No two summers are created equal

Posted: Sunday, August 23, 2009

On Aug. 13, a cold autumn wind came rushing through Echo Ranch announcing that summer was officially over. It was the last day of camp and it ended just as quickly as the season began.

The unofficial slogan for this past summer is, "Did that just happen?" Even as the last camper left Echo Cove and the summer staff boarded their flights home, we wonder where the time went. It has been an interesting year to say the least.

Last fall, our program director Bill Diggins announced he was offered a pastoral position at a church in Haines and would not be returning for another season. Then earlier this year, our mechanic Dwight Grismore and his wife, Letty, who ran the camp store, moved to the Netherlands to work with military families and youth.

After serving with someone so closely each summer watching them leave takes some adjustment. God is faithful and he provided Adam Anderson to take over some of Bill's responsibilities. Adam's wife, Nadja, ran the camp store and throughout the summer skilled mechanics helped to continue the work that Dwight had started.

In 2008, about 944 campers attended Echo Ranch; it was our biggest summer in 10 years. This year saw a drop in numbers as we finished with 758 registrations. Why the decline? No one is quite sure. We have often sat around and tried to speculate but more importantly we are thankful for the kids who did make it to camp this summer. Again, God is faithful, as over the past few months a number of our counselors had to go home early and we were stretched thin when it came to staffing. For the last camp we had exactly eight counselors which was the right amount for the number of kids who showed up. This is interesting considering we started with more than 20 counselors.

Did we have fun this summer? You better believe it! When the sun was blazing we set up a giant slip'n slide on the sports field to help cool kids down. The junior high and senior high campers played mission impossible in the stillness of night, trying to get their cabin to various locations without getting caught.

We played games involving the castle. There was an all-out food fight in the dining hall during the first junior high camp (secretly planned by us).

At the third junior high camp, we set up the slip'n slide on the beach headed straight for the ocean. Probably one of the coolest things we put together all summer. At free time, the kids enjoyed ice cream from the camp store and time at the beach. The chapel was rockin' with loud music and kids jumping all over the place. The 10- to 11-year-olds enjoyed the sky trolley and trail rides. With three camps for the 7- to 9-year-olds, the cotton candy was spinning, and the carnival never really stopped.

As if summer camp wasn't enough, in the spring we hosted the MEGA Rally at Centennial Hall which had around 170 kids show up. Thomas Moran coached an amazing soccer camp (ask a kid who was there to show you the DVD). Rick Shaner did an awesome job with basketball camp in June.

Horse camp went on throughout the summer, and the wilderness program enjoyed the sunshine which made it easier to play in the great outdoors. We sent home hundreds of highlight DVDs giving kids a look back at their week. There were baby horses born in the early summer. The mini-golf course is now playable and is slated to be fully completed by next summer. The girl's bathhouse got a new roof as remodeling begins on it.

The Echo Ranch Web site has a new look and planning for next summer is in its early stages. Hundreds of kids heard about God's love for them and were encouraged by the message of the gospel.

Echo Ranch was used as a placed to go crazy and get recharged for the year ahead. Call it a whirlwind, call it a roller coaster but when all is said and done the phrase still stands, "Did that just happen?" Yes, yes it did.

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

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