God is doing a new thing

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Video text:
> 541 persons gathered at Lake Junaluska for NOAC 2023. This included attendees of the 1958 National Youth Conference that was also held at Lake Junaluska, and 4 participants over 90 years of age. Additional participants attended online.
> 1,375 hygiene kits were assembled for Church World Service. 84 walkers raised more than $4,500 for the new NOAC scholarship fund. Worship service offerings exceeded $26,000.
> Special thanks to the NOAC 2023 coordinator Christy Waltersdorff; planning team members Glenn Bollinger, Karen Dillon, Jim Martinez, Leonard Matheny, Don Mitchell, Bonnie Kline Smeltzer, and Karlene Tyler; and the NOAC news team members David Sollenberger, Larry Glick, and Chris Stover-Brown.
> See you for NOAC 2025, September 1-5.

God is doing a new thing:
National Older Adult Conference (NOAC) 2023

“I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” –Isaiah 43:19

Reflection by Traci Rabenstein, executive director of Mission Advancement

When the email arrived with the announcement that it was time to register for National Older Adult Conference (NOAC), I couldn’t click on the link fast enough! After attending three other NOACs, I knew it was going to be in an opportunity to be with people who renew my spirit and recharge my batteries. It would be a week to have good fellowship, more activities to choose from than hours in the day, speakers that would challenge the lens I use to view the world around me, and sermons that would nourish my soul.

While my plans shifted and I couldn’t attend as many activities as originally thought, the fellowship with others attending the conference and the speakers with powerful sermons didn’t disappoint. Our office, Mission Advancement, hosted a table at the welcome center at the gymnasium behind the building where registration occurred. We spent the afternoon talking, laughing, sharing snacks and other goodies, and I was able to “do a new thing” right away. Well, an almost new thing.

For the past few in-person NOACs, Frances Townsend has brought an entire workshop of materials, dye, and other items needed for tie-dyeing. After seeing her decorate t-shirts and other items years ago during a previous NOAC, I finally had the chance to do tie-dying for myself with the help of her technique and expertise. I picked out a piece of material from the many items she had, and then she helped me fold and tie it for dyeing.

Frances showed me all the colored dye powders and an example of a completed piece, and I was inspired to use similar colors. Then we went to the lawn space where she had an activity station, strategically placed the powders on the material, and then used hot water to soak the color into the fabric. During that time, I thought about the week ahead and began to ponder the conference theme, “God Is Doing a New Thing.”

As I watched the color change from powder and seep deep into the fabric, I considered whether the work Frances and I put into each fold and turn, each string tightened and tied, would produce a beautiful thing. Would this piece of plain material be turned into something new and beautiful?

Isn’t this just like life? With twists and turns, situations that make us feel tightened and tied down, feeling the heat of whatever is weighing upon us, and not knowing exactly how we would come through to the other side. Just when we think we can’t bear one more thing, God’s peace and love spring forth and we find ourselves on the other side of the trial or tribulation forever changed… just like a dyed piece of fabric. It had been twisted and tied up tightly then exposed to hot and cold elements and emerged forever changed.

By the end of the week at NOAC, I found myself answering the question from the theme text found in Isaiah: “Yes, God! I do perceive it; you are doing a new thing.” And I offered praises of thanksgiving. What Christ did for me and for all, and what Christ has brought us through, makes us forever changed!

Learn more about National Older Adult Conference at www.brethren.org/NOAC or support its work today at www.brethren.org/giveNOAC.

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

Ask the Lord of the harvest

Photos by Grace Elliott, Penny Gay, Jeff Boshart, and Dennis Thompson

www.brethren.org/gfi

By Jeff Boshart, manager of the Global Food Initiative

“Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” ~ Matthew 9:38, NIV

Greetings in the name of Jesus. My time as the manager of the Global Food Initiative Fund is nearing its end. The GFI has undergone various changes over the past 12 years, none of it possible without your generous and sacrificial giving to neighbors near and far. Recently I sat down and calculated the amounts sent to various partners around the world to support their work in agricultural development ministries. The total amount shared with churches and Christian non-profit organizations in 25 countries was nearly $2 million. 

