Staff Blog 2017 | SON-Life Camp & Retreat Center

Drew Timmer // Director of Ministries
Introducing This Summer's Staff Blog

Hey everyone! I'm Drew - the Director of Ministries here at SON-Life. Exciting things are happening at our camp and this page is dedicated to sharing some of those instances! We serve a powerful God who has been faithful to this ministry for just over 40 years... but what really happens here at SON-life that's so special?? God is very easy to find here! When you unplug from regular life and get out into God's creation, it doesn't take long before you start to see God working. And anyone who's encountered Him knows that those moments are hard to walk away from unchanged. That's how amazing our God is! He's at work everyday and all we want to do is share what we've experienced. This summer we're talking about Abraham, a man of giant faith in God. So many instances in his story, we see God asking him to do unthinkable things! And instead of hesitating or negotiating, Abraham steps out boldly in faith and God blessed Abraham immensely for his obedience and commitment (see Gen 12-25 for the full story!). We want to be just like Abraham and step out in faith EVEN WHEN IT SOUNDS CRAZY!! Check out the following updates (coming weekly!) from each staff member. Please also pray over us and our ministry in loving these campers and sharing the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ with them!

Ben Bartels // Senior Counselor

Son-Life camp is doing amazing things for the kingdom. I have never seen a camp so on fire for blessing the name of Jesus. I have the privilege of being a part of the teaching team here, and not only has this grown me in my teaching skills for the the future, we see campers daily engaging and responding in their walk with God. I cannot imagine doing anything different with my summers. While working here at Son-Life for the past year, I’ve seen just how intentional the staff is with putting God first and creating an atmosphere of Christians serving God here! This past week alone with the Outpost campers, we know of at least two campers that have accepted Christ and all of my boys seemed engaged in wanting to know more about God. As campers grow up here, each experience, whether it be Day Camp, Primary Experience, Junior Escape, Teen Extreme or Outpost, offers so many different things, and clearly defines what it looks like to live a crazy life for Christ! This camp has not only blessed me, but I’ve witnessed God doing amazing things with the campers I have come in contact with! I am blessed to be a part of this family!

Stephanie Smith // Day Camp Program Assistant

This is my first summer as a program assistant and camp has been a bit of a different experience this year because of that. Not being directly in a cabin with campers decreases the amount of time I have with them individually which means I simply do not get to talk to campers about their relationship with Christ as often as I did as a counselor. This past week was our Outpost Expedition camp and I had the incredible privilege of leading two campers in committing their lives to Christ. This week was our first time doing a prayer walk on outpost and each of these campers approached me after being moved by the prayer walk. I am so thankful for the ways in which God is moving at this camp and I can’t wait to see more moments like this throughout the summer!

Tim Brinks // Senior Counselor

Son-Life camp is the best place to be during the summer! There are a lot of fun things to do here, but it is also a place where campers and staff can overcome their weaknesses. For example, this past week two campers tried the swim test even though it was a tough challenge for them! However, that is not all, the staff are here to help campers to grow out of their comfort zones. Therefore, Son-Life camp is a place of fun, but also a place where God can turn camper’s and staff’s weaknesses into their strengths!

Andrea Gruppen // Health Officer

I have been on staff for four summers now, and worship has continually been one of my favorite parts. Seeing campers get comfortable worshiping is an unforgettable experience. Typically Monday the kids stand still and quietly sing, but by Tuesday night or Wednesday morning the kids are singing loud, raising their hands and fully worshiping their Lord and Savior. Everyone worships differently and it is so cool to see the campers worship in their own way. Continue to pray for each of our campers that they would feel comfortable here at SON-Life and that they would be able to connect with God while they are here. Your prayers are so important and we couldn’t do this without your prayers and support!

Chelsea Veldkamp // Senior Counselor

One of the awesome things SON-Life has to offer is true authenticity. Because we are a smaller camp, every staff member is challenged to know each camper's name by the end of the week. One of my campers during Teen Extreme week told me that her favorite part of the week was the fact that she was able to form bonds with lots of our staff members and we all knew her name. She was used to the big camps like Springhill and Geneva where they have all the newest "toys" (rockwalls, ziplining, etc.), but there are so many campers and staff that bonds formed aren't as authentic as the ones at SON-Life. So even though SON-Life isn't as big or fancy as other camps, we are leading campers to follow Jesus and forming truly authentic bonds that can change lives! We appreciate prayers for our staff and our campers, and all of the support you give us!

Katie Andrews // Co-Counselor

My favorite thing we do at SON-life is worship. It's so great to watch the kids sing their hearts out for Jesus. They also love to dance around! Many of our campers say worship is their favorite part of camp. They say they love the songs we do and they love the motions we do with the songs.

