year in winter as well as summer, but God’s plans and purposes will be accomplished and will certainly not be thwarted by masks, viruses, or regulations. We are thankful for your prayers this week as we prepare for these guests to arrive as well as for the larger season ahead in the summer.

Ways you can pray for us:

  • Pray for us as we get into a new routine and schedule of working weekends and preparing throughout the week, while also continuing our family’s schedule of homeschooling and some evening activities.
  • Pray for the health of the staff as well as all the guests as we go through the next 5 weeks.
  • Pray as the Lord brings those that He will, that their hearts would truly seek Him.

Rachel, for the Bennetts

A Word from Jim

“Rejoice in the Lord always;
again I will say, rejoice!”
Phil. 4:4

I’ve been reflecting on how long we have been part of the resident missionary staff here at camp compared with how long it has been since camp has held an event. I’m thinking it must be some sort of odd record for new staff residing at camp without hosting an event! Although that’s not really a record we want to have claim to!

I was listening to a sermon recently which focused on Philippians 4:4&5.  “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!  Let your gentle spirit be known to all men.  The Lord is near.”  We are glad we can continue to rejoice even in these times of uncertainty. 
Even without hosting events, my work has steadily continued. Here are some technology things that have been accomplished in the last 8 weeks:

  • Migrate the financial system to camp property
  • Migrate camp’s website to a cloud service
  • Install anti-virus software on all camp’s computers
  • Wire up the new carpenter shop to camp’s network
  • Configure wifi for the maintenance area
  • Complete wiring for the Westside chapel network
  • Configure backups for camp’s desktop computers
  • Finalize the new Trading Post software configuration
  • Configure VPN service for camp
  • Preparing to better manage Summer staff applications and STEP applications for summer camp

 And here are some administration tasks as well:

  • Planning the details of summer events
  • Making decisions about canceling events for the winter
  • Preparing the Summer camp brochure and the mailing list
  • Preparing the Spring & Family camp brochure and its mailing list
  • Ensuring that Teen groups are kept informed of events & decisions and rescheduled if necessary
  • Organizing camp’s vehicles

As you can see, even when there are not retreats happening, the Lord allows for constructive work to be done and preparation for the time when camp will be open.  I give thanks to the Lord for this time of preparation.  We are rejoicing in the Lord – in His work laid out before us.
We continue to pray for the Lord’s timing for camp to reopen.
Jim for the Bennetts

This too shall pass

We are all a bit disappointed around here to have to once again delay the hosting of guests. We had planned for this weekend to be the first of the winter retreats, but with the extension of some of the restrictions we had to delay until February. Not what any of us had in mind as our first choice, but I go back to a phrase constantly used in my family growing up: this too shall pass. We know this won’t be forever. We know God is still at work and He surely still has plans for this place, so we know we will once again host guests and run events. There will be campers talking and laughing, the bustling noise in the dining halls, and footsteps on the woodchip paths (or boots in the crunching snow). There will be the whirring of the zipline, the smack of ice hockey sticks, and screaming on thunder express or the tubing hill. There will be singing in chapel, prayer and devotions in serene places, and the proclaiming of God’s Word. Can’t you just hear it all? When we think of all that camp normally includes we are so saddened by this very long pause in the work that is done at Camp Barakel. So we remind ourselves that this too shall pass; and we continue to work at things now to prepare for the day when campers can arrive. Pray with us that that day can be soon. Right now the plan is to begin retreats the first weekend of February. Join us in praying that can happen!

Thank you for continuing to support us through this time. You are an important part of God’s provision in keeping Camp Barakel running even during this long pause in the normal schedule. Thanks to the regular giving of many of God’s people, Barakel is able to be run without a payroll and with staff who are not paid in a traditional sense. This means that the Lord has provided a way for Barakel and the staff here to be sustained even through a temporary closure. Thank you for playing a part in this!

Rachel, for the Bennetts

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

We’ve been pretty quiet on technology the past couple of weeks over the holiday. I’ve had multiple times when I thought of posting something on Instagram or sending something out through email, but then the moment passed and time skittered on by. We have been enjoying time with each other and time celebrating the birth of our Savior, and we pray you have been doing the same. For so many of us, this holiday season looked different in one way or another. Were you able to gather with family? Is your church meeting virtually or in person? Did you shop more online rather than in person? Or perhaps you shopped in person and found quieter stores and less lines. So many things about this year have caused so many differences to what we expect as normal. But I have to say that this Christmas, in the midst of so many things looking and feeling different, one of my favorite lines from a classic children’s Christmas movie came to mind. 
“He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming. IT CAME! Somehow or other Christmas came just the same!”
As the Grinch found out in the classic story, Christmas came whether things looked the same as they always had or entirely different. And in 2020 of course Christmas came just the same, whether we celebrated the same or entirely different. The reality of Christ’s birth is not dependent on any earthly thing. No one can “cancel Christmas” because it has never truly been about how we celebrate or what traditions we keep. It has always been about God’s perfect plan of salvation for those who would trust in Him. So in 2020, with all of the things that have been different, I’m so thankful for the one thing that will always be the same: God is sovereign. His plans are still perfect and will still prosper, regardless of how uncertain things on earth may seem. 

We pray this Christmas season and into the new year that you will look to Jesus as your only hope for life here on earth and into eternity.

Wishing you a very blessed 2021!
Jim and Rachel Bennett, Grace, Mary Emma and Lydia

“Christmas came just the same”. Complete with outdoor singing all together.

Winter Weather

“For to the snow he says,
‘Fall on the earth’…”
Job 37:6

(Originally sent out via email this past Monday, 12/14, but I forgot to come over here and post it! )

I’m no stranger to Michigan winters having grown up here (although does anyone else think we used to get a lot more snow 30-40 years ago?) and I’m no stranger to driving in the snow. I’ve lived in Kalamazoo with the lake effect snow, visited my brother at college at the top of the Upper Peninsula, and come up north plenty of times in the winter. However it is also true that for the last 15 years I’ve lived in SE lower Michigan and in Indiana for three years before that. So living in the up north weather is new. And what would update emails be without some mention of the adjustment to the winter weather?!

