Being a counselor at Pine Lake was not what I thought it was going to be. I had pictured a summer of easily building relationships with campers and sliding effortlessly into the role of counselor. Looking back, it is not shocking that that is not what my summer looked like.
It was my first summer as a counselor, and the job stressed me out, especially at first. I learned what it was to struggle working well with a partner, struggle with my leadership skills, struggle to prioritize my own relationship with God, and struggle with not seeing the fruit in campers that I wanted to see.
My summer was not easy and I was not a perfect counselor, but that did not stop God from working. The struggles that I went through grew me and stretched me in ways I am incredibly grateful for. I learned more by struggling than I ever would have by experiencing my idea of a perfect summer. Even though the events of the summer looked different than I had expected them to, God pushed me to look closer for how He moves in His own better ways and in His better timing.
Pine Lake Fellowship Camp (Meridian, MS) hosted evacuees over a three week period following the destruction caused by Hurricane Ida on August 29. After Ida hit, it was obvious that the storm damage was far greater than anticipated. Most evacuees had only packed for two nights expecting to go home immediately after Ida passed! All evacuee homes were without power, some roofs were severely damaged and caused internal damage, but there were many feelings of helplessness and anxiety. So, any previous lodging fee was waived, and we moved around existing reservations so that they could stay for as long as needed. Over the course of three weeks, 35 people stayed at Pine Lake. Some stays lasted only 4 nights, most 10, and others 21. A few evacuees had been to camp many times and several were new to camp within the last year as part of a guest group. Others were neighbors, friends, or in-laws who networked or tagged along to get out of Ida’s destructiveness. The group was made up of several segments/families from different parts of New Orleans and St. Charles Parish. There was a community that formed who supported one another through grief of damaged homes and the unknown.
Even in the midst of the chaos and unknown of what was going on back home, Pine Lake was a refuge where there was no immediate concern about food, shelter, or air conditioning. While overlooking the lake from the Lodge porch, one first time guest said he was so eager to get home while being displaced and caring for his elderly parents & mother in law over the last 6 days. “But now that I’m here, I don’t really want to leave! That’s the peace and renewal that the Holy Spirit can bring to even the most chaotic of situations.
So many supporters “Answered the Call” when you contributed gift cards, provided meals, & donated to PLFC utility expenses during those three weeks in September.
Give a contribution to our “Answer the Call” campaign as we celebrate people answering God’s call to draw closer to him at Pine Lake!
Have you ever missed a call (or text) because you were too distracted or in another room? Urgency, full schedules, and flashing screens can subtly drown out the voice of God. Pine Lake is a sanctuary of retreat from daily distractions and helps us to hear the voice of God speak into our lives. That call invites us to draw into a closer and deeper relationship with Jesus Christ & follow Him! We praise God for the gift of camp which helps us hear more clearly.
Pine Lake is a place to hear God’s voice and answer the call!
For campers like Landon, summer camp has served as a primary part of his Christian journey. To him, a week at camp has always meant fun games, Christian community with fellow campers & staff, and a deepening of his faith in Christ. Last spring, while in discussion with his parents about his upcoming baptism, Landon expressed a desire to be baptized at Pine Lake, because it’s been a formative place for his faith journey. He said it is “the place he feels closest to God.” This past summer after his week at camp ended, he was baptized in Pine Lake with family, church members, summer staff, & cabinmates there to support him! Praise God that Landon heard & answered God’s call on his life!
The Pine Lake community was able to hear and answer God’s calling in many ways in 2021. Here area few that stood out:
Volunteers organized Camp Sale at Pine Lake for the first time and rallied to raise $27,500!
213 campers learned about Jesus Christ at summer camp. One camper said, “I’m learning that God will shape me in small steps to make me who he wants me to be.”
Our inaugural week-long Day Camp saw 58 campers learn about the Armor of God over two programs!
16 summer staff experienced “life-changing” moments as they grew in confidence to “share the gospel, lean on community, and prioritize their walk with Christ”
Supporters rallied around 35 displaced Hurricane Ida evacuees and provided food & gift card donations as well as contributions to supplement Pine Lake’s cost of hosting evacuees over three weeks in September.
This ministry thrives because of your prayer & commitment which carry forth this important work! As we move into 2022, we anticipate the ways God will use Pine Lake’s supporters, staff, & resources to reach campers, guests, & others in ways we cannot comprehend. I invite you to offer a donation that helps campers & guests “Answer the Call” to grow closer to God.
This year we got new lighting in the bathhouses, painted the girls bathhouse, cleaned cabins, raked pine straw, cleared storm debris, fell two dead trees, and tidied up at Tall Pines Fellowship Center and Lake View Lodge. (Comment with jobs we missed!) More importantly, this community was able to gather and work towards a common goal while enjoying beautiful sunshine and delicious food!
