December 11th, 2017
The theme at Camp Deer Run in the summer of 2015 was Live Like Jesus. In a way, living like Jesus is the underlying idea of every theme that Camp has ever had. Did Jesus unplug from the chaos of this world? You bet. The time Jesus set aside each day to consecrate himself and receive counsel from his father was never compromised. Did he bring the good news? Did he shine the light? Non-stop. When he wasn’t unplugging to seek God, Jesus’ time was spent sharing the truth with everyone who would listen and leading his followers to do the same. Any other theme I could name here, Jesus embodied in his life.
Being a very simple theme, it was not difficult to communicate the ideas of living like Jesus to campers. But the beauty of such a theme, one so broad and unrestricted, was that it gave staff members a special opportunity to use their lives and past experiences as a tool for teaching more than ever before. What it looked like to Live Like Jesus was unique to each counselor and to each kid. Each individual naturally highlighted in their own mind those characteristics of the King that personally captured the theme of “Live Like Jesus”. It was the privilege of the counselors to emphasize the aspects of Living Like Jesus that meant most to them.
As a young man who was, and is still, obsessed with rebellions, revolutions, and wars (in the name of a good cause mind you), I involuntarily centered more on the aspects of the life of Christ that supported that trend. To me, living like Jesus means to live boldly and fearlessly, proclaiming the truth and freeing people from oppression. This, in a nutshell, was Jesus’ work on earth.
Jesus proclaimed the truth because he was the truth, the way, and the life. He knew that no one could be saved unless they believed in the truth, so he spread it with every breath he took, and excluded no one. He did not fear the repercussions of his actions because their magnitude paled in comparison to the power his Holy Father. The inhabitants of earth could kill his body, but they couldn’t touch his spirit. He was not afraid because he knew there was nothing to fear.
By his acts, Jesus freed the lost and the weak from their disarray and oppression. Jesus loved the people that everyone else considered unclean, unworthy, and sinful, with reckless abandon. Knowing full well the scrutiny that would rise against him, he engaged with them to liberate them from their slavery to sin. The adulteress, the leper, the Samaritan woman, and the demon-possessed man are a few that come to mind.
Jesus fully surrendered himself to God the father, knowing that his life was not his own. As a result, the brief life he lived was given to the best cause, his cause – Salvation. Talk about a revolution. This one has far outlasted them all.
“Live Like Jesus” struck my heart and mind in the form of Jesus the rescuer, the liberator, the life-saver. It excited me to work toward exemplifying those qualities in my own life. It others on staff as Jesus the lover, the patient one, the forgiver, the eternal friend. As the CDR staff in 2015, we expressed to our beloved campers that living like Jesus was all of those things mentioned and so many more. That is the case when you serve a God with an immaculate son who is all things to all people.
Identify how you are struck when you first think of “Live Like Jesus”. Then give yourself over in deed and prayer to manifesting that in your own life. Embrace the difficulty that comes with trying to imitate a perfect being both man and God. Keep at it with a strong and relentless spirit, for we know an unimaginable reward has been prepared for all those who fight the good fight.
December 4th, 2017
We are now just four weeks away from the start of 2018 and the 60th anniversary of Camp Deer Run. It is truly incredible to sit and think of all of the lives that have been changed through this great ministry. The memories, stories, and friendships that have been made in those piney woods are seemingly endless; and every one of them is evidence of God’s power at work through Camp Deer Run.
This week we’re going to look back at the summer of 2014 and the theme of “Beyond Flesh.” Campers and Staff focused on the difference between living for the world and living for God. Paul gives a great explanation of this idea in Romans 8. It’s too long for me to quote here, and I’d need a whole week to unpack the whole thing, but I would encourage you to take some time and reflect on that entire chapter at some point this week.
The summer of 2014 was my third summer on staff and quite possibly the most fun I have ever had at camp.
