Parting is such sweet sorrow

On Friday, one of our beloved staff members, Erin, had to leave and go home.  She’s off to get ready to start her first year of University, so she needed a little more time than usual to prepare, and she had to leave us early.

She’s never left during Family Camp before.

Typically, during Family Camp, if you’re looking for Erin, you’ll find her surrounded by a passel of children, and she never tires of them.  She has a spirit that loves children deeply, and wants to see the best for them.  She runs Bible studies with them, plays games with them, and leads them in skits and songs at each week’s talent show.

Going into our fourth week of Family Camp, she will be missed deeply, both by the kids she’s left behind, and the parents whose children love her deeply.  If she’s not directly with kids, you’d likely hear several kids going “where’s Erin!?  Have you seen Erin?”

I have never written a blog post before about the departure of a staff member, because as you can imagine, our staff come and go throughout the summer season.  But the reason I’m doing so now is because I thought it was a beautiful thing to watch how sad the children were that she was leaving.  I’ve never seen kids clamor after another of our staff members in quite the same way ~ well, I suppose not since the days of Krystle Todd.

As Erin tried to get into her Mom’s van yesterday afternoon, kids swarmed her, wrapped their arms around her waist, tugged at her arms, and begged her not to go.  They can’t imagine a Camp experience without Aunt Erin.  The impact she has on the lives of our Camp Kids is undeniable.

As her van pulled out of the driveway, a group of our staff and kids gathered on the shuffleboard courts to sing the kids’ camp departure song… “hey, hey, hey… goodbye.”

And then several kids ran up the driveway (at a safe distance) after the van, yelling “COME BACK!” and waving!

Erin, if you’re reading this, please know that you are loved deeply here and Camp would NEVER be the same without you!  So while we hope that you thoroughly enjoy your first year of University, we also hope that you remember that you need to come back to us!  If for no one else, for the sake of all those kids who love you!  Though we love you too 🙂

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You set the stars in the sky and You know them by name

… You are amazing, God.

That Chris Tomlin song (Indescribable) can’t help but get stuck in my head during a week like this.  We had a series of big nature events up here that when you watch them, I don’t know how anyone could not see the hand of God.

We started on Wednesday with an absolutely perfectly clear sky that let us all star gaze and see the Perseid Meteor Shower ~ free of the light pollution of the cities and built-up areas most of us live in.  My Mom and I laid on the dock that’s in her backyard (that hasn’t made it to the lake yet) with pillows and blankets, and we marveled at the Milky Way, the expanse of the sky, how many stars they were, how bright they were, and then with every passing meteor…. how amazing it is to be able to live under this sky.  We ooh’d and aah’d as if we were watching the best fireworks show ever.  And we really were, because it’s fireworks put on by God.

What struck me, and I know I’m not the only one, is that I love and serve a God who put each one of those stars in the sky, who named them, who delighted in His creation and said it was good…. but then realized quickly that it wasn’t enough and He wanted to have relationships with people, so He made people.  You and I are some of those people.  He created such vast beauty, and yet it wasn’t perfect until we came along.  We’re more beautiful to Him than the stars in the sky and the incredible sunsets because He created us in His image?  Amazing.  He knows the name of every star in our universe and in the rest of them… and yet He also knows how many hairs there are on my head.

And if that weren’t enough this week, a meteor shower where on the night there were the most meteors, the sky was crisp and clear…. yesterday we had an epic thunder storm that had many of us just staring at the sky.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a camera powerful enough to have captured the meteor shower, but I did get lots of stormy weather shots yesterday.

We started the day sunny and warm, and the clouds rolled in as we continued.  We saw lighting at about 3:45 and closed the waterfront down.  We weren’t sure if anything was actually going to get to us, because the radar looked like we were right on the edge of the system (and if that were really true, I’m glad we weren’t in the middle)!

At around 4:30 the thunder started, and just before dinner the sky opened right up.  The rain poured down, and Paul had to move his chicken wing making station onto the covered lodge porch!  It eventually did let up though, and the sun came back out around 7:30, which led to both a spectacular rainbow and a gorgeous sunset.  God’s promises were all around us yesterday, and His beauty was on display for all to see.  What a wonderful way to end Week 3 of Family Camp!

Check out some of these pictures!

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A 3 hour tour

Well… it wasn’t really a three-hour tour, and we certainly didn’t get marooned on an island together, but on Monday evening, the Pontoon Boat was scheduled for a sunset cruise on Ahmic Lake.

Lynn took some time asking questions and getting information about some of the legends and sights on the lake, and planned a sunset cruise that Family Campers could sign up for and head out on.  Monday evening, although it had filled up quickly, only two people ended up able to go (maybe because earlier in the day the weather had not looked promising).  That opened the door for some of our staff to go who were there when Lynn found out that she was only taking two people on her cruise!

Sandy Martin (our head of hospitality), Natalie White (our program team leader), and I all hopped on the boat with Simon and Lori Miller, and set out on an adventure!

Lynn toured us around, showed us a few points of interest, and taught us things about the lake that I didn’t know!  I was really glad that I got this opportunity, because not only did I learn things, and get some spectacular sunset shots from the point where the Magnetawan River meets Ahmic Lake, but I got to get to know Simon and Lori a bit better as well, and isn’t that what Family Camp is all about?  Getting to know the people we spend our weeks with a bit better every time we come?  At least, that’s what I love about it.  IMG_7062 IMG_7063 IMG_7064 IMG_7065 IMG_7066 IMG_7067 IMG_7068 IMG_7069 IMG_7070 IMG_7071 IMG_7072 IMG_7073 IMG_7076 IMG_7077 IMG_7078

I really enjoyed the whole evening, and so I thought I’d share my sunset pictures with you!  If you’re a week 4 camper and you’re not here yet, perhaps these pictures will inspire you to keep an eye out on the lodge porch for the sign up sheet for the sunset cruise.

Dance with Me

Over the last week, Brittany Lester, who was here on Programming staff for the first week of Family Camp, followed some of our staff around and asked them to dance because she was making a staff dance video.  The song is set to “Shut up and dance” by Walk the Moon.

We want to give a huge thanks to Brittany and her creativity on this!  I know I don’t feature our staff very often, and many times they get stuck behind the scenes and don’t get ‘the spotlight’ as much as they should.

Here’s a chance for you to see some of our fantastic staff, including Uncle Ivan, bust a move and break it down.

I hope you enjoy this daily dose of silly, from us to you.

And does anyone know the answer to the final question?

Why does Kenny MacSweyn have to dance??

The Chicken Wing Song

Last night was the Kahquah Cafe, which is always a highlight of each week of Family Camp for me, especially now that Paul and Heather Martin are back on site.  Paul smokes ribs and deep fries his breaded chicken wings, all in his own home made barbecue sauce (which we sell in the tuck shop, by the way 😉 ).  It’s been a few years, but while he does so, Paul and Jim Lambert, along with anyone who likes to sing or play to some old Bluegrass hymns comes around the picnic table behind the entrance to the kitchen and just jams.

For years, I’d watched this and either sang along, or sat and wished that I could join in.  This year, my fiddling skills were finally to a point where I could play along with everything they played, and I was SO thrilled to be able to be a part of this fun!  Bluegrass is my favourite way to do hymns, after all 🙂

I’m not the only one who has longed to participate in this Kahquah tradition.  Hannah Robertson, daughter to Paul and Heather Robertson, has been a camper for years, listening to the jam session that goes on out behind the kitchen door on Cafe night, and has wanted to be a part of it as well.  She learned to play the guitar this year, and has been practicing I’ll Fly Away, but hadn’t quite figured out the strumming pattern yet.  She couldn’t remember what the song was even called to ask for help, so she told her Mom “I need help with the strumming on The Chicken Wing Song, do you think you could ask Jim if he would show me?”  Of course, we needed to know what the chicken wing song was…. but you see, because Hannah is of a generation that is less familiar with old hymns, the only place she’s really heard them is at Camp.  She’s heard I’ll Fly Away being belted from behind the kitchen for several years, and wanted to join in.  While Paul’s making chicken wings, that’s her association.

I am pleased to announce that yesterday evening, Hannah Robertson joined a group of us jamming behind the kitchen, and was able to take part in something that she’s wanted to for a long time.  Jim played the Banjo, I played the fiddle, Hannah played the guitar, Justin played the guitar, and Ian, one of our volunteers from Port BIC who’s been working tirelessly on the chalets, played the bass.  Nancy, Jim, Paul, and many other voices all joined in.  It was a beautiful sound!  We’ll welcome Hannah back in with open arms next year to play with us again, and maybe with another year under her belt she can jam with us the whole time!  That’s how I made it in!

Toward the end of the jam session, Blain Mater, Shari Mater, and Tim Hershberger came and joined in on the fun, and the vocals were awesome!  I had goosebumps!  Walter Brillinger watched and recorded while he sang, and Ivan Winger lent his voice at times as well.

I have a sweet video of Ivan shaking a bucket of wings to coat them in sauce while Jim and Paul played and belted “Shake it up baby now” (that Twist and Shout song)….. but because Camp’s Internet bandwidth is both extremely limited and unbelievably slow, I’ll have to upload them when I’m in Huntsville or Parry Sound next, and then I’ll post them and link back to this post to remind you 🙂  For now, just the couple pictures I took will have to do.  The videos are better, but alas, my hands are tied.  I’m also including a picture of Sarah and Jared Long, and Cameron Lofthouse singing a song during the Open Mic part of the Cafe night.  I think it’s so great to see how far Jared especially has come in the last few years, and it’s awesome to see so many of our young staff using their musical talent to glorify God.

