Friday, November 14, 2014

FUEL Impact, M&Ms and clapping

As he put a blue M&M in his mouth, Darin* stated to me Sunday morning, "When I go home, I need to connect with my JV Basketball coach.  He always listens to me and teaches me leadership."  The FUEL conference was wrapping up and on Sunday morning the Student Leaders were doing an activity that involved answering questions based on their experience and the color of the M&M's they received.

After arriving home, one leader from a church sent this back to us,
"The breakout sessions (workshops) this year were great, best breakouts of any year we have attended. The speaker (Mike) was engaging and brought good challenge and support not only to the students but also to the leaders. Very funny and we enjoyed the direct approach of impacting the student ministry now. Over all we had a great time and I am sure if Grace Adventures hosts another FUEL conference next year, you will see [our] church again and again! It is a great time for us to pull our upperclassmen away and pour into them. Thanks again for providing this opportunity!"  

One of the band members pulled me aside on Sunday, and wanted to let me know how impressed they were with the volunteers from Grace Adventures.  Their service and attitude had made a huge impact on her.  She was blessed knowing that our volunteers had worked all week and then showed up to serve the groups all weekend pouring into the lives of students, leaders and even the band!

I have had the privilege of being a part of the team that planned, promoted and implemented the FUEL conference the last 3 years.  Each year has been unique, but it has been powerful to see God's hand at work.  One memory from this year that will stay with me happened on Saturday night.  Mike Fritz had wrapped up his message on Christ showing us love first, and how he went to the cross for us.  As the band came up and lead the final song.  In the lyrics of the song, it spoke not just about the death of Jesus, but also about him rising from the grave.  At that point, students on their own initiative literally screamed and clapped, celebrating what God had done through Jesus!

It was a great weekend and we are looking forward to another one in 2015!

-Ben VanderKodde

Friday, August 1, 2014

Snapshot of Camp: Interview with Danielle Range Rider Camper

Snapshot of Camp
Danielle - Range Rider Camper

Tell us about yourself
My name is Danielle and I am 14 years old.

Why did you want to come to Range Riders?
I really love horses and my sister is working here as a counselor and she really encouraged me to come. It has been good having my sister here because I can go to her because I trust her and I can talk to her about God.

What has been one of your favorite things this week?
I really like getting up in the morning and getting to catch the feed the horses.

What is it like living at the Ranch?
It is so much better without technology. I love it. It is better because you are working and it is such a better atmosphere here.

What would you tell others about Range Riders?
It is a lot of fun here. You can learn about God. You can learn about horses. And if you want to get closer to God, I would say to come here.

What do you think you'll do differently when you go back home?
I think that I would pick some better friends. Friends that are closer to God. Because when you hang around with friends that aren't as strong, they can bring you down.

Paradise Ranch is where horses and lives meet for the Glory of God. Whether you come for a visit or stay for a whole week, our hope is that you leave with a greater love of horses and better equipped to be a leader in your home, church, and community.

Share your story from Paradise Ranch in the comments below!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Voice of Truth : An Experience That Will Live On……...

An Ending but Far from Over

This summer has been an incredible time here at Grace Adventures. We have had record numbers of campers attending our camps this year and we are seeing the effects of that, changed lives.

Everything we do here at Grace Adventures, we do to impact people with Jesus Christ. That includes Summer Camps, our Retreats, and Training experiences for groups that come onto our campus but it also includes our Summer Staff. Our motto for our Summer Staff is that "Staff training is all summer long". Ask any one of our staff and they will blurt out that response. While our counselors and staff do go through an intensive period of "staff training" to get them ready for their roles during the summer, the training happens throughout the entire summer as they plan, teach, and interact with campers and grow themselves in the process.

Last week we said Good-Bye to a handful of our Summer Staff. With many of our summer programs coming to a close, our staff starts to trickle out from here. Sami is one of our counselors that had her summer end, but her work to share her story, continually trust and obey God, and impact her community is just beginning.

Here is a link to her Blog post, as well as simply scroll to the bottom. Voice of Truth : An Experience That Will Live On……...

An Experience That Will Live On……...

