Spring is springing!

As I strolled through camp on my way to the office today, I enjoyed listening to the sounds of Spring. Yes, it’s finally happening…spring is landing at Lake Ann Camp!


The snow piles are getting smaller, grass is appearing all over the place, the ice on the lake is beginning to melt and two days in the 60s indicate that the weather is warming up. But one of my favorite parts of the spring is the sounds that it makes.


As I walked this morning there were a number of noises that echoed throughout the camp, but one of them I could hear repeatedly, from several different sources. It was the sound of the woodpeckers going to town on some of the camp trees.


Woodpeckers are amazing birds with amazing design. Every part of their design is specific to what they do. Look at just a few of the details of these amazing creatures:

  • The have a two and two claw design. Whereas most birds have three front “toes” and one back “toe”, the woodpecker as two in front and two in back, allowing it to easily move up and down, and side-to-side on any tree.
  • While the woodpecker’s tail feathers may look like any other birds, they are vastly different. They are incredibly resilient and “springy” so that as its head pounds into the tree, the tail feathers actually serve as shock absorbers. With its tail and two legs, the woodpecker stands on a nearly perfect tripod making it possible for them to attack a tree from almost any position — even upside down!
  • Not only is the woodpecker’s beak unique among birds, but it has a tongue significantly longer than the average bird. In fact, most birds have a tongue that is as long as their beak, but the woodpecker’s tongue extends well past his beak and is equipped with little barbs with which it can spear insects in the tunnels found in trees. In some woodpeckers, their tongue actually rolls back in their head and surrounds their brain — a trait unique to this bird!


I could go on and on about this one bird, but the point is clear: God designed the woodpecker specifically for its task. In fact, God designed everything in creation with the same specific attention.


One of the reason we love the woods of Northern Michigan is because it gives us such access to see God’s amazing creation. Every camp program uses the wonderful world around us to teach about God’s power, creativity, wisdom and character. So much of who God is and what God is all about is seen in His magnificent creation.

woodpecker tree
One of the camp woodpeckers laid waste to this tree! If you look around Lake Ann Camp, you’ll see many trees that have been beat up by these amazing little birds.


At Lake Ann Camp we try to utilize the world around us to teach our campers valuable lessons. Whether it’s a night hike through the woods, a star-gazing adventure on a clear evening, taking a moment to carefully investigate the home of a porcupine (don’t worry, they don’t actually shoot their quills!), taking a dip in our bog, running down the sand dunes or watching a sunset from Pyramid Point, the opportunities to talk about God are all around us.


Romans 1:20 says, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” God’s creation reveals so much about God. After a week of camp, we are confident our campers will have a new perspective on the world around them and the God who created it.


Joe Castaneda is the Director of Communications at Lake Ann Camp.


To learn more about Lake Ann Camp, visit our website at

The Raven

[Camp creates all sorts of experiences and perspective changes for those who attend. The following post is a creative expression of LIFT intern, Emily Anderson, written when she was in high school. Do you have a creative blog post that flows out of your camp experience, or lessons you’ve learned?

image by; used by permission.
image by; used by permission.

A small raven struggled against the storm.  The rain beat down on the little bird harder and harder the farther it flew.

“Just give up,” whispered the storm.  “You don’t have a chance against me.”

The heavy rain stung and the bird cried out in pain.  She couldn’t give up, she couldn’t be defeated.  Trying to keep her head high she pushed on.  Searching.

“Why are you fighting me?” the storm asked.  “What could you possibly have to live for?”

The little bird tried to push his words from her mind, but they haunted her thoughts.  Her eyes longed to see refuge but none came.  What was she fighting so hard for?  What good could she ever find in this storm?

“Nobody cares about the raven.  You are weak, and I am stronger than you.”

Her body ached and she saw no point in continuing on.  She gave one last cry of defeat and then stopped trying.  The storm felt her surrender and laughed harshly as his rain pushed her mercilessly to the ground.

The plummet was quick, the ground was hard, and the pain was cold.

The little raven lay face-down in the mud, rain still falling all around her.  Her body was broken, as was her spirit.

She would die in the dirt.  Maybe that was how it should be.

After just a moment she heard something running towards her.  She lifted her head as best she could, more out of curiosity than fear.  It was a man.  His face held an expression of love and deep concern as he raced in her direction.

He can’t be running towards me, the bird thought.  Nobody cares about the raven.  The storm’s words played back in her mind.  He was right.  She would never be worth anything.