This past Saturday we got the first big snowstorm of the season which dropped 12 inches on us in a day. It was quite the day to be out on the roads, as you may know if you had reason to be in any of the snowy areas! We were brave enough to have two of us driving to Oscoda (an hour away) and back, and to have one of us driving up from Hillsdale.

Mary Emma had a ballet lesson scheduled in Oscoda and, being December, I knew there wasn’t going to be another great Saturday to reschedule it. Plus I figured we live up north now, so if I cancel something every time it snows then we’ll always be cancelling. So off we went at 9am in our 4-wheel drive truck. I was very thankful for that 4-wheel drive! Her lesson was long, so we didn’t leave Oscoda until 2:30, and while Oscoda only had wind and rain during all that time, Fairview (and the roads to Fairview) had steady snow the whole time. But we made it safely, and were even blessed to follow a snow plow during one stretch of the drive when the roads were particularly bad. Ironically, the only trouble we had during the drive was after returning home. We needed to go into main camp to pick something up, and since we live across the highway we figured we would do that on our way home before returning to our house. As we drove in the snow covered camp road we noticed low power lines and even some fallen trees under the weight of the snow. One tree was across most of the road, but I was able to go around it – again thankful for that 4-wheel drive! Another tree was across the road but I was able to take a different road to get where I needed to go. But then after completing our errand, on our way back out the main camp road, there was a new fallen tree across the road that hadn’t been there on the way in. There was no going around, and no other road out! I briefly considered playing car limbo with the fallen tree but decided I didn’t want to risk damaging our vehicle. So after all of that driving in bad weather, the place we got stuck was in camp! We only had a short wait as one of the seasonal staff guys went and got a chainsaw and took care of it. I was thankful he happened to be there when it fell and when I came up to it a minute later.

Grace was also driving that day, heading home from Hillsdale. Luckily the weather for most of her drive was only rain. She didn’t hit the snow until about the time she got off the highway. Her hour drive the rest of the way also included following a snow plow for part of the distance. Pretty neat how we both had that provision of safety for part of our drive. Her trip was even complete with someone who waved and cheered for her as she went through Mio. Only up north in Michigan do you get a guy on a bike in a snowstorm who cheers as the little red VW bug drives by! 

We were thankful to have all arrived home safely that evening and we are greatly enjoying the beauty of God’s creation as it is now covered in white!

Rachel, for the Bennetts

A tree permit, bright colored vests, and a glue gun

On Thanksgiving weekend we enjoyed a fun first of living up north. That Friday we started talking about getting a Christmas tree and wondered what our options might be for doing that up here. Tree lots are an hour away, and we didn’t even know where to find a tree farm. So to find out what our options were we turned to the experts around here: the other resident staff! I have found it is valuable, if I don’t know something, to just ask someone who has lived here for a while. They are a wealth of information! Come to find out, one can go to the forestry office and get a permit to cut down a tree in the national forest. We questioned if it would be open the Friday after Thanksgiving, but after looking at their website we found out we could purchase the permit online for an extra $2.50 fee above and beyond the normal $5 fee for the permit. Sounded like the cheapest live tree we’ve ever purchased! 

So we borrowed some bright colored vests and headed off into Huron National Forest out of the gate at the edge of Barakel’s property. We did find it quite alarming that when we got out of our car to walk around and look for a tree, the first sound we heard was a gun shot! We were thankful for the borrowed vests and a couple of bright colored coats of our own! For the first little while of walking around one of our girls turned on some Christmas music on her phone so that we would make extra noise and alert any hunters that we were not animals. So there we were, strolling through the national forest, in our hodgepodge of bright colors, accompanied by an iphone playing “Sleigh Ride” at top volume! 

It took us quite a lot of driving around, getting in and out of our car, and debating as we usually do even at a tree farm about which tree would be best. Although this time it wasn’t so much a matter of debating which tree was best, in the sense that it normally is at a tree farm. This was more a matter of debating which tree could work, in the sense that it had enough branches to hold some ornaments, wasn’t so wide it would take up our whole living room, or didn’t need to be pruned back so much that it wouldn’t have any more needles. 

But find a tree we did. It’s a cozy little tree and quite unlike any that we have had before! It is strung with lights (after no small effort!); it is “gently” decorated, so far with only a small number of homemade ornaments that weigh very little; and it awaits further decoration with either more light-as-air ornaments or perhaps some popcorn and cranberry garland if we can find the time to make one. Sure it looks a bit different than those of previous years. But so do a lot of other things this year. And as we have been learning, there can be blessings hidden away in “different.” Overall, we enjoyed how quirky and adventurous it felt to go into the forest to cut down a Christmas tree. And we are appreciating the authenticity of having a tree that looks like it was cut down in a forest! 

Oh…and I almost forgot the best part. We learned that when you get a rather sparse tree home, and realize there is a fairly noticeable section of trunk with no branches, it can in fact be fixed with some spare branch cuttings, a drill, and a hot glue gun. Word to the wise, from the Bennetts. 

(Also, we got a good laugh out of the “Need to Know’ section of the information from the forestry service, pictured below. “Carry tire chains, shovels, and a tow chain. Bring plenty of food and water with you as well as an overnight survival kit…” Goodness. It seems we went a bit unprepared!)

