One Thousand Hours

 

One Thousand Hours

I must start with a caveat about the following article. The ideas I am sharing are simply thoughts to be pondered and reflected upon and not a commentary on any specific group or individual. 

I was listening to several podcasts this week while painting some walls in my home office. A few of which mentioned the recruitment of youth and young adults into extremist or terrorist cells, specifically Isis. The ideas and tactics they were sharing were hardly different than that of national gang recruitment. 

A study “Tackling terrorists’ recruitment of youth” by Jessica Trisko Darden delves into and communicates the recruitment systems used by extremist groups.


 The author speaks to the vulnerability that is taken advantage of when recruiting young individuals. These youth have several things in common; Vulnerability, loneliness, and marginalization from their immediate community.  These youth seek connection, community, and above most else, belonging, which they receive through connecting with these terrorist groups. 

The recruiters will often use several people to recruit one young person, which is never communicated and misrepresents that the youth is always connecting with the same person. Often over thousands of hours through chat rooms, calls, and emails. Trust and belonging are built over this time. Slowly and methodically. 

Without going too much further into the specifics of the scenario, I will say this. I have some experience working with youth who were gang involved. These individuals never saw it as a flawed system, not once. They felt more protected, cared for, and connected there than they ever had at home or in the community, which does not say much for their home life or experience within the community. They understood the surface dangers of it; they knew there were risks involved, but what “family” doesn’t have some give and take?

These are all human needs, all things God created us to need! We will all search for these life essentials until we find them.

The introspection came quickly after listening and digging into this idea. I am profoundly challenged by the thought of one thousand hours. This idea, one thousand hours, at its simplest, is the idea that 1000 hours will be spent with any given child or youth to ensure they feel safe, cared for, and protected. This type of intimate time spent then creates an indebted relationship that can quickly be taken advantage of. When was the last time I, or ministries, spent this kind of time connecting with an individual? 

Do we offer these individuals the same things? Do we offer the youth, community, protection, belonging, and judgment-free relationship in a Christ-centered and healthy environment? 

Many of these are rhetorical questions. I genuinely don’t have the answers to them. I know that evaluating how we share God’s love is crucial to reaching people. Understanding what they seek and the places it is found allows us, as Christians, to understand some of what they are going through. 

As we approach each other, understanding our humanity and collective brokenness allows us to connect, listen, and share life without the implications or expectations perpetuated by unhealthy or self-involved relationships—a challenge for all of us, only attainable through a vibrant and earnest relationship with God.

Summer Thought; Winter Day

Summer Thought; Winter Day

I sit here, easily distracted by the snow covering the sidewalk, driveways, and roads just outside my living room window. As with much of the world at the moment, I find myself working primarily from home, a scenario I am thankful for but not always good at. I like to move, change scenes, and travel more often than the regular individual might. It’s sometimes a nervous twitch yet more specifically a need for experience and adventure! 

This paints a good picture as to why I ended up being the Program Director at Covenant Bay. Never a dull moment. Once the winter days settle in, a week or so after the time change (which somehow still throws me off, every year!) I recognize my need for adventure, travel, and warmer weather, calls me, subtly yet not lacking fervor, it demands I take note. Which I do, momentarily at least. like most Canadians I know, I long for the warm days with exponential increase as the winter months drag on.

I like to consider myself an expert in Summer. Not like, a meteorologist or anything, just simply a person who has experienced summer and much of what it has to offer through many years of serving Summer camp! It is much harder to have a slip-n-slide in negative 30-degree weather! (trust me, I’ve tried) 

The exact timing of “evening” seems to get less exact as the year draws to an end. “Is it 2:00 pm? Or Midnight?” I am genuinely unsure most of December due to the lack of any prolonged sunlight. 

Midnight is and has always been the time when I get my best thinking done. This year I have been captivated by the thought of how we carry experiences with us and how those experiences, help grow and oftentimes define us long after they’re initially experienced. 

Every summer, since I was 18, I have watched children, youth, and staff, grow through experiences. This growth is often more profound than any individual expects. Each winter, around this time I remind myself to pray for those individuals, for the change they experienced, and that the spiritual growth they experienced in the summer months has been fostered, cared for, and encouraged into this season. 

We, at camp, or in ministry, recognize that this type of life change comes through an interaction with the Holy Spirit. This is the exact life change and connection we pray for and love to see during the summer months, or while doing relational ministry with people! 