Words cannot describe the summer God has blessed me with. It has been the best summer of my life. This summer God called me to camp, to Grace Adventures as a counselor. Going into the summer there, I was super anxious. I didn't know what to expect because I never had been a counselor before. I also was nervous because I had to lead Bible studies, cabin time, meet parents and ask kids questions about their relationship with God. At times I thought "I don't think I can do this." "Is this really part of God's plan?" "Am I supposed to be working here this summer?" "Can I really lead someone to Christ?" Every single one of those questions were answered this summer. God taught me so much this summer and I want to take some time to reflect on what He's taught me and the amazing ways He's worked this summer. 

1. God's taught me to fully rely on Him.
We can't do it in our own. We need God's help, his guidance, His wisdom and His strength.  

But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ's power may rest on me. -2 Corinthians 12:9 

For when we are weak He is STRONG. He is all we need. 

2. God taught me to trust Him. 

Going into camp I was super nervous. The first two weeks I was wondering "Am I really supposed to be here this summer?" Part of our theme this year (The Reel Deal) we talked about how we are all part of God's great story/movie. At times, we might only see the little pictures or part of the picture, but God, He see's the big picture and we have to trust Him with that because He knows what's best for us and He loves us so much. 

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in that secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be - Psalm 139:13-16

3. God is faithful
"Will I be able to lead a kid to Christ?" "Can I really do that?" As I was getting ready for camp, this is the question that constanlty was going through my mind. Going into the summer, my hope and my prayer was that if it was God's will that He'd use me and give me the opportunity to lead one person to Christ this summer. I'm truly humbled that this summer, God gave me the opportunity to lead 7 young girls to Christ all between the ages of 7 and 11 years old. To Him be the glory! 

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to His service. - 1 Timothy 1:12 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Snapshot of Camp: Interview with Katelyn - Ranch Speciality Camp

Snapshot of Camp
Katelyn Interview Ranch Specialty Camp

Who are you?
My name is Katelyn and I am at Trail Camp at Paradise Ranch.

How long have you been coming here and why did you come back?
This is my second year coming to Grace Adventures and I came back because I really enjoyed the relationship that I found with God and the horses and being around them. That experience is great!

What have you enjoyed this week?
I really enjoyed the singing and the worship band coming to our campfires. I am going to remember that for a really long time.

What is your favorite activity?
Definitely riding the horses.

What have you been learning at Trail Camp?
I feel like I have learned a lot while being here! I really like learning about how to pack my own horse and going through the steps of that if I ever wanted to camp by myself.

What have you been learning in Bible Studies?
Learning about Samson is very cool. I had never really studied the story of Samson and it is really awesome to see how God empowered him.

What has God been teaching you this week?
Since I have been here that God has been teaching me to be more open with people that I meet and become friends with. I think after this week I am going to try and make more friends and be more excited than I usually am.

What would you tell someone if they asked you about Paradise Ranch?
I would tell them that it is so much fun. You get to build a relationship with a horse as well as God and you get to make a ton of great friends.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Snapshot of Camp: Interview with the Swanson Family - Family Camp 2014

Snapshot of Camp
The Swanson Family Interview
Chuck, Faith, CJ and Andrew

Tell us who you are
We are the Swanson family and we are from Jenison, MI. I [Chuck] have interacted with Grace for around 10 years and we have been coming to Family Camp for about 4 years now. For all of us it is just a great time to get away and spend time together. It is also just a good time to get to relax and get to know the other families more each year.

How did you hear about Family Camp?
Chuck: Well through the years at Cornerstone University I have interacted with the Prudhomme family and four years ago they actually asked me to be a speaker at camp, so that was the first time I had ever heard about Summer Camp, and we came and stayed here and that was our first experience.

What have been some of your favorite activities from the week?
CJ and Andrew: I enjoyed playing carpet bowling, ping-pong, and riding bikes.
Chuck and Faith: We have really enjoyed the speaker this year and it has given us a chance to really connect as a family and get away from work. We have connected with what the speaker has been talking about. He has been really practical and speaking from his heart, which we have really enjoyed. We also like to get the chance to reconnect with all of the Grace staff.

