Archive for June, 2012

After 19 days of life on the road, today we received the joyful news that the mandatory evacuation order was lifted and that we were allowed to return to Sky Ranch. While the Pingree Park Rd is still closed to nonresidents, Brad and I were allowed to pass the road block and make our way into camp.

On the way up Highway 14 and the Pingree Park Rd, evidence of the High Park fire was all around. While it was obvious that some areas were only burned due to back burning (only going up a couple feet on the trees), in many areas the full burn areas came right down to the road, across the road and river, and up the opposite hill side. The intensity of the fire and the full effort of the fire fighters was quite evident.

It was with great joy that we rounded the corner into camp and saw the meadow and lodge. It was with less joy that we drove up to the lodge to discover that a bear tore a hole in the backside of the trash shed and scattered trash all around the parking lot. And finally, as we were standing around looking at the trash,  it was with a scream of fright (Brad’s, not mine) that we watched as a bear climbed out of the lodge kitchen window and ran away into the woods. It was at that point that the joy of getting into camp was . . . a bit less joyful.

Long story short, it appears that two bears have been calling Christ Lodge home for at least the last couple days. The evidence is mostly on the main floor of the lodge, but includes a broken window, trash and bear poop (and trash and bear poop smell) everywhere, and a kitchen that looks like . . . bears have been living in it. Needless to say, we have quite a bit of work to get Sky Ranch ready for campers.

Even with all of that, we are very excited to be back to camp. We are putting plans in place to be ready to welcome campers for the beginning of week #5 programming. There is a good chance that we will have a work weekend July 6 – 8, but we will share more details early this next week.

For now, thank you for all of your prayers and your support. We give thanks for our safe return to Sky Ranch and the great moments of ministries that are just around the corner.

– Andy

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You Are An Ear

This week we have been talking about the early church and how the church got its start. Last night at worship, our preacher gave each congregation a different body part and then had them create a sculpture of that part. Each congregation had the opportunity to share what made their church special. Some of the things that the kids listed were:

We have a boy and a girl pastor
We have donuts every week
We are very welcoming
We are one big family
We are awesome!

This morning, we broke into our early church groups and wrote a creed. The we came back together and presented them to each other. We used a popular song called ” What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction and had each church write a part of the song as their creed. We collected the lyrics that they wrote and are going to put them all together into one song, to make our large group creed. The kids have seen what it is like to come together and that even if we are different that everyone is important in the body of Christ.

Brandi
Summer Office Director

Let it Rain, Let it Pour

Wednesday, June 28

We have been thinking a lot about rain up here in Allenspark and boy did the skies deliver.  With scorching heat this afternoon we received a wonderful and much needed downpour this evening.  It was short, but a downpour indeed.  During the summer season rain is something I don’t care for but today I couldn’t help but run outside look towards the sky and yell “IT’S RAINING!”  Naturally all that excitement subsided when I received word from Ava that our tent had collapsed and we had to set it back up in the pouring rain.   None the less it was a welcomed experience.

Before all the rain, the campers traveled back in time and took part in a friendly competition between early biblical church groups with a little march madness twist. Early on, churches wanted to share their gospel with others and increase their numbers by winning others to their side.  This was demonstrated with a little game of tug of war between small groups.  Each small group signified a group from the early church.  The tournament was set up through brackets much like the brackets from March madness all you college basketball fans have come to know and love.  The Galations came out with the victory.  We ended with a competition between staff and adult sponsors vs. the campers.  The campers won with the adults walking away a bit shocked at the outcome.

Following the tug of war, we gathered in a large group where “Paul” (Pastor Mark) addressed conflicts amongst communities and tried to resolve them.  The take away was to remember what our communities are about in the first place, that it is Christ who brings us together in spite of our differences.

