I never went to Camp ECCO when I was in high school, but I had heard all about it! When I was in high school I did not really know where I stood with my faith. I knew that there was a God but I did not have faith. I found my faith and my love for God my freshman year of college, and that was the first time I went to Camp ECCO.
The first time that I went Camp ECCO was the 2014 Fall Retreat, and I was super nervous! But my boyfriend reassured me that they treat everyone like family, and that I should not be nervous. From the moment I step out of that car door and into this place apart from all other I felt loved and welcomed. That weekend was one of the best weekend of my entire life. I met so many amazing, loving, and caring people who are passionate about sharing God’s word and bringing people to his Kingdom. That weekend I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior, and everyone there fueled my love for God.
Camp ECCO is truly a place apart. I hope that one-day when I have children that they have the opportunity to experience this amazing place. Camp means so much to many people, and has impacted every single person who has gone there. I cannot speak for everyone, but this beautiful place means the world to me. I look forward to the next time that I can be at Camp surrounded by God’s love and friends.
Summary of 2016 Season:
Last year we were also able to begin to build relationships with 6 Carrollton churches/businesses, 3 local camps/Christian retreats, and continue to build relationships with our EC churches as well as several churches previously connected to Camp ECCO. We were able to connect with our surrounding Carrollton community by participating in a local church’s Trunk-or-Treat, as well as Scarecrows on the Square, an annual event put on by the Carroll County Visitor’s Center. Camp ECCO has taken the plunge into seeking to communicate more efficiently and regularly with our camp community through our website and social media platforms. We have also been working to become more visible through our physical promotional material such as business cards, brochures, and informational table at speaking engagements.
Why it Matters:
Camp is a place where lives are transformed. The traditional format of ministry and youth development can present many challenges. One of the most notable is that there is never enough time – to say what you want to say, to listen to students’ stories, to have fun together… whatever it may be in your ministry. Youth and adults alike experience God in a 24/7 format that is not feasible in any other form of ministry. Our time together is specifically set aside for students to engage with the message of Christ in a distraction-free environment, away from their normal routine and friends, with the help of mentors and counselors who provide an example of a life lived for Christ. All of this is taking place along with games and activities that make us laugh, give us unforgettable memories, and leave us with tons of inside jokes.
We have been given an incredibly unique resource to share the good news of Christ and disciple those who are already on their journey. With our maximum capacity (with staff) in each camp being 135 people, it is obvious that we also have significant room to grow and reach more lives for Christ. The work that we have started this past year is significant because we have begun to reach out to our community around us. Most of the people that I have interacted with in Carrollton have never even heard of Camp ECCO or know what we do there. It’s exciting that we have finally begun a relationship with many of them that maybe they would be encouraged to be a part of our family in their own backyard as we strive to be a part of theirs. As we reach in to the community(ies) around us, I pray that our efforts in continuing the camp community through social media and visits may spark a desire within all of us already involved to reach out to our brothers and sisters for mutual encouragement, challenging, and friendship throughout the year. This leading to increased desire in all of us to be the hands and feet of Christ right where we’ve been planted.
Vision for 2017:
We are striving to be a ministry not fixated on growing one particular church, but growing the kingdom of God as a whole - the Catholic church (little c).This means using our resources to bring people from all walks of life in to experience Christ and partnering with churches to help them along their journey to share the good news of Christ. We will also be equipping and empowering those who come in contact with us to be Jesus with skin on to their community as we send them out from our sanctuary.
Reaching goals and reaching out to you – here’s how we could really use your help this year:
Facebook: Camp ECCO
And join in the conversation, share the stories, build our community, and, hey, just have some fun!
Donations can be sent to our treasurer at this address (please make checks out to Camp ECCO):
Mr. Don Voegeli
c/o First EC Church
369 E. Woodsdale Avenue
Akron, OH 44301
What’s in it for you? – Besides the countless psychological benefits associated with giving, volunteer work, and being outside, you are partnering with another avenue to share the good news of Christ with people. And I’ll take as many opportunities to make that happen as I can. Just like a piece of killer chocolate cake…it’s just too good not to share!