Internationally, the largest amounts were shared with the following countries: Haiti ($279,300), Honduras ($173,800), and Nigeria ($165,200). In the United States, through contributions to church-based community gardening efforts and support to Puerto Rican farmers after Hurricane Maria, the total allocated was $345,700. These dollars represent animals, fruit trees, seeds, tools, fertilizers, trainings, conferences, farmer-to-farmer exchanges, several Brethren Volunteer Service placements, and organizations working with immigrants to the US as well as organizations advocating for governmental policies leading to greater food security.

Volunteers who have traveled on behalf of the GFI have given their time and talents to enhance and add value to this ministry in areas such as farming, veterinary medicine, forage production and animal nutrition, appropriate technology, plant breeding, aquaculture, solar energy, clean water systems, grant writing, and program evaluation. Finally, I have had the privilege to meet some special servants of the Lord who are ministering and sharing Christ’s love in some of the most difficult places on earth. I believe these are the workers that Jesus called for when he told his disciples, “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:38), and I am blessed beyond words to call them friends.

Although I am moving on, the work continues, and I am excited to see who God will call to walk with our sisters and brothers around the world. I pray that you will continue walking that journey with them.

Learn more about the Global Food Initiative at www.brethren.org/gfi or support its ministry today at www.brethren.org/giveGFI.

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

Share abundantly

By Shannon McNeil Smith, Mission Advancement advocate

“I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me. Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit.” ~Philippians 1:25-27, NIV

Sharing abundantly is something I equate to this plentiful season of fresh garden produce – especially the hot peppers we have grown the last few years. My husband has dutifully tended the seedlings from winter until we can plant in June. The work continues all through the season and well into fall. Early frosts mean our garage is filled with a cornucopia of planters with hot peppers yet to be harvested. Some of these plants have produced so plentifully that we have freezer bags full of prepared peppers ready to make hot sauce and dehydrated peppers in the pantry ready to make spices. So much abundance that we have shared with neighbors and friends, getting to know them through what our garden and hard work produces.
 
Similarly, shouldn’t we ABUNDANTLY share God’s everlasting love and the peace of Christ?! It can be daunting, much more difficult than talking to someone about produce. Yet it might not always be in evangelizing words that we share our joy. We may share abundantly in acts of service, showing others how much they are loved by our Creator. We could share abundantly by listening and showing the faith that is needed to be filled with Christ’s peace.
 
We all have different gifts that allow us to share with others the abundance that we have as children of God. As we are many parts to one body, we are called to use our gifts to glorify God. This week use your gifts to share abundantly!

This reflection was originally featured on a bulletin produced by Brethren Press. Learn more about the missions and ministries of the Church of the Brethren that inspire us to share abundantly at www.brethren.org/greatthings or support our shared work today at www.brethren.org/give.

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

New relationships and a new heart

www.brethren.org/bvs

By Chandler Poling, Brethren Volunteer Service Unit #204

After graduation from high school, I decided to enter Brethren Volunteer Service. I spent a year (1992-1993) at San Antonio Catholic Worker House, an intentional community that provided hospitality to families and individuals who needed a place to live or a hot meal.

On weekdays, we cooked a hot lunch and served it to roughly 50 people. We offered four rooms for families who needed a temporary place to live. We met basic needs, but the real aim of the work was solidarity. Families and workers lived in the same house, prayed, and ate meals together. Our guests were sometimes grateful and cooperative, sometimes manipulative or aggressive. Some were mothers fleeing a violent husband. Some, with breath smelling of alcohol, came every day for lunch before returning to their spot under the bridge. The abstract idea of “the homeless” was no longer meaningful to me as I built relationships with real human beings: Cowboy, Katharine, Juan, and others.

When I was a child, my family never missed a meal or worried about where we would sleep that night. I never feared that dad or mom would come home drunk or stay out late. I never feared violence or verbal abuse. I never realized that life could be any different for other people.

Those of us who have all our needs met face a temptation when thinking about people who are “poor,” “homeless,” or “mentally ill.” We may be tempted to blame them for their situation, or  dismiss them as “bums.” On the other hand, we might romanticize them as victims, and offer condescending charity. Both responses dismiss the full humanity of our struggling brothers and sisters. The “poor” are not all the same. Each is a human person made in the image and likeness of God, worthy of love, yet vulnerable to the same frailties as all of us.

BVS allowed me to build relationships with people I never would have met, and this changed my heart, making me more aware of the value of each person. As Jesus said: “Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” When we listen and share our lives with those who are in need, we encounter Jesus, and our hearts are transformed.


