I can’t believe that I am writing this in August. Where did the summer go?
Entering this summer camp season, I committed to spending time with each of our family camp weeks, and each of our youth camp weeks. I wanted to welcome and thank our guests and show appreciation and support for our staff and volunteers. That commitment has meant a weekly overnight trip to Moon Beach, at least one weekly day trip to Daycholah Center, and the balance of the week at Cedar Valley.
Consequently, I have missed many of my typical summer markers and activities: holidays, kayaking, biking, camping, time with family, and time out on my motorcycle. On the doorstep of August, I could focus on what this summer has NOT been.
However, I want to share some of what the summer HAS been:
- I shared my first experience greeting and welcoming our first week of Camp AweSum family camp. After just 24 hours with them, there are kids I have thought about and missed the rest of the week and throughout the summer.
- During family weeks, I have spent time with campers in conversation, at vespers, and around the campfire. I even snuck in a s’more or three. I continue to be amazed at the strength of tradition, history, and how powerful outdoor ministry experiences have been for generations of families–in and beyond the United Church of Christ, and in and beyond Wisconsin.
- I have joined video meetings while overlooking Moon Lake or Green Lake. I have drifted off to sleep hearing the call of a distant loon and woken up to the breakfast chatter of a fledging eaglet. Each week I have seen deer, fawns, foxes, phoebes, bald eagles, hardworking staff, and relaxing smiling guests.
- The miles between West Bend and Moon Beach are dotted with Wisconsin River vistas, Oneida and Vilas County lakes, and the Rainbow Flowage. Traveling between West Bend and Daycholah Center provides views of rolling farmland and wooded lots. The panorama of Green Lake when cresting the last hill going west on County Road K is breathtaking.
These experiences have fed me physically and spiritually in a way that I have not experienced before.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 reads:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace (NRSV).
In reading this sage wisdom, it’s easy to focus on the negative. Loss, grief, dying, and weeping are each a reality of life. But we can also focus on the positives. Birth, planting, healing, laughter, dancing, gathering, embracing, love and peace.
Yes, it has been a summer and a season like no other. UCCI faces challenges ahead. For me, this is a season to plant a stake in the ground and remain fully dedicated to the journey ahead. I don’t know how long this season will be upon us, but I am prayerful that there are many less stressful seasons ahead if we roll up our sleeves and do the work needed. I know that we have amazing partners in the Wisconsin Conference of the United Church of Christ. We have industry professionals who have been eager and generous as mentors. We have you and this beloved community–generations of guests and campers whom all share a passionate vision for the future and sustainability of outdoor ministry in Wisconsin.
Please hold UCCI and the staff at each of our sites in your prayers as we collectively continue to invite the Divine into our ministry. We will work hard to continue our rich legacy while moving aggressively toward a financially sustainable future. Please consider us in your charitable giving in a manner that is meaningful to you. Most of all, please look for an opportunity where you, your family, your church, or your community group might come and visit.
For those whose paths I have crossed this summer, THANK YOU! Thank you for allowing us to host you and get to know you. Thank you for the conversations, questions, and the gift of your time and attention. Thank you for sharing your precious time and resources with us. For those whom I have not yet met, I look forward to the opportunity to meet you and welcome you into the extravagant hospitality and sacred spaces that we steward.
May the peace of Christ and the blessings of our Creator God dwell in you richly.
Rev. James Schleif
Interim Exectuive Director