The man stopped when he reached her and dropped to his knees, sloshing mud all over himself.  He didn’t care.  With gentle hands he reached down and scooped up the little bird, holding her protectively so that the rain would not harm her.  He wiped the mud from her face and looked tenderly into her eyes.

“I have been waiting for you, Beloved,” he said.

The raven looked up at him in confusion.  What could he mean?

“I listened to your cries and I have waited for you to come to me.”

Her small, frail body lay crumpled in his strong hands.  Why?  It was the only word that seemed to be running through her mind.

The raven winced as pain shot through her, a harsh reminder of the fall she had just taken.

The man sighed sympathetically, “I know it hurts, but now that you have found me everything will be different.  Together we will do great things.”

He saw the question in her eyes and smiled, “Now that you have found me, Beloved, you will never again face the storm alone.”

The raven had finally found her refuge.  Not in a shelter, but in a Savior.

To learn more about Lake Ann Camp, visit our website:

I know a King and a Warrior and a Sage

In the past few years I’ve had the privilege of working with some really great guys….

“But Doug, you’ve been at Lake Ann for almost 8 years. Are you just now making friends with the staff!? And what about the ladies? Aren’t they great too?”

Yes, yes, I work with some great people, both guys and ladies. Although they always seem to want something from me whenever they talk to me. I guess that’s just a downside of being the Director of Finance, or “Money Doug” as some staff like to call me to distinguish between myself and Doug Miller, our Director of Guest Services.

But I’m not talking about the great guys at Lake Ann Camp. Although plenty could be said about them! All good things of course! I’m talking about guys I’ve met outside of camp. Some of these guys are just a few years ahead of me in life, some are just barely half my age, while others have about thirty years on me. The one thing they all have in common is that they have had a huge impact in my life. This impact happens through the relationships we share with one another. With the differences in age, personality and spiritual maturity comes a different type of impact. I believe this is necessary since we each are at different stages of life and have different strengths and weaknesses. John Eldredge talks about the different stages of manhood in his book, “Fathered by God”. The stages go from Beloved Son to Cowboy to Warrior to Lover to King to Sage. Each stage has something to give and something to receive.

Here’s an example of the Sage God has given me in my life. He is thirty years my senior, yet his life mirrors my own life in so many ways it’s actually kind of weird. This man has filled many holes in my life and helped me through many things. In my mind, he is the best example of what a disciple of Jesus should look like. He is my mentor, coach and friend. He expands my view of life which gives me a proper perspective on it as well as the biblical wisdom to navigate it.  My hope is that one day I will be able to build into someone else’s life like he has done for me. I’ve even named my daughter after him. (Her middle name 🙂

Here is an example of the Kings God has given me in my life. I have two. These guys are just ahead of me in life by about 8-12 years. They model how to actively care for their families and at the same time how to be involved in a meaningful way in the lives of others. They are actively seeking someone with whom to share what God has done in their lives with the hope that He will use it to encourage and challenge them.

I even have some Warriors in my life. These are guys 10+ years younger than me. They are guys I’m discipling. My hope is that God will use the experiences He has given me and the relationship I have with Him to encourage, challenge and grow them. The great thing is, these guys challenge me just as much as I challenge them!

Sometimes I begin to wonder how all of this happened. Where did all of these meaningful relationships come from? Then I remember. They came from the same Person who is causing the growth in them all. (1 Cor. 3:6) See, My God knows the desires of my heart and hears my cry. (Ps. 34:17-18) He knows my every need, even before I do. He is a compassionate and caring God, willing to do whatever it takes to show His love for me. (Jn. 3:16)

God was the one behind the scenes, orchestrating situations and circumstances for my benefit (and the benefit of others).

Do you have someone pouring his/her life into yours? Are you actively looking for someone to come alongside to encourage and challenge? (2 Tim 2:2) If not, ask God for those relationships. (Matt. 7:7-11) He will answer that prayer, just like He did for me!

Cell phones and the power of camp

On average, kids spend 3.5 minutes in meaningful conversation with their parents each week. (

Kids age 8-18 spend an average of 7.5 hours a day using entertainment media. (

Children play outside an average of four minutes a day. (

When was the last time you went for a day without your cell phone?

Truth be told, most of us are addicted to our phones.

“But, it’s my clock/watch/alarm.”

“Well, it’s my camera.”

“I don’t have a laptop, I just use my phone.”

“I’m not addicted, I just can’t go 2 minutes without touching it.”

Phones  are a huge part of our culture, lifestyle and the way we “do business” in 21st century America.

photoComing to camp, for most, means setting the phone down for the greater part of a week.  No texts to answer, no tweets to read, no facebook newsfeed to keep up with.  For most, it is surprisingly refreshing to realize that the pressure has been lifted for a few days.  Kids are able to relax, unwind and breathe.  Staff are able to connect with other staff members and build friendships, relationships and memories.

