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
As an exhausted group of dads and their somewhat tired children huddled in the cozy glow of the Shelter to escape the rain after a day of activity & time together, Derek Yoder shared from 1 Corinthians 13 and a message from his heart. He tried to explain the overwhelming new, protective love he felt the first moment he saw his daughter, the pain he experienced when seeing her injured, and the joy in spending time with her and watching her grow. This is nothing, he reminded the group, compared to God’s love for each of us. Then, the Shelter filled with 28 voices singing a beautifully improvised rendition of “How Deep the Father’s Love,” led by Ruskin, with children worshipping alongside their fathers, in the midst of their Father.
Nine families gathered for Dads & Kids Weekend in October and made the weekend a fun, memorable bonding experience! The adventurous group braved a night hike, canoed in the fall morning mist, and dueled at the ping pong table. During a break in the rain, a clatter of hammers, wire nails, pine boards, and little voices echoed from the Shelter Campsites as the group assembled birdhouses to take home, a memento from a weekend spent building something much bigger.
7 dads brought their family and/or extended family to Dads & Kids Weekend.
Dads & Kids Weekend brought families closer together at Pine Lake.
Spread gravel, sanitize silverware, and trim the peninsula: in their two weeks at Pine Lake, Keith and Janet Graybill checked these and many other humble items off the perpetual to-do list. Driven by their appreciation for the reconciliatory ministry of Pine Lake, as well as the joy they experience from volunteerism, the Graybill’s happily pitched in at camp during their most recent visit with their son (Executive Director, Matt Graybill) and his family.
Primarily, they prepared Pine Lake to host upcoming guest groups: a homeschool group, a wedding, and a quilters guild. Tasks like washing the out of reach windows in the Lodge and raking and trimming brush in the Shelter Campsites spruced up the space quite a bit. For Janet, helping with hospitality is a way of joining in the mission of camp, which resonates deeply with them. “We enjoy making it look like a welcoming place for people.”
As Keith pressure washed nearly every picnic table & bench at Main Camp, he had time to reflect on God’s work in his own life. “In life one does not always see tangible progress or the making of a difference in our efforts … it is very rewarding to receive visible confirmation the beauty of reconditioned wood on a bench or picnic table revealed when a pressure washer beats off the accumulation of scaling from weather exposure. The beauty of camp is apparent, but more is waiting to be explored. Might volunteering also open us up for God’s exploration and reveal?”
Over the last year, more than a few guests have been able to experience peace and renewal in the natural beauty of Pine Lake because of supporters’ generosity of time! If you want to join in the fun, call the office and talk to Matt. We still have more pressure washing (among other things) to do!
Keith “Pap” Graybill and grandson Ian spreading gravel
Keith Graybill pressure washes one of many picnic tables.
The Pavilion tables gleam after being pressure washed
Janet Graybill washed the Pavilion silverware
All the Pavilion silverware and utensils were cleaned!
Beth & Janet Graybill made 25 pie crusts for a bake sale benefiting Pine Lake
In the 2020 Virtual Auction, Choctaw beaded Christmas ornaments, a Thanksgiving wreath, and a handmade table attracted the most bids while the Camp Quilt and the Southern Sampler Quilt brought in the biggest bids.
by: Matthew Graybill
“You have been outbid!” Eighty-five registered bidders received this text message or email a total of 408 times at the first virtual Camp Sale event, October 3-7. Each bid represented a statement of affirmation for the ministry of camp as well as appreciation for the many handmade items for sale. Like you, we were disappointed we could not gather to share in a bowl of gumbo or warm donut. The loss of working together, fellowshipping, and seeing old friends was echoed by many within the Pine Lake community.
Not to be defeated, PLFC supporters responded to the virtual auction with high levels of engagement and enthusiasm. Because the virtual auction could be accessed from anywhere, several folks across the United States & Canada were able to bid and win items as well. Many bidders dove deep into the competition for coveted handmade and unique items. Perhaps you watched with your mouth open as the Choctaw beaded Christmas ornaments (from Nanih Waiya Indian Mennonite Church) racked up 23 total bids and sold for $500 or as the wooden step stool (by Duane Maust) shot up to $240! The Camp Quilt ($1,150) and the Southern Sampler Quilt ($875) received the two highest bids.
A deep sense of gratitude sits with me as I think about the event as a whole. It was both humbling and thrilling to witness your level of involvement in the new format as well as in the communities that sold baked goods (Meridian), BBQ plates (Jackson), and gumbo & jambalaya (Gulfport), or held a craft & bake sale (Des Allemands) to benefit Camp Sale. Resilient and faithful, Pine Lake supporters still found ways to come together to care for camp. Pine Lake is blessed with a committed community that engages with and promotes this ministry. So we say, “THANK YOU” to each person who contributed items, bid, won, or donated to this year’s sale. You make camp a special place for each person to grow closer to God, nature, and each other.