My encouragement and end thought for today is simple. As the days get colder and we see the sunless, let’s remember to pray for those whose lives have changed, for the children, youth, and families that are impacted by local ministries sharing the Joy of the Holy Spirit.

Year-end Campaign

Year End Campaign

The Year-end campaign is a unique opportunity for donors to have every dollar matched up to a combined total of $60,000. Each week Jon will give an update regarding the goal.

https://covenantbay.ca/news/count-your-blessings/

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Count Your Blessings

Count Your Blessings

If people had the opportunity to relive 2020, I don’t think anyone would take me up on the offer. Yet, I hear people counting their blessings, the good things that have come out of the worldwide crisis. People talk about how their family life has slowed and improved dramatically. Many couples talk about improved marriages. Individuals talk about the health benefits of a more simple life. God is at work, bringing good out of hard and difficult times. People may not choose to relive 2020, but most do not wish to let go of the things they learned and the good that has come out of 2020.

This is true of Covenant Bay as well. In the midst of difficult times, God brings good things – blessings we would have never experienced without a crisis. When I was a young boy, we would sing a song in my church; do you remember the lyrics below?

“Count your blessings, name them one by one, Count your blessings, see what God has done!”

Today, I choose to count our blessings. Join me as I recount all the good God has brought this year.

A New Program Director.

In April, Bradon Pihowich, Covenant Bay’s new Program Director, stepped into his role with our entire summer on the brink of not happening. Nearly every year since 2007, I (Jon Drebert) have been in charge of the summer camp program. Without Bradon’s timely arrival and leadership, I am not sure I would have been able to pull off the summer camp program. I am so grateful to God that Bradon has joined us at Covenant Bay.

Rentals

It may sound ridiculous for me to put rentals on this list of blessings since we were on track for record numbers. So, where is the blessing in all of that? Each rental group booked or nearly booked earlier this year has indicated a desire to rebook later. All the hard work is not lost; those bookings will happen one day!

Facility

In 2019 we completed (mostly) the inside of the accommodation lodge. We were ready to jump into the landscaping, except it was really wet and then by the time it dried up, we were into our summer camp season, which is not when you want to be doing landscaping work and pouring concrete. So the project was pushed back and pushed back, and then we looked to the spring of 2020 and again, the rains came, and it was even wetter in the spring and early summer of 2020. So we waited and waited.

The fall of 2020 came, and we had our opportunity. Volunteers jumped at the chance to help out. The concrete was poured for the sidewalks and lakeside patio. Keith Nelson, the Facilities Director, planted all of the shrubs, flowers, trees and installed the ground cover. When you see the lodge next summer, it will look complete because of Keith’s and others’ beautiful work. Incredibly everything was paid for by donors. Thank you, Lord.

Bible Story Podcast

Despite hosting only a fraction of the campers and retreat guests compared to a normal year, God has reached more lives through Covenant Bay in 2020 than any other year. The Bible Story Podcast has gained what we consider a sizeable audience. The Bible Story Podcast began in the Fall of 2020 and was meant to be a follow-up resource to help parents teach and grow their children in a relationship with Jesus. We did not expect the audience to grow far beyond the Covenant Bay circle and become a means for people to be introduced to Covenant Bay Bible Camp.

In our first month, October 2019, there were 141 downloads. In September of 2020, there were 3,900 downloads. Now there are many reasons to take these numbers with a grain of salt – or a lot of salt, but, for now, we are encouraged by what God is doing and thankful for his leading.

In-School Program

One of the groups that Covenant Bay has chosen to serve is schools. With our facility not being an option for them, we have pivoted significantly. Bradon, our program director, has written a curriculum outlining a means to be resilient and deal with change and crisis. His training as a child and youth care counsellor is a tremendous asset. Thanks to Jason, our rental Coordinator, the In-School Program is now booked through most of November, and we hope that more schools will book for future months.

Whether it is a personal crisis or a worldwide crisis like COVID 19, students need to respond to change and crisis well. 2020 has brought us a unique opportunity to love our community through this program. I believe the In-school program will remain relevant as change and crisis are always occurring, maybe not at the scale we have seen this year, but we all consistently experience these things at some level.

Provision

Regardless, if you agree with the Federal Governments’ response to the crisis, Covenant Bay Bible Camp has benefited significantly. Since May, Covenant Bay’s year-round staff went from full-time work to 32 hours per week. To pay for the staff wages, an application has been to the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy each month, amounting to over $65,000. Additionally, over $80,000 was granted in other funding for summer students and interns. This provision allowed us to offer a unique summer camp program. Without funding for year-round and summer staff, Covenant Bay would have had to alter its operations significantly. I am grateful for God’s provision, regardless of how it comes.

