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

Today I had the opportunity to go on a day hike to Cirque Meadows with a group of Homesteaders. At one point, I was walking beside a camper named Cooper when he commented that the uphill parts of the hike make him so thankful for the downhill parts.

We chatted for a few minutes about how life is kind of like that too… there are times that are easier and times that are harder. But we are often thankful that there is a balance and God is always with us, even in the hard times.

Later after lunch when we sat down for Bible study, we talked about the resurrection verse, which is our passage for today’s theme of “Promise Renewed.” I couldn’t help but think about how many uphills and downhills there are in Jesus’ story—from being born in a manger, to performing miracles, to being betrayed by some of his closest followers, to returning to earth as our savior. And yet God was there every step of the way.

After an amazing afternoon of skipping rocks, growing in community, and enjoying the outdoors, we began the journey back to camp. On the way, we started to think about where we had seen God throughout the hike. Abby saw God in the clouds above the mountains. Preston saw God in all of the living creatures we saw, from the tiniest of ants to the tallest of trees. Logan saw God in the beautiful weather and lack of rain. I saw God in the campers’ smiles, persistence, and new friendships. And as we journeyed together uphill and downhill, there God was in the midst of it all.

-Maddie, Outreach Coordinator

Old Pros and New Experiences

It is always nice to see familiar faces here at camp, and this week we have quite a few familiar camper faces. The excitement of returner campers is contagious to all around…“Sky Ranch food is my favorite!” “Yes! I’m in Teresa cabin. I’ve been in that cabin three times before.” “Everlasting Love is my favorite camp song, I know you will love it too!”… Soon this excitement spreads to all of camp as new campers are enthusiastically told by returner campers what it means to be a hopper and a scrapper, what to do when someone holds up the peace sign, and how to go about taking a 90 second shower. To be honest, having so many campers with a Sky Ranch history has made it a pretty easy week for staff in the rules and orientation department.

 
Despite having been here once or many times before, campers seem to get something different and new out of camp with each experience. Yesterday, I got to spend the day hiking with a group from Walesa and King cabins, which included a third year returner camper. I was at first nervous that the returner hiker would be bored with our hike, but he ended up being one of the most excited campers, snapping pictures of the scenery as he went and taking awe in all the creation around him. This year (and week) seems to offer further excitement as it appears to be a transition year for many of our returner campers. Many previous round-up kiddos have transitioned into being homesteaders and many homesteaders have transitioned up to being mountaineers. It’s been neat to watch the excitement and nervousness of new mountaineers getting to do high ropes for the first time and our previous round-up campers learn what is means to be at camp for a whole week and not just three days.

Whether it be new staff, a new cabin group, new food, or new activities, Sky Ranch manages to resist becoming routine. Sky Ranch also has the amazing ability to make people feel like they are at home. I think it is this feeling of homey-ness, along with the promise of new excitement with each camp experience, which keeps campers coming back year after year. I came to Sky Ranch two summers ago expecting to spend one summer of ministry in the mountains and then moving on to other things. Little did I know that this place would grow to feel like a second home and to hold a special place in my heart. Thus, when I was called and asked to return to staff this summer, I didn’t even have to weigh my options before saying yes. And, just like many returner camper experiences, my second camp experience has brought me so many new experiences and so much new excitement in a way that only Sky Ranch can.

 

-Kelsey, Onsite Coordinator

Art Rules. Camp Rules. God Rules.

Each week this summer at Sky Ranch our community has been creatively expressing the concept of the resurrection through various art works. My personal favorite is our resurrection Batik that we feature in three of our worship services each week.  A Batik is a traditional fabric dying process that uses a hot wax resist to create a layer of patterns before adding dye.  While washing out the excess dye, the initial wax layer washes off and leaves behind all the patterns created by wax in the initial, untouched color of the fabric.