Critters, Hunters, and Daylight

Things we’ve learned about life in the woods

  • We recently put a birdfeeder just outside our kitchen window. Close enough to the house to hopefully discourage bears from pursuing a snack, but easily able to attract some of the birds that frequent the area. We’ve enjoyed watching them from the kitchen as they have found this new source of food. But this feeder also means that we have a stash of birdseed to store somewhere. We don’t have a closable outdoor storage building that is near enough the house to make it practical for retrieving birdseed. We do have a shed right near the house that stores many things, but it has an open doorway so critters have free access to go in and out. With our new stash of birdseed I figured I would try an experiment and put it in a closed plastic bin to see if that was sufficient to keep unwanted critters out. A couple of days later I went outside and as I walked past the shed I was startled by a scurrying noise inside. As I got closer a small red squirrel came firing past me anxious to escape being caught in his thievery. Good news was that I discovered it before he had gotten all the way in to the seed. Bad news was that I discovered squirrels will persistently chew their way through plastic bins to get at the forbidden treasure inside. So we now have a bin full of seed with a hole chewed in the lid sitting inside in our entryway…for now. Of course if I leave it there very long then I will likely tempt mice or other friends to come in and make themselves at home as well. Thanks to the advice of our experienced neighbors, I know a solution that is time tested and seems reliable. New on the list of things to acquire: a metal can with a lid, and a cement block or other heavy item to hold the lid on!
  • As many of you may know, about a week ago was opening day of deer season in Michigan. As non-hunters, this is not something we paid a whole lot of attention to in the past. But up here it was talked about, anticipated, and even warned about for weeks in advance. Turns out, it’s a pretty big deal when you live up north in the woods! Towns get busy with travelers, cars park along the roads where hunters venture into the woods, even the schools close for the day. So as we are getting used to the various nuances of having Huron National Forest border our backyard, we have learned another one: when it is deer season, one is safest not to venture too far away from their house toward that forest, and one is also safest to wear bright colors when they do so!  Another new item on the list of things to acquire: some orange safety vests to wear while walking!
  • As we all changed our clocks recently and adjusted to the fall time change, we all feel the difference as the days shorten and we have more hours of darkness. It’s a normal part of fall heading into winter. But this year, being just a little further north on Earth’s lines of latitude, we have noticed an actual difference in the hours of daylight and angle of the sun compared to life just a few hours south. The way I described it recently was that I was aware each day that the sun felt like it was in slightly the wrong place at the wrong time, and the sunlight coming in my kitchen window was at entirely the wrong angle. My houseplants agree with my slight irritation at this change. New item to acquire: a growing light for our poor struggling houseplants!

It is interesting how each new season in a new place brings those small details that we have to learn as “normal.” Thank you for your prayers and support as we continue to adjust to the new details of life.

Rachel, for the Bennetts

Our hearts were encouraged

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and

proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”  Mark 16:15

Last week on Wednesday evening, Mary Emma, Lydia, and I were able to attend the Wednesday night service at our sending church in Brighton. It was somewhat of a last minute plan, but we had an appointment in Brighton that afternoon so we had already planned on doing a quick trip downstate and back in the same day. A few days before, we realized it was on a Wednesday, so why not stay for church and just drive home late. Even better it was a missions focus week, and while they weren’t able to do as much for that week as they would normally do, we were glad to be able to attend when they were giving extra focus to their missionaries.

There was a missionary presentation that night by a family who is raising support to go live and serve in Myanmar. This is a family we know and and they go to join another of their family members in the ministry in Myanmar. This simple thing of hearing a missionary presentation was such a blessing to me that night. Partly, it was fun for both me and my girls to sit and listen to someone else’s ministry presentation after having been through that ourselves. We all had a bit more understanding of how it feels to be up there presenting something as personal as your calling to ministry. 

But it wasn’t only an empathetic connection that blessed us. It was hearing about the great need in that country and the way God is working and providing there. It was being reminded of the large numbers of people in bondage to Buddhism and the futility of devoting their lives to that idol worship. It was being convicted that our mission isn’t about our circumstances or our comforts, but about our desire to share the good news of the gospel with a lost world. It is so easy in our country to get caught up in our comforts, conveniences, and even our rights. And while all of these things are good and helpful and even perhaps allow us to continue on with what we’ve been called to do, they are not in and of themselves the end goal. So if we are frustrated or inconvenienced by restrictions, elections, and cancellations; if we are weary of the argument “to mask or not to mask”; if we feel surrounded by an endless drama of debate and disagreement; it does us good to remember that our calling is still possible even in what feels limiting and sometimes unfair. It was so good for me to remember all of this as I listened to a presentation about God’s work on the other side of the world, in a culture that is filled with all different challenges than the culture in which I live. 

God’s work goes on. The ministry at Camp Barakel goes on. And we are so thankful to be a part of it. 

Rachel, for the Bennetts

Jim, the wi-fi guy

Camp Barakel’s biggest technology
infrastructure upgrade since the 1970’s

Joining the Resident Missionary Staff at Camp Barakel allows for many opportunities to do many different kinds of jobs. One of those for Jim has been to handle the technology needs of camp, including an idea that has been talked about for a couple of years: a fiberoptic network for high speed internet. Being so remote in this area of Michigan, there hasn’t exactly been a lot of availability of technology connection at Camp. Perhaps if you have been here you have used, or tried to use, the internet in the dining halls. What camp had was functional, but limited by DSL modems and phone lines, making it spread too thin for the tasks it needed to cover. An upgrade was needed, and this year’s extended maintenance season allowed the time and ability to finally give consideration to this project. So starting in June shortly after moving here, Jim began working on this plan.

It was a long list of tasks to be “trenched through”. Researching options, planning the network, ordering equipment, configuring equipment, digging trenches, laying fiber cable, wiring buildings, installing equipment, connecting everything up, and praying it all works. He has been extremely thankful for more than 10 volunteers at various points in the process who have helped to make all of it happen. Some of these have been very specific provisions from the Lord, such as a seasonal staff member who recently completed a degree in networking, and another volunteer who runs network wiring for a living. How good God always is to provide the expertise needed at just the right time! 

Once the network is up and running, it will help many functions at camp to simply run smoother. The Trading Post, the camp store, will be able to run better. The facilities team can better monitor maintenance needs and perform various functions of upkeep. The summer medical volunteers can have more efficient ways to complete their daily routines serving campers. The chapel speakers will have access to internet resources helping them prepare for or deliver their messages to the campers. Of course in addition to these things, guests at retreats will have better access to technology connection should they have a need for it. Add to these a list of many more behind-the-scenes ways that staff will be helped by this network as they seek to keep camp running for the guests that come. 

And what is the timing on this project? He expects it to be “lit up” this week. Picture a grand Christmas tree lighting…except underground…not visible to anyone…and with lasers…

So this is a piece of the work that Jim has been doing since we arrived in June. We are grateful for the opportunity to be here and for those that God has brought alongside of us to allow that to happen. 

Stay connected,
Rachel, for the Bennetts

“Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” 2 Cor. 9:15

At staff fellowship last week, one of our staff men shared a message from 2 Corinthians chapter 9 challenging us on giving and generosity. Verses 11 and 12 say,

“You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.”