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Throw Back Thursday

#TBT to many years ago when Camp Kahquah was a pretty new thing, and kids could come to teen camp for $14.00.  Would you take a walk through time with me?  Come back to a time when Birchmere was the only accommodation outside of the lodge or a campsite you could rent, and kids camps had boys and girls split up.

Last week, our fearless office assistant, Brookyln Lester, decided to tackle cleaning and organizing the outer office so that she could see her desk, left neglected in the last year or so, and so that she could focus.  While she was cleaning, she found an album of old pictures that appear to be from the very beginning construction work on the Camp site, some old brochures from the 60s and 70s, and an invitation to the 25th anniversary dinner in 1987 (written partially by my Grandmother, Elaine Winger, so that was fun for me to find!).  I remember the 50th Anniversary Dinner held at Crossroads in Burlington with an “I love to tell the story” focus.  It was great!

I’ve taken pictures of all of it.  Sorry that not all of it is great quality, because a picture of a picture isn’t always awesome, but I sure enjoyed this stroll down memory lane, and I hope you will too.  For me, it’s less down memory lane as it is history, because I wasn’t around for a lot of it, but I find the history of Camp VERY cool.

If you’re ever up here and in the Tuck Shop, you’ll find a book called The Chronicles of Kahquah, which was written by Harvey Sider for the 50th anniversary in 2012.  We sell them here, so if you’re as fascinated by Kahquah’s history as I am, you may want to pick one up!

Who knows, maybe I’ll write the 75th anniversary book 😉  …. but I make no promises.

Here are the pictures of all the things Brooklyn found buried in a desk drawer.

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All in the Family

Well it’s Family Camp.  I told you earlier that I wasn’t going to write a blog unless I had something story-like to share with you, and I have something!  So here we are.

Yesterday, while I was swimming for endless hours on my day off (the lake is unbelievable.  If you’re not here, why not??), Ashley Veenstra came boating alongside me in an inflatable boat and asked if I had anyone give me stories yet.  Truth be told, the answer is no, I hadn’t yet.  But she suggested “do you know anyone else whose family has been represented here across 5 generations?”

No, we couldn’t think of anyone who could say that!

In 1961, Merle Mater along with a group of several other men came up to the site to walk around and see if this would be a valuable property purchase for the Brethren In Christ Church as a retreat and conference centre.  They were looking for a Camp.  We still have the snow shoes that Merle walked the property in, and they’re hanging on the wall in the dining hall!

Now, 54 years later, we have a large Mater clan here who still camps faithfully every year during Family Camp.  And they’ve been coming this whole time.  I can remember in my years as a kids’ camper having Uncle Merle as a bus driver, and not just because we call everyone Uncle and Aunt at Camp, but because Uncle Merle is my Great Uncle.  (Laura Winger writing)

My side of that family tree is close to having 5 generations, but because neither my brother nor I have any kids, we’re sitting at 4 for now.

On site this week, we have Brian and Shari Mater, their daughter Heidi (their son Dustin is not here), Blain and Jackie Mater and their three kids:  Brendan, Ashley, and Jocelyn.  Ashley’s husband Jon is here with them as well, with their two kids Landon and Madison.  Brendan’s wife Sarah is not here, but two of their three children, Bianca and Audrey are here with him.  Jocelyn’s boyfriend Taylor is here as well.

We can boast other families who have multiple generations who come to camp as well, probably too many to name.  I think it’s really neat though that as descendants of one of the original men to walk the property, camp is still an important part of the lives of the Mater family.  It’s been a real blessing for me this week to hear Blain and Brian’s bass voices ringing out during worship in the Chapel, and Ashley has been on the worship team this week along with Jim Lambert and Ashley Cunningham.  On Monday morning, Ashley Cunningham recorded them singing “Lord I Need You” and made a video of it, accompanied by pictures from all over Camp, then posted it to Facebook.  In it you can hear not only their voices leading, but also those of everyone joining in.

Here’s a picture of the CK 2015 Mater clan, in front of the snow shoes Merle Mater walked the property on in 1961.


The thing I love about Family Camp is though, that it doesn’t matter whether your family has been here for 5 generations, or whether you are the first generation of your family to start to come here, everyone is welcome and, I think, feels that ‘family’ feel.  My favourite part of Family Camp is getting to see the ‘family’ that I wouldn’t see anywhere else, even though they aren’t related to me.  I’ve gotten to know so many of you in my years as a camper and then as staff, that I can honestly say the people at Camp are like a second family to me.  And for that, it doesn’t matter how many generations we span, because we’re all family in Christ.