Chandler Poling lives in Vermont with his wife, Stefanie, and three children: Elias, Mariam, and John. He teaches music and works in a non-profit whose goal is to end homelessness.


This reflection was originally featured in the summer issue of “The Volunteer,” a publication by Brethren Volunteer Service. Learn more about this Core Ministry of the Church of the Brethren and upcoming opportunities to grow in relationships and be transformed at www.brethren.org/bvs. Support BVS today at www.brethren.org/giveBVS.

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

Giving thanks for one another

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“Ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus… I have not stopped giving thanks for you.” ~Ephesians 1:15-16

Global Mission prioritizes collaboration with leaders of sister Church of the Brethren bodies in countries around the world. We seek to join in their faithful witness to Jesus Christ and to learn from them while sharing our heritage and blessings with them. These churches are striving to follow the Bible and example of Jesus, and they see the Church of the Brethren holding a special gift and are drawn to the idea of continuing the work of Jesus: peacefully, simply, together.

2023 marks the 100 anniversary of the founding of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN), the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria. Thousands of church members and guests attended more than a dozen events held in 13 zones across the country. Celebrations included worship, prayer, scripture readings, preaching, singing, music, and traditional dances by groups representing the local tribes of each zone of the church. While the church has experienced much persecution over the years, they remain steadfast in their faith and have become a beacon of peace that is inspiring other denominations across Nigeria to seek the gospel of peace as well. We praise God with our Nigerian brothers and sisters and rejoice for their work in Africa.

In 2018, a “Vision for a Global Church of the Brethren” mission philosophy paper was adopted by Annual Conference. Global Mission staff and volunteers have gathered the Global Church of the Brethren Communion, a group of representatives from each of the national bodies of the Church of the Brethren, to discuss and discern how to function as the Global Church of the Brethren, to gather as autonomous Brethren bodies seeking mutual encouragement, to sharing resources, and to support each other.

The Church of the Brethren has been established in Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, India, Nigeria, Rwanda, Spain, Uganda, Venezuela, and the United States, and is emerging in other areas around the globe. People are choosing to be Brethren and are choosing to plant the church where they are. Each week, more than half a million people around the world worship in a Church of the Brethren congregation. This specific work is in line with our mission polity, which aims to “maintain close fraternal relationships with other regional conferences; seek to be of one mind with other regional conferences as to matters of faith and belief; participate in periodic world assemblies of the Church of the Brethren; and, when appropriate, cooperate with other regional conferences for activities and programs such as disaster relief, leadership training, church planting, and ecumenical activities.”

The Global Mission office works with our country partners in Burundi, China, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, South Sudan, and Vietnam. Volunteers, like Chris Elliot and his daughter Grace, Marla Abe, Galen Hackman, Bob Kettering, and others along with Global Mission executive director Eric Miller and Global Food Initiative manager Jeff Boshart work to give support to our country partners by providing education in agriculture practices and/or spiritual practices for those who are being called into ministry. For more information visit www.brethren.org/global.

Thank you for supporting servants of Christ near and far. Your gifts to the Mission Offering support the Office of Global Mission and our sisters and brothers around the world. Learn more about the Mission Offering (suggested date: September 10) and find worship resources at www.brethren.org/missionoffering. Give an offering today at www.brethren.org/giveoffering.

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

Brethren Volunteer Service – Celebrating 75 years

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By Chelsea Goss Skillen, director of Brethren Volunteer Service

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” ~Romans 12:9-13

At Annual Conference in 1948, a young man stood on an orange crate to reach the mic. With palpable anticipation, a movement of youth were hoping to create a way to say ‘yes’ to the ways of peace through a program with the goal to serve. After some discussion, a unanimous decision was made by the conference, a spontaneous cheer came up from the youth sitting in the balcony, and at that moment, Brethren Volunteer Service was born.

Since its beginnings, over 7,000 volunteers have served through BVS, touching the lives of countless individuals and communities. With volunteer sites spanning the US and world, volunteers can be found working with disaster relief efforts, serving at sustainable development projects, working with those experiencing homelessness, living with individuals with intellectual disabilities, or serving at our beloved Brethren camps–just to name a few. BVS volunteers work toward building a more just and compassionate world by dedicating a year or two of their lives to serve and putting their faith into action.

As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of BVS, we honor the legacy of those who have dedicated their time, skills, and hearts to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Their commitment to service, their unwavering dedication, and their willingness to make a difference have left an indelible mark on the lives they have touched.