This evening each congregation had a chance to gather and discuss the lessons they have learned thus far in relation to their home congregation.  Asking questions such as “Where have you seen Jesus in your congregation at home?” or “How does your congregation give you hope when you face difficulties?”, the congregations explored the unique character of their home congregation and shared those with the larger group. At the same time, everyone recognized that it is Christ who brings us together despite our differences.
Kathryn, Onsite Director

Fire Update #4

The Denver Post reported this morning that the majority of residents who fled the High Park Fire should be back in their homes over the next 48 hours.   While we rejoice that many residents may be returning to their homes, THE SHERIFF’S OFFICE HAS INFORMED US THAT SKY RANCH WILL REMAIN UNDER AN EVACUATION NOTICE FOR THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE.

Firefighters battling The High Park Fire, still the largest fire currently burning in the state, gained some ground on the 87,250 acre blaze.  As of Tuesday, containment (which fell from 60 percent to 45 percent over the weekend) is up to 75 percent.  The Haines Index — a scale of 1 to 6 (6 being the worst) that firefighters use to rank fire growth potential in a region — is at level “6” again Wednesday, the same levels reached during last weekend’s extreme fire growth.  A Red Flag warning has been issued until 8 p.m. Wednesday, marking the 8th consecutive day of Red Flag warnings.  Dry, frequent lightning and gusty winds up to 50 mph are considered likely.

The High Park Fire is the second-largest fire in Colorado history in terms of acreage and the most destructive ever in terms of homes destroyed.  Officials believe a lightning strike on June 6 smoldered for days then ignited the fire on June 9.  Since that time at least 257 homes have been destroyed and the cost of fighting the fire is $33.1 million.

High heat over the weekend produced a surge of new fires burning throughout Colorado and also provided fuel and devastating growth conditions for the fires already burning.   A total of ten major fires are currently burning in Colorado.  Officials with the High Park Fire are releasing firefighters, engines and aircraft to help with the other fires.  While there were 1,800 firefighting personnel on the High Park Fire Tuesday night, they expected to send 10 engines and one hot shot crew to other fires on Wednesday.  Nine aircraft have already been moved.

So what does all this mean for the property of Sky Ranch?  The hottest part of the fire is on the southwest corner, the area closest to camp about 7 miles from Sky Ranch.  In talking to staff at CSU’s Pingree Park campus (currently housing 200 firefighters and a mile from camp) they feel current fire lines should hold and protect Sky Ranch.

For the latest map go to http://www.larimer.org/highparkfire/highpark_0623_2239.pdf

So what does this all mean for the ministry of Sky Ranch?  We are alive and well, being Sky Ranch wherever that might be!  While it might have been easier (and cheaper) to just ‘cancel’ our summer, I feel it would have been poor stewardship of the gifts God has entrusted to us.

While our week-long family camp has been cancelled, we will definitely be having youth camps for the rest of the summer!  Because it is uncertain if camp will be housed at Sky Ranch, we have contingency plans in place that again allow us use of the facilities at Highlands Presbyterian Camp for the weeks of July 8 and July15.  Because of the many fires burning in Colorado, we are even developing contingency plans should Highlands be threatened and unavailable.  We will keep you posted on where camp will be as soon as we know.

We are now in our third week of being evacuated and getting used to life on the road.  We still have not been allowed to get back to Sky Ranch for personal items, equipment, or staff vehicles.  I am amazed at the passion and servanthood shown by this year’s summer staff.  They have literally left everything behind (at camp) to go and embody the Gospel wherever that might be.  Pastor Kevin Meyer recently wrote:

 “Sky Ranch Lutheran camp is doing what it does best… proclaiming the grace of God though model relationships.  Lives are being touched in a very safe environment in the name of Christ.  Frankly, the uniqueness of this year’s camping ministry is that it is happening in spite of the High Park Fire.  It is happening because of the creativity, passion, dedication and toughness of the staff.”

As we continue to be Sky Ranch, we are thankful for all the prayers and support of those who are an extended part of this powerful ministry.  We have accumulated over $30,000 in expenses during the two weeks since we were evacuated.  Individuals, organizations and congregations have provided vital assistance in this time of need away from home.  The Fort Collins R.E.I. graciously helped to outfit both of our backpacking trips for this week since all of our equipment is still at camp.  Partner congregations, individuals and LFS Disaster Relief, have provided financial assistance for various costs associated with the evacuation and relocation our program.

