Blog

Remembering Daniel

Daniel Arzu by Kaylin Beadle

Daniel Arzu by Kaylin Beadle

Artwork by Kaylin Beadle

Remembering Daniel

By Suzanne Opel

Daniel as a camper in 2015

The Pine Lake community lost a family member last week. Daniel Arzu, a former camper and beloved member of the 2020 and 2021 summer staff, was tragically killed Wednesday night, September 21 at the age of 21. As our camp community mourns, we remember his life and friendship. While at Pine Lake Fellowship Camp he was an eager, full-hearted camper, a patient, gentle counselor, and a sensitive, insightful coworker. He always had a bright smile and a kind tone in his voice.

Daniel cooking breakfast for campersAs a young camper, Daniel was the kind of person everyone wanted to be around, according to one of his counselors. He had an infectious joy and spoke boldly about his faith even then. His mother often sent him to camp with campers who needed help understanding English. Daniel would patiently translate for them, a mentally taxing task.

As a counselor, around the campfire one evening, Daniel shared the foundation behind that joy. He gave a powerful testimony of God’s redemptive, protective love, prompting several campers to consider their own relationship with Christ. Even in the everyday, his faith was evident in his actions, and the way he seemed to filter worries through what would actually matter by the time we got to heaven. He was quick to notice when a fellow staff member or camper was feeling down or off, and he would gently check in and encourage them even in the midst of wild days at camp.

Daniel with his victorious team in 2021On the basketball court and recreation field, his speed and athleticism dominated, to campers’ delight. If he was given the swatter (a half of a pool noodle, used in tagging games), everyone including staff ran from him screaming with laughter as they attempted (futilely) to flee from this gentle giant. Kids who didn’t seem to respect anyone else looked up to Daniel in awe, and he used his sway to head them in the right direction, speaking to them man-to-man.

Summer staff 2021 at the swimming areaWhether he was talking with campers about faith and the coolest shoes, or connecting with a volunteer about their shared hometown of New Orleans, Daniel left an impact at Pine Lake. Cooks who only saw him a few brief times each day still remember his warmth and genuine connection. Fellow staff, campers, and even his former counselors shared memories of the joy and bold faith he had here. (Click the link below for more memories on Instagram.)

Daniel’s community has lost an uncommonly wise and uniquely gifted young man, a compassionate son, brother, uncle, and friend. We mourn Daniel together, and we pray for God’s grace and peace for those who called him family and friend.

January 2022 News & Updates!

This reflection is from our January 2022 Newsletter. To read the full edition, click on the button below.

Jace & a happy camper pose on the first day of summer camp!

READ NEWS & UPDATES FROM PLFC!

 

By Jace Weber (2021 Summer Counselor)

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.

READ NEWS & UPDATES FROM PLFC!

Hurricane Ida evacuees find refuge at Pine Lake!

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!

DONATE

Read more about our “Answer the Call” Campaign!

Answer the Call! | Year End Giving Campaign

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!

HELP OTHERS ANSWER THE CALL!

 

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.  

Thank you for your continued support!

READ MORE

Matt Graybill
Executive Director

 

DONATE

Photo Gallery – Work Day & Association Meeting

March 6, 2021

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!

7 Reasons Campers Need Summer Camp Right Now

Campers working as a team.

Campers working as a team.

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

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

Campers playing a game on the rec field

Outdoor time!

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

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

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.

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 with the shelter they built

Kid-centered fun!

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

Campers at a supper cookout

Unplugged!

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?