During 5th session, I was tasked with counseling Men’s 8 with Austin Horton and Tyler Cox as my co-counselors. Before the session began Austin and I stumbled upon an “As Seen On TV!” section in a CVS Pharmacy. After a few minutes, I convinced him to shell out a little bit of his paycheck for a “Perfect Polly.”
This little fake bird ended up becoming a bit of a celebrity for those two weeks. On the first day, we presented it to the guys in our cabin. They quickly decided upon the name Sheilah, and the rest is history. She was the center of attention for a lot of great moments. At one point Sheilah was taken by another cabin and we spent a day to posting “missing” flyers. Luckily she was returned safely and lived on well after camp. (One camper even had some senior pictures taken with Sheilah).
I find it interesting that a plastic parakeet had such an impact during a summer where the theme called us to look beyond the flesh. For that Men’s 8 cabin Sheilah was a lot more than a fake bird. She brought our group together in a unique way. I doubt that any other session at Camp Deer Run has rallied around a plastic bird, but the unity isn’t uncommon at Deer Run. Silly things like a plastic bird or an old basketball hoop can be enough to create a small, crazy, and Christ-centered family. For nearly 60 years camp has provided a place where the flesh and the material world take a backseat and the Spirit of God is front and center.
For many of us, Camp is the place where we can be our true selves. We are able to leave the struggles, fears, and stereotypes of the world behind as God reveals who we truly are in Him. Camp is able to keep our focus on the Spirit by diminishing the importance of the flesh.
In Romans 8:5-6 Paul says, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”
Paul is warning us not to be caught up in the things of this world, but rather to stay focused on the unseen. I believe this idea is at the heart of the Deer Run experience. Camp teaches us to see the world through God’s eyes. We are reminded that our flesh along with its desires, anxieties, and shortcomings are all temporary compared to the eternal glory that is offered to us through Jesus. May we all be encouraged by the fact that both life and peace are found in the Spirit; they are found Beyond Flesh.
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” -Colossians 3:1-4
November 27th, 2017
The theme of the summer of 2013 was “Praise His Name,” drawing on one of the predominant themes of the Psalms. I was the greenhorn Hoche group leader, and in addition to the challenges presented by my position, there were challenges presented by the theme as well. On top of having an entire book as a theme, it became very clear very quickly that Group Bible was not the only time the staff was going to have to teach about it. The campers were looking at us to illustrate what it looks like to praise God on the ball fields, in the mess hall, during group activity, in the pool, and in whatever was happening during Crafts.
Looking back, I can see that although this might have been the first time as a staff member that I fully recognized the impact the “non-spiritual” times had, showing Christ in those times has always been the mission of Camp. I couldn’t tell you more than maybe 2 or 3 cabin bibles and group bibles I remember from my entire camping career. I can talk your ear off about memories I have as a camper of the many incredible times I had. I can tell you plenty of examples of staff members’ individual impacts on my life and my walk with God. The impact of the “fun” moments is exactly the kind of thing Camp Deer Run has always been so great about teaching.
The fact of life outside of Camp is exactly that, Camp Deer Run doesn’t happen outside of its gates. For better or worse, we as a staff got a week or two at most to teach that the same God we praise inside the gate is the same God we praise outside of the gate. Little did I know that I would learn that lesson the hard way that summer.
While I was preparing for my lessons that summer, I learned that the word “praise” and “thanksgiving” are very closely related. In many instances, they can be translated as either or. This made my interpretation of Psalm 42 so much more impactful. Psalm 42:5 says, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalms 42 is a psalm all about struggle, about feeling downcast, forgotten and out of the sight of God. Yet we see this verse showing us that despite how we are feeling, God is worthy of being praised, of being thanked, no matter what.
So, whenever I found myself heading home a session early that summer, my thoughts and spirit weren’t thankful. They were downcast, confused, and angry. I remember stopping in the McDonald’s parking lot in Winnsboro so that I could cry it out. Through the tears, I was reminded of something that I had preached all summer from Jeremiah 12:5 where God is answering Jeremiah’s complaint, “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in the safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?”