Thanks for helping make an eternal difference!
Doing the same thing for a long time and seasons......paradoxically, these are two things that drive me absolutely CRAZY!!
Doing the Same Thing for a Long Time
I am 99% sure that I get bored/distracted 500 times faster than other average human beings. Did I make up those numbers? ABSOLUTELY! Does that make it less true? Absolutely NOT! It's part of my personality and is simultaneously a blessing and a curse.
It's a great characteristic when there's a brainstorming session going on because I can think of a hundred different things that seem to be coming from left field but I can connect them all back to what we're talking about. Or my favorite, when the teacher or presenter says, "Can we please get some questions for discussion?" That little ding goes off in my brain, adrenaline starts pumping at the challenge, and I will come up with at least a dozen very elaborate questions because I've been thinking about probably 20 different experiences and subjects connected to the topic while they were talking and doodling/writing about them on my paper as they talked (needless to say, I loved my discussion-style college classes haha).
However, it can be TERRIBLE when I'm talking or learning about something very sequential or concrete, or when I have a friend who really wants to talk about one thing for 45 minutes straight. Can I do it? ABSOLUTELY! Our personality is not an excuse for our behavior, and when I really dig in and focus and think from the other person's perspective, I really enjoy those conversations too. Still, it is not something that comes naturally. I used to fall out of my chair and pull pranks on my friends while my teacher was working at the board in my high school math class (sorry Mrs. Meiners). And while we're confessing things, sometimes I pass notes or try to distract people during board meetings (sorry guys, just trying to keep things fun).
God works in seasons. Both in the obvious way (summer, spring, winter, fall) and in the seasons of our lives (joy-filled, sorrowful, mourning, dancing) - see Ecclesiastes 3. Some are short, some long, but it seems like the short ones are always too short. I mean, when a season is good, don't you just want to stay there forever?
For example, SUMMER! I realize that fall is kind of the cool season to like - pumpkin spice, pumpkin carving, pumpkin everything, and sweater weather. But I mean, come on now, in my humble opinion SUMMER is the best season ever! I love to be warm, take naps in the sunshine, and go swimming! If it's not humid outside and sweat isn't pooling on your lower back, then what's the point?! (I realize that this is an unpopular opinion haha!) That's part of what makes camp so great! It's SUMMER!
But as I grow older (and hopefully wiser), I think I'm coming to appreciate the grace involved in the creation and timing of seasons.
Before Advent: The Season of Waiting
Currently, we are in the middle of the advent season. Advent is a word that I've grown up hearing but, until I started reading Waiting Here for You by Louie Giglio this year, I had never really sought to understand.
"Advent," Giglio (2016) writes, "simply means arrival - in the case of Christmas we celebrate the arrival of Jesus...But Jesus didn't arrive without a wait...imagine four hundred years* without any recorded word from God - no voice, no prophet, nothing." (p. 4)
Four hundred years?! I can barely sit through a 50 minute math class!
But somehow, all of this waiting was according to God's grace-filled plan. Because, although God's voice may not have been verbal, He was still very much at work - laying all things in place so that at just the right time Jesus Christ, His only begotten son, would come to fulfill the law and prophets written hundreds of years earlier and sacrificially take all the wrong we have done on to himself so that we could experience real abundant, eternal life. And, as we proved our inability to save ourselves or turn to God by our own strength, that long, gracious season of waiting at least reached its end.
What are You Waiting For?
Seasons can be jarring.
In the summer I'm going 100 mph - running around with campers and staff, being surrounded by people 24/7. In the winter, I'm doing primarily administrative work - networking and working with details to make our summer season purposeful and exciting. It was hot; now it's cold. It used to get dark at 9; now it gets dark at 4:30. It used to be LOUD; now it's quiet.
Things have changed. Feel like you're waiting for something?
Waiting to be on to something new? Waiting to know if it's good news or bad? Waiting to find someone? Waiting to stop feeling the way you do? Waiting to see if there's light at the end of the tunnel?