As the fires spread throughout Colorado and the west, I ask you to continue to pray for all those affected by the fires or fighting to protect the structures left behind.   You can help Sky Ranch by making a gift directly on our website www.skyranchcolorado.org or sending a check to our Office at 805 S Shields St, Fort Collins, CO 80521.  For the most current information about Sky Ranch or the High Park fire, please check our website (listed above), or contact the Sky Ranch office: 970-493-5258.

In Christ,

Brad Abbott

 

Grace Enough For Today

Today marks the two week anniversary of our evacuation from Sky Ranch Lutheran Camp. Two weeks of life on the road, of life without a home. Two weeks where many of our staff have been without most of their clothing, belongings, cell phones, wallets, and cars. Two weeks of living day to day.

Today marks the start of the Flagstaff fire outside of Boulder. It also marks a major expansion of the Waldo fire on the northwest side of Colorado Springs. Tonight the Waldo fire is actively burning into dense areas of homes and businesses, where many will lose everything.

Days like today are hard. They are days of questions, confusion, heartbreak, and loss.

As we live out the Sky Ranch summer theme of Everyday Grace, we are reminded, today and everyday, of the giftedness of life – the overwhelming, all encompassing, ever flowing love and beauty of God in community and creation. We are reminded that through Christ, life and love are stronger than death and destruction. We are reminded that even as we mourn, we have hope . . . hope for new life, hope for transformation, hope for a new day.

So even on days like these, we give thanks – for the safety of our staff, guests, and campers; for the courage and wisdom of those fighting the fire; for the compassion of neighbors and strangers alike; and, especially in moments like these, for peace that transcends all understanding.

For now, we continue to share the joy of camp and the Sky Ranch ministry that means so much to all of us.

– Andy

 

Life in 30 AD

It’s another bright and sunny day at our camp away from Sky Ranch.  As I sit here on the porch of the Retreat Center at Highlands Camp, campers and staff are on the ball field playing group games and just came from an afternoon of crafts, hikes, and other fun camp activities.

Last night, as a part of our Confirmation Intensive programming, roman soldiers came and kidnapped all the youth directors (pictured above), which led into a fantastic, nearly camp-wide game of Romans and Christians.  As I was trying to lead a group of campers past some roman soldiers, a camper told me this was the best time he has ever had at camp.  The culmination of the game was a worship in a hidden area which gave a feeling of secrecy from the roman soldiers. At the end of the worship, news came that Stephen (being played by Jeff Kelty) had been stoned. In a wonderful confusion of realities, one boy could be heard saying, “But Stephen was my ride home.”

This morning, when we continued with the Confirmation Intensive programming, the youth directors returned to the campers and told them about Saul who was persecuting all of the Christians.  When Saul appeared, he plead his case about how Christ had changed his heart and how he changed his name to Paul.  It was such a great moment for the campers and staff to witness and live out the grace God bestows on even the least of us.

The Sky Ranch staff has continually amazed me by their ability to make camp happen wonderfully and smoothly regardless of the difficulties that have come up.  It’s been amazing to see the Confirmation Intensive program come to life after nearly a year spent planning it with the other youth directors and pastors from the participating congregations.  It wouldn’t be half as great as it has been without this Sky Ranch staff.

– Chris Stuberg, Off Site Coordinator

Boulder County Fire Notice

This afternoon a fire ignited near the city of Boulder in Boulder County. The so called Flagstaff Fire has so far burned approximately 300 acres and prompted the evacuation of 20 homes. An additional 1,500 residents are on pre-evacuation notice. At the time the fire began, some 50 lightning strikes were recorded.

Sky Ranch programming is currently being housed at Highlands Presbyterian Camp in Allenspark, CO. The Flagstaff Fire is currently NOT a danger to the Highlands property.

That said, since our arrival, Sky Ranch and Highlands staff have been in good communication and have joint plans for all risk management scenarios, whether it be a camper with a splinter (the most common camp related medical emergency), a sudden moving storm, or the need to evacuate. So while there is not currently a concern from the Flagstaff fire, we are prepared if measures did need to be taken, including evacuation transportation and evacuation destinations.