I had stumbled in the safe country. But one of the many beautiful things about God is that He is the same inside and out of Camp. If Camp was a training ground for campers and staff alike, then getting sent home could be used to train and instruct as well. So, as I watched 6th session happen from miles away, I learned to praise God even when I wasn’t feeling like it. Because praise doesn’t just happen in the good times. God deserves to be praised all the time.
The summer of 2013 taught me more than I could have hoped for. Diving into something as seemingly commonplace as “praise” that summer led me to realize that the way we approach praise is generally insufficient. We tend to tie praise so closely to Sunday mornings and Wednesday night worship, which it is, but it’s also so much more. In actuality, that is only a small part of praise. Overall, praise has little to do with those times. Praise is about the “fun” times, the “non-church” ones. Praise is all about how we display thankfulness when we live our lives in the day-to-day grind. Praise is about loving the people we have around us. Praise is about building divine community with deep roots in God’s Word. Praise goes so far beyond our weekly church services that our lives have to encompass it. That’s what I learned that summer.
Looking back, I can see that while the true meaning of praise is clear to me now, it’s what has always been at the heart of Camp Deer Run.
November 20th, 2017
When I was young, I remember playing with a huge rainbow parachute on Cheuk Ballfield. As I got older, I traded the PeeWee parachute and duck, duck, goose for camo t-shirts and capture the flag in the piney woods. But as the years passed, it wasn’t the games or the activities that kept me coming back every summer. Instead, it was a strong desire to be surrounded by Christian brothers and sisters in those safe and sacred woods. I spent fifty weeks every year longing for the two weeks at Camp where I could be myself and “let my freak flag fly”. I made it through some of the most challenging times of my life just from knowing Camp was right around the corner.
I believe that most anyone who has ever stepped foot inside the gates of Camp Deer Run can feel the presence of God. Surrounded by rustic facilities, sweltering heat, and too many species of bugs to even recognize, it may seem the most unlikely place to see God. But I’m certain that anyone who has ever visited, camped, or worked at Deer Run can testify that God’s love is felt and radiates throughout the grounds of CDR. I started to see that most clearly in the summer of 2012, my first as a staff member.
The theme that summer was “Remain In Me.” It came from John 15:5. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Throughout that summer, I witnessed first-hand the fruit that the Lord could bear.
A unique experience I had that summer was to share the gospel with a camper who had never heard of Jesus before. It’s something I never expected to come across at Camp, a place where, as a camper, it seemed to me that everyone already knew him. I walked away from those conversations having seen in a new way the power of the Lord bearing fruit in his children.
The summer of 2012 was also the first year that ‘Vine Time’ was implemented for the staff. Vine Time was created to give individual daily quiet time to each staff member to step away from the chaos of camp and spend some quality time with God. The idea was to reconnect ourselves to the Vine, in order to bear fruit in our work at Camp. It helped me to realize and learn the value of connecting to and remaining in God through prayer, Bible reading, and resting in his presence.
The introduction of Vine Time and the theme, Remain In Me, inspired me to write Cabin Bibles for my girls that centered on rooting ourselves in Christ. In order to bear fruit, you must establish roots. To establish roots in our faith means to spend time daily with God through prayer, reading his Word, and fellowship. These are the ideas and lessons I did my best to imprint on the hearts of the girls I counseled. I had no idea the extent of the fruit that would be born through these lessons until years later.
Four years later as I was working my final summer at Camp Deer Run, I received a letter from one the girls who had been in my cabin the summer of 2012. Her letter detailed how the lessons from that theme had meant so much to her, not only that summer at camp, but outside the gates as well. She wrote about how this theme and the lessons from that summer had inspired her to remain faithful and stay connected to the Vine those past five years. That letter is something that I will cherish forever because it is a testament to the faithfulness of the Father. Apart from him, we can do nothing, but if we remain in him, he will bear much fruit through us for years and years to come.