Then, dear friend, take heart, you are in the right season!
Yeah, I feel ya. And although I know that God has a purpose for this season you're in (see Ecclesiastes 3 again), I don't know what it is for you. It could be a dozen different things you may not even understand in this lifetime, but catch this...
In the midst of your waiting...advent...arrival has come.
Hope has come in the very strange form of a baby born in a barn. So "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" (Luke 2:14, NKJV) cause God may only give us just enough strength for the season we're in, but He's got a plan for all of this life that's so crazy, it just might work!
Take a moment to stop and reflect on this - the good news for your life has already arrived!
Grace and Peace...and Merry Christmas!
Image courtesy of pinterest.com
- Disclaimer - I'm not sure how accurate those numbers are, but you get the idea!
Giglio, Louie. (2016). Waiting Here for You: An Advent Journey of Hope. Atlanta, GA: Passion Publishing.
"Rather than trying to write God into our stories, we would be wiser to sit patiently with our Father and let him tell us his. We would surely find ourselves in his story and learn that we are not defined by our hurts or our sins, as we may have believed. As he tells us his story, we must be willing to let go of the stories we've told to make sense of our lives. We must let his story rewrite ours and sweep us up into something much greater than ourselves."
- Mike Wilkerson, Redemption, p. 27
Wow, friends! It has been a week hasn't it!? It's been a lot to take in and to process, in more ways than one.
Nationally. Personally. It has been a time! And we've still got breath in our lungs, so I guess it's time to praise the Lord, right?!
Where is this Coming From?
This week I started reading a book that one of my dear pastor friends, Chris, recommended to me. And guys, I haven't even made it all the way through the introduction yet, and I am already humbled to the floor!
Freedom. It's a word that comes up a lot in conversation when I talk with my friends about camp.
Freedom to act and talk without fear of judgment. Freedom to question faith and explore doubts. Freedom from time. Freedom from work. Freedom from the responsibilities you have at home. Freedom from feeling like you have to start from the ground floor after not seeing someone for a while.
Freedom to be a part of something bigger than you.
The more that I grow and learn and walk through life (and life at camp/in the body of believers), I realize that this freedom does not exist apart from God.
Magic in the Air
I think when you're little and a camper, there seems to be something "magical" about camp. And usually my understanding for where that magic was coming from was my counselors. They were fun. They played games with us, laughed with us, talked with us about our lives. They were the coolest people I had ever met (I'd venture to say they still are).
But as I grew older, I started to realize that those people were just people. They made mistakes, did things that made me mad, and didn't always want to do what I wanted to do (what the heck?!). There wasn't anything particularly magical about them.
As a person especially inclined to require the affirmation and attention of others in order to feel good about myself, this threw me for a loop because I realized that in their imperfection, they could never make me feel completely full. They couldn't make me completely free like I thought they could.
There was one night when I was a senior camper that really pulled the rug out from under my ideas of power being found in my community alone. It was a particularly powerful chapel and as I was leaving I saw another camper, about a year older than me, lean with his back up against a tree, slowly slide all the way to the dirt, and crumple with his hands around his knees.
That was one of those moments for me where all the air kind of leaves your body and the Spirit of God floods in. And all of a sudden, you get the answer to the problem you've been trying to solve.
A Deeper Magic
Although God works through people and communities (which is definitely one of the amazing things His Spirit does at camp and is His plan for us together), what is really magical (or should I say supernatural) is that God is at work redeeming us.
He takes us in our shame, our confusion, our guilt, our heartbreak, our abuse, our feelings of worthlessness. He reaches to us in our addiction, apathy, and celebrations. He takes the times we slip and/or royally mess up and says we are no longer condemned or accused. We are free. Price is paid. We don't have to live there any more. And He takes the times we are sinned against and asks us to trust him to be the avenger of those things. Off our plates.
And He heals. Oh, does He heal! Like scraping the cancer away from our souls, bit by bit, He restores us to a new creation. He takes those situations we can't make sense of and hope maybe didn't even happen and gives them a purpose. He gives even those things significance.