To avoid carrying a vat of hot wax around children, Sky Ranch developed its own version.  Each Tuesday evening during worship, a group of guest artists create the resist level of the Batik using white glue on white fabric so that the “audience” can’t really see what’s happening.  The artists create beautiful, abstract, patterns that all work together to make one large, fluid piece.  During the final blessing, each artist throws colored glitter across the surface of the fabric so that the secret pattern is finally visible.

In community, if we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and open to God working through us and guiding us, our gifts and individuality shine through which combine to make something beautiful and powerful.

Later, on Wednesday night the community Batik makes a second appearance.  The service takes the tone of a combined Maundy Thursday and Good Friday service, focusing on the brokenness and scatteredness of humanity.  We revisit the story of the last supper, along with the abandonment and betrayal of Jesus.  Our beautiful community Batik is ripped in two, as was the curtain in the temple.  In the midst of tragedy, the camp community abruptly scatters from our worship site.

What happens then?  Is it possible for our brokenness to be undone?  Can we possibly repair our community Batik? How?

We know that through the resurrection brokenness is not the end of the story.  God does something better that “fix” us, he transforms us.  Our flaws and faults can still be used for good and be made beautiful.  We are restored and created anew.

How does this apply to our community Batik?  After leaving our Batik torn, we have to remember that the process or story, isn’t over.  Another group of artists apply a layer of bright, colorful paint to the surface of the Batik.  Once it dries, we wash it, letting go of the first, broken layer of glue and glitter allowing the protected layer of brilliant white dsaffabric to shine through in the same unique design.

Finally, the Batik is cut into strips and dispersed at a resurrection service on our final full day of camp, and everyone gets a piece.  Some become bracelets, other headbands, bookmarks, or are sported on backpacks.  Each piece is different, beautiful, and completely transformed.

We want everyone to remember that we are all new creations and that together we make something beautiful and unique.  Divinely and therefore perfectly woven with both gifts and flaws- how miraculous.  To me, this is the epitome of Grace.  What an overwhelming gift!

To conclude, never forget that you are a part of God’s intricately and intentionally designed Batik.  Shine on.

Andrea, Onsite Specialist Coordinator

Creating Community

With only three days of camp under our belts for the week, it has been
amazing to see the strong community that has already taken root. We
have such a supportive and loving group of campers and staff onsite
this week. Campers that were for the most part strangers before the
week began are now living into the community that is created at camp.
Cabin names, mottos, and covenants are talked about with pride. And
when one member of the cabin or larger community is absent, this
absence seems noticed by all. This morning when the girls of Assisi
cabin thought that one of their fellow cabin members might not be able
to do low ropes with them, they begged that they might be able to
postpone the activity as the experience would not be the same unless
all of the cabin was present.

The community that is developing in this place was especially evident
to me last night during our community dinner. Community dinner is a
weekly event that includes a delicious cook-out, fun games, and an
opportunity for each cabin to dress up their counselors in silly
costumes. It was hard to tell which campers were apart of which cabin
as everyone seemed to come together as one. There was much laughter,
encouragement, and fellowship as campers and staff played in a big
group game of volleyball or competed for points in the football game
500.

Sitting in on the closing worship for our youngest round-up campers
this morning, I was again struck by how much change could occur in
such a short time. Campers who began the week with much hesitation
were now standing at the front of worship leading the words and
motions to their favorite camp song and revealing to me with
excitement all of the fun activities that they did this week, which
included a moose hunt and lighting a match for the first time. They
then pranced off to make sure all of their new friends were introduced
to one another’s parents in a fashion that suggested that they had
known one another for years not just a mere 36 hours.

At breakfast this morning, I asked the girls of Day cabin what
community meant to them. Charlotte responded that “Community is a
group of people who work together and are friends.” It has been
beautiful to be a part of the collective partnership and friendship
that is present at camp this week, and I am excited to watch this
community continue to grow in the remaining days.