Listening to the message, I was struck by the awareness that we are now the constant recipients of the generosity and giving of others. Our family relies daily on this generosity for our material needs. And furthermore, we are unable to repay this giving and generosity. Through it we are able to work in the ministry at Camp Barakel, but there is no way to repay our supporters. And yet, despite this, you have invested in our family. Perhaps you view it as investing in camp as well, and the ministry work of camp. And it is that. But it is an investment into our family on a daily basis, and we are so thankful for that. Which brings us back to verses 11-12. Your generosity, “through us, will produce thanksgiving to God.” Your giving is not only supplying our needs, but is “overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.” We are thankful to be partnering with you in this scriptural example of bringing glory to God! And verse 15 goes on to say, “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!”

September update

Hindsight is 20/20

It seems that the best time for our family to move and make a major life transition was during a pandemic. During the whole two years we raised financial support we never could have anticipated that the time we would reach 100% and be able to move to Camp Barakel would be during a worldwide virus outbreak. But as the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. Looking back over the last six months there are so many reasons why this unexpected timing really was best for our family.

*We were able to all be home together, in the home we were preparing to leave, for a piece of time that we otherwise would not have had. So much family time!

*We had way more time at home, free from schedules or activities, in which to prepare for a move. We had grossly underestimated the amount of work we really had left in order to get ready to move!

*It allowed us to list and sell our house during a totally different market, when we were free from the typical professional photo shoots and staging of the home. We even were blessed with a lesser real estate commission since the work a realtor could do was so limited.

*We were given flexibility as to which week and day was best to move rather than being locked in between finished commitments downstate and the beginning of summer camp up north.

*It “sheltered us” a bit from what may have been a rather overwhelming time of saying goodbye to all of our activities, people, and normal routines that had been part of our lives for so long. All of our “lasts” were during all of the cancellations of the stay-at-home order. Sad in a way, but quite possibly a gentler end to these things for the particular personalities in our family.

*We had a ‘softer start’ up in the Northwoods with plenty of time to get unpacked, settled, and to finish the time-consuming work of downsizing.

*It gave us even more family time, still with all 5 of us, to begin to have this new place feel like home. And to combat homesickness together. We are a close family, so this is not just a small blessing for us. It really has made all the difference!

God knows our needs so much better than we know our own.

A send-off prayer and tearful goodbye before leaving our home on June 16
Most of our unloading crew when we arrived at Barakel

Golf carts are fun!

One small piece of staff life we have had some fun with is our golf cart! Small joys, right? The golf cart that has been assigned to our family is technically a two person cart, with a section of the back that can hold two golf bags. Except that we don’t have any golf bags to transport, but rather have 3 girls! So what does this translate to? Three people squeeze on the seat, and two girls stand on the back, with the straps for the golf bags secured around their legs to help hold them in! This also seems to encourage the “back-riders” to let go, wave their arms in the air, and play music on their phones to accompany our drives. So if you are visiting camp and hear what sounds surprisingly like MarioKart music, that would be the Bennetts on their golf cart!

Looking ahead…

It is the end of this very different summer at Camp Barakel, and we are heading into a very different fall. There are no weekend retreats as there normally would be here, so our family will continue to adjust to camp life in yet another very quiet season. And we will continue to trust that is exactly the best timing for our family, just as we have seen in the past six months. But we will definitely look forward to when guests return to the property as campers, and we can be in the group to welcome them back!

In the meantime, we keep on. Jim continues to work in the office, heading up a variety of projects including laying fiber in camp (internet!), a new retaining wall by the office, and helping with our ACA accreditation. I (Rachel) am excited to be mostly unpacked and organized in the house, and so am finally now giving some thought to what our needs are for our homeschool year. Better late than never! Thankfully I have learned with homeschooling to lay aside my perfectionism and that everything always works out ok in the end. Grace was able to settle into our new home with us, as well as participate in the summer staff work crews in camp. Now she has joyously headed back to Hillsdale College for her junior year and is thrilled to be back on campus. It is a wonderfully grounded place and we have been very impressed with how they are handling the unique challenges of this pandemic. Mary Emma is in 11th grade this year, and is growing a lot through this life transition away from the only home she remembers. One surprise blessing for her was the ballet studio that we found up here for her to be a part of! Sure it’s an hour away, but so is everything! And it is run by two fantastic teachers who can help her move ahead in her much-loved passion. Lydia is in 8th grade and has been a testimony of God’s goodness through this whole long process. She was the one we expected to struggle the most, but she has sailed through joyfully and rather easily. Praise be to God—He is the only one who could have brought about such a change!

Things we are thanking the Lord for:

· The faithful giving of our supporters.

· Jim’s part-time employment with his previous employer during a month or so of our transition. That was very helpful as our support gradually began to come in.

· Our home here at camp. It has been good to begin to make this house our home. Hard at times, but good. And even fun in a way to creatively use this space that God has provided for our family to live.

Contact us:

Our mailing address:
Jim and Rachel Bennett
PO Box 159
Fairview, MI 48621


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Blessings upon blessings

From one home to another. From one group of hard workers to another. A loving but teary send off on one end and a joyful welcome on the other. Soon I will try to post a more complete reflection on today. But at this very late hour I will simply share a link for a song that I just now heard. My phone randomly chose it earlier today as we began our drive north. I looked at the title and thought, “what song is that and why did my phone randomly begin playing that?” Then I proceeded to turn off the music and not listen to anything the whole drive. Turns out God picked that song for this moment, late late at night as everyone else is asleep. It was already cued up on Spotify so, intrigued by the title, I put in my earbuds and hit play. A perfect way to end this day, praising God for all that was, all that is now, and all that is to come.

And hear me say, yes and amen
Tomorrow You’ll be faithful again

And I’ll praise You, God, for all You are
And all I am, for You are my portion
Forever, for all that was
And all that is now
And all that is to come

Rachel, for the Bennetts

Loading day

At the beginning of this day I posted on Instagram and if I’d had a spare minute I would’ve shared it here too. Here’s what I said there:

Thankful for a sunny temperate day to load the truck. Praying for joyful spirits, safety as we load, and energy that will last like Elijah’s jars of oil.

