Lofty Goals by Down-to-Earth Boys

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This past Thursday, I was with my cabin on the high ropes course after a few days of team building and group activities.  It was incredible to see dynamics and attitudes change as everyone came together in support of one another.  Any small feuds fell by the wayside as complete connectedness transformed these six boys into one phenomenal family working together for one lofty yet attainable goal: to conquer these high ropes together.  The idea of being over 30 feet in the air connected to only a few small ropes can make the biggest and strongest of men and women weak at the knees, let alone some 13, 14, and 15 year old boys.  As is typical at camp, some campers will have done high ropes before and many  find it fun, exhilarating, and even easy, but for others, especially those who have never climbed before, fear can grab hold of them and not let go.

One of the latter cases proved true to a boy in my cabin named Grant.  Grant, an all-around calm, composed, and enthusiastic camper wouldn’t seem to be someone shaken by this typically fun activity, but when faced with the decision to continue climbing the pole up to the platform or to climb back down, Grant always froze before ultimately deciding that the ground was much more comfortable to stand on then the wind-shaken pole or platform he was trying to reach.  By the time Grant made his 3rd attempt at climbing the platform, the other five boys in our cabin had already reached the platform and started climbing across some of the other elements, across wires, wood, rope, and PVC pipes.  Determination was clear to see on Grant’s face, but so was the fear that had grasped him.  Grant continued attempt after attempt while the other campers, facilitators, and myself cheered him on.  Persistence and the will to continue welled up in Grant as he made his 8th attempt to climb the pole.  By now, everyone was cheering him on and singing songs to distract him from the fear he was experiencing.  As he began to climb he had new power in his legs and arms.  He rushed past the halfway mark (his previous best) but stopped cold just a few steps up from the top of the platform where I had been the whole time, cheering him on.  Grant was experiencing the proverbial “so close, yet so far away.”  As I tried to distract him further I laid down on the platform and extended my hand.  After much prompting and convincing, Grand extended his hand also and gave me what I can only describe as the most powerful high five I have ever experienced; not in the physical sense but in the will and determination behind it.

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Shortly after this high five, Grant made the ultimate choice to climb down the pole and not make further attempts to do additional elements.  Still a member of our new found family, Grant found the courage to climb a different pole directly to the zip line, the end of the ropes course.  Full of strength from himself and from his cabin family, Grant reached the top and did indeed zip line.  Step -by-step Grant left his comfort zone and walked off a ledge to zip line a few hundred feet.

It is only in the endless supportive and connected community established in places like Sky Ranch that true strength, determination, and dedication can be revealed.  These characteristics showed through not only in Grant but the entire cabin and camp community as well and are , to date, one of the most powerful moments and feelings that I have experienced in outdoor ministries.  It is because of this that I am always excited to a new day and further opportunity for unattainable dreams to become achieved realities.

The Love of Camp

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Sky Ranch is a beautiful place to become part of something larger.  God created these mountains and all of creation, and at Sky Ranch, there is nothing more beautiful and transforming than exploring your faith by being in God’s creation.  As a 7th grader, camp was a very special place to be.  It allowed me to grow and develop a faith I had never thought I had.  Of course, since then there have been many times when I have lost my way.  But I have come up to Sky Ranch for 6 summers and I feel renewed in God’s glory.

I never actually thought I that I would be a counselor here at Sky Ranch.  Each year I have thought about it and prayed but never thought I was good or worthy enough to be a counselor.  I always thought my faith was not strong enough, and there was no way I could lead campers through their own journey of faith.  Now, three summers later, I have realized that it does not matter where my faith is, but that Sky Ranch is the perfect place to be in the midst of God’s wonders and creation.

I love children and teaching them.  I also love learning about God’s word and being able to share that with others.  This is the best place to be in order to explore the excitement and all the love that comes from the people here at Sky Ranch.  The theme of this summer is “A Love That Never Ends.”  This theme has really called out to me because of the impact that love has on people around them.  It can be good or bad, but there are so many ways that love has impacted my life and the lives of those around me.  This summer will be a wondrous opportunity to explore the amazing love that God gives us and that we give to others.