He promises to never leave us or forsake us. Never. He swears. Even when we feel like He has, let's not forget who the main character is in this story. It always has been and will be God and he never forgets a single character he has created, we just need to keep listening to hear next chapter.
Listening to the Whole Story
One of the cool things that happens at camp is that we become more aware of God's story because we leave the distraction of our stories behind. We are spending time together in community and individually - praying, confessing, studying Scripture, and praising Him that He is who He says He. It is then that we start to hear the whole big, story.
I tend to think that the story of the universe is my story. What happens to me. What happens with the friends, family, and enemies around me. What happens at ECCO. What happens in my town and my nation. Do those things matter? Yes, of course! Does God work in those areas? Positively! However, God's story is both personal and perpetual. And though He cares deeply for us and every little thing that happens to us, we're gonna miss the whole ocean if we just keep staring at one piece of sand.
Sometimes we have to look up from what we're doing, stop staring at our problems, hurts, and ambitions, and realize, "Hey, this isn't my story."
There's freedom in that surrender...
"Your hope need not rest in making sense of it all; rather, you are invited to set your hope of redemption in the Redeemer."
- Mike Wilkerson, Redemption, p. 27
Here's an APA citation in case you're looking for a good read!
Wilkerson, M. (2011). Redemption: Freed by Jesus from the Idols We Worship and the Wounds We Carry. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.
Stories of grace.
That's who we are, and that's what we carry.
Every one of us a little glimpse in to the power of God to forgive us when we mess up and to transform us in to completely new people full of joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, kindness, faithfulness, self-control, and love that are impossible without the presence of His Spirit within us.
As we've finished up the fall retreat season at ECCO, there are two stories of grace held by two grace-filled people in particular that really stuck out to me.
Jan - Hope in the Valley of the Shadow of Death
I had the pleasure of attending the Women's Retreat at Camp ECCO this year and was blown away by the story of an incredible woman named Jan.
As we ate lunch together, Jan expressed that she believed that God put a very specific call on her heart and gave her a very specific purpose for her life. Jan, now growing older herself, is called to love and listen to people, specifically the elderly. She loves to sit with those who, day in and day out, are experiencing the depth and breadth of pain, sickness, grief, loneliness, and the hard questions of what their lives were/are worth.
Jan spent much of her life as a nurse in a nursing home, but the story she told me was not one of despair, but thick with HOPE.
Reflecting back she told me, "There were some really precious people." Specifically, she told the story of one man who had crippling arthritis. His arthritis was so severe that it bent his knees to his chest and froze his arms in front of him so that he sat on his bed, unable to move, practically in the fetal position. On top of that, he also could not see a thing, but Jan said that he knew every single nurse by the sound of their footsteps alone.
Jan remembers one specific day walking in to this gentleman's room and him saying,"Mrs. ... is that you?"
"Yes, Mr. ...", she said.
A joyful smile broke across his wrinkled face. "Good," he said, "I've been sitting here praying for you all day."
WOW! My heart hit the floor...immediately humbled! This man had every reason to be grumpy, complain, and be self-centered. I probably would have been. He was surely in severe pain and alone, but instead of fixating on his own situation, he found joy in communing with his God in conversation about those who cared for him. Wow! He found a hope bigger than anything this world could give him, so indescribable my words could never do it justice. That's a God who gives peace that surpasses understanding!
Joe - Joy When Two Spirits Give Witness
Joe! What a guy! What a friend of Jesus!
I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the American Camping Association's Fall Festival this past September, and be aware that this is not a Christ-focused event. This is the nation's big association for camping and parks and recreation professionals so this was like a one-day convention with sessions and a keynote speaker.
Well, lunchtime rolled around and I was thrown in to every loner new kid's worst nightmare...no one to sit with at lunch. So I looked around the "cafeteria" and saw an older African American gentleman who I thought I recognized from the pictures of trainers for the sessions also sitting by himself. So, feels right, I go over and introduce myself and ask if I can sit with him. He says, "Oh of course, of course" and we begin polite conversation. He asked me what I did and what I was doing there. I told him that I worked for a Christian summer camp in Carrollton, OH and explained a little bit of my job.