Covenant Bay donors continue to amaze. Not only have they paid for in full the construction cost of the Lodge (grateful for no mortgage), but they continue to provide all that is needed to continue the work. Donors have already exceeded what was given in 2019. Typically, November and December are some of the highest giving months of the year. God provides all that we need and more to serve him. I am so tremendously grateful!

…together for the good…

‘And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. ‘ Romans 8:28

In March and April, I thought the Crisis would hurt Covenant Bay so significantly that I wondered if the organization would survive. Not only has Covenant Bay survived, but it has become stronger. More people than ever are being reached. Our staff team has grown and become more well rounded. Covenant Bay donors continue to be faithful. Amazingly, God is doing as much or more than he ever has through the work at Covenant Bay.

So why all this blessing? I thought this was a crisis? I believe that is just the way God works; he loves to bless his children. Thanks for loving God and responding to his call. God has blessed us because he chooses to, and I am so grateful for his love and for allowing us to work alongside him.

Can you think of any more blessings? Count them by one with me by commenting below!

Just A Little Off The Top

“Just A Little Off The Top”

Thanksgiving is often the time of year when I take stock of the events of the past months. October is often the beginning of the next summer season. Dreams and schemes are being planted and diligently cared for to slowly propagate what will eventually be next year’s summer camp!

October is also when I, the Program Director, look over the events of the summer past. The highs and the lows, or “Poops and Puddings,” as I have aptly titled them.

The list of pros and cons, wins and losses, often seems to grow with the more thought I put into it.

The trouble is, I am attempting to measure the immeasurable. Don’t misunderstand; I love a useful metric or perfectly presented statistic, but so often does this do some injustice when I think about the summer as a whole. The staff, children, and families we come across each year need to be more than statistics.

After a few months of critical analysis, I remind myself to take a little off the top, skim the surface, remove the foam, cut loose the split ends. In statistics, these “top” numbers are called outliers. They are the numbers that do not show the accurate measure of your research. Every single study has outliers, anomalies, and inconsistencies. These are often the discouraging moments, fights, or failures that could distort the picture of an otherwise glorious summer.

God grants us grace continuously and without interest or expected return. He prompts us to strive not for worldly success but life in His abundance. As followers of Christ, we get to live under this grace and enjoy the calm it brings.

Every year, around this season, I am reminded that God’s metric is different and far more complex than the metric of worldly success or progress. Self- Reflection, growth, and improvement are all attributes that I consider honorable.

Success does not mean perfection or without fault; only Jesus can be that. Perhaps it is okay to skim a little off the top and rest in His immeasurable grace.

Things I wish I hadn’t Grown Out Of; A Non-Comprehensive Thought

Things I wish I hadn’t Grown Out Of;

A Non-Comprehensive Thought

I am now at the age that would be considered an “adult,” although I must admit I feel like an imposter most days. I find myself yearning for the freedom, naivety, and homecooked meals of childhood. 

After ten years or so of working with children and youth, I have realized there are specific opportunities that we are asked to give up as “adults” that seem to do me more harm than good. Sure, eating cake for dinner isn’t a healthy life choice (trust me, I have tried), but there is a principal there that we can glean hope and peace from! 

As I try to navigate this thing, they call “adulthood,” I am reminded of how Jesus spoke about children. He did not push them aside, ignore, or urge them to “grow up” to become a part of His kingdom. He recognized the importance of their minds, hearts, and simplistic look at faith. 

This is the youthful character trait I find myself chasing these days. In the midst of an overwhelming, and the seemingly unending whirlwind of political, economic, and societal unrest, I desire the simplicity of childhood thought. 

As adults, we assume that a complicated and convoluted response is the only way to approach these BIG issues. We do this often in our faith; we complicate, dissect, and drown in the theological debate of semantics, all without ever reaching an answer. 

My thoughts bring me to a question. “What if we were to reclaim the simplicity of childhood thought?” 

I believe that children approach faith with the fervor, earnestness, and love that I am seeking to emulate, that I once had and had been asked to give up for a more “adult” mind frame. 

I am encouraged by this – We can approach God as children; we can fumble and stutter our way through a conversation with Him. We get to be proud and excited and trusting in His presence. He is our Father, and He loves us. It’s pretty simple. 