Our world has been upside down for almost a year now. Hard to believe, right?! Weirdly enough, upside down has almost started to feel normal. (Quick reminder: It won’t be like this forever. Also, God made humans to be incredibly resilient, especially when we turn to Him.) Still, we feel the effects of everything that has changed, and it’s not all new puppies and quality family time. Each family’s experience is a little different, of course. Across our nation, though, kids are more isolated, more anxious, and on their screens more. It’s reality for many, but it’s not how any of us want it to be.
I’m a little (or a lot) biased, but the needs of kids today (community, social interaction, security, reassurance, fresh air, hands-on experience, and guidance) shout SUMMER CAMP to me! These are the exact things summer camp specializes in. Let me explain:
Camper making a silly face
Interaction with peers!
At camp, kids are moving through their entire day surrounded by friends their own age! Bonding through new adventures, shared experiences, and unstructured play times, campers strengthen new and old friendships. With their counselor’s help, they navigate conflict in healthy ways and learn to get along with people who are different from them. Camp is a supportive environment where social skills grow!
Campers playing a game on the rec field
Whether hammocking on the Cove or competing in a high stakes canoe race, campers experience the benefits of nature all day. What benefits, you say? (Has it been that long?) Fresh air, sunshine, and movement improve health and mood, and even lower stress! The Bible also tells us God’s character is revealed in His creation (Rom 1:20): His majesty in the heavens, his beauty in the details… Have you seen a mature Big Leaf Magnolia tree or eaten a mayberry off the bush? God’s creation is amazing and sometimes delicious!
Campfire on the island.
Learning more about Jesus Christ!
It’s true for adults and kids: Through prayer, praise, bible study, and Christian community, we come to a better understanding of even His most simple truths. Take for example, God’s promise to be with us always (Matthew 28:20), His power (Luke 1:37), and His attention to detail (Matthew 6:26), and His love for each of us (Romans 5:8). This season seems to hold a lot more problems for everyone, so we practice taking our problems to the one who has the power to do something about ‘em!
A camper and her counselor
Amazing Christian role models!
Mom, Dad, you are definitely still cool, and your kids certainly take all your advice and apply it immediately. Hear me out, though. What if a whole team of very cool teens and young adults were also investing in the growth and success of your children, and also speaking truth and encouragement to them? They could teach them fun games and keep them safe all at the same time, too. Sound to good to be true? Well, it’s not. It’s every single day of camp!
A counselor’s words and actions carry a lot of weight, and at camp your child is surrounded by an array of great role models, ready to share about their walk with Christ and encourage your child in their own relationship.
A camper learns archery for the first time.
Doing new things!
Unless you have a 250 foot zip line, a five-sided treehouse, and a selection of canoes, funyaks, paddleboats, and paddleboards for your 7 acre lake, and more (umm, can we come over?), we guarantee there’s a fresh new adventure for your camper. This year, we’re adding a few new experiences for even more fun! Kids draw confidence from trying new things and experiencing real success. No one is amazing at everything (volleyball will never be my sport, and that’s okay). However, with so many different activities and coaching from a watchful counselor, each camper finds something they love (even if it’s not on the schedule.).
Campers with the shelter they built
Campers are our priority! Everything is designed for the camper: fun games and activities for their age group, songs only an elementary schooler would love, appropriate bedtimes, and kid friendly delicious food. Counselors focus on the camper’s experience the entire time they are here, even praying for campers on their way to camp.
Campers at a supper cookout
Camp is a screen-free environment, and campers are too busy having fun to miss their devices! We all know the blue glow of the screen is a little rough on the eyes. The constant attention-grabbing is exhausting. At camp, campers live their own story instead of watching others’ stories through a 5-inch rectangle. Real life is so much bigger.
Whew! Thinking about all of this makes me ready for camp right now! You too? ;) Even as the world changes, kids continue to need the unique qualities of summer camp, and this summer, it feels especially urgent.
Now, we know this list is incomplete (can the whole of camp ever really be captured in words?) so help us out. What does your camper need right now? What can camp offer your family?
Dear Friend of Pine Lake,
This was certainly not the year we hoped for, nor expected. As the last pages of the calendar fall away, it’s tempting to box up the woes of 2020 and label it “The Worst Year,” while looking toward a brighter new year in 2021. Before we close the box completely, I invite you to pause and join me in recognition of the ways God has worked at Pine Lake throughout this year. We look forward to what God has planned in 2021!- Suzanne
The act of thanks-giving is holy protest against cynicism, covetousness, fatalism, entitlement, self-pity, joylessness, discontentment, self-sufficiency, greed, arrogance, and apathy. – Duke Kwon
God’s Work at Camp in 2020!