But BVS isn’t just about the impact it has on others. It is also a transformative experience for the volunteers themselves. Each individual who joins BVS embarks on a personal journey of growth, learning, and self-discovery. They immerse themselves in diverse cultures, challenging environments, and unfamiliar territories, gaining a deeper understanding of the world and their faith.

While Brethren Volunteer Service has evolved and adapted to meet the changing needs of the world, it continues to provide meaningful service opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds. BVS is committed to continue sharing God’s love through acts of service by Advocating Justice, Working for Peace, Serving Human Need and Caring for Creation. BVS holds dear its rich history of service as it looks forward to many more years of impacting the lives of our volunteers and the communities in which they serve.

You are invited to come join us in making a difference! Thank you for supporting servants of Christ around the world with hope and prayer.

Learn more about this ministry of the Church of the Brethren at www.brethren.org/bvs or support it today at www.brethren.org/giveBVS.

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

Discipleship and Leadership Formation

Find a reflection and video that interprets the work of Discipleship and Leadership Formation in this week's issue.
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“For just as each of us has one body with many and these members do not all have the same function so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We all have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.”
~Romans 12:4-6a


The Office of Discipleship and Leadership Formation, a recently restructured department of the Church of the Brethren, combines the staff and resources of Discipleship Ministries (including Intercultural Ministries, Youth and Young Adult Ministries, and Older Adult Ministries) with the Office of Ministry. This new team will continue to foster support for the calling and equipping of pastors and youth and young adults to become fearless disciples and leaders for and within our congregations. The change adds energy to planting new churches and renewing established ones.

Bringing these two areas together reinforces the denomination’s resolve to “develop a culture of calling and equipping disciples who are innovative, adaptable, and fearless.” It provides the intentionality we have been seeking to aid us in “passionately living and sharing the radical transformation” of Jesus Christ through church planting, renewal and revitalization, and a shared understanding of working together to live out the great commission.

The Ministry Office’s “Part-Time Pastor; Full-Time Church” program provides a way for the church to walk with, listen to, and advocate for part-time, multi-vocational, and not-paid-to-scale pastors, empowering them to live well by enriching their journey through relationships and thoughtful knowledge sharing. Circuit riders are assigned to pastors who participate in this program to “ride” alongside them as they work to build relationships, share their wisdom, and encourage pastors to take advantage of book studies, web video series, and other resources to strengthen their ministry. Additional pastoral resources are available online (found at www.brethren.org/ministryoffice) concerning the Ministry Assistance Fund, chaplaincy resources, and resources from the Pastoral Compensation and Benefits Advisory Committee and Ministers’ Association.

Staff will continue to focus on strengthening long-standing events and resources coming from Discipleship Ministries such as:

National Young Adult Conference was held in May at Camp Mack in Milford, Ind. with young adults coming together to fellowship, worship, study the Bible, participate in a service project, and have conversation around the scripture text of Jeremiah 18:1-6 and the conference theme “I’m not done with you.”

Christian Citizenship Seminar was held April 22-27 brought together youth from across the country to study the scripture text 1 Kings 17:7-16 centering on the theme “Hot and hungry” and wrestling with how we live out the calling from God to care for our neighbors and all of God’s creation.

The New and Renew Conference held this past May at the General Offices in Elgin, Ill., focused on the theme “Disciples – Called, Equipped, and Into the Neighborhood.” The three-day hybrid event had more than 20 sessions developed to broaden the understanding of church planting and congregational renewal. This is a vibrant gathering rooted in worship and prayer while providing practical training, nurturing conversation, and stimulating idea-sharing.

National Youth Conference met in the summer of 2022 with 901 students, advisors, volunteers and staff gathered on the campus of Colorado State University to root themselves in the theme “Foundational.”

AND

National Junior High Conference was held in June on the campus of Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., with junior high youth, advisors, volunteers and staff gathering to hear dynamic speakers and attend workshops centered on the theme “What does God want from Me?”

All of these events provide opportunities for growth, worship, fellowship, and resource sharing to provide our youth and young adults a foundation for them to not only stand on but grow from, and a safe space to learn from the speakers and each other as they share their thoughts with one another in rich conversation.

National Older Adult Conference will be held September 4-8 at Lake Junaluska, N.C. and center on the theme “God is doing a new things” based on Isaiah 43:19. This event provides a venue for our more seasoned members from across the denomination to foster relationships, tour the area around Lake Junaluska, praise God together through worship, singing, and dynamic speakers, and, of course, spending time in fellowship.