The Lord provided that and more. No less than 38 helpers worked enthusiastically to load everything they possibly could. They were so zealous in fact, that they outpaced us by about 2pm. Meaning that we couldn’t finish packing and dealing with things fast enough to keep everyone loading. That right there is one good problem to have on moving day. So beyond blessed by our family and church family today. And the best part? I can’t imagine a more joyful group to do this work. Adults of 80 or 90 all the way down to 4 year olds, all pitching in and working together. Problem solving, restocking boxes and tape, getting a second truck (yikes!). Overwhelming? Yes. Exhausting? Yes. But so good for such a large task. Honestly, moving days can make the best of people “spikey”. But this crew? Nope. Laughter. Endless conversation. Joking around. Teamwork among unlikely pairs. Thank you, dear people, for the way you blessed us today.

And our girls. Wow. Again so thankful. Top notch kiddos. Running on not nearly enough sleep, keeping good attitudes even if they are struggling with this big transition. And after the long day, a scrap of downtime, and some dinner, those three girls stayed up with me until almost 1am to finish packing up what was left. And had fun doing it. The grace of God right there.

Oh and did I mention, Lydia turned 13 today. What a 13th birthday! We joked that she had a huge party – it was just a strange one where the guests took everything out of our house.

So now we rest a short night – the last night in our house of 15 years. Then tomorrow we finish loading up and drive it all up to Barakel, where we have another whole group of people waiting to welcome us and help us unload.

Thank you for your prayers as we travel and make this transition. And thank you to our financial supporters who make it possible for us to go and work at Barakel. We are so blessed by your giving.

Rachel, for the Bennetts

Getting our ducks in a row

I recently came across this photo…

We feel like it’s an accurate description of our move preparations! Moving is not for wimps! Here is a humorous list of some of our scattered ducks:

  • We’re moving to a camp at the beginning of a summer that they have no campers.
  • We listed our house for sale during the original stay-at-home order.
  • We were trying to finish downsizing when neither garage sales nor donation centers were allowed.
  • For our new house, we have three addresses but no house key.
  • We are moving from a zip code with NO mail delivery to a zip code WITH mail delivery. Which will seem curious if you know Fairview.
  • We have had 17 showings, 6 offers, 2 contracts, 1 backup offer, and now finally we are moving ahead into appraisal, inspection, and Lord willing, closing!
  • Last time we moved, at the time of the move, we had a refrigerator but no kitchen, this time we will have a full kitchen and no refrigerator.
  • We have a furniture delivery that is somewhere between Columbus, OH and Grand Rapids, MI that was ordered at New Year’s…
  • …because of that, despite the fact that we have bought 6 dressers and sold 6 dressers, we are still short 1 dresser.
  • In the two weeks before the move we will have been to Ohio, Fenton, Fairview, Troy, Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, Lansing and maybe Hillsdale. (And remember…stay at home order)

One week from today the truck pulls out and heads north, hopefully full of our carefully lined up ducks.

Rachel, for the Bennetts

Full support, moving ahead!

We are fully supported and our house is on the market! As I said in our last post, what a crazy time for us to be at this point in our process. But as a friend reminded me this week, God is never early or late, always right on time. That is what we are trusting, and we are sure glad that we can! This would undoubtedly be a stressful whirlwind of a time were we relying on our own wisdom and understanding. We are thankful daily that the Lord has all of it planned, accounted for, and provided for. And we pray that, whatever situation you find yourself in during this time in our country and world, you would also be resting in the fact that if you look to the Lord he has all of the details of your life planned, accounted for, and provided for.

“I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?”

Last week as I was reading in my chronological Bible, I came upon Jeremiah chapter 32. It was set in a long line-up of daily readings about the foretelling of the destruction of Jerusalem. Actually, it wasn’t even just the destruction of Jerusalem, but many places: Egypt, Ammon, Moab, Edom, and Philistia. It was following daily readings about God’s judgement on Pharaoh, Jeremiah’s imprisonment, lists of Jerusalem’s sins, and prophesies about Babylon’s coming attack on Judah. So there in my reading for that day was this story, which sometimes seems randomly placed, about Jeremiah buying a field. I’m certain I have read it in the past and thought, why on earth is this here? What is this random story, in the middle of all this prophesy, about a routine business transaction? But on this day, as I read it, it was so clear to me that it isn’t random at all.

Leading up to chapter 32, there is Jeremiah, repeatedly warning God’s people that His judgment is coming, making the king very angry in the process. As a result, Jeremiah is being held by the King in the courtyard of the guard at the palace; rather like a ‘house arrest’ where he is not free, but people can come to see him. Surrounding the city are the Babylonians, occupying the land around the city and beginning to attack the city just as he has been warning the people. And in the midst of that…the Lord tells him to buy a field. Oh, and not just any field. A field that was in Jeremiah’s family, so he had the right of inheritance to it; which meant that it was God’s intention that the land would not leave a particular bloodline, but would be redeemed by their family if the need arose. It would symbolize longevity in the land. A family staying and living and remaining. AND, it just happened to be land that was already occupied by the attacking Babylonians. That’s right, as Spurgeon said, “it was purchasing an estate which was utterly valueless.” But Jeremiah proceeded as asked. He paid for it, registered the deed, put them in clay jars as was usual at the time, which was like a time capsule – sealing it up to preserve it, trusting it would be needed in the future. Why did he do all of this? In obedience to the Lord, because the Lord had said to him, “Houses, fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land.” Even in the face of what looked grim, he acted in obedience and trusted the outcome to the Lord.

Following this purchase, Jeremiah prays to the Lord, and it is recorded for us in chapter 32, verses 17-25. He begins with, “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” He acknowledges God’s power and might, and then proceeds to affirm many ways that God has provided for his people throughout history. And then at the end of the prayer there is something that I find very comforting, because it’s a very relatable human reaction. Jeremiah reminds God, as though he needs to, that the Babylonians are in fact attacking the city, just as God said they would. And that the city will in fact be handed over to the Babylonians, just as God warned it would. And then he seems to share his confusion at why on earth God would choose THIS TIME to have Jeremiah buy a field, symbolizing longevity in the land. Verse 25 says, “And though the city will be handed over to the Babylonians, you, O Sovereign Lord, say to me, ‘Buy the field with silver and have the transaction witnessed.'” Or in our modern words perhaps, “Now Lord? Why would this even make sense now…when our whole city is going to be captured?”

“Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: ‘I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” In his answer, the Lord confirms that, yes, Jerusalem will indeed be handed over to the Babylonians, because the people of Israel and Judah have done nothing but evil in God’s sight. But it doesn’t end there. God also continues to tell of when He will restore his people. “I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety. They will be my people and I will be their God…I will make an everlasting covenant with them…I will never stop doing good to them…Once more fields will be bought in this land…and deeds will be signed, sealed and witnessed…” If you read further in chapter 33, God goes on to promise peace, health, and healing, and ultimately a redeemer, that is, Christ.

On the particular day that I read this passage, I had been feeling admittedly quite defeated about all of the crazy things happening in our world and country. The negative news had bombarded me and left me discouraged and impossibly uncertain. We have been obediently following God’s call to camping ministry for two years now. We have waited for God’s perfect timing, with our support level slowly climbing. We found ourselves getting very close to being fully supported and now, in fact, are at 97% of our needed support. We have been making plans for a transition, prepping our house to sell, waiting on one last project to be finished before listing, choosing a tentative week to move. All the things we have been waiting for. But looking at all of the new uncertainty happening in our country, facing closings and shutdowns of what feels like everything, I had found myself feeling a bit like Jeremiah in this passage. And we feel a bit like saying to the Lord, “And though our country is being ravaged by a destructive virus, You, O Sovereign Lord, say to us, ‘Sell your house, quit your job, and move north.'” Oh how thankful I was to read of Jeremiah’s struggle with what the Lord asked him to do, at what seemed like an impossible time. And how much more thankful I was to read of the Lord’s reply: “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?”

One month ago, this looked like perfect timing to us. It was all lining up just so. Now, if we succumb to our humanity, it would look like a terrible time. How do you sell a house when words like ‘quarantine’ and phrases like ‘social distancing’ are the rules of the day? How do you quit a job when words like ‘recession’ are flying around economic reports? Well, all we can hope is that we do these things with the same faith that Jeremiah had. A faith in the Sovereign Lord, who says, “Is anything too hard for me?”

Please pray for us in the days ahead. We are knocking on the door of being fully supported, and are faithfully but cautiously moving forward with the same plan we have felt called to all along: to serve the Lord, the God of all mankind, and to proclaim His greatness at Camp Barakel. And we are preparing to see God show that truly nothing is too hard for Him.

Rachel, for the Bennetts

Small changes, big plans

Just to keep everyone up to date, we are currently at 89%. A small change, but as we get closer we want to keep our progress current. And while it may seem like a small step forward, we are encouraged! We are beginning to make plans for a move north in May, and we are trusting that the Lord will work out all the details necessary for that to happen. And there are many! Getting our home ready to sell (including one more repair project that needs to happen), navigating that sale, finishing the task of downsizing, finding a home for our kitty :(, raising the last 11% of our support, bringing closure to the many things we are involved in here in the Brighton area, not to mention the whole process of actually packing up and moving. It is a daunting list, and if we dwell too long on it, we will be quickly overwhelmed and undermotivated. So instead, we take one day at a time, one task at a time, focusing on what we can do now and letting go of what is yet unknown or unresolved. God is fully able to bring about this transition in the very best time, in the very best way, for our good, and for His glory.

Now is the time to join us!

Winter Update

We praise the Lord we have 79% of our support committed! Our hope is to be at camp by this summer. Wouldn’t it be great if we could make the move north in May 2020, in order to be settled and ready to join in the work of the big summer camping season? If you have been considering joining our wonderful team of supporters, now would be a great time to do so! We hope to see it pick up speed at the end as people jump in to help us get there.

So what does that remaining 21% look like? Based on the amount set by the Barakel board of trustees, we need around another $1000 per month to be fully funded. It may seem like a lot, but broken down into individual supporters and churches, it all adds up. We are confident in our calling, and know that God will bring more of His people to provide the remaining funds.

Why do we even need to raise money to go live and work at Barakel? Well, in order to keep camper costs as low as possible, and to trust fully in the Lord’s provision, there is no payroll at Camp Barakel. The resident staff who live and work there year round are not paid anything by camp. Rather, they seek the Lord’s provision through those that He would send to give regularly so that the work of camp can be accomplished. We are thankful for this opportunity to learn to rely fully on the Lord for all we have. After all, everything we have comes from Him anyway, so why not take that to a whole new level of faithful living? And it is all through the amazing network of His people that this can happen. Please contact us if you are interested in being a part of our ministry at Camp Barakel! Call us at 810-623-9917, email us at or go to our prayer and giving page.


I recently read an Instagram post by someone waiting to grow their family. Another a while ago by someone struggling through an unemployment wait. We wait and pray for lots of things in lots of different seasons. Starting a family, growing a family, finding a job. Waiting for a spouse to come back, for a wayward child to repent, for healing, for recovery. Sometimes we can work at the process and help it along. Sometimes we can’t. Always we can pray that the Lord would work. That He will bring the desired end at the right time. That He will change our hearts in the process. And we can trust, as we heard in a message while visiting a supporting church, that He will even make our prayers perfect when we no longer know what to pray for as we wait.

“For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”

Romans 8:26

Our ministry update? We continue to wait. We still trust in God’s call and plan to lead us into full time ministry at Camp Barakel. But in order for that to happen, we wait on God’s provision of our financial support. We wait as He moves to bring commitments from churches, families, and individuals to be a part of our monthly support. We currently have commitments for 73% of our required monthly support. We trust the Lord has a plan to provide that remaining 27%. We know He has a perfect time for us to make the move north. We trust the truth of the verse that comes just a bit after the one above:

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Romans 8:28

We find encouragement in all of those who have already committed to support us in ministry. And we seek more to come alongside and join us. What might that look like? If 28 families or individuals committed $50 a month, or if 14 families committed $100 a month, or if 3 or 4 more churches join us, any of these would meet our goal. So we continue to pray that the Lord will work. That He will bring the desired end at the right time. And that He will change our hearts in the process, making us more like Him.

Blessings to you and your family as we head into this season of thanksgiving and joy!

