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