Discipleship and Leadership Formation, equipped with the core understanding of being “Jesus in the neighborhood” from the denomination’s newly adapted vision statement, is a dynamic group of leaders that provides coaching, collaboration, and consultation upon request to assist a congregation that desires to reach into and connect with their local communities. A collection of webcasts and workshops with a variety of online learning opportunities is a part of a denominational resource toolkit. Find “Tools for Community Engagement” at www.brethren.org/neighborhoodtools.

Thank you for sharing your unique gifts with the body of Christ. Contributions to Core Ministries support the work of Discipleship and Leadership Formation. Learn more about this ministry of the Church of the Brethren at www.brethren.org/discipleshipmin or support it today at www.brethren.org/givediscipleship.

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

Living as the flock of Jesus

Photo by Matthew McCrickard

By Matt DeBall, coordinator of Mission Advancement communications

“[Jesus said,] ‘What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.’” ~Matthew 18:12-14, NIV

Jesus shows abundant hospitality throughout the gospels. He was regularly welcoming, associating, and drawing near to people who were overlooked and neglected. On this particular occasion, the disciples had just asked Jesus who was the greatest among them. His response:  to welcome one of the children who was nearby and to share a story about who is most highly esteemed in God’s kingdom.

The parable of the lost or wandering sheep continues to be an inviting story. This earthly narrative with heavenly meaning details a sheep wandering away and a shepherd leaving the rest of the flock to go find it. Jesus surely wasn’t stating that those who remain faithful to the flock don’t matter in God’s family, but was emphasizing that God’s love stretches beyond human expectations to care for those who are wandering and lost. By sharing this story, Jesus was providing a snapshot of his mission to care for all people, especially the most vulnerable.

After reading this parable recently, I was blessed to remember how great the love of God is for you and for me. I was also drawn to an untold parable behind the parable; a story of how the flock responded after the lost sheep was returned by the shepherd. I invite you to reflect on the following poem.

When the lost sheep was brought home
did the flock grumble and groan,
or with love did they have a great party?

Did any try to heap on guilt,
trample on the bond they had built,
or did they hold back their comments
when they saw the sheep’s tired face.

Did they poke at his pain or shame,
did they play the blame game,
or with gentleness did they help him heal?

Did those near the fence keep their distance,
look at him with concern and resistance,
or did each one offer greetings with joy?

Were any of the flock still troubled
by how the sheep could have stumbled
or did a new peace fall on one and all?

Were any focused on the wrong done,
contending he had lost, they had won,
or did they remember their call
to faithfully care for each other.

Did any jump to ask why and how—
the questions they had, even now—
or with kindness did they wait
for the sheep to share?

Had any of them kept track of the time
from the moment he left until he was fine.
Did they grow in patience and in grace?

Did anyone try to send the lost sheep away—
begrudging that he chose to stray, not stay—
or did they remember the goodness of their shepherd?

As followers of Jesus, are we ready for who the Lord turns or returns to us? There are many ways to assess our life and ministry together, and the litmus test of Paul noted in Galatians 5:22-23 seems as good as any:  “The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” From your corner of the pasture in your congregation, in your community, and in the Church of the Brethren as a whole, let us consider:

> Which fruits of the Spirit are most present among us?

> Which fruits of the Spirit can we grow in?

> How will we welcome those who join us?

From my vantage point, faithfulness abounds as leaders, members, and supporters of the Church of the Brethren have a detailed history of offering time of service, talent in leadership, and treasure of resources to sustain all the work that we do. I have also witnessed love among us through how we care for one another and by how we value the work that we are able to do together.

Regarding the fruits of the Spirit we can grow in, the answer could certainly be ALL. Just like growing in faith, attending to the work of the Spirit among us is a journey and a process, not a destination. But what fruits could be riper among us?

The “how” question, we start in reflection and carry out in community. Just as we prepare our homes thoroughly and carefully for guests—whether for lunch or for a more extended stay—so also do we prepare the environment for our life together so that whoever joins us feels welcome. If I can expand how we interpret “priesthood of all believers,” this involves seeing that each of us is able to minister to one another, but also that we serve on the “welcoming committee of all believers.” Jesus is calling people to turn and return to him, and whenever we encounter them, it’s our responsibility to be ready to receive those whom the Lord brings.