 

-Kelsey Gustaveson, Onsite Coordinator

Into Receding Waters

Two weeks of flood relief and I am blown away by the work we have done already!  We have had campers visiting from Greeley, Ohio, Minnesota, and Washington.  All together about 170 volunteers and around 4,000 hours of volunteer labor!  While our impact on the communities of Longmont, Boulder and Lyons has been huge, I think the impact on our volunteers has been greater.
Volunteers have heard stories from homeowners like Virginia, whose entire property, at the base of Lefthand Canyon, was destroyed. Virginia shared pictures, stories and her love for her home with youth and adults who have worked with her.  Virginia, who is in her late 70’s, has lived in her home since 1974 and describes her property as the neighborhood oasis.  During the flood she and her housemate evacuated home around 9:30pm, as the water was beginning to come up her back patio and was already washing down her driveway and the street.  Virginia told us that she got a reverse 911 to evacuate hours later.  If they had stayed in their home until the official evacuation order, they would not have been able to get out. Virginia was one of the lucky few who did have flood insurance but that insurance only covers her home.  Her acres of property are buried in sand and rock in piles up to 5’ high.  One of the major projects we have been working on for Virginia is saving her trees.  The trees, which she regards almost as her friends and children, have been tended to and loved by her for years.  Over 100 trees were washed away with the flood and the few dozen that remain standing are buried in sand and rocks.  We continue to dig out these trees so the roots can get water and sun. We have also supported with prepping her back yard for landscaping, grating the ground so it slopes away from the house, cleaned gutters out and cleaned 3’ of sand out of her garden so she can plant her own vegetables again soon.
While much has been done at Virginia’s house, there is still tons of work to do.   We hope to support her with volunteers all summer long.  Across Lefthand Creek, she has a guest house which is buried in 4’ of sand and is a source of income for her.  Soon, we hope to get to the other side of the creek and begin  work there!
As we move forward with summer, we are planning projects for 90 volunteers next week!  I’m so excited to see what else we can get done.
-Lisa Dunworth, Flood Relief Coordinator

A New Way to Grow

As week three comes to a close, we look back and see an inspiring journey of how our campers have been Gifted to Grow. We spend a lot of our time talking about Sky Ranch, our theme, what we have learned, and finally how we take what we have learned down the mountain and share it with others.

But what happens if we are already down the mountain? Our summer schedule is filled with offsite programming that doesn’t take place on the mountain, places like flood relief based in Longmont, traveling day camps that span three states, a Four Winds program that works here in Colorado as well as in Utah. All these programs have one common component; they don’t take place on the mountain.

This week we are in Goodland, Kansas for Traveling Day Camp (TDC). Goodland is a city in which almost every family either farms or has a family member that does. This makes for a very unique week of camp, especially when our theme is Gifted to Grow. These kids and their families have taught us more about “growing” than we could have ever imagined. So how do you teach kids, who at the age of 8, are driving tractors and getting ready to harvest wheat, about Growing? We look to the parables that Jesus taught us, we look for the not so physical aspects of growth but rather the emotional and spiritual ones.

We read in Genesis the creation story, and yes there is certainly a lot of physical growth happening, but how about the emotions of having day and night, land and sea, birds and fish, and humans? God saw that the creation was good, but how did God know it was going to be good? God had to have faith, had to believe that it was going to be good before creating all things. Or the parable of the lost sheep, the shepherd decided the one lost sheep was more important than the other 99. The emotions of having to decide between staying or going, and then having faith that the lost sheep would be found. The herd of sheep is like our community, when one of our members strays away we emotionally feel as if we need to find that lost member, and then having the faith to seek them out and invite them back to the community.

Our theme teaches us that we are not only blessed with individual gifts but also blessed with the ability to share those gifts with others. These gifts may be physical, planting seeds to support families and communities, or emotional and spiritual, providing guidance, counseling, love, compassion to everyone in God’s kingdom. Our campers this week in Goodland have explored ways that even the smallest seeds planted can impact more than just themselves, that these seeds should be planted throughout their communities and continually be watered. We have loved our time in Goodland, walking alongside our campers, helping them identify their gifts, God’s gifts of growing, and how we can share that message with others!

God Bless,

Jeff Fairfax, TDC Coordinator