Allison Johnson, Counselor

The Love of Deck Songs

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Three times a day before meals, cabins sing Deck Songs together in a giant circle near the bell tower. Deck Songs were actually on the deck in years past, but as camper numbers have climbed, the increased wear that comes from a hoard of kids jumping, running, and screaming on a wooden deck necessitated that we climb down into the grass. As kids become familiar with the ridiculous, “repeat after me” collection of songs, their participation explodes as we move from Sunday to Friday . A camper’s top moments from a week at Sky Ranch—high ropes, hike to Cirque Meadows, walking the nature trail, high ropes, high ropes—rarely include Deck Songs, but these brief periods scattered throughout the day are often some of my favorite moments. When a seventh grade boy finally uncrosses his arms and mumbles along to “I’m bringing home a baby bumblebee”, it might not appear to be a success, but that camper is stepping into camp life in way that he wasn’t ready to do yesterday. That’s awesome. There are so many opportunities at camp for our campers to take a risk by joining the community. While these stepping forward moments do not have the drama of high ropes or the ­­­necessary commitment needed for a day hike, they help stitch together our common life at Sky Ranch, and they deserve our attention.

Written by Taylor Wiese, Onsite Coordinator working with Specialists

The Love of Intercultural Communities

As we continue to dive into our summer theme of A Love that Never Ends, some of our staff had the privilege of visiting Fort Morgan, CO for a day of service learning and partnership. While Four Winds service programs have smaller numbers this year, we are excited to maintain our partnerships with the different organizations and communities we work with. We had the opportunity to explore our connectedness through Christ by learning about immigrant and refugee issues in Fort Morgan. Because of employment opportunities, immigrants and refugees from all over the world have moved to Fort Morgan in the last decade. While this has created some challenges, a number of organizations have worked to develop an intercultural community. Through our partnerships with the Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer (LCOR) and OneMorgan County, we were able to experience how this connectedness is lived out every day.

Honza, a thirteen year old refugee from Somalia, has lived in the United States for about two years. He flew from Somalia to Denver with his two brothers to join his mother, who was already in the United States. Honza shared about the difficulties of learning a new language in school and making new friends. As a Muslim, Honza told us about the different traditions that he follows, including Ramadan, which begins this month. As Honza shared his story with Sky Ranch staff and the youth group at LCOR, we were able to move beyond some of our cultural differences to be in community. While it can often be difficult to build relationships with those who are different from us, our partnership in Fort Morgan shows that when we take the time to listen and learn from each other, our shared experience as human beings comes through. It is in these moments of being outside of our comfort zones in different communities that we are able to encounter Christ, wherever we might be.

Written by Hannah Anderson, Offsite Coordinator

A Love That Never Ends

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Today we are officially one week and two days into our summer camp season! Through the busyness of cabin time, worship experiences, silly songs, and fantastic meals, we’ve been learning about our theme: A Love That Never Ends.  A Love That Never Ends is the love that we encounter on the cross, in the times in which love has failed and a new kind of love emerges.  A Love That Never Ends is the love that pushes us into relationship with those who we are least likely to want to love. A Love That Never Ends is the love that breaks down barriers and breathes abundant life into the very core of who we are.

A Love That Never Ends is God’s love! Living, breathing, and moving amidst the community of campers, sponsors, and staff here at Sky Ranch. We’ve seen it alive in so many ways over the last week! On high ropes we’ve seen trust replace fear when cabin groups rally to support each of their members (from where I am writing, I can hear the buzz of the zip line and voices calling out “you’ve got this!”). As we await each meal, we get the opportunity to sing silly songs with each other, and in these moments of silliness, we find place to be more of ourselves. We’ve had campers making up their own songs, inventing dances, and taking the lead in worship experiences. Even more, we’ve been able to see A Love That Never Ends through the stories and faith campers bring with them as they come to camp. This love is a powerful one and through it we find ourselves transformed as we prepare to head back down the mountain, whenever that may be.

Written by Amelia Decker, Weekend Coordinator

Shower House Construction Update

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As we begin our second week of camp, we continue to anticipate the arrival of our new shower house module.  While we are enjoying the creativeness of shower schedules and the opportunity to fully embrace the natural great outdoors, we are also extremely excited to announce the updates to our new shower house module, currently being build in a warehouse in Nebraska.