As the Colorado continues to strain under the impact of wildfires, with more than 8 fires currently burning, we ask that you continue to pray for all of those who are working so hard to protect the homes and lives of those in the areas, as well as those impacted by the fire and evacuations. Please also continue to hold Sky Ranch, our staff, our guests, and our campers in your prayers.

(And to just to reassure everyone, the Pentecost flash mob on Monday is only responsible for the joyful spirit of camp.)

If you have any questions about Sky Ranch plans or programs, please call our office at 970-493-5258.

Peace, Andy

Life as the Early Church

Like Andy said in his blog entry earlier, we have a whole new sort of programming this week.  We aren’t doing Everyday Grace; we’re living the story of the early church!  Yesterday we kicked off with the news of Jesus’ resurrection.  Last summer, this Confirmation Intensive program lived the story of Jesus and went through the Passion, so we pick up right where they left off.  Today, everyone has been split into small groups that represent some early church communities like Philipi, Corinth, Ephesus, and Galatia.

We time-traveled this morning to celebrate the Festival of Booths.  If you are interested in a little history, this festival is also called the Feast of Tabernacles.  It is a great harvest festival, which means that it takes place in the fall.  Originally, this is all it was, but the Israelites found a deeper meaning in their past.  They looked back to the time when they lived in temporary booths while they were journeying through the wilderness after the exodus.  This festival is called sukkot in Hebrew.  It means booth or tabernacle, and protection.  It is a celebration of the way God protected the Israelites in the wilderness: God protected them with the gift of the law, the gift of water, and the gift of the fiery cloud that went before them.  It remembers this time of wandering, when they first entered as a people into the covenant with God.

Today, our Festival of Booths was a great party celebration with music, games, mask making, hair braiding, jewelry making (from Bead 4 Life), and a flash mob!  Peter (Peter Gonia on staff whose role is Peter the disciple) preached to us and led us to the stream where we remembered our baptism together.

This afternoon, we are back in 2012 doing camp activities.  It has been a great start to the week here!  As we experience God’s grace in 30 AD/CE, I hope God’s grace is catching you off-guard in 2012!

Kirsten Sauey Hofmann, Camp Chaplain

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Fire and Program Updates

Good morning from Highlands, our camp away from camp. We are off to a great morning with the confirmation intensive program. With over 100 campers, guests, and staff at camp–and two backpacking groups in Rocky Mountain National Park–we are excited for a great, full, energetic, and Spirit-filled week.

Throughout this week, I will be sharing photos and videos of the confirmation intensive program, where the campers get to LIVE  the story. This year is the early church, which means Pentecost is about to take over Highlands!

FIRE UPDATE:

Over the weekend, the High Park fire was driven by wind and hot dry conditions to expand substantially on the north side. The fire currently stands at over 83,000 acres, is 45% contained, and is officially the second largest fire in Colorado’s history. With more resources pouring in–including over 2,000 personnel, 25 aircraft, and almost 200 engines and water tankers–fire fighters continue to work aggressively on the fire. While they have made progress containing the fire on the north side, word this morning is that it is actively burning on the southwest corner.

Last night there were storms throughout much of Northern Colorado that brought lightning and some light rain. Unfortunately the rain was not active in the fire area and lightning started another fire in north Larimer County. Crews are working quickly to contain that fire. At the moment, there are at least 8 fires actively burning in Colorado.

What does all that means? The High Park fire remains active and still has a ways to go before it is under control. Many of the places that are currently burning have a high percentage of dead beetle kill trees and are in steep and rocky areas. While we trust those who are working so hard to contain the fire, we also know there is a lot of work to be done.

As for Sky Ranch, we remain confident that our property and facilities is not in any immediate danger. The fire remains a good 6-8 miles away from the property. That said, both roads into camp (Pingree Park Rd and Buckhorn Rd) are still being used as containment lines and have active fires (either controlled backburns or less controlled burning) along the route into camp. Additionally, the site we planned to use for rock climbing this summer is a short distance from an active area of the fire. In short, while we continue to work with the Sheriff and Forest Service to gain access to the Sky Ranch, we also understand that the fire will have to be more stable before we are allowed in.