The summer of 2012 holds many special memories for me, but above all, I, and every visitor, staff member, and camper walked away from that summer knowing the importance of remaining close to our Heavenly Father. Apart from Him, we are nothing and we can do nothing. As we get closer to the 60th anniversary of camp, this message still rings true. Apart from God, camp would not still exist. Praise God for 60 years of faithful visitors, campers, and staff members who have helped camp bear much fruit.
November 13th, 2017
I am sure we can all remember playing a version of ‘Follow the Leader’ when we were younger. Whether that came in the form of ‘Simon Says’ or the basic ‘Follow the Leader’—the concept was the same. Each of these games has a designated leader with whom the audience’s objective is to imitate their actions. It’s fun and it’s simple. But, when it comes to our lives—choosing and following a leader is not as simple as our childhood play.
Every one of us is lead by someone or something.
So, that begs the questions why follow Jesus and how?
Why Follow Jesus?
He has a vision and He shares it with us.
When Jesus was just a boy, it’s recorded in Luke that while He was in the temple He was sitting among teachers, listening to them and asking questions. It was then that Jesus was gearing up to begin His ministry, increasing in wisdom and favor with God. From a young age, Jesus knew His purpose and He held close to the vision of His father and the gospel. And like any great leader, Jesus shares His vision with His disciples and the masses:
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – John 10:10
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.” – Luke 4:18
Abundant life, good news, and freedom. What a vision. Jesus, throughout His ministry, called His followers to share in this vision alongside Him, but also to invite others of all races, religions, ages, and gender to become a part of His vision in bringing the kingdom of Heaven to Earth.
He operates through servant leadership.
“The most radical social teaching of Jesus was His total reversal of the contemporary notion of greatness. Leadership is found in becoming the servant of all.” Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline
Jesus was not the leader expected by the Israelites. His appearance did not fit the leader mold. He was born in a stable. He was not born of privilege or wealth. But—it was how Jesus led, in humility and service, that revolutionized society’s way of thinking.
“Jesus shattered the customs of His day by taking women seriously and by being willing to meet with children. He lived the cross-life when He took a towel and washed the feet of His disciples. This Jesus who easily could have called down a legion of angels to His aid instead chose the cross-death of Calvary. His life was the life of submission and service.” Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline
Throughout the life of Jesus, He took the time to be with people, all people—to hear them, see them, heal them, and feed them. His ministry was people-driven, and largely focused on service.
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:45
So, how do we ‘Follow the Leader’? Luke 9:23 says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Unlike the games of our past, it is not achieved within a 5-minute timespan as you follow the teacher to the cafeteria, but it is a daily pursuit. Take up your cross daily and follow me. It’s a daily pursuit, that is lived out by living a life of service. Deny yourself. Our leader is calling us. He is calling us to an abundant life. A life that provides freedom and healing. A life of service to others. And the coolest part about it? As we follow our leader, and live lives of service—we become co-leaders with Christ, and get to invite others to join in on this vision of abundant life, freedom and healing.
Take up your cross.
The Evans Sisters
CDR Camper 2002-2009
CDR Staff 2011-2014
CDR Camper 2003-2011
CDR Staff 2012-2013, 2015
November 6th, 2017
As I look back over my time working at Camp Deer Run, the Summer of 2010 stands out as one of great provision from the Lord and growth from the Spirit. By the grace of God, I was honored to lead the Nashamie nation into another summer of greatness; a group of equal parts hype and devotion to learning and understanding God’s plan for them.
The theme that year came from Ephesians 2:10. “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
In some ways, every Summer at Deer Run starts off as a clean, blank canvas.
When I look back on the canvas of that Summer, I see God’s handiwork in all His color and splendor.
I see long brush strokes of outcamping sweat & dirt; new life-long friendships.
I see the subtle strokes of quiet time, deepening our understanding of the Word.
I see loud, pronounced tones of Hawaiian day at night-canteen and Killi Capers madness.
Sometimes the canvas actually sings out to Father God.
May its steps be worship. May its thoughts be praise.
