Welcome to the staff blog! Here is where we'll be posting short entries from each staff member about some of the cool God moments they saw this summer, a neat story about what SON-Life is up to, or ways to be praying for our ministry. Check these out - they'll give you a better insight into what the SON-Life Summer Camp Experience looks like!
Benjamin Bartels - Senior Counselor
One of the many great things about SON-Life is how authentic it is! I tend to be fairly expressive while in worship, but when I notice people for the first time having an open heart and open mind, focusing fully on God for possibly the first time, it brings joy to my heart. I see that so evidently at SON-Life. Preteen boys don’t tend to be very involved in their emotions, but one week I noticed none of the boys in my cabin were very expressive in worship. That is okay! But I prayed “God, bless these boys, let them see You and experience You in a new light tonight,” and within half a second of the prayer, I turned to my right and saw one of the older boys in our cabin with his hands open. WOW! It was something so simple yet so powerful. This act led to more and more of the boys doing this. I truly believe that they were all experiencing God in a new way, which might have felt weird at first, but that is what I believe our faith to be. We are supposed to look different, we are supposed to stick out. That is just a glimpse of what SON-Life offers. When we earnestly seek God, we can find Him. I know for a fact that God is working at SON-Life, and it is an honor to witness it every week.
“How can I deny something that has revealed itself to be true to me?” –Whispering Danny
Stephanie Smith - Senior Counselor
As a third year Senior Counselor I have seen God move in many ways here at camp! During this first week of having campers I saw him moving in my camper’s hearts and showing them the unique race he has for each of them. I was impressed by the creative ways my campers shared they were going to commit to their training for not only their races of faith but to help others too. Specifically, a camper had said they wanted to commit to listening to their friends’ problems and pray for them. A few of the campers in my Junior Escape cabin this week were previously day campers and their growth in their relationship with God was extremely evident. I pray that these campers will continue to be strengthened in their relationships with Christ and that they can stay committed to their training in their races of faith.
Hannah Verburg - Program Assistant
Outpost was awesome! We had a spike on the number of Outposters with 19 teens, which was a big difference for me, because my last Outpost from three years ago as a counselor, I had one camper in my cabin! It was so much fun with a big group this summer. From a forest of hammocks, a line of rafts in the river with splashing wars with “Vikings”, to intense volleyball games and extreme trust falls, this group of teens was a blast! Besides the shenanigans, my favorite parts of the week were when I got to talk to them and learn about their lives and dreams and walks with God. One girl I talked with while on the hike, told me her dream to start an orphanage in Africa after high school. I can’t wait to see the amazing things God is going to continue to do through these teens’ lives and continue to do through this camp and staff this summer.
Brooklyn Eckart - Program Assistant
I was privileged enough to go on Outpost this past week with some pretty amazing campers and staff. I am working for SON-life this year as a Program Assistant (P.A.) and I run the overnight camps. By “run” I mean I get to run around and play games with the kiddos and run meal-times. I have the coolest job under some great authority. This past week at Outpost was a special week for some of our campers and even myself. Sometimes when it comes to doing a job in ministry, it doesn’t always feel like you are getting the points across to campers. This year our theme being “Unstoppable” coming out of Philippians 3:14, we are trying to get across to these campers they will run if they just learn to trust and to never give up, to jump over the hurdles, and to always look towards our breath-taking, unstoppable heavenly father. On Friday morning at our campsite where we were staying, we had a closing service. We always start with worship. I had a heavy, weary heart myself that morning, ready to go home, but saddened knowing camp was coming to a close and not knowing if the campers really grasped “Unstoppable”. We continued to worship and little did we realize, God had moved in ways I didn’t see throughout the week. In my own selfish-tired ways, I kept trying to take care of it in my own hands, but God had those campers and their hearts taken care of the whole time. We got to the end of the first song, I opened my eyes with tears running down my cheeks to find our campers fully and willingly praising our life-changing savior. Kids had tears streaming down their cheeks and hands were raised high. When I had doubted that week about how much of the messages they were getting, it was in that moment I knew I needed to just let go. God is always moving, always there, and never gives up on us. He changes us even when we don’t see it or don’t want to hear his voice. God is constant. He constantly shows up and always delivers. I just get impatient and doubt. Seeing that worship happen I then that God was moving and I was simply reminded that his work will never be done, It was a mind-blowing week, and even when I fall short or become too exhausted to see or hear God’s truth, he never stops. Those campers were changed that week, even when I or the staff didn’t see it. God will always be unstoppable, we just all must decide now if we want to further or unstoppable races with our loving, gracious heavenly father routing us on the whole way. –Exodus 14:14
Emily Gorman - Senior Counselor
One of my favorite parts of camp is watching the campers experience God and finally understand who He is. I had a camper come to me and say “Emily! I finally understand why Christ died the way He did!” This was after one of our Prayer Walks. It made my heart so happy to hear that. It’s moments like this that I think of 1 Corinthians 1:25, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than any human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” God loves us so much, and there is no greater joy than when a child realizes that! I continue to pray that we have more moments like this in the finals weeks.