His demeanor went from outgoing and pleasant to exuberant. He looked at me and asked, "And are you a believer too?" And when I said yes, he threw himself back, clapped once, and exclaimed, "I knew it!! I could just tell by your smile and the way you came over here and talked to me! You just have that kind of glow!"
Of course, I was so excited because that kind of reaction is the goal of my life! And I breathed a sigh of relief as I felt much more in my element now, and me and good old Joe talked on and on all of our lunch break about our faith, frustrations, and experiences. He poured out encouragement on me, took an interest in my life, and asked about my opinions and experiences with frustrations he had been experiencing for his daughter who was just slightly older than me.
Sadly, many of my experiences meeting strangers who are Christ-followers, especially those older than me, outside of a "church" setting have been less than stellar. Usually, they are a little cold, preoccupied, and uninterested or they like to inform me how I should think or act without really asking for my perspective. Now, hear me, I'm not attacking any generation here. We all have fault and need to pray to become more Christlike every day while looking for opportunities to embody that love, but talking with Joe gave me heart that we can live like that!
And I thought to myself in the midst of the chaos and sin, what a wonderful God!
Hello Camp ECCO family and friends!
I have loved getting to meet so many of you this summer! Hearing your stories and becoming a part of them has been so much fun! I am the new Marketing and Development Director, so it's my privilege to get to tell stories, build bridges, and connect people to Camp ECCO through our programmed weeks of summer camp, events, and rental ministry. So if you've been looking for someone to share about ECCO at your church, youth group, or event, or you've just been looking for a place your group can go for a week or weekend to grow together, you've found the right lady (Feel free to contact me through my email below)!
Where I came from and how I ended up here...
I was born and raised in Northwest Illinois, just outside of a little town called Orangeville (population 800 - last time I checked). My father is, to this day, the pastor of Afolkey Grace Evangelical Congregational Church where I grew up. My mother and father shepherd the church while me and my three older siblings have all grown and spread out around the country.
I attended Olivet Nazarene University where I double majored in Christian Education and Communication Studies. I graduated with honors this past May. Go Class of 2016!
I have a deep love of learning, all things Disney, musicals, slip-n-slides, and taking naps. Mostly, I enjoy just about everything that involves large groups of people. And fun fact: I have a permanent baby tooth.
Although not a native of Ohio, I have a lot of family and friends in this area who know and love Camp ECCO. I grew up being a camper, counselor, and dean of many of our camps at Rock River Bible Camp (ECCO's sister camp in Dixon, IL). However, I grew to love Camp ECCO during the time I spent here as a Youlead Camper and Junior Camp speaker.
My Passion and Purpose
I am confident that God knew exactly what He was doing when He brought me to ECCO. Many things continue to affirm that I am in the right place for this season of my life.
I am so fired up about what God does through camping ministry. God works in incredible ways through a group of people and individuals who are willing to leave their daily hustle-and-bustle, be together, and honestly seek God (whether they are sure they believe in Him or not). Camping ministry provides a blueprint for kids and adults alike to build community as well as get to see first-hand what living life for Christ 24/7 looks like so that they can walk with Him when they return home.
I also love camp because it's a place where we can show each other just how valuable we are. Whatever your label is (loser, dropout, failure...whatever), camp is the place where I had people talk to me and treat me in a way that said, "You matter. YOU matter - exactly the way you are. Not for what you could or should be, but just because you are you." My passion is that others would experience that kind of love and empowerment.
That being said, my goal is to bring in as many people as possible to experience that kind of love (in whatever way we connect with them) and then send them back in to their "normal" lives to share it with others. I desire for Camp ECCO to be safe, healthy, and sustainable ministry that makes space for people to experience God, builds them up, gives them opportunities to connect and serve, and then sends them out to do it.
It's quite a messy, crazy, adventurous journey that God has us on to help us look more like Him. So it's nice to meet you, friend. Welcome to the journey! And welcome to Camp ECCO!