This new shower house has been in the planning stages for 38 years, as we continued to make the best use possible of the facilities available.  As our old shower house was torn down in May, we are currently using a rented shower trailer and finalizing the foundation for the new shower house module to be placed upon.

We are so excited to announce that the new shower house will arrive to Sky Ranch on Monday June 29!

Please enjoy some pictures of our shower house construction process:

 

Sky Ranch Staff YAGM Updates

Sky Ranch alumni currently serving in Young Adult in Global Mission (left to right, Luke Hanson, Maddie Thomas, and Emily Bishop).

There are many opportunities for young adults to spend a year in service as they discern what they are called to do upon graduation of high school or college. One of those programs is Young Adults in Global Mission. Many of our staff have chosen to spend a year serving abroad through this program and have come back from their year of service with a new sense of themselves, their faith and how they might best match their gifts with their communities needs.

Currently, 3 of our alumni are spending a year abroad through the YAGM program.  We have attached each of their November newsletters so you can read more about their adventures through YAGM. Click on their links below to read more!

Emily Bishop a staff member in 2011 (counselor), ’12 (backpack guide) and ’13 (offsite coordinator) is  spending her year in Rwanda.  Her current placement has her working at a secondary school and helping with programs at a local church.  Emily Bishop November News-1

Luke Hanson who joined us last summer as a backpack guide is also spending his year in Rwanda teaching English classes and guitar lessons.  Luke Hanson Newsletter #1

Maddie Thomas, a staff member from 2013 (counselor) and this past summer (outreach coordinator) is located in Madagascar.  Here she is working with TCC (a lunch Program for 25 local children) and teaching English in a rural town, at a church and to Malagasy Missionaries.  Check out each of their November newsletters so you can read more about their adventures through YAGM. Maddie Thomas newsletter-1

Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers as they continue to transition into their year abroad!

 

Oskar Blues CAN’d Aid Foundation recently awarded a $5,000 grant for their flood relief work in the Lyons and Longmont communities. The Sky Ranch Flood Relief Program is a hands-on relief effort in response to the historical flooding that caused over $2 billion in damage throughout Northern Colorado last fall. The program started out with about 100 people but has grown to involve over 400 individuals contributing more than 8,800 volunteer service hours in the Lyons, Longmont, and Boulder areas so far this summer.

Out of state volunteer groups are hosted at First and Bethlehem Lutheran Churches in Longmont, Colorado. Partnering organizations include United Way of Boulder County, the City of Longmont, Habitat for Humanity, the Long Term Flood Recovery group in Lyons, and the Rocky Mountain Synod.

It is our goal to provide incredible opportunities for our groups to not only serve those with needs in Northern Colorado, but also to learn from those we serve. Everyone has a story and we are excited to meet people affected by the floods, learn their stories and walk alongside them in relief. We are there to build relationships and leave a lasting impact on the communities we serve in. Check out some of the stories on Sky Ranch Lutheran Camp Facebook page.

We are thankful to the Oskar Blues CAN’d Aid Foundation for their support in making this program so successful!  As mentioned on their Facebook page:

At Oskar Blues, we dig beer, bikes, music, food and family – and we’re rallying around what we love to raise money for the things that matter. Whether it’s helping prevent child abuse, providing meals for those in need, working with local bike groups to improve trail access, or rolling up our sleeves and digging out our neighbors from the recent flood, Oskar Blues has always been about community. The Oskar Blues CAN’d Aid Foundation – makin’ a difference.”

Unplanned Moments of Joy in Service

An early wakeup call had me driving down the mountain to meet up with a group of high school students from Christ the King in Moorhead, MN to help facilitate a week of service in Denver. The first day started out as usual, lots of travelling, planning, and scheduling. We had our days planned to a tee, transportation figured out, and our staff ready to go with all of the small details. All of us, including the 17 youth from Minnesota, had planned a spectacular week.

We partnered with Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Reflection, otherwise known as DOOR, who paired us with agencies throughout Denver in need of volunteers. These projects were also planned; five different groups would spread out throughout the city so that together we would cover a wide range of organizations. Though there were several agencies, I worked with three throughout the week. One day I was at Food Bank of the Rockies, packing food that would eventually serve hundreds of people. Another day I served at Brothers Redevelopment, Inc., who was coordinating a paint-a-thon for the entire summer. The last day I worked at an organization known as KADEP, King Adult Day Enrichment Program, which serves mostly adults with MS, but also those with other adult onset neurological disabilities and illnesses.