Next time you sit down, with the weight of the day resting heavily on your shoulders, think about the simple answer. God loves you, He cares for you, and He works all things out for good. Fight the urge to complicate, solve, and strategize the solution and simply let the Father hold the answers. 

How Are You?

 

How Are You?

Not Such an Obvious Question

September is known as National Suicide Awareness month. As I continue to navigate the very abnormal day-to-day we are currently experiencing, I often wonder how the individuals around me are doing. 

We ask, “How are you?” in any given situation without much emphasis or conviction. The idea that a “good” or “fine” will suffice as a quick answer. 

Amid our current scenario, I have noticed the honesty and vulnerability that are newly attached to such a simple question. People seem to be seeking an outlet, a conversation, a connection with one another. 

The idea of mental health and well-being is not new to many of us. We see comments, articles, and entertainment all geared towards the awareness of this idea. Something I believe is pertinent to our society. 

With this said, I am emplored to be honest about the worrying state I have found myself in. As COVID – 19 became daily news, I immediately began to see and consider its repercussions on the families and children in our community. The impact due to the inability to fully grasp what they are living through. 

I have always desired to care for others; this motivated me. Passionately we (the Covenant Bay Bible Camp Leadership) began to brainstorm how to reach and serve this community. 

I must clarify that I, In no way consider this current pandemic or scenario, impending doom for the children of this generation—actually, quite the opposite. We have a remarkable and unique opportunity to converse with each other about our health on a day to day basis. COVID – 19, has perpetuated this already inherent human need. 

As the school year drew near, we felt, as a camp, we needed to support our campers, staff, and communities in a new, COVID friendly way. This led to the idea of In-School Programming— born out of the heart to serve our community. 

Our in-school programming is a mental health initiative. Recognizing the importance of an individual’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being is a year-round endeavor. Suicide awareness month helps us continually prioritize and recognize the need for physical, emotional, and mental support. 

Children are strong, resilient, smart, and courageous. Our initiative aims to share these strengths with them to teach them it is okay not to be okay, and that they have the ability and support system to navigate any time of strife or uncertainty.  

Our mission at Covenant Bay Bible Camp is to encourage a growing relationship with Jesus Christ; we believe that our mental and emotional well-being is a part of this relationship. Our care and hope for the campers, families, and alumni of CBBC are to be a part of the broader community and body of Christ, in which we care for and encourage one another. 

An Earnest Thank You

This week marks the end of our Summer Programming. We have said hello and goodbye to many campers, families, and friends throughout this season. The “Hello!” was always exciting, and “Goodbye”  seemed all too often like a small part of us was leaving. 

In one of its’ most straightforward definitions, Camp is where relationships are encouraged, where strangers become family, and life seems less scary. 

This year specifically, I held fear close as the camp season came near— fear for job security, health, campers, and staff, amongst many more.  

This concern dissolved as the first smiling faces and sounds of laughter filled the property. (filled being a relative term – Filled within social distance guidelines of course!) 

As I reflect on the strange yet simultaneously wonderful last three months, I recognize how thankful I am this year for the small things I have often overlooked. Both parents and campers’ eyes would show the marks of each early morning, but rarely was the exhaustion commented on, rather the parents and children would speak only with the excitement of the day to come! Eyes half-open yet with hearts and minds that couldn’t unbuckle the seatbelt and open the car door soon enough!

The truth is the laughter, smiles, footsteps in the gravel, late-night shenanigans, constant campfire scented hair, and all of the other tiny pockets of joy are all things camp has always had. Never have I escaped a summer without the burning sensation of eyes so dry from a windy night around the campfire. 

Moments that have nearly always been there that I have never fully recognized nor had gratitude towards. 

This year, with the unknown, unprecedented, unpredictable, or any other word meaning “no clue what the future holds.” I was so thankful for the gratitude I had forgotten to give. Each morning that campers were on the road, the staff shared a devotion over coffee, or the calm of the day hadn’t yet given way to the chaos driven distractions. I found myself saying, “Thank you, God.” 

Thank you for the things I do not know or have yet to see, for the parents who aren’t morning people but drove to camp anyway, and the joys we got to share in the midst of the unknown. 

Thank you, Father, for you are good!

An Earnest Thank You

This week marks the end of our Summer Programming. We have said hello and goodbye to many campers, families, and friends throughout this season. The “Hello!” was always exciting, and “Goodbye”  seemed all too often like a small part of us was leaving. 

In one of its’ most straightforward definitions, Camp is where relationships are encouraged, where strangers become family, and life seems less scary. 