 

PROGRAM UPDATE:

We have made arrangements to be at Highlands Presbyterian Camp through the end of this week. Looking forward, we have come to the conclusion the it may be some time before we are allowed into camp. We have decided to cancel programming for this weekend and the following week. This weekend was a Friends and Family weekend for our summer staff and we are making arrangements for those friends and family that would still like to join us. The following week (July 1 – 6) is our family camp. Many family camp participants have already canceled and those that haven’t we are helping to make other arrangements.

Since we will not have any programming next week, we are working on options for our summer staff. While many will take the time off to rest and recoup, we are also working with our sister camp, Rainbow Trial to offer a backing trip for the week.

 

Even as we make decisions for weeks to come, we give thanks for the opportunity to do ministry today. And fun ministry at that . . . where we get to sing songs and play games and build faith and grow self-esteem and celebrate in community. Through the challenges of the days, we give thanks for the blessings that continue to be so present in our lives: the hospitality of Highlands, the passion and energy of our summer staff, the joy of our campers, and the ever flowing grace and love of God!

It is another beautiful day here at Highlands Presbyterian Camp. It started off really cold, especially for those of us who are staying in tents! But by breakfast it had warmed up and is now bright and sunny.

This afternoon I got to play a round of frisbee golf with Walesa cabin. Since Sky Ranch just had a course put in, it makes our camp away from camp feel a little bit more like home. I have been thinking about how frisbee golf could fit into camp programming quite a bit so we can integrate our course in to our regular programming once we do return. I had the opportunity to talk to some campers about this and these are some of the answers I got.

Frisbee golf is in the camp programming because:

  • It helps build community and everyone can participate
  • It is fun and active
  • It is a great way to spend some time in nature or take a tour of camp
  • The way the frisbees fly isn’t always predictable just like the path God will guide us down

Frisbee golf is also fairly easy to relate to our summer theme of GRACE. The leader can show kids grace on the course by bending the rules or when a frisbee comes really close to hitting the target, saying that it did. The best part is when other kids join in and show grace to each other. Hopefully, they can take that and apply it other games as well and be able to share about God’s grace with their friends.

Thanks,
Brandi Patrick, Office Director

It’s been a cooler day than normal here at our camp away from camp, providing some relief from the heat of the last few days.  The Highlands staff continue to amaze me with their incredible hospitality and continue to provide us with the resources to do camp the best way we know how.

One such program we have been able to utilize is canoeing.  Up here at Highlands they have a quaint pond and plenty of canoeing equipment.  Youth Go! took full advantage of this opportunity and had plenty of fun paddling around and “trying” not to tip over.  My intended 15 minute check in turned into an hour, including races across the pond, a game of keep away, and some “unintended” swimming.  It was a morning of laughter, fun and over all enjoying time spent in community.

Earlier today I checked in on Walesa (one of the boys cabins) and believe it or not their faces were covered in face paint.  This has been a familiar scene here at Sky Ranch, with an art specialist who has a passion for not only art but face painting.  Any given day there will be faces with butterflies, glitter, and intricate designs.  Aside from face painting, the cabins have worked on bead crosses, button bracelets, tissue paper flowers, and ornaments.  It’s really something to watch the amazing creativity these kids have when you give them supplies and let them run with it.

As we continue to be away from our property, it has become more apparent that Sky Ranch is not just a place.  Sky Ranch is a community that is passionate about exploring God’s unending Grace and what that means on a personal basis. It’s a support system to help explore the gift of that Grace.  It’s a group of people passionate about ministry and encountering Christ on the Mountaintops (and even in the plains).  It has been nothing short of incredible to witness everything that has happened in the past few weeks–the out pouring of support, the kind words, the stories and the opportunity to continue to do what we do at Sky Ranch.

Kathryn, Onsite Director