Despite all this planning, there are some things that no matter what you do you can’t plan for it. No matter how much one may believe they are fully aware of what is to come, life has a crazy way of throwing things at you without much warning. Fortunately, the one thing we forgot to coordinate were the life changing moments that came when we least expected them. Of course our daily schedules were planned, pick-ups, drop-offs, lunches, and directions. But never did I foresee myself meeting and impacting some of the people and places that I did this week. Jerry, an adult at KADEP, who suffered from a brain aneurism and four brain surgeries, currently uses a wheelchair to get around. But that did not stop him from cracking jokes right and left and even kindly holding the door open for me after saying, “Ladies first.” We were there to connect with them, but with every conversation came a distinct interest in our lives. They wanted to learn about us just as much as we wanted to learn about them. They were no different than us, and they showed me that kindness is possible in all situations, not to mention, very contagious.

We also didn’t plan for the relationships that were created. We learned to serve alongside both our own group as well as several others. For instance, one day when we were painting, I took the time to stop and think about all of the different communities coming together to love on one another. At one time we had five different groups working together: DOOR, Brothers Redevelopment, Inc., Christ the King, YouthWorks, and Sky Ranch. To see the good that came out of all of these different groups working together was absolutely stunning. It reminded me of the amazing things that we can learn when we all come together for a great cause.

All in all, we didn’t plan for the amazing relationships, memories, and life-changing experiences. But that’s okay, because it isn’t our schedules we’ll put in picture frames, but our pictures, and it isn’t our travelling arrangements that we’ll remember the most, but our time with one another. And those are the things that don’t come about through hours of planning, but they form when we take the time to love one another, no matter who, what, where, or when.

-Meagan Murphy, Counselor

Serving in Salt Lake City

As our summer ministry continues up at Sky Ranch, Four Winds service groups have been active all around the Rocky Mountain Synod. While many of our programs are run solely by Sky Ranch, most of Four Winds programming relies on partnerships with other churches and organizations around the synod. Last week, in Salt Lake City, Utah, we partnered with Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, as well as 15 different non-profit organizations around the city. Sky Ranch staff, thirty youth and adults from Omaha, Nebraska, and youth from Salt Lake City worked alongside people from all walks of life in a service learning experience.

Through small group Bible Study and reflection, the groups worked to think about service in bigger and deeper ways. One small group visited an Adult Detox Center. This organization provides a safe place for adults using drugs and alcohol to detox and then helps individuals enter treatment if they desire. Some people use the center to make long term changes; however, others simply use the center to take a break and rest. Visiting a place like this certainly challenged us as we thought about service. As we reflected on our experience, the group was able to recognize the incredible grace shown through the work of the staff and volunteers that run the Detox Center. Regardless of where the clients were from or what their goals were for recovery, they were treated with the same respect and care at the center. It was through involvement in these organizations that we were able to think about what it really meant to serve. At the Detox Center, service is simply caring for people in their darkest, most difficult moments. Service was not about fixing people, but walking alongside them as Christ does.

Our group was challenged in all of our service sites, but we also encountered opportunities to learn as we explored Salt Lake City. Currently, 40% of the city is Mormon. Throughout the week, we were forced to think about what it really means to be Lutheran. Many people in our group had never been a religious minority before. Pastor DanaLee Simon and Pastor Steve Klemz, local Lutheran clergy, led a session on the value of our shared Lutheran identity. Here, we were able to explore our understandings of grace and love. Many young people have not had their faith challenged. We explored and discovered the beauty and unique identity we have as Lutherans. And while we found value and identity in the Lutheran church, our most important identity was focused in the grace of Christ.

After a weekend up at Sky Ranch, the group headed back to Nebraska. While our urban immersion is complete, our service is not. After diving into a week of intensive service, our hope is that we can walk away feeling prepared in our everyday service to the world, knowing that the grace and love of Christ can be shared through service in endless ways.

-Hannah Anderson, Off-site Coordinator