Camp Agape Day 5

God’s Love is For Everyone!!

Our final day of Camp Agape was such fun!  The week culminated with Cross+Generational VBS where parents, grandparents, neighbors, friends, and congregation members were all invited to participate.

We started with a good old fashioned cookout meal of hotdogs, chips, and watermelon.  The campers all got to sing songs for the adults and share what they have been learning throughout the week.  In the final skit Ranger Roger and Sally found out that it was the Rascally Raccoon who had been playing all those tricks on Sally.  Sally was relieved to find out that she had been working hard and being successful, but it was the raccoon who kept sabotaging her.  Ranger Roger and Sally both had forgiveness for the Rascally Raccoon and reminded her that God’s love goes beyond our sin because God loves us unconditionally.

While the campers went and played games and had snack time the adults spent some time together discussing the Bible lessons from the week, memories of their own experiences in Vacation Bible School, and ways that we can support one another in faith.  The adults then went to join the campers for campfire lesson time and crafts.  The craft for the day was to decorate the camping bags that each person received at the beginning of the week.  It is a great way to remember the week of camp and carry a visual reminder of God’s love.

The final hurrah was a real campfire and s’mores!  Pastor Jon tended to the two campfire pits and everyone was able to roast marshmallows and enjoy a sweet treat to close out our wonderful week at Camp Agape.  We are so thankful for all the volunteers, parents, grandparents, and for all the people who donated food and items.  We are especially grateful for the children who attended VBS and shared their excitement for God with one another as we all grew in faith together.

Camp Agape Day 4!

God’s Love is AMAZING!

God’s love certainly is amazing as we have been witnessing throughout the week via the love and care shared by all the campers and volunteers.  It is worth noting right away that the VBS campers raised $171 by Wednesday to “SWAT OUT MALARIA!”  We quickly surpassed our first goal of 15 bed nets and $150, so we set a new goal of 20 bed nets and $200.  You’ll have to wait for tomorrow’s update to find out if we surpass that new goal.

Dinner was a favorite of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and grapes.  You can’t go wrong with either when you are having a camping picnic dinner!  We enjoyed singing songs and even learned a new one, “Days of Elijah.”  Many songs are becoming quick favorites and are sung with gusto.  Ranger Roger, Sally, and the Rascally Raccoon were back!  Sally was given directions from Ranger Roger on how to build a campfire.  Sally didn’t quite understand the directions but she is a problem solver and finally figured out how to build a fire.  She was so proud of herself!  As she went to go get Ranger Roger to show him her successful campfire the Rascally Raccoon snuck in and put that fire out with a bucket of water!  Sally was SO disappointed!  I wonder how our story will end tomorrow?

The Bible lesson for the day was Pentecost and Pastor Shannyn was invited to do a remembrance of baptism for the campers.  She also ended up answering some very thoughtful questions from the campers.  For craft everyone made very creative and inventive luminaries that will be displayed tomorrow at the final campfire.  Games of course are always fun and the campers had fun running around and playing different games and activities on a beautiful evening.

We are grateful for God’s AMAZING love for us and look forward to coming back tomorrow for Cross+Generational VBS with families, friends, and neighbors!

Camp Agape Day 3!

God’s Love is FOREVER!!

Our third day of Vacation Bible School kicked off with LOTS of energy.  The campers are feeling comfortable with one another and their surrounding and are making lots of good friends.  We are enjoying the energy and enthusiasm that comes along with those feelings.  It is joyful to hear a child say, “I couldn’t wait to come to Bible School today!”

Dinner set the stage for the day with chicken and stars soup because all day we were talking about Abraham and Sarah and how God’ promised that their descendants would be more numerous than the stars.  On that same theme new songs were added such as  “I Love You Lord” and “Everyday” while singing some of the favorites from the past few days. Ranger Roger, Sally, and the Rascally Raccoon were back once again.  Ranger Roger and Sally were enjoying the stars in the evening sky…or wait, maybe I should say, Ranger Roger was enjoying the stars while Sally thought it was just a little too dark and perhaps street lamps would be better to brighten up the dark.  Sally was especially startled when a night owl spoke out with a “hooo!”  Sally, trying to make the best of the situation, went to bed in her safe tent.  But then…that rascally raccoon struck again with one of her stunts!!  Making noise and clanking pans together, the raccoon scared Sally out of her wits!! (and a couple of kids too!)  Ranger Roger reassured Sally, letting her know that she is never never alone and that God is always with her, even when she is scared and it is dark because God’s love is strong, generous, and FOREVER!  We also met our animal for the day was Ollie the Owl who reminded us that God is wise and can hear and see all things.