Within the missions and ministries of the Church of the Brethren, we provide opportunities for the people of God to grow in discipleship and leadership formation and to embody and articulate their faith. We are cultivating relationships with partners around the world and living a life of serving in community. Together we are engaging our neighbors and sharing the holistic peace of Jesus Christ. Thank you for your self-less service to Christ and his church.

As the flock of Jesus, may love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control be abundant in our life together and in how we welcome the people the Lord brings to us.

Learn more about the faith-building and life-changing ministries of the Church of the Brethren at www.brethren.org/greatthings or support them today at www.brethren.org/give.

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

Peacefully, simply, together in the great outdoors

Photo courtesy of Camp Mardela

Peacefully, Simply, Together in the great outdoors:
The Camp Mardela Way 75 Years and Counting

by Jennifer Summy, camp administrator at Camp Mardela (Md.)

This year, Camp Mardela is celebrating its 75th anniversary, and we have had a lot of time to reflect on where we came from, and how far we’ve come. 2020 forced us to reprioritize our lives, and the pandemic showed us the importance of Church of the Brethren camping values. We were forced to remove the distractions and find peace; to remove unnecessary activities and simplify; to turn towards our families and prioritize time together. Many people learned the value of camp in this post-pandemic world.

In the years following the pandemic, we saw a slow return of campers, but this year, we are already seeing camper numbers start to bounce back to their pre-pandemic numbers! In addition to this, during the pandemic we saw tremendous growth in another area:  rental groups. These groups have DOUBLED in the past couple years, as groups anywhere from Brethren family reunions to a capella groups have found the value in retreating into nature to deepen relationships with each other, with nature, and with God. We are thrilled about this growing ministry opportunity, as we share our Brethren values with these groups, and as they learn to respect, and even adopt some of these values for themselves.

Our property can host a maximum of 42 campers for any given camp program week. For those who are familiar with larger camps, this seems like a small number, but this has provided great opportunity to have a tremendous ministry. Every week of camp, campers and staff get to know each other on a more personal level, and this is what has created such a deeply connected community at Camp Mardela. Some of my favorite camps have been with fewer than 10 campers, because I have gotten know those campers very well, form deeper connections, and steward their spiritual growth more personally than if they were at a larger camp.

As I’ve been exploring Camp Mardela’s history, I learned that from the very beginning Camp Mardela was built on volunteerism and deep community. Men and women worked together to build and run camp, and that culture has been maintained over camp’s 75 year history. Camp Mardela has grown steadily since its first year of operation in 1948. No one could have predicted that this camp would be where it is today, but God has guided us with purpose and Camp Mardela has become a place to grow together.

We are so excited to celebrate our rich history with our 75th anniversary celebrations. We hosted our annual Camp Appreciation Day on May 21 with the theme of “Happy Birthday Camp Mardela!” We had live music, birthday games, Camp Mardela history trivia, and more. We asked members of the churches to bring a dozen cupcakes each to share for this event. What amassed was a beautiful tapestry of all colors, flavors, sizes, and kinds of cupcakes–a beautiful representation of the wonderful people who make up this community, and make it so sweet!

Our BIG anniversary celebration will be September 1-3, 2023, which is during the week of our annual Family Camp. We will have previous administrators return to speak and share parts of their Camp Mardela story, including Pat Ecker, Bruce Layton, Jennifer Summy, and more. All are welcome to join our anniversary sessions for FREE. Guests can register to join us for meals or for overnight accommodations at www.campmardela.org/camp-programs.

In a recent conversation with Pat Ecker, who served as the camp administrator in the 1980s and 90s, she described a time where she comforted a camper and his mother as they were both nervous to be apart from each other for a week. Mrs. Ecker shared the advice to the mother, “You’ve given your child roots; now let us give him wings.” I could think of no better way to describe the value of camp in the lives of these children and youth. By living peaceably with each other, learning to be present without modern distractions, and to live together in community, we get to teach our campers eternal values that will help them grow together into stronger and more mature children of God.

Camp Mardela is a camp/outdoor ministry affiliated with the Mid-Atlantic District of the Church of the Brethren. If you want to learn more about Camp Mardela’s programs, events, history, and more, visit www.campmardela.org. Learn about the Outdoor Ministry Association at www.omacob.org or find a list of Church of the Brethren camps at www.brethren.org/camps/directory.

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)