What have you connected with what the speaker has talked about?
He has really been building along with his message all week but its about how do you deal with the brokenness, hurts, and pains in your life. He has done a wonderful job of how you need to grieve through things and express that pain, and in the process of learning how to lament, you learn how to forgive and to release that pain. It has been very practical and to the point rather than just saying "you need to learn to forgive."

What makes you come back to Grace year after year?
CJ and Andrew: Just to get away. Dad gets to get away from work and Mom gets to get away from her work. And it is a lot of fun!
Chuck and Faith: It is just a good time for us to spend time together as a family. One of the reasons we keep coming back is because it is such a good value for a very little investment. The food is wonderful, there are more activities than what we can do in a week, and we love to stay as a family.

What do you think of when you come to Grace Adventures?
Chuck and Faith: In my years of experience with the staff, it is quality. It is very professional. I love that you provide opportunities for feedback and you hire really great people. We love being here. It is also just fun. Everything that we do is just a wonderful experience for our entire family.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Snapshot of Camp - Interview with Mikey - Rustic Warrior June 22-27, 2014

Snapshot of Camp
Mikey - Rustic Warrior Camper

Tell us about yourself
My name is Mikey and I am 13 years old and I am at Grace Adventures Rustic Warrior camp. And this is my first year here.

Why did you want to come to camp for the first time?
I thought that it would be a great place to be able to share my faith with others.

What have you guys been doing this week?
We hang out and have fun while we study the Bible. We have been studying Samson and had a lot of fun doing it. We have had some really cool people come in teach us.

What's the best part about studying the Bible this week?
We have a great time while we learn. It's not like school where we sit at a desk all day and I almost fall asleep.

What was your favorite activity this week?
There is a lot of stuff we do! We went paintballing a couple times, the battle barge, and tubing was really fun.

Did you make any friends this week?
Oh yes! Some of the guys in my tribe are like already brothers to me. It's no question that we will be keeping in contact after camp.

What has been one of the best things about being at camp?
Just being away from electronics. I know that it is kinda weird to hear a teenager say that, but, I mean, when you are caught up in electronics all day every day you are not experiencing the fun of being in nature.

What has God been teaching you this week?
To trust in Him. He will help you do the right thing when you are in situations.

What have you learned about being a Man of God this week?
That you have to sacrifice yourself sometimes in order to do the things that God wants you to do. Like there was a big baseball tournament this weekend, and I play baseball, but it was worth it to miss that and come here.

What would you tell others that are thinking of coming to Rustic Warrior camp?
That it is one of the most fun places to be while you are studying the Bible.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Snapshot of Camp: Interview with Patrick - Pathfinder June 15-20, 2014

Snapshot of Camp June 15-20, 2014
Pathfinder Interview: Patrick

Who are you?
My name is Patrick. I am from Twin Lakes, MI and I am 16 years old. This is my sixth summer coming to camp at Grace Adventures

Why did you want to come to camp?
I came to Pathfinders to try and get better leadership skills and to try and further my relationship with God. I have been really busy lately and I need to make more time for Jesus.

What keeps you coming back to camp after six years?
I really enjoy coming here. I love all the activities that we get to do and to meet new people. People are my type of thing.

What leadership skills have you learned so far?
The one that we have really been focusing on is communication skills. We have done a lot of activities with it like a Fire Mission where we were in a simulated fire and had work together and communicate well.

What has been your favorite activity so far?
Probably paintball. Paintball is one of my favorites. Besides this year, I have been doing paintball my last five years and have only been shot twice. So I am pretty proud of that.

What have the chapel times been teaching about?
We have been looking at the story of Sampson. It’s a really action packed story. I think it’s really cool and interesting.

What has God been teaching you through these chapels and small groups?
We have been relating the stories a lot to how we act against other peoples actions. We talked about how we should be the better person. Like if there is someone at our school that is not doing the right thing to us or anyone else, that we should be the better person and love our enemies.

What skills will you take home with you?

My communication skills have really changed and I have learned a lot. So I am going to go home and try to incorporate those with my real-life activities and doing stuff with other people. And my relationship with Christ. I am going to try and keep that going just as much as it was here. Even though I am busy, it’s important to make time for him.