The kids all got a kick out of Pastor Jon showing his “magic” tricks of being able to “turn on the stars” with no hands!  Hmm, maybe he and that rascally raccoon are working together. 🙂

The offering going towards the stewardship of caring for others as we “SWAT OUT MALARIA!” is going well!  The campers have raised $114 already!!  WOW!! AMAZING!  They are well on their way towards raising $150 for 15 bed nets and I don’t doubt they will surpass it.  In addition, Mrs. Pagan and Mrs. Johnson brought in a blanket from the quilting group and all the kids got to tie a knot on a blanket that will be sent overseas to keep someone warm.  They brought pictures of people and places where the blankets are sent.  It was nice to see some pictures of people we are helping, even if we aren’t able to meet them face to face.  It sure is nice to be spreading God’s love around the world in so many ways, knowing that God’s love is everywhere, for everyone, and forever.

Day 2 of Camp Agape!

 

God’s Love is GENEROUS

The second day of VBS at Camp Agape was such fun!  After a tasty dinner of meat and cheese tortilla roll ups, applesauce, and goldfish crackers we were ready to do some more singing and find out what happened next in Ranger Roger, Sally, and the Rascally Raccoon’s adventures.  We got to learn more new songs such as “Everlasting Love”, “One Day”, and “Awesome God.” In our skit today Sally was helping Ranger Roger plan an “event.”  It wasn’t quite the type of event she was used to hosting in the big city but she did her best with the materials she had.  She was so excited to show Ranger Roger what she had done that she ran to show him!  But then…that Rascally Raccoon snuck in and…flipped her whole table upside down!  Poor Sally, all that hard work!  She was being generous helping out Ranger Roger and the Raccoon came and spoiled it.  I wonder what tricks will happen tomorrow…

The Bible lesson for the day was Jesus feeding the five thousand people with two fish and five loaves of bread.  The campers learned how God’s love is generous and how other generously shared what they had as well.  Even what seems like a small morsel can grow and multiply just like the loaves and fishes.  For craft the younger campers made foam fish while the older campers made fish that can be hung from the ceiling.

The campers are continuing their stewardship by sharing God’s love through service as they bring an offering to “Swat Out Malaria!”  So far the campers have raised $60 and bought 6 bed nets to prevent malaria.  Today, the most important thing the campers learned was God’s love is GENEROUS!

**To help spread God’s love at home and to continue the learning from VBS, each day campers take home a Taking Faith Home sheet with questions and ideas based on the Four Keys for Faith Formation (Vibrant Faith Ministries).  These will be posted shortly if you would like to take part in those same Four Keys!

Welcome to Camp Agape!

God’s Love is STRONGImage

 Vacation Bible School kicked off as the kids were welcomed to Camp Agape!  This week they will be surrounded by God’s love as they learn that God’s love is Strong, Generous, Forever, Amazing, and For Everyone!  

Dinner was an enjoyable meal of Sloppy Joe, Carrots, and Pretzels that gave us strength and nourishment to move through all our activities.  During the opening we heard that our stewardship service project is to raise money to “Swat Out Malaria” in our sister synod in Tanzania, Africa where bites from infected mosquitos spread malaria.  Bed nets only cost $10 each and save numerous lives.  We are going to “Swat Out Malaria” through our offering money and share God’s love with people around the world.  

We met our animal of the day, Bart the Beaver, who built his house strong just like the wise man who built his house on a rock which was our Bible lesson for the day.  During the opening we also were introduced to Roger Ranger (Dick Boyd), Sally (Sarah Ingwersen), and the Rascally Raccoon (Beth Townsend).  That rascally raccoon kept playing tricks on Sally, Ranger Roger’s niece who has come to help him out  for the summer at Camp Agape.  I wonder what will happen to Sally…or that raccoon!  For craft the younger campers painted rocks while the older campers created garden stepping stones out of cement, stones, beads, and more!  These will be displayed on Thursday night during our cross+generational VBS.  The campers raised their voice in song learning new songs such as “The Rock”, “Wiseman Built His House Upon the Rock”, “Pharaoh, Pharaoh” and more! What great singing voices the campers have!  Most importantly, the campers learned today that God’s love is STRONG!