Some of the paint has dried and cracked, not unlike the face of Chiefy after a hard-fought battle. Yet it still steers us towards the resilient and foundational truths of the Gospel.
I see blended, calm hues, glistening in the hot Texas sun – tears of joy & sadness at the end of a session as we leave through the gates of camp.
When we find a true masterpiece, we don’t just visit it once. It captivates us, and we find ourselves going back time and time again to admire it and peer deeply into its layers of truth. This is how I and many of the staff and campers look back on the summer of 2010.
Moreover, as God’s masterpiece, we know that he is constantly coming back to visit us. We do not simply hang on the wall of a heavenly gallery, but we are known and loved intimately by our creator. The same creator that created the stars shining down on night devo and the pine forests surrounding Killi Creek.
All of his creation has a distinct purpose, and so do you, friends. My prayer is that we find comfort in this, viewing ourselves and the body of Christ as a living, breathing masterpiece.
October 30th, 2017
I owe a lot to Camp Deer Run. It was there that I learned how much I loved my parents, as I teared up in my top bunk watching them drive away for two weeks. It was there that I saw what godly young men looked like, as I watched my counselors love, teach, and play with me. It was there where I got to imitate the love I’d been shown to the young ones in my group as they wrestled me in the pool, pulling out at least half of my leg hairs in the process. And it was there where I found the love of my life, Haley Anne, who has thankfully stuck with me these past eight years as my wife.
And so, it is with great honor that I share with you my reflections on 2009: Beautiful Feet. The theme comes from Romans 10:15b “how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
Like any good CDR group leader would, I’ll begin my blog with a story. It’s second session, and I’ve just finished crafting my group leader whistle. Proud as a peacock, I blow the Cheukawaka signal to prepare everyone for outcamping . For those of you who may not be familiar with the concept, “out-camping” is when we leave the conveniences of old, crowded, un-air-conditioned cabins to go even deeper in the woods to eat cheap hot dogs and sleep on the ground. It’s fantastic.
What made this out-camping experience unique was the weather. After three or so hours out in the middle of nowhere, right after everyone set up their tents and sleeping bags, there came a downpour. It thus fell upon me to gather the forty or so 11-year olds along with the ten or so fellow staff members, pack up our freshly unpacked gear, lug everything back up the hill and onto the trailer, and ride a mile back to camp in the middle of the storm. Needless to say, we were having a great time.
Not wanting the gross weather to ruin the kids’ experience, I planned the perfect activity designed to make our evening do a 180: Ultimate Dodgeball. Each cabin was assigned a colored T-shirt to wear to represent their group. The pavilion was transformed into a dodgeball paradise, complete with barriers made from the Rec Hall pews and folding tables. But the crown jewel was the sound system, cranked to a 10 for music and live commentary from yours truly. It was a blast!
Until it wasn’t. Hayden, one of the campers from Men’s 1 was missing. His counselor explained to me that Hayden had never returned to the cabin after sending them all to the bathhouse before bed. Hayden was lost. On top of that, everyone else in the camp was out in the woods for out-camping, which meant that there was no one to help us search the campgrounds, which at this point resembled a soggy ghost-town. So there we were, me and Hayden’s counselor, tired and wet out into the darkness to find our lost camper.
After splitting up to better search for Hayden, I heard the good news: “He’s here! He’s here! I found him!” Taking off at a sprint, I ran down the hill to the pavilion from where the voice was coming. As I approached I saw the most precious and simultaneously frustrating thing I’d see all summer: Hayden, fast asleep on one of the Rec Hall benches. Hayden was found. We could both breathe a sigh of relief. That night I got to fully experience the truths of what Paul wrote in Romans: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!
