(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!