Andrea Gruppen - Co-Counselor
One week during the summer, we have a week called Teen Extreme. This is where teens come and get a chance to be at SON-Life for a week. We bring in a guest speaker, have a prayer walk, and worship times. On top of all the fun games we play during this week – I was privileged enough on Thursday night to sit around and hear the girls in my cabin share testimonies. Through this, I felt God at work. Several of them shared how they have obstacles in their life, but are learning to lean on God to get through them. I also heard multiple times how SON-Life has played such a huge role in their faith walks. SON-Life is a place where God truly is present, and all around, helping young kids grow glower to Christ.
I ask that you continue to keep our ministry in your prayers. That the staff speak the words that God gives us and that these campers feel safe and comfortable asking questions they may have, and sharing their stories with those around.
Lindsey Hoffman - Health Officer/Waterfront Director
One of the cool things that SON-Life is doing this summer is teaching kids to be Unstoppable! – which means that no matter what satan throws at you, you never stop running toward Jesus. The God moment that I keep on seeing is how campers that I know weren’t totally into worship in the past are ALL IN this summer! It’s AMAZING to see God work through worship! Some of the ways you can be praying for our ministry is that the campers that have had their week at camp keep the fire burning in their hearts for Jesus.
Chaz Knorr - Videographer
SON-Life is back at it again! Primary Experience was a week to remember with lots of fun games, adventures, skits, and most of all Jesus! After check-in, games were being played and the kids were off to a great start having a blast. Lunch time always called for Adonis and Ted to come out and show us some ways to be fit and have “toned calves.”
Swim time and waterfront held lots of excitement with the blob, kayaks, paddleboats, and cool tricks from jumping off the rafts. And don’t forget Snack Shack! Worship always held great times as well. It was amazing to see such young kids worshipping so expressively and passionately! These kids have a fervor for Christ! A campfire was always the place to wind down at and head back to the cabins afterward to get rest for another great day at SLC!
Pray for us. Pray for us to have more good kids like these. For these kids to see Christ and be changed and to go out and be UNSTOPPABLE!
Katie Andrews - Co-Counselor
One of my favorite things we do at SON-Life is worship. We have worship twice a day. Once in the morning and once in the evening. I love dancing around with the kids while praising God.
Samantha Sager - Co-Counselor
This is my second summer here on staff, so I have had the opportunity to see God work in so many amazing ways at SON-Life Camp. I really enjoy small group time, where my cabin can discuss the FUSION message and we can talk about being UNSTOPPABLE, what our race of faith really looks like. This summer I had a camper who shared her testimony about the impact Prayer Walk had on her last summer and how it changed her life. I was a camper a couple years ago and camp changed my life, so it’s really cool when you get to see camp change campers lives like me. I ask that you would keep SON-Life’s ministry in your prayers. That the staff can speak the truth of God into the campers.
Hope Van Solkema - Kitchen Assistant
As Kitchen Assistant, I don't always get a chance to play games and other fun stuff with the kids. But I always make time for worship at night because it's one of my favorite things to do at camp. I usually stand in the back and I get to see the kids worship. Seeing the kids singing to God and holding their arms up us such a cool thing to watch. We do a lot of fun activities at camp, so to take a break out of our day to worship and watch kids really get into worshiping God is truly amazing.