Rachel, for the Bennetts

“To live and serve our best”

Last week I had the privilege of playing piano for the middle schoolers on West Side at Camp Barakel. At the beginning of the week, the campers were hesitant and uncertain in their singing, and I’m sure I was equally so in my playing. Although I have been to many Barakel chapels, I had not played piano in any, so I was getting a feel for how that worked and how to transition smoothly through them. Some of the campers had also been to many Barakel chapels, but this year’s camp choruses were new to them. And other campers had never been to Barakel at all before, so chapel was new to them and all of the choruses were new to them, including the classic and well loved song “Camp Barakel”. So for the first couple of days, we were all figuring it out together (thankful for our experienced song leader who was neither hesitant or uncertain!) and the singing was quiet and perhaps a bit disjointed.

But come about Friday, I was more comfortable, the campers were more confident, and then the songs really started to pull together. Then those choruses really began to do what they are intended to do: turn the hearts of the campers to their creator and to the many truths of which they are singing. I could tell when the nostalgic camp song was no longer new to any of them. When the campers who were at Barakel for the first time had begun to make this “their camp.” When they sang out with enthusiasm,

"Camp Barakel, Camp Barakel, We're glad to turn again,
To this bless'd place where truth and grace from God's own Word abound;
Our lives anew we give to Him to live and serve our best,
Camp Barakel, We'll ne'er forget, For surely God has blessed."

“Our lives anew we give to Him to live and serve our best.” What wonderful words to hear those campers sing with more confidence and more ownership. I couldn’t help but smile as I played them through it and heard what sounded like double the singers compared to the beginning of the week. And that is just one line from the camp song. They sang 10 different choruses over and over throughout the week, each filled with truth.

"Who is like the Lord our God? Strong to save, faithful in love.
My debt is paid and the vict'ry won: The Lord is my salvation."

"Christ the sure and steady anchor, while the tempest rages on,
when temptation claims the battle and it seems the night has won.
Deeper still then goes the anchor, though I justly stand accused.
I will hold fast to the anchor; it shall never be removed."

"Rock of Ages cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.
Let the water and the blood, from Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure, Save from wrath and make me pure."

"All praise to Him who reigns in love,
Who guides the galaxies above,

Yet bends to hear our every prayer,
With sovereign power and tender care."

"The Word of God is light in my darkness,
hope for the hopeless, strong and true.
The Word of God is strength for the weary,
a shield for those who trust in You."

"Lord, I need you, oh, I need You.
Every hour I need you.
My one defense, my righteousness,
Oh God, how I need You."

What an absolute blessing to help lead those campers in better learning these songs so they can worship God more fully. What an encouragement to know that they will go home with those songs and those words rolling around in their heads. Some of the kids, like mine when they were young campers, will go home and sing them for their parents, in turn getting the words rolling around in their parents’ heads. What a potentially far reaching impact just from some simple camp choruses learned during a week of camp. I’m so thankful for the role I was able to play in that process. And I am equally thankful for the way those words impacted my own heart over the week.

“Our lives anew we give to Him to live and serve our best.” Well that’s the very thing we are seeking to do on this path He has us on, isn’t it? We are seeking to give our lives anew to Him, following where He has called us to live and serve our best. We currently have commitments for 70% of the needed support. We would love to get that remaining 30% and make the move by the end of the year. Would you pray for us as we continue raising our financial support to go live and serve our best at Camp Barakel?

Rachel, for the Bennetts

June update

Here’s a bit of an update about some of the things we have been up to over the past couple of months relating to our coming move to Barakel! Over Memorial Day weekend we went up during Family Camp, stayed at our empty camp house, and started on some work in the house. Some painting, some electrical, some general planning for when we live there. Here are some photos from that weekend….

The first Sunday in June, we went for a second visit to one of our supporting churches, New Hope Church of Oxford. We have been so blessed to visit this church and meet some of the people there. They are a small but mighty church with a large vision for impacting the world for Christ. We are so blessed to have this group of believers on our support team!

This particular Sunday we shared our testimony of how the Lord led us to serve full time at Camp Barakel. We were so encouraged by how those in attendance seemed to connect with our story and relate to the concepts we were sharing. Much of our story revolved around our calling to ministry and the balance between working toward that calling and waiting on the Lord. Here is a link to the message we shared from the live facebook stream that morning! (I personally was glad that I didn’t know for sure we were streaming live until we were all done!)

We made another weekend trip to camp during the first week of summer camp. Mostly we did more painting (I’m sure we’ll be mentioning painting multiple times in the future…), Jim did some work in the office, we got to say hi to Grace as she was counseling her first week, we went to Sunday morning chapel which is always a blessing, Mary Emma and Lydia got to try out being staff kids for a couple of ambushes, and I spontaneously filled in playing piano for West Side Chapel one evening. That was great fun! It was my first opportunity ever to play piano for chapel and it was such a blessing to help lead those young voices in praising God! A little last minute since I’d never played the songs before, but helped along by our future neighbor with her copy of the music and her piano that I could practice on. 😉

We continue to enjoy these adventures as we wait on the Lord to provide the rest of our support. We currently have 65% of our needed support and we eagerly await the remaining amount so that we can make the move north. In the meantime, we wait some and we work some, making the most of our time the best we can. Thank you for your prayers during this process! Please contact us at if you are interested in joining our support team!

Rachel, for the Bennetts

Our April prayer letter

Just this past week we sent out our latest prayer letter. You can read it using the link below. One update to what the letter states is that we are now at 64% of our financial support.

We praise God for continuing to raise up a group of prayer and financial supporters to allow us to soon make the transition to full-time ministry.

Update on our percentage!

It has been a year since we sent out our first support letters, and we are thankful to have 60% of our support committed. Thank you to those of you who have been praying for us and for those who have agreed to be a part of our support team!

We are excited to get the remaining support needed so that we can join in the work up at Barakel. They are in a season of preparation getting ready for their big summer season hosting hundreds of campers. They would welcome another family to join in the work, so we would love to be headed that way soon! Would you pray with us that God would provide the support we need to move the move north?

Past halfway!


We have finally passed the halfway point in our support raising! We currently have 52% of our support committed. We are excited to have passed the halfway mark, and continue to look to the Lord for his provision of the other 48%. We sent letters out in December and forgot to post them here, so we will do that now with a slightly updated version of that most recent letter. We do continue to seek individuals, families, and churches who would partner with us in this ministry. We cannot move to Barakel and begin our work there until we have raised 100% of our needed support. Thank you for praying with us, and feel free to spread the word of our need. If you have a church who may be interested in hearing about our ministry, or perhaps a Bible study group or small group where our need could be shared, please do contact us.