Waiting…

Advent is our time of waiting.  We wait in line at the store.  We wait for cookies to be done baking.  We wait for family gatherings.  We wait for vacation to come.  Teachers really wait for vacation to come! 🙂  We wait to open presents.  We wait as one candle, two candles, three, and four are lit around the Advent wreath.  We wait for the coming of the Christ child.

Putting up Christmas lights is the perfect metaphor for the time of waiting in Advent.  It doesn’t happen quickly, it can’t be rushed, and if you try to rush, the lights become a big tangled mess and/or don’t look quite right.  It’s the same with all that Advent entails.  The more we rush, the bigger the tangled mess we seem to end up in.  That is the beauty of the message of Advent–it is a time to gather the pieces one by one, getting ready step by step.  The irony of the time of Advent, though, is most people DO rush.  The feeling starts the day after Thanksgiving where we rush out to the stores well before dawn to get the best deal or price on that special item.  Then there always seems to be so much to do with decorating, baking, buying, and wrapping that the to-do list gets longer and longer as we try to multi-task.  Our calendars become full of parties and gatherings, all which are fun and festive but fill in the places where we once perhaps had a moment of down time to sit back and rest.

And yet, there are times when we don’t rush.  One person told me about sitting in the living room at the end of the night, a glass of wine in hand, Christmas music softly playing in the background, and the overhead lights turned out as the tree softly lights the room with color.  A look of peace and serenity came over his face as he told me about this evening ritual.  There are also times when we can’t rush.  I had a few friends this December give birth.  Their families have been waiting for 9 months in anticipation of the addition to their family.  But no matter how much they have prepared and how ready they are, that baby only came when it was good and ready.  No sooner, no later.   The baby room was ready, diapers were stacked, and clothes folded but that didn’t rush the baby.

Soon, very soon, we will welcome our Lord Jesus Christ, who was born to save a broken and fallen world.  The waiting will soon be over and hopefully you will have some time to un-rush yourself.  May this be a time of celebration and joyous occasions as you hold dear the gift given to us by God because P.S. there’s more to celebrate each day we live.

Keep Awake

Mark 13:24-37                                                                                                                       (See below for the passage)

This weekend marks the beginning of Advent and thus the first week of the new church year.  As we begin Advent, we enter with anticipation for the Christmas season.  For many young children (or young children at heart) that means looking forward to decorating the tree, the giving and receiving of presents, and Santa and his reindeer.  Of course there is also the anticipation of the Sunday School Christmas program, special concerts, lighting of the advent wreath, and singing the well loved hymns and carols.  The gospel reading for this first Sunday of Advent pulls that anticipation together to help us focus on what the next four weeks holds for us.  It does this by telling us of the apocalypse.  Advent and the apocalypse?  Really?  Yes.  It is our reminder to keep awake and alert to God’s activity in this world beyond our human expectations or abilities to understand.  It was unexpected and hard to understand why God would come to us in human form, in the form of a baby.  And not only a baby, but a baby born in a barn.  God continues to exceed our expectations and fill us with wonder.  God brings encouragement and hope through a baby born in a stable, through a baby that will grow up to die on a cross and who will rise to new life in order that we may have life everlasting.  Unexpected and exceeding expectation.  This week, keep awake and alert to God’s activity in the world.  As you keep alert, please snap photographs on your cameras or phones and email them to Pastor Shannyn: pastorshannyn@gmail.com  These photos will be shared on this blog because a picture is worth a thousand words.  It is worth sharing because P.S. there is a lot for which to stay awake and alert in these days of Advent.

Mark 13:24-37

24 “But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory.