Strong Financial Standing at Year’s Start
Pine Lake started the year 2020 off with a budget surplus from 2019. In January, Pine Lake anticipated a year of sizable growth with expanded summer plans and an increase in guest group reservations. Today, we recognize the 2019 budget surplus as God’s provision to sustain Pine Lake through a year of uncertainty.
New Partnership Boosts Camp’s Outreach
After pouring every bit of energy into rebuilding parts of the local community affected by tornado damage, volunteers with World Renew (a disaster relief group) refueled and rested in the natural setting of camp through January and February. Their leaders still gush over their comfortable lodging at Pine Lake.
New Volunteers Came to Camp
Throughout the winter months, five retired couples volunteered at camp and helped with everything from new lighting around the Pavilion to finishing the Tall Pines gym. Their reward for their hard work: the knowledge they served where and when they could, with the bonus of a warm winter and even warmer community.
Pine Lake Community Gathered in March
Cleaning, wood splitting, raking, fellowship over smoked chicken, and more. Caring for camp at Work Day was especially poignant as the last major camp event before the cascade of COVID-19 closures and cancellations began.
Wildlife at Pine Lake
Mr. and Mrs. goose hatched 6 fuzzy goslings at Pine Lake in the spring, and nurtured their family at camp for most of the spring! Wild turkeys and deer showed their faces more, too.
Neighbors and community members were able to enjoy the serenity and retreat experience of camp when they came to fish during the long gaps in between guest groups. Several voiced that fishing at Pine Lake was a needed restful escape and a delight.
Summer Staff Stay Committed to Campers
When the tides shifted on summer camp and we had to cancel, every single summer staff agreed to volunteer. They all wanted to help in whatever way they could to make camp happen for campers at home. The staff found ways to encourage and nurture both campers and each other. At the end of the summer, a zoom camper declared her favorite part of camp, “Meeting everyone, so now I’ll know people when I come to camp next summer!
Thirty People, One Gorgeous Quilt
Veteran and rookie quilters gathered at the Camp Quilt Retreat & Workshop to complete the Camp Quilt, a symbol of the community of Pine Lake. A former Pine Lake camper who now lives far away came to quilt, spend time with old friends, and introduce her daughter to Pine Lake.
Family Fun in a New Way
Several parents said, “We needed this,” and the wide smiles on their kids’ faces confirmed it. For the 10 families who gathered for Family Escapes in July & September, camp continues to be a place where kids (and adults) can unplug, be wholly themselves, and feel God’s closeness.
Homeschoolers Came Home to Camp
For some, Fall Homeschool Camp Days were a return to a familiar place. For others, a new love for camp blossomed as they flew down the zip line, roasted cinnamon apple slices over a fire they built on their own, and more!
Deep Family Bonding
Dads and kids built more than birdhouses as they stepped out of their normal routines and made new memories at Dads & Kids Weekend in October. Between boating (and splashing) on the lake and getting lost in worship music at campfire, fathers and children experienced adventure and retreat together.
A Nation-wide Auction
The support of so many Pine Lakers from all over the country was both humbling and thrilling. People who’ve never been to Pine Lake before bid up items made by people who hold Pine Lake dear in their heart.
Go Local, Get Delicious
Chess squares, coconut cream pies, jambalaya, barbecue, and more! United in spirit, though divided by distance, churches and individuals worked together to raise money in their own communities through mouth-watering means! Des Allemands Mennonite, a former Camp Sale host church, put on a craft and bake sale in their town and raised over $1,100 dollars! In Jackson, Rhoda, Jody, and company pulled off a full fledged barbecue plate sale with sides, pound cake, banana pudding, and optional delivery. Local people shared their warm memories of Pine Lake as they bought plates!
The Engine of Camp
While the board of directors stewards Pine Lake and the year round staff oversee operations, volunteers are undoubtedly the engine who keep Pine Lake going. Our volunteer layout looked very different, but was rich in deep support. From winter service workers last winter to Jeff Landis jumping on the mower and John Opel doing dirt work, many of camp’s essential needs were met. Dozens of hours were spent around the camp quilt and filling the wood box this year. The volunteer virtual summer staff spent time leading worship and connecting with Pine Lake From Home campers.
There’s no doubt, volunteers are the engine that keeps Pine Lake moving!
Here’s a list of what was done this year, powered by volunteers:
Painted boys & girls bathhouse
All Tall Pines and Lodge windows washed
Tall Pines gym panels finished
New exterior lights on the Pavilion
Wood shed stocked
Cleaning and organizing the old office
New Tall Pines dishes unboxed, washed, and stored
Outdoor furniture at Tall Pines sealed
Camp Quilt quilted, bound, and finished
Craft and Bake Sale
Gumbo & Jambalaya Sale
Shelter campsites raked and trimmed
swamp trail Pressure washed
Picnic tables and benches pressure washed
Semi-annual raking around Shelter campsites, basketball court, Bender, Lodge, and perimeter of Tall Pines fields