February 2019 Update Letter

We are at 49%

We are excited to be at 49% of our needed monthly support! It has been exciting to watch God work as people are moved to commit their support.  We are almost halfway there, but we still have another half to raise!  We don’t know where this remaining support will come from, but we know God does, and he will work it all out in His time.  At our Commissioning service we were encouraged  by Paul Gardner’s message, in which he quoted King George VI from his Christmas address in December of 1939. Of course, our unknown path and uncertainty does not compare to that which the world was facing at the time of WW2.  But the response to look to God and trust Him in uncertainty is applicable now as it was then.

“I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’ And he replied, ‘Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be better than light, and safer than a known way.’

Commissioning service 11-11-18

Last Sunday evening our church held a service to officially commission us to the ministry at Camp Barakel. The evening was so many things. It was encouraging, it was humbling, it was exciting, and it was even a little over-whelming. The service was part of a Missions Emphasis week where we focus, as a church, on our mission families and how the Lord is working in their lives. What a surreal experience to be included in that group! We were joined by many of our family and friends, a couple members of the Barakel Board of Trustees, some of the Barakel staff, as well as much of our church family.

The evening began with a dinner, which is what our church calls an International Banquet. It ties in with the missions theme by incorporating dishes from around the world in a potluck style meal.


The service followed the dinner, and began with an introduction from our pastor with an overview of all of the mission families our church helps to support.


That was followed by a slide-show presentation given by Jim about our calling, some general information about Barakel, and our future roles there. We were so glad to be able to share this information with our church family since we have been sharing it with churches we are visiting, but many in our sending church were still relatively unfamiliar with Camp Barakel and our involvement there.







Following Jim’s presentation, we were blessed to hear a short message by Paul Gardner, Camp Barakel’s director. We were challenged and encouraged through this to keep strong in the faith as we continue in this journey.

Finally, the last portion of the service was the commissioning of our family by our pastors and deacons. What a privilege to be prayed over and committed to the Lord by our church as we seek to be sent off into a full time ministry.


Encouraging, humbling, exciting, and a little over-whelming. Both sobering and celebratory. So good to remember that this is the Lord’s work and always has been. It’s not ours, and it’s not about us. We are simply willing to go if He is willing to use us. We are simply finding work that the Lord is already doing, and looking to see how He can use us there.

Support update and Family Camp video

We are making exciting progress with our support! As of today we are at 41% of our needed monthly support! We are excited about how many supporters the Lord has already brought our way, and we are looking to Him to continue providing the rest of the needed monthly support.

Over Labor Day weekend, we once again went and helped out up at Family Camp at Barakel. Our whole family worked in various areas, minus Grace, who had just the week before moved to Hillsdale College to begin her first year there. The rest of us worked in the dishroom again, like during Memorial Day weekend. Now we’re really getting that hang of it! Rachel, Mary Emma and Lydia also helped out in children’s chapel classes. Jim got some experience serving snack one evening, and also running Thunder Express one afternoon. Mary Emma and Lydia also enjoyed some free time hanging around with staff kids and getting to know them better. At both family camps, they have enjoyed being on the “staff kid” team for the teen activity called “Ambush” one evening.

Jim finishing his shift in the dish room with Kevin Pierpont


Mary Emma and Lydia enjoying time with a couple of staff kids

Rachel enjoyed playing flute during worship in Saturday evening and Sunday morning chapel times. Here is a video clip from that blessed time!

We still have a long way to go and we can’t move to Barakel to begin working until we are fully supported.  If you would like to know more about how you can help us reach our goal, check out our Prayer and Giving page.

We have 29% of our support committed!

Throughout the summer we are thankful to have continued to add slowly to our committed support and are currently at 29% of our needed monthly support.  We are praying and trusting that this fall we will see this increase at a faster rate, but we trust the Lord knows just the right timing for our family.

This summer we have stayed busy with lots of things as a family, sometimes with several of us going in different directions.  We kicked off the summer at Barakel over Memorial Day weekend working in the dishroom as a family.

When we headed home on that Monday, we left Grace there for the summer to serve on summer staff.

In June, Mary Emma was kept busy with driver’s ed, and at the end of June, we took a family vacation to Ohio and Kentucky. We were glad Grace could have two weeks off to be able to go with us and also to have 4th of July at home once we got back.

We participated with our church in the 4th of July parade, and July also had us busy with a week of VBS at our church.

The first week of August, all of us except Jim headed up to Barakel for a week.  Rachel worked in the kitchen, Mary Emma and Lydia were campers, and Grace was glad to have us all join her there!

The Monday we came home Jim had already left for a mission trip with our church to New York City.

In just a week from now, we will take Grace to start her freshman year at Hillsdale College. And we will finish off our summer back at Barakel to once again work in the dishroom, this time for Labor Day family camp.

Please pray for us as we continue to raise our financial support.  We are talking to several churches, and we do have one we will visit in September. We are thankful for this opportunity and trust the Lord will use it to connect us to more that would be willing to support us in our ministry.

We are at 23%!

We’ve had a busy first month of raising support. We are doing some new tasks directly related to support raising like writing and sending a support letter and getting prayer cards. But we are also busy doing lots of normal life May activities like finishing our school year, having a garage sale, and getting ready for a ballet recital. Then throw in some special events like having our first homeschool graduate and an open house! It’s keeping us plenty busy! But in the midst of all of that, the Lord has been busy too, putting together the beginning of our group of supporters. It has been fun watching the percentage start to climb.

0.3%…3%…5%…11%…12%…18%…and finally 23%!

We’re excited to be joined by people who want to support our ministry. We’re grateful to have raised 23% of our needed monthly support.  And we’re eager to see God’s plan and timing for the future. Contact us if you would be interested in joining our team of supporters. Check out the “contact us” portion of our website for all of our contact info. Also check out the “prayer and giving” page for more details on that.

The start of our ministry

On March 29, we received word that our application for resident missionary staff had been approved by the Camp Barakel board of trustees.  This was the next step in a 3 year process to follow the Lord’s leading to serve Him in full-time ministry work at Camp Barakel.  We are now able to start the process of building a network of supporters.