Allie Bartels // Photographer

This is my first summer working on staff at SON-Life. Within the first few hours I knew this place was on fire for learning and teaching more about Jesus towards others staff members and the campers. During each of the activities, I take pictures of the campers playing games, having fun, and learning more about the Lord through worship, FUSION, prayer, and In The Word. Christ is so evident here at SON-Life, not only through an amazing staff, but also the campers that are welcomed in for the first, second or multiple times! Each week is full of fun games, lots of smiles, and hearts open and full of Jesus. I pray that you may take an interest in SON-Life and allow yourself or upcoming campers to experience Christ as much as I have!

Hope Van Solkema // Senior Counselor

We do many fun activities here at SON-Life Camp. One of my favorite things to do here is worship. It is so cool for me to see these kids in worship. At the beginning of the week not many campers will raise their hands in worship. But by the end of the week, the majority of the campers are lifting their hands, giving themselves to God. It brings me joy knowing these campers are willing to reach out to God in worship.

Samantha Sager // Co-Counselor

As a third-year Co-Counselor I have seen God work in several ways at camp. One of the really awesome programs offered is a 5-day Day Camp with an optional overnighter on Thursday for kids 6-10 years old. One of my day campers from the beginning of the Summer was very passionate and really got into worship. A lot of the worship songs have motions and involve dancing around. My camper would sometimes follow the motions, other times she would stand with arms raised and eyes closed. After worship we go into a time where the campers hear a message, on that particular day I had lead that message. Afterwards, she came up to me with a ton of great questions about how she could live for God at such a young age. It was just an incredible experience to see someone so young have such a passion for Jesus. I ask you to continue to keep our ministry at camp in your prayers. That staff will speak the words that God gives us and that these campers would feel comfortable asking questions they may have, and sharing their stories with others around them.

Austin Geelhoed // Waterfront Director

The summer is already done and I can't believe it! It really flew by! For my first year being on staff, I have seen some incredible things God has been doing here at camp. I love how everyday at camp there is In The Word time. As that helps me and the kids to really explore the stories we are talking about in the messages, but also to look into and read the Bible in a new way. I was the Waterfront Director this summer and I am very thankful that God kept us safe by the water this summer. I loved watching the kids enjoy being in the water and really having a fun time. One way I have experienced God is through the little kids. They are carefree, and don't get stressed out about the world, and are full of energy. They have helped me realize it's OK to be crazy and not be so uptight about the world. Thanks for all your support and prayers this summer. Camp couldn't have run as smooth as it did without you! Blessings, Austin Geelhoed.



Gibby Nieuwenhuis // Program Assistant

Camp is one of those places that allows you to both help others grow while also being grown yourself. And not just spiritually grown either, but mentally, emotionally, and in maturity. This was my 4th summer serving here at SON-Life and it has been a constant factor that the man I am, coming into the summer, is not the man I am as I leave camp in August. Camp has a way of doing what few other things are capable of doing in such a short period of time, and that is to really grow you and grow you quickly. As I look back and reflect on the bright-eyed kid, that was just so excited to get to do ministry, that I was at age 18 when I first started at camp as a Program Assistant for the Day Camp and our Chaplain for the Junior Escape Camp, and contrast him with the man who sees the joy in doing ministry but also the great responsibility it is that I am today at age 21, I contribute this change to my time at camp. See, camp unlike any other experience has truly matured me, it has helped me find my strengths but also has helped me find my weaknesses and has given me the tools to work through those weaknesses. Each time I return from a season of camp people constantly ask me how my summer was and what changed because I’m different than I was before I left for camp. I always have a hard time explaining what I did this summer or what matured me because how do you encapsulate an entire summer of daily going to battle for God by ministering to children? If they haven’t been through camp they will never understand why you drink coffee at 10 o’clock so that you can be awake and aware for those personal connections, or why you put on silly costumes for lunch skits, or why you put so much energy into being happy and alive and energetic at all moments of the day only stopping to take a breath once Friday night rolls around. To the rest of world that seems like insanity, working for a true ministry wage, while literally being on the clock 24 hours a day having to be ready to lead a kid in accepting Christ, or having to answer the question of if our mud pit is sanitary for the 100th time that day. It’s true, to people who haven’t lived it, what I just said sounds crazy. If you have lived it though you know how rewarding it is, how much it matures and grows you and leaves you with memories and experiences you will have for a lifetime. Yeah, I guess all in all, camp is pretty weird, it’s just a summer, but it feels like a year, yet you mature far beyond your years when you get involved with it, and when it’s gone? Well, when it’s gone, the old saying "distance makes the heart grow fonder" really does apply.