When Paul wrote this portion of his letter to the churches in Rome, he was pulling thoughts from Isaiah 52. There the prophet writes about the good news that God would do again what he did for Israel years ago when he saved them from Egyptian captivity. Jerusalem would again be redeemed. God would again comfort his people. But this time “all the ends of the earth [would] see the salvation of God.” (v. 10)
What excited Paul to include this text from Isaiah in his letter was the fact that this promise had come true! Through the dying and rising of Jesus, God’s salvation had come to the world! Not only that, but now these new communities of Jesus-followers were part of the Isaiah story. These were the men and women “on the mountains, whose feet brought good news, who proclaimed peace, good tidings, salvation, and who said to Zion ‘Your God reigns!’” (Isaiah 52:7 paraphrased). Not only had God saved the world, but he had called those who were part of the new creation to proclaim from the mountains the good news for all to hear.
This is our calling as Christians: to have beautiful feet by telling the world the good news of Jesus. After all, “how can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:14-15a) God is sending us to let the world know of his salvation. Like Hayden, we were all lost, but have since been found- and that’s good news worth sharing.
October 23rd, 2017
Exactly ten weeks from today, we will celebrate the end of 2017 and ring in the new year. With 2018 will come plenty of resolutions, superstitious foods for good luck, and proclamations of “new year, new me.” But for Camp Deer Run, the new year will mark the beginning of the celebration of our 60th anniversary.
To count down the last ten weeks of the year, every week we will be posting a blog written by a staff member or CDR Alumni recounting each of the last ten summer themes at Camp Deer Run. Starting this week with the summer of 2008 and ending with the summer of 2017, we’re going to take a walk down memory lane. Then on January 1, we’ll reveal the theme for the summer of 2018!
In 2008, the 50th anniversary of Camp Deer Run, the theme of the summer was Unplugged: Connecting with God. Back then, instant messaging had taken the world by storm and Twitter was just starting to become popular. The language of acronyms like lol (laugh out loud), ttyl (talk to you later), and brb (be right back), had become part of kids’ daily vocabulary. The theme “Unplugged” aimed to disconnect campers from the world of technology and connect them to God instead.
I was a camper in Men’s 2 in 2008. Nathan Wilhelm was my counselor, and Andy Garner was my group leader. I honestly don’t remember much more than that except the theme verse of the summer. It was an easy one to remember, “Come near to God, and He will come near to you.” It comes from James 4:8. It’s a simple concept: if you seek Him and try to get closer to Him, then He will be close to you. But the verse continues, “Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” I don’t know about you, but to me, that doesn’t seem nearly as encouraging as the first part.
Although it doesn’t seem like it, the second part of the verse may be even more important than the first. James is saying that if we want to draw near to God, we have to realize where we stand. We are sinners, we are double-minded. We get so caught up in the world that we forget that we don’t belong to the world but to God. In the light of God’s grace we can’t help but acknowledge our sin, and to mourn our failures. But that isn’t the end of the story. He tells us to wash our hands, purify our hearts, and repent. In repentance, we come near to God as a child seeking forgiveness from a loving Father. And God, in His mercy, runs to us with open arms to lift us up out of our grief. It reminds me of Psalm 40:2, which says, “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”
We come near to a perfect, holy, and pure God, covered in mud and mire from our sin. Through Christ, we are washed clean. By grace, through faith in Jesus, we can approach a holy God as His holy people, blameless and pure in His eyes. As we repent, we are forgiven by the grace of Christ, and as we draw near to God, He draws near to us.
At Camp Deer Run we unplug ourselves from the world, literally and figuratively. We leave the technology behind, we leave our worldly worries behind, and we come close to God. That’s the beauty of camp: it’s a refuge from the world, a showcase of God’s creation, a place where God is present. But as you’ve often been told, God isn’t limited to the gates of Camp Deer Run. You can unplug from the world right where you are, spend some time alone with God, and come near to him.
December 14th, 2016
ONLINE REGISTRATION WILL BEGIN JANUARY 22, 2017 at 2:00 p.m.
Below you can see the schedule of 2017 camp sessions.
October 15th, 2016
You can now purchase the Hymn Time 2016 CD! We recorded 16 songs during 2nd Session 2016. The singing is truly beautiful and we hope that it will be an encouragement to you.
You can order Hymn Time 2016 at our new online store: Online Gift Shop