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Cross+Generations

This past Sunday Saint John Lutheran held our first Cross+Generational Sunday School gathering.  It was so joyful!  Gathered together with the purpose of faith formation were kids less than one year of age all the way through people in their 90’s.  Sitting at tables were mixed ages and relationships.  Some tables held multiple generations from one family.  Other tables held generations of people that were not related by blood or marriage but are family through faith.  Caring Conversation was held as we started with FaithTalk cards to break the ice and share stories and thoughts.  Devotion came into play as we learned about Martin Luther and the Reformation (a great continuation of the fabulous Katy Luther presentation on Saturday by Alvina Hjortsvang).  Service happened through assisting one another in creating Luther’s rose, along with helping each other blindfold, spin, and provide protection from falling during the “Pin the 95 Theses on the Door” game.  Rituals and Traditions were engaged through prayer and singing as we sang some old and new favorite songs: “Jesus Loves Me” and the “Hippo Song”, led by the Sunday School kids.  They did a great job teaching the older folks the actions!  It was a good day, a day of faith formation with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  A day to which we say, “Praise the Lord!”  Take a moment to share your “Praise the Lord!” moments, because P.S. there’s more than one way to praise the Lord!

Sharing Our Burdens

The following is Pastor Shannyn’s piece written for the collection of devotions during the October stewardship focus.  The devotion book titled “Thus Far By Faith” can be picked up in the church office for you to read, because P.S. there’s more for us to share about our experiences.

Matthew 11:28-30

28 ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’

On July 2 & 3, 2011 I preached this text with a heavy heart and in a different manner than my ‘normal’ preaching style.  This text came about in the lectionary cycle sixteen days after the death of my dad.  As I read through the texts for the week I felt pulled towards this passage, thinking about the burdens that were hanging heavy, not only over myself, but over our community.

For two months we had been living in a state of tension and fear over flooding issues.  People were moving the items that had sentimental meaning such as scrapbooks along with the other items that told the stories of their lives.  Some moved a few things out of their homes while others moved almost everything they owned.  Those that lived at higher ground generously opened their garages and basements for storage.  It was a stewardship of the space and kindness they held.  I, myself, had planned on moving the items in my office but suddenly that became little concern as I headed to Wisconsin unexpectedly for an unexpected funeral.  Yet, even as I left town my thought was, “Well, if it floods all it will take is a phone call and I know others will move my things if need be.”  What a blessing to know that we as a community were there to shoulder the burdens together.

This passage reminds us that our burdens are not meant to be shouldered alone.  Oxen are often yoked in pairs in order that one is not over taxed.  If an oxen is yoked alone, it is still connected to the driver so the path may stay straight.  This is our reminder that we are not alone on our journey of faith and that we need each other for our faith lives to prosper and grow.  We are yoked together with one another and with Christ so that the yoke is easier and the burden lighter.  Together, we live by faith and together, we walk in faith.

The following is a portion of lyrics from a song shared with me reminding us that together we have come this far–120 years–together by sharing our lives of faith both in burdens and in joys.  Because of one another, our burdens are able to become joys as we reach out to each other in the name of Christ.

                         Come to me, you are weary, I will hold you and softly speak.                                                I know this day seems unending, so I’m sending a little peace.                                I will cradle you close to my chest.  I will take up your burdens and give you rest,       you who are weary if you can hear me, come to me.

Imprints

Recently I had a conversation with a woman from church (let’s call her Jane) where I was told a story about a person (we’ll call her Alice) who had passed away a number of years ago.  Jane told me about the hardships Alice had dealt with in life, the strength in living, how Alice lost love, found love and then received a blood transfusion in the 1970‘s that carried a disease that would eventually end her life prematurely.  Jane shared how she sat with Alice one Christmas Eve, quietly, sharing the last few precious moments of life.  As Alice’s life was ending many were celebrating the birth of Christ.  In this moment Alice softly, peacefully began to sing in German, “Silent night, holy night.”  Alice peacefully passed away the next morning, Christmas Day, the day our Lord was born.  It is a remembrance of the resurrection that out of death, comes life.

As she spoke Jane placed her hand to her heart and said with with closed eyes, “She left an imprint on my heart.”

Throughout our lives people leave their imprint on our hearts and our souls.  Take a moment to think about who these people are and why they made an impression.  Now take a moment to think about the imprint you leave on others.  I’ve found that it is generally not the big ostentatious moments that leave the deepest prints.  Often it is in the quietness of a hug, a smile, sitting in silence without having to talk, or listening to a German rendition of Silent Night, Holy Night on a death bed.

Jesus reminds us that, “Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”  –Matthew 25:40

Please, share your stories, comments, thoughts, and experiences of how someone has left their imprint on you or how you have imprinted someone else.  Because, P.S. There’s More to share.