This year specifically, I held fear close as the camp season came near— fear for job security, health, campers, and staff, amongst many more.  

This concern dissolved as the first smiling faces and sounds of laughter filled the property. (filled being a relative term – Filled within social distance guidelines of course!) 

As I reflect on the strange yet simultaneously wonderful last three months, I recognize how thankful I am this year for the small things I have often overlooked. Both parents and campers’ eyes would show the marks of each early morning, but rarely was the exhaustion commented on, rather the parents and children would speak only with the excitement of the day to come! Eyes half-open yet with hearts and minds that couldn’t unbuckle the seatbelt and open the car door soon enough!

The truth is the laughter, smiles, footsteps in the gravel, late-night shenanigans, constant campfire scented hair, and all of the other tiny pockets of joy are all things camp has always had. Never have I escaped a summer without the burning sensation of eyes so dry from a windy night around the campfire. 

Moments that have nearly always been there that I have never fully recognized nor had gratitude towards. 

This year, with the unknown, unprecedented, unpredictable, or any other word meaning “no clue what the future holds.” I was so thankful for the gratitude I had forgotten to give. Each morning that campers were on the road, the staff shared a devotion over coffee, or the calm of the day hadn’t yet given way to the chaos driven distractions. I found myself saying, “Thank you, God.” 

Thank you for the things I do not know or have yet to see, for the parents who aren’t morning people but drove to camp anyway, and the joys we got to share in the midst of the unknown. 

Thank you, Father, for you are good!

Unexpected Time; Unexpected Blessing

I keep catching myself cringing at the word “unprecedented,” having a harsh, adverse response to those five syllables. After the last four months, that word strikes with the heaviness and awkwardness of a soccer ball to the face. (I work in camp ministry, I know the feeling all too well.) 

The more I hear that word or others associated with it, such as unforeseen, unknown, or risk mitigation, I feel the caring, helpful nature of my inner self sheltering away from the world that seems all too hard. It’s not as though I no longer care, nor that I don’t wish to help, my capacity at this moment is merely far less than I wish it to be. 

I find myself being frustrated by the apparent lack of problems I single-handedly can solve as if solving the issues of the world over a cup of coffee is that rudimentary or within my understanding. It’s a daunting and overwhelming task to solve the world’s problems alone, with only a grade six education on the political system of Canada and even less so of that in the United States. I also find myself continually being facetious in the midst of serious issues. 

I, along with other summer camp staff, forget to spend time in the presence of the Lord during the hectic and chaotic nature of the summer season, which has been heightened in our current circumstance. I often need a reminder to do so, to find the time, to seek the Lord first, and to put my relationship with Him first. Not after dinner, not tomorrow, not after the kids are gone and asleep. First. 

As easy as that is to say, when I find myself in the middle of a Camp Session, the applicability seems much more monumental in scale. However, this week I was able to take time, to reflect, to be humble before Him and be grateful for the job He invites me into. 

It says in Matthew 6: 33 “But, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” 

I started the next day after reading through this passage, intending to seek God in my day. I started my day, coffee in hand, talking to the children during a chapel session about Noah and the Ark. Each child, young and full of energy, optimism, and curiosities. It was apparent they weren’t worried about the systemic and economic repercussions of a global pandemic. They were laughing gleefully at the fact that I, the speaker, was spraying someone with water to demonstrate the floodwaters in the story. They then proceeded to ask questions and listen intently to the answers. They were excited to learn more about God. 

We had about 20 children at this chapel session, a number less than half of what we are accustomed to. This number would be easy to look at and say, “well, why bother?” That day, as I sprayed water on a staff member who has given their summer to foster growth and fun for any child who attends Covenant Bay Bible Camp, I was reminded of a single infallible truth. Our God, who is good, understands the problems more than I ever could. He guides my steps and has never asked me to solve the world’s problems. He has asked me to care for those around me, to seek Him first in my everything, and follow His lead. 

This prompting to seek seems almost childlike to me. The idea that a child will look gleefully behind every curtain and cupboard before eventually finding the other players in any such game. I am reminded that in my relationship with God, I strive to be more childlike, more obedient, less critical. 

So, although the word “unprecedented” tends to send shivers down my spine, I recognize that the unpredictability of the season isn’t all bad. God is catching me off guard once again with the lessons I am learning, but as I seek Him, I continue to find contentment, peace, and even a childlike glee as I get excited to discover him in my everyday.