We all know that when the end of the camp week comes,  the notifications, emails and messages will be there.  But what we also realize, is that the world as NOT come to an end and that we actually enjoyed life outside of our phones.

I realize that phones these days, are much more than phones.  They are our alarm clocks, our shopping list, our workout schedule, our camera, our email, the list goes on and on.  In this world of fast paced technology, camp gives kids something they can’t get in the outside world.  It’s an experience of real conversations, face to face discussions, and emotions that can be viewed in the eyes of another person and not in an emoticon.

Camp is a place where sitting and not speaking can be all the conversation that is needed.  Campers are able to be outside, look up and around them and see God’s Art Gallery.   Camp is a place where 30 minutes of Solo Quet Time actually happens and new sounds are able to be heard.

Psalm 19:1 – 3

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.  There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.  Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. 

We look and see the tall trees, the glistening river, the sparkling water of the pool, the eagle as it flies overhead and the chirping of the birds as they wake us up early in the morning.

Colossians 1:16 – For by him all things were created:  things in heaven and on earth…

“Everthing is better at camp.”

At camp, we are in a constant conversation with those around us.  Morning brings us the cheerful voices of others who are just as excited to be alive, living life at camp.  We work together to accomplish the goal of even cleaning our cabin, when just a few days prior, picking up a few items off our bedroom floor seemed like it would be the end of us.  But … we are at camp!

At camp, conversations are deeper, memories are more vivid, friendships are kindled quicker and relationships sealed with the timeless cement of summer camp.

Without a phone in our hands or back pocket, we are free to talk, laugh and play without the interruption of a text to answer.  The Tyranny of the Urgent has vanished for a blissful moment.

But we are also able to listen.

We can listen to the voice of God through his Creation, through the camp counselor or speaker, through the reading of His Word & through the interaction with His people.

Even those staff members that must carry a phone at camp are encouraged to do it discreetly, so that the sacred environment of camp is kept intact.

Most of us can’t live at camp, and for those that do, camp life is much different when campers go home.  How do we return to our “regular life” changed and impacted, but still able to interact and be effective where God has placed us?

We can begin by recognizing that we need to control this little black box called the cell phone, and not let it control us.  We can put it down, turn it off and experience a little bit of “camp life” at home with our families, in our conversations at work or over a meal with a friend.  You did it while at camp, and it can be done outside of camp.

How will you bring a little camp life into your home life?

Begin by putting the cell phone down … for a time each day and look up, around and outside at God’s Art Gallery that is shouting for us to praise Him!   Turn the phone off and listen to the voices around you, the little people in your life, or maybe the voice of a parent that just wants to hear about your day.  When a text comes during church or a coffee date with a friend, choose not to answer it and stay focused on the words that are being spoken.

It can be done.  Because you did it at camp.  That’s the power of camp.

This is a guest post by Kimberly Mallory, the program director at Camp Gilead in Carnation, WA. To learn more about Camp Gilead, visit their web site at To contact Kimberly directly, email her at

Actual Camp Gilead Staff Members Speak Out

 “Because I got used to not having my phone on me, to not being at others’ beck and call 24/7, I am now less inclined to treat my phone as an extension of my arm, or an extra appendage. Camp encouraged me to focus on the relationships I have right in front of be rather than on the other end of a handheld screen”

“Honestly, not having a phone didn’t affect me negatively. It was actually refreshing to get away from life, and when I did get my phone, I just didn’t care as much.  It’s fun how much you think you need your phone, but then you don’t have it, and it’s really nice!”

Camp Speaking

I’ve had the privilege of speaking at summer camps for each of the past 17 years. During that time I’ve spoken in camps all over the country in camps that varied in style, size and purpose. I’ve spoken to places that had 35 campers, and to programs that had more than 600 campers. My family and I have enjoyed camps in the mountains, camps with rivers, camps with lakes, camps with no trees and camps with lots of trees. Some of the camps we’ve been at have had swimming pools, others have high ropes courses, some have horses (rest in peace dear Strawberry!) and some are full of crazy adrenaline pumping adventures. I’ve been on camps that had less than 20 acres of property and some that sat on hundreds and hundreds of acres of land.

We’ve stayed in barns, sheds, trailers, busted up cabins, apartments, houses and suites. At one camp, you couldn’t open the door to our cabin more than 1/2 way before you hit the bed that took up the whole room! I can say that we have had some of the best and some of the worst food we’ve ever eaten while speaking at camps (no, I won’t reveal any names!!).

Pastor Joe speaking in the late 90's! Nice jean shorts =)
Pastor Joe speaking in the late 90’s! Nice jean shorts =)

God has shown us amazing aspects of His creation in all of the diversity of these camps. We’ve enjoyed seeing bear, deer, elk, moose, porcupine and crazy psychotic squirrels with jet-black fur along with bald eagles, giant woodpeckers, huge owls, gorgeous red cardinals and one blue-topped bird I’ve never been able to identify. We’ve also been chased out of a bathroom by a poison green mamba snake, seen the beautiful animals of Africa and have viewed the stars in both hemispheres.

I love camping and love the opportunities God has provided me and my family and the youth I’ve worked with over the years. There is something so special about this unique ministry.

Despite all the places we’ve seen and been privileged to partner with, there are a few things that are true of all camps doing great ministry. And while each camp we’ve visited has unique activities and culture, it’s the constants that make these more than just memorable weeks of summer.

Fast, deep and long-lasting life change: Bible camp does something that few other ministries can accomplish — fast, powerful and long-lasting change. In a camp setting students are invited to step out of what’s normal in order to be challenged to engage God at a deeper and more profound level. Camp takes 51 weeks of investment from pastors, families, churches, youth pastors, youth groups, Bible study etc… and multiplies the increase in just 6 or 7 fast-paced days. This is one of the big reasons I love speaking at camp, I have the joy of seeing rapid fruit because I’m in the position to harvest the work of others.

As a youth pastor, I used to “hate” camp, because my students would come back and say, “Hey PJ, camp was awesome. Why don’t you teach us that stuff? Why can’t you be like [enter speaker name here]?” and blah blah blah… What I came to realize was that I was teaching those things! I was engaging them week in and week out, and the camp experience was taking my effort (and the effort of family and church and…) and multiplying the results. I came to understand that my students fast, deep and long-lasting decisions were a result of the partnership I had with camp. Camp is a powerful tool for the church and youth ministry that understands it.

Opportunity to build life-long friendships: I have friends (like Josh and Kimberly Mallory!) where our friendship was primarily built in and through camp. My friend Jeromy and I have known each other for over 20 years and the first time we met? Camp! A Christian camp is a great place to meet new people, to develop friendships and to find people who have a common passion for the Lord. At the camp where I’m working now, I can’t believe the number of people who met their future spouses here at camp. Forget eHarmony, work at a summer camp to find your soul mate!

A chance to enjoy undistracted corporate worship: There is something unique about worship at camp. I can’t explain it, but some of the most powerful moments of group worship I’ve ever experienced have happened in a camp setting. Maybe it’s because we’re typically “away” from the our normal routines, maybe it’s because most camps help you engage the God of creation through seeing His beautiful handiwork; whatever it is, camp provides the opportunity to worship God in a largely undistracted environment.

A few years ago I was speaking to around 75 students at a camp in South Africa. During our singing time, I looked around the room and I saw people from at least 7 different people groups. At that moment, I was struck by the verse in Revelation 21 that speaks of the worship of God from every tribe, tongue and language. I remember tears coming down my cheeks as I was overwhelmed by the scene before me and being all choked up as I got up to speak and share that with the campers. More than once, the corporate worship of camp has touched me in powerful ways.

Partnership with the local church: The best camps I know are working with the local church. The ones that are doing their own thing apart from a relationship with the local church, are the ones that I like speaking at the least. But when camps partner with churches, that relationship adds a layer of life-change that doesn’t exist in other ministries. When camps and churches work together, there is accountability for campers when they head home and there is encouragement for camps year-around. Camps that are working with their local churches have the strongest ministries.

Ministry to adults: Camp isn’t just for children and students, but effective camps are ministering to adults, too. Over the years, I’ve had counselors, directors and other camp speakers come up and thank me for my ministry, and I’ve done the same to many other speakers, too. The reality is that camping ministry opens up the doors to lots of people, and sometimes to people that other ministries don’t have access to. Fast, deep and long-lasting life change can be a reality for campers of any age!

I hope you are planning to be involved with camp this year. Maybe it’s summer camp for you (as a staff or camper) or making sure you dial up a Men’s retreat, a retreat for women, mom’s & daughters, fathers & sons, couples, pastors or church leaders. Give yourself the opportunity to experience significant life change, undistracted corporate worship along with the power of the church/camp relationship in a setting that will allow you to engage our amazing God.

I’ve been involved with camping ministry for over 18 years. Prior to that, I was a camper and summer staffer. I know camp has been a huge part of my life and if you’ve experienced it already, it’s been a huge part of yours, too. If not, make this the year you have a great camp experience.

Joe Castaneda, Director of Communications

To learn more about Lake Ann Camp, visit our web site at This blog post was published in partnership with Camp Gilead in Carnation, WA.

Great moments at LAC

One of the privileges of my job is having the opportunity to travel and visit various LAC supporting churches. Over the past couple of months I’ve been to Des Moines, Iowa, to the shores of Lake Huron at Alpena, Michigan, all the way down to Peru Indiana (did you know Peru is the circus capital of the world??) and at many points in-between. I love connecting with pastors, churches and leaders who already know and love Lake Ann Camp.

Peru INA big reason why I enjoy this connection is simple: I love hearing the stories of people who have experienced life-change through the ministry of Lake Ann. In every church, youth group, winter camp or weekend retreat I’ve spoken at, someone has come to me after a message and said, “Lake Ann Camp was where I maid [such and such] decision for the Lord.” The locations change but the stories remain the same, God is using Lake Ann Camp to impact people for eternity.

About a month ago we hosted my pastor and his family at our house for dinner. We live on the camp property, so once dinner was over, we all headed out for a night of fun on the tubing hill. It was a blast. And after we had all enjoyed zooming down the hill in controlled chaos, we marched back to the house for hot chocolate, tea and snacks.

En route to the house, our pastor stopped on the path, sat down and had everyone gather around him. He asked if anyone knew where we were and why he was stopping. No one was really sure what he was doing, so he explained: “This is the very spot at camp where I committed my life to full time ministry; it was here that I decided I would follow Jesus and do whatever He wanted me to do.” For pastor, that part of the path was holy ground — it was a sacred space where God captured His heart.

Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing magical, spiritual or mystical about the property at LAC. We don’t own the market on life-change. What we have is the distinct honor of partnering with churches, parents, pastors, youth pastors, leaders, children’s workers and families to help drive home the messages of God’s Word. Our pastor’s decision to follow the Lord was solidified at Lake Ann, even though it had been created and fostered throughout his walk. God had been working on his heart, and the clarity to follow Him with his life came while at the camp.

That’s why our camp is so important, maybe even more so in today’s fast-paced and hectic culture in which we live. Many of us are engaged in church, we’re working on spiritual disciplines and we’re being challenged to live for the Lord. But at the same time, we’re not having a lot of time or opportunity to process all this learning, or taking the time to really apply these lessons to our lives.

That’s where the ministry of our camp fits a crucial niche. Our age-specific summer programs and year-around retreats, along with a hyper intentional programming model allows us to take the massive input of others and focus it to a point of decision. We do our best to bring in powerful speakers who will effectively communicate the truths of God’s Word. We train our summer counselors for almost 200 hours to help them facilitate decision making in our campers. Our full-time staff averages 40 years of age, each having experience in ministry that shapes their capacity to influence others for Jesus. A Lake Ann retreat or week of camp is wired to create great moments for our campers, so that they can step out of what’s normal, meet with God in a special place in a special way, and have obstacles removed so that life-changing decisions are possible.

When I travel, I love to hear the stories of how God has worked through the camp’s ministry. Those stories make it easy to tell others why coming to Lake Ann for a week or weekend, for a winter retreat, or one of our many adult retreats, could be one of the most important decisions they make. It’s not because Lake Ann Camp is the only place where lives are changed (obviously!), but it’s a place where life-change is the focus, and where many have stepped out of their regular routines to see God do a great work — to challenge them to live differently because of the work He was doing in their lives.

I hope a trip to LAC is in your future. That way, the next time I visit your church you can come up and tell me, “You know that old oak tree by the Old Chapel? Well I surrendered my life to God when I…”

See you soon!

Joe Castañeda

Joe is the Director of Communications at Lake Ann Camp. To learn more about the ministry of Lake Ann Camp, visit our website at, or visit us on Facebook, at


Life as a Lake Ann intern comes with numerous opportunities for learning. If you complete an internship here without learning something, it’s your own fault. The program is also structured so that we are given lots of time to reflect on what we’re learning; processing time. We do a fair amount of writing as part of the program, and most of that is focused on what we’ve learned so far and how we’re going to apply it. I love this aspect of the internship. I love thinking about ideas and how things in the world are connected. Lake Ann is first and foremost a summer camp, and we’re in the midst of the “off-season.” We stay busy hosting guest groups and running retreats, but there is also a considerable amount of time where the only people here on the grounds are us interns and a handful of full-time staff. It gets pretty quiet around here, and it becomes the perfect environment for reflecting.

ReflectionsI love words, and I love the word “Reflections” because of its wide variety of meanings. As I mentioned, reflection can refer to that time you spend in your mind thinking about how your interactions with your environment. However, the idea of a reflection is most commonly associated with a mirror; it’s an image of something we interact with in our environment. When we think of how God made us in His own image, a mirror becomes a pretty effective illustration to describe our relationship. We’re a reflection of God in a mirror that’s been fractured.

Fractured comes from a Latin word called frangere. It means “to break.” Frangere gave way to the word fractura and eventually became the adjective we’re familiar with today. The world around us and the humans that live in it are often referred to as broken. Broken is a good word to use when trying to describe that mirror analogy I just referred to.. In college one of my closest friends and best mentors was explaining to me why Christian community is important, and explained it to me like this: It’s like we’re all pieces of a mirror that’s been shattered into infinitesimally small pieces, and while we reflect the image of God, our reflection is only a sliver of what He is. Community is important because as you meet other Christian’s and learn from them, they will show you a different reflection of who God is. Your idea of who God is will become more complete, and in turn your reflection of Him will also become more complete, if only a little bit so. It makes my mind spin to think of the intelligence of a human, each of whom is one of God’s masterpieces, is only a tiny sliver of what He is.

This relationship could be described as a fractal. You were probably passing notes to your classmates (or to your sister if you were homeschooled like me) while your eighth grade math teacher was trying to explain fractals to you. You might be able to guess that fractal and fractured share the same Latin roots. A fractal is a smaller part of something that shares a characteristic of the whole to which it belongs. In this way, we fractals of the God who made us; tiny parts that share characteristics with Him. Fractals are everywhere. Coastlines, snowflakes, trees, and ferns are all good examples of fractals. They all have patterns that repeat themselves as you look at them in closer detail. Take the universe we live in and a molecule. One is so large we can’t even grasp the idea of it in our minds, and the other is too small to see. A molecule is made of many tiny particles separated by (in relative terms) huge amounts of space. This is not so unlike what our universe looks like. There is a pattern that makes these two objects that are so unlike in many ways, very much alike in others. To me this begs the question: what, besides a supremely intelligent designer, could create an environment that’s full of beautiful diversity, but is designed with intricate threads that tie that diversity together into patterns we can see?

Today, don’t be discouraged by the fact that we’re fractured and broken. Be encouraged by the greatness of the God that we reflect.

What is Integrity?

Emily Anderson, one of our year-long LIFT apprentices, shares insights from the book, Integrity, on this week’s blog. Think you know what integrity is? Read on!

Growing up, I was always taught that integrity was simply doing the right thing when no one else was looking. But, after reading Dr. Henry Cloud’s book, I’m learning that integrity holds so much more weight than that. I saw many aspects of integrity that we have been reminded of several times during the internship. The biggest one that I made note of was the point of vulnerability in a leader. Vulnerability is essential to building integrity because your relationships with other people are dependent on how vulnerable you are willing to be with others.
Cloud says, “I needed a model who was strong enough to depend on , but vulnerable enough to identify with.” True vulnerability isn’t a weakness at all, even though it is often perceived as one. During one of our intern meetings last semester we watched a video about vulnerability. The speaker was a researcher, and something that she said really stuck with me. She said, “vulnerability isn’t a weakness, in fact, it is the most accurate measurement of strength.” I’ve been learning, especially in the last few months, how essential vulnerability is to being a good leader. People will not follow you unless they know that they can relate to you and that you care about them.

Another challenge that I found in Integrity was the idea that everyone leaves a wake behind them. Sometimes we get distracted by what’s in front of us we forget to look back at what our ministry has affected. It’s important that we look back to be encouraged for the future. Nothing is more discouraging than looking forward and thinking that you have little chance of ever changing anything. I was really encouraged to look back and be encouraged to make an even bigger wake in the future.
One thing that surprised me in the book was the topic of reality. Cloud made the statement, “Reality is always your friend.” He says that it’s often a difficult thing for people to accept, but it is important because reality is the only thing in which good things happen. Being in touch with reality is the only way for you as a leader to know the needs of your followers or see the changes in the world that need adapting to. This challenged me because I know that sometimes my positive thinking prevents me from seeing things for how they really are. Positivity is important, but it needs to be channeled into making reality better and not masking reality with an illusion of peace.
Another point of integrity that was very challenging to me was the idea of cutting your losses. I struggle with letting things go, but I’m learning that an important part of leadership is knowing when to stick with something and knowing when to admit that it would be more beneficial to just let something go. To me that seems like it would require a lot of leadership. I pray that one day I can possess the maturity that it takes to make those kinds of decisions.
There was a lot of points in Integrity that I had never considered before. The book was full of great challenges that I am really going to benefit from for the rest of my life. I’d like to go back and read the book again to really dwell on some of the concepts that it holds. I’m really excited to stretch myself during the rest of the internship using what I was able to read in this book.

To learn more about Lake Ann Camp, visit our website at

Want to make changes in the New Year?

This is going to be a different blog for the context of a camp. So hang with me through this. I am going to add this disclaimer to the beginning of this. I am going to flat out ask you to change your mind at the end of this. I have no shame in my ask and my prayer is that you take it seriously. This article’s application will not be aimed at everyone of you that will read this. But it is aimed at the few that I know God has been stirring your hearts. Take action.


In my last Blog I made the statement So let’s be honest, some of us need to break something. God had been breaking so much in my life and still is. Its hard starting a business with no business degree background. Its hard trying to make ends meet so that the dreams that God has given you can be met. Its hard to not question everything when nothing around you seems to be how you planned it.

I’m going to stop right there because I going to make an assumption. I’m going to assume that there are two teams of people reading this right now. Team 1: Those that completely identify with that last comment. Team 2: Those that know what its like to identify with that last comment.

Now I want to give out the roles for the teams.

Team 1: The rest of this article is aimed at you. Please listen with your whole heart and mind and pray about how God might be prompting to you to change your mind and act.

Team 2: The rest of this article I want you think if there is someone specific that God might be prompting YOU to support with your time and resources. Then act.

This last year, as I talked about in my last post, my wife and I adopted a little girl named Adelynn (click here to see her 9 month pictures). My wife and I tried for 7 years to have a baby. Charting, temperatures, insemination appointments…nothing worked.

Were we not praying enough?
Were we not giving enough of our time?
Was there something in my life that I hadn’t given to God?

We were struggling and we didn’t have an answer from our doctor and we definitely didn’t have an answer from God. Its hard to not question everything when nothing around us seems to be how we planned it, right? I felt like I placed the majority of the blame on myself. And that’s a hard position to be in. To feel like the reason you can’t have kids is all your fault. And honestly its a lie from the pit of Hell. Anytime that type of thought comes to your head, understand its a lie. If you find yourself believing these types of lies, meditate on Romans 8:31-39. That passage was a huge encouragement for me, and still is.

In September 2012 we were asked by a friend I went to college with if we were interested in adoption because a former student of his was pregnant. We had started the process when we lived in Iowa but when moving to Michigan, we need to start all over because the state laws are different. We decided to wait for a little more stable time to begin again and when my friend gave me the big ask, we thought we were at that “stable” mark (I’m beginning to realize that some of us never really live in a status quo definition of stability).

We got in contact with the young woman, who has now become a part of our tiny family, and the rest is history.

“Come on Justin, get to your point.” Ok, here’s my point. Some of you have been putting off adoption because you have come up with every excuse in the book (I told you this is going to be different for the context of camp). Can I ease your excuses with some facts?

Huiothesia is the greek word for adoption. Ephesians 1:5 says, “he [God] predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.” Galatians 4:4-7 says, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”.

See huiothesia isn’t just adoption but adoption as a son, an heir. It is a legal term that places all rights from the one doing the adoption to the one being adopted. When God adopted us through the salvation of Jesus Christ, we got it all!!! We are forever under the name of God. He is our Abba! Our Father! Nothing will change that. Just like with my daughter. Adelynn is my daughter. I am her Abba. (I’m actually am trying to get her to call me Abba. We’ll get there.)

Adoption for us was a means to expand our family because naturally we couldn’t. But it wasn’t just that. Because if adoption just stops at that, we lose the God-picture in it. God desires all people to come to Him. Why? Because He is the creator of the world. Why wouldn’t He want all people to come to him? We are his kids! So when we adopted Adi, we saw adoption as a God-picture, a redemption picture of what God does for us. God desires to be OUR Abba!

But for some of you reading this, God desires that you be “Abba” for another kid. So I’ll ask it: IS IT YOU?! And this idea is beating so hard in your heart right now, that it is freaking you out or its confirming a whole lot of things recently. God is CALLING YOU to be “Abba” for another kid.

Check out this video and I’ll wrap this up after that.

Its the last stat in that video that hit me the first time I saw it: if 1 couple in every 3 American churches would adopt, we would give homes to every child that needs a home in this country. James 1:27 says this is what religion looks like: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” Visiting can better be thought of as “take care of them knowing they won’t be able to repay you.” Sound familiar? This is what Jesus does for us. So we take care of them as Jesus has taken care of us. We lay our life down for them and take them in as our own. God is repeatedly calling Himself “Father” in scripture. He even calls Himself a Father to the fatherless in Psalm 68:5.

So here’s my ask…Are you going to be a Father to the fatherless? Yes, YOU from Team 1 who are still reading this. Coming into this year, are you going to lay down the excuses. Please say yes to being an adoptive parent.

Now Team 2 people. Do you know someone you can support? See not everyone has been CALLED to adopt but we have all been called to lay our lives down for one another. We have all been called to to show love. So how can you show love to a family as they go through the process? I can’t tell you how much that role was important to adopting Adi. Prayer, money (because adoptions aren’t cheap), gift cards, etc. Is God calling you to be a blessing to someone.

I can’t tell you how much I would love to see the church rally behind all these kids that need families in 2014. Team 1? Team 2? Let’s change our minds and act.

Justin Van Rheenen
To learn more about Lake Ann Camp, visit our website at To connect with Justin, contact him directly at

The Budgeting Season

As guest related activities start to slow down my duties as the Director of Finance begin to increase. Lake Ann Camp, along with the rest of the country traditionally celebrates four seasons, spring, summer, fall and winter. Each season lasts about 2-3 months and has both its positive and negative attributes. For example, my favorite season is fall. Positives: the colorful leaves, crisp air and pumpkin spice. Negatives: cleaning up all those colorful leaves, and knowing that 6 months of snow is right around the corner.

However, there is a fifth season here at camp I like to call the ‘budgeting season’. It spans from late September to the beginning of December. As for the positives and negatives, let’s just say I’m sure the staff would choose the winter season over the budgeting season every time! I’m sure at this point you’re starting to recall the budgeting seasons in your personal finances along with all the feelings and emotions that come along with them. For some of you that’s an exciting thought, and I’m right there with you. However, there are others that would rather run outside and throw themselves into the nearest snow drift than work on a budget.


So what is it about budgeting that leads people to choose 20 degree temperatures and about 20 feet of snow? (The winter season at Lake Ann) I can’t answer for everyone, but I have heard people say they don’t really see the need for a budget or that they see the need, but simply find the process boring and overwhelming.

To be honest, there are times when I have similar feelings about budgeting. So what do I do when these feelings show up? First, I remember Dave Ramsey’s principle, “Live like no one else today so that I can live like no one else tomorrow”. In other words, have an end goal in mind. It could be helping your kids with college expenses, or planning for a 25th wedding anniversary trip to the Mediterranean (my wife’s goal). Having a goal in mind will really help give purpose to your budgeting. To help keep that goal in mind, you could even print out a picture of your goal and place it in the room where you work your budgeting magic. Every time you think about overspending a budget, take a look at that picture and remember why you are on a budget.

What if you don’t see the need for a budget or don’t like the restrictive feeling that can come with being on a budget? I’ve heard it said that either you’re controlling your money or your money is controlling you. When your money is controlling you, it seems as though you can never get ahead and you never have enough money to meet all your needs. While not on a budget you may feel like you have freedom, but you really don’t. You keep asking yourself where it all goes. It’s like your money is saying to you, “Spend me! Spend me!”

A budget places you in charge of your money. You’re really just giving every dollar in your account a job. You’re the one giving the orders. Would a soldier go out onto the battlefield without first planning and preparing? You need to plan and prepare ahead of time, not when you’re in the heat of battle with your desire to purchase something new and shiny.

A budget gives you control, but it also gives you the freedom from other people controlling your money. For example, in my personal finances, I budget for Christmas gifts every month of the year so that when December comes I have enough to purchase all my gifts with cash. If I wasn’t on a budget, and didn’t save each month I could wait until December and just charge all the gifts to a credit card and then pay them off little by little over the months following Christmas. Banks love it when you do this because then they are able to tell you what to do with your money; i.e. pay some of it to them every month in the form of interest.

Another benefit of sticking to a budget is that it makes financial discussions in your home a whole lot less tense. Instead of being frustrated because you can’t figure out where all your money is going, you are able to plan, prepare and even dream about the future.

Italy…my wife’s dream!


Maybe this is an area where you have struggled. I know that I still struggle at times with my finances. A New Year is fast approaching where new commitments can be made. I challenge you to set some goals, dream some dreams, and then map out your plan to achieve them.

The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance,

    but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.

Proverbs 21:5

To learn more about Lake Ann Camp, visit our web site at