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