Camping season is about to begin at Echo Ranch

Posted: Sunday, May 24, 2009

We stand on the edge of another summer at Echo Ranch, and I can't help but feel the excitement. Of course, along with the excitement come many questions about the unknown. Will this sunny weather hold out? How will the new counselor group work together? Are we ready for any challenges that are over the horizon? How many kids will come to camp?

In the movie "Field of Dreams," the main character hears a voice that eventually leads him to build a baseball park in the middle of his corn field.

"If you build it, they will come" says the mysterious voice. People think he's crazy, but somehow it all makes sense in the end. Working at Echo Ranch is kind of like that.

Many years and hours of hard work have gone into making Echo Ranch possible. We don't create a tangible product; we offer people a place to escape the fast-paced world and examine life. The money we take in goes right back into keeping the camp running. All of the staff raises their salaries through personal donations.

What makes us happy is seeing a person smile and hearing the roar of a hundred kids playing a game on the sports field. There is great joy to be found in serving others simply for the sake of serving. We also take satisfaction in knowing that God is our focus and he has given us this beautiful place to allow people a moment to turn their thoughts toward him.

Yes, you can have fun and think about God at the same time. The key is finding a balance. Ask kids what they like about Echo Ranch and the most likely answers you'll hear are friends, games, food, horses and the zip line. Sounds like typical camp goodness. This faith component is just a part of the overall backdrop of Echo Ranch and all of our camps incorporate the Bible is some manner.

Whatever the number of kids that come to Echo Ranch this summer, they will hopefully have fun and have a few conversations about God. We want people to know that Echo Ranch is for everyone no matter what their faith background may be and we do our best to be sensitive to each individual's ideas.

Last fall we began work on a new 18-hole mini golf course toward the back of the sports field. Churches can help sponsor a hole and give visitors to Echo Ranch options on places to attend service. Construction is slated to continue this summer and it won't be long before the course is completed. There are still holes that need sponsoring and concrete that needs pouring.

Contact us if you have any questions about sponsorship or would like to help in the building process. Another project that was started within the last few years is weekly highlight videos of each camp. If everything works out, campers will be able to take home a highlight DVD for the very first time this summer.

Close to 30 college-age volunteers will be joining our staff this summer from around the country. They have given up the opportunity to make money in order to work at Echo Ranch. A majority of them come from the Midwest where most people think they're crazy for heading to Alaska. I've resisted in telling them about the nice whether we've been having. I don't want to get their hopes up. As far they know there are mountains in Juneau and it rains a lot. The first week in June is counselor orientation and we'll do our best to prepare them to work with the youth of Southeast.

This is my eighth summer serving at Echo Ranch Bible Camp, and it still amazes me that I am here. I have seen hundreds of kids walk around Echo Cove who have been waiting all winter long to experience this place again. If you have youth living in your home, please consider Echo Ranch as an option for them this summer. Our Web site is taking in registrations daily and we'd be happy to answer any questions you might have. Visit www.echoranch.org for more information.

• Jon-Michael Gwinnell is a staff member at Echo Ranch Bible Camp. He can be reached at jonmichael@discoverechoranch.com.



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