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Connectedness

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Joining the high school Rendezvous campers for lunch during our second week of summer programming, I was greeted by a familiar face. Ethan was one of my first campers when I began at Sky Ranch in 2012. After a week of enjoying camp onsite, Ethan volunteered at his home congregation for Traveling Day Camp where I once again got to work with him. Throughout his week this summer, I watched him take part in Rendezvous as he and other campers hiked to Emmaline alpine lake, went rafting down the Poudre, and made candles by the campfire. At the end of the week, I was encouraged to hear that Ethan was considering joining camp staff in the future.

Out of the daily themes from this year’s bible study, I find myself most often contemplating connectedness. Ethan is just one example of the many familiar faces I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with at Sky Ranch.  Seeing campers return and go on to become staff members, has caused me to realize the breadth of Sky Ranch’s community. While it can be challenging to observe the impact camp has made in the span of a week, the continuous community flowing in and out of this place is a testament to the rejuvenation and personal growth occurring at Sky Ranch.  In meeting volunteers, sponsors and campers with deep connections to camp, I enjoy reminiscing on what makes their experiences distinct and what continually draws them to Sky Ranch. This summer, we are blessed to share this community with each camper driving up the winding dirt road. Even for those who only attend camp once, Sky Ranch offers a chance to live with a greater awareness of one’s connection to nature, peers they may not otherwise interact with, and God’s enduring presence in their lives.  Each visitor, whether it’s their first or twentieth week at Sky Ranch increases my own sense of connection between Sky Ranch and the greater church community.  I pray the heightened sense of connectedness I feel when visitors arrive is shared and dispersed down the mountain as they depart.

Written by Dan Chell, Offsite Coordinator

Covenant and Photography

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This week at camp, cabins got to play with some cameras and explore A Love That Never Ends through photography and a practice called Visio Divina, latin for “sacred seeing.” There is an abundance of plants, animals, and places to see wonderful creation here at Sky Ranch, and we were able to talk about how nature is a part of God’s covenant to sustain us: through creation, we might experience God’s love. With eyes set for seeing God in the environment around camp, we went off on a slow walk to take notice, and as we noticed, take some photos. As each of our eyes sees differently, the photos that came from campers were all different as well. After a time of wandering and noticing, we gathered to each share a single photo that best showed A Love That Never Ends. Some chose photos of a flower, celebrating the beauty of God’s love. Pictures came of the sky, a reminder that God is bigger and beyond what we know. Others, small details of the forest floor, and showing the new life that emerges where we least expect it.

“So the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the LORD, who has compassion on you.” (Isaiah 54:10)

God’s love for us is even greater and more permanent than the mountains which surround us. And still, in the small moments we experience around camp this week, God’s love is abundant. Enjoy a sampling of some of the ways our campers noticed God this week!

Sky Ranch Olympics

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Staff in Training in a strange position to be in.  We’re still campers, but we’re also practicing how to be a staff member.  Only a very fine line separates us from staff.  Throughout the week of staff in training, we searched for the answer to one question – how can we best love these kids?

One answer was found in organizing the very first Sky Ranch Olympics.  Rather than just talking about how to love kids, we actually did something.  The SITs experienced how much time and effort it takes to create a camp event.  Despite the exhaustive hours of work, the Olympics may have actually been more fun for us than the campers.  We are just really big kids, after all.  Who doesn’t want to run around in a Viking helmet and cape and speak in obnoxious Scandinavian accents?

The Olympics went better than we ever could have expected.  We saw these kids show their creativity and grow their community in less than a day.  Some said it was the best community play they had ever had.  I know that the SITs decided it was our favorite part of the week and we hope to make the Sky Ranch Olympics a tradition that continues for a long time.

Kiersten Gromm, Staff in Training

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As an off-site guide, I have the fortunate opportunity to dabble in several different areas of camp. Throughout the 3 weeks of Summer programming thus far,  I have had the opportunities to help plan and lead worships, lead day-hike trips for several different cabins, facilitate the high ropes challenge course, go rafting with a bunch of high school campers, help volunteer in Fort Morgan, as well as leading devotions and bible studies.

All of these things probably sound like a great deal of fun, and they most definitely are. However, what I love about Sky Ranch is that we go beyond the fun to find God. With a summer theme focused on God’s never-ending never-failing love, this digging deeper is absolutely necessary. For example, after a cabin group had just finished careening down the zip line on the high ropes course, we asked them how it was. The initial response was enthusiastic and lovely. “Fun! Exciting! Challenging! Scary but once I heard people cheering for me it got better!” Then, we asked the cabin where they saw God and their responses were just as enthusiastic. They saw God’s promise to love in the promise that the ropes, cables, and safety equipment would hold their weight and they would not fall. They saw God’s love of connectedness in the encouragement and support of their fellow cabin mates and counselors. They experienced  God’s grace-filled love in the option to challenge themselves how they chose to, whether that was doing 3 laps around the whole course or just doing the zip line. Their responses are just one example of how God’s love shows up in the everyday activities of camp.

I hear conversations of discovering God’s love all across camp, from our evening worships to sustainability and art sessions. We often talk about how a love that never ends is God’s ability to love after our attempts have failed, but it is also a love that shows up in every single moment of our lives. The campers this summer are a testament to seeing God’s awesome and unwavering love in the seemingly ordinary moments of life, which only proves just how extraordinary that love is.

Tom Gehring, Off-Site Guide

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: