Betsy Schuessler invites you to participate in Manna in the Wilderness
August 20, 2020 / By Betsy Schuessler, UNYCRM Executive Assistant
Editor’s Note: Many people in the Upper New York (UNY) Conference may know Betsy Schuessler as the Executive Assistant for Camp & Retreat Ministries (CRM). She has actually been connected to the UNY CRM since she was only 3 years old. Below Betsy shares what camp has meant to her and why she feels the Manna in the Wilderness campaign is so important.
Our family moved to Gouverneur when I was 3, got involved at the United Methodist Church there and the summer of 1985, we were invited to Family Life Weekend at Aldersgate. Our family has friends of 35 years because of that one invitation and our returning each year. Because of that one invitation, I started going to camp on my own, when I was old enough, and I still have the stuffed animal squirrel that I was given to help keep homesickness at bay.
I remember singing at the campfire. I remember the summer a friend whom I had invited packed her bags early and sat in the parking lot because she was “going home” and I got to sit with her and a counselor and talk about the fun and learning and adventure and exploring we would have that week, and then helped her move back into our cabin.
I remember star gazing and learning some of the constellations and seeing shooting stars for the first time. I remember swimming in the lake and lifeguards helping me to better my strokes. I remember counselors and staff taking the time to listen because they really cared about me. I remember small group Bible study times, looking at Scripture in new and different ways, spending time in prayer with my cabin group, and making new friends.
I remember hikes in the wilderness area singing at the top of our lungs to scare away any bears or bobcats (who might not have even been there). I remember the summer I was the narrator for the musical camp and lost my voice. I remember my first summer on staff as a lifeguard. I remember counseling Splash or Swim camp with my sister and her friends as campers. I remember learning to drive the 15-passenger van AND how to hitch the canoe trailer to the van and drive that, too! I remember canoe trips in the Adirondacks and the Rideau Canal in Canada.
I remember watching campers “get it” when they realized they could float on their back, or understood that God really does love them and accept the invitation to say “yes” to Jesus, or learned that they *could* shoot a bow and arrow … when they first led grace in the dining hall, or read their Bible out loud for the first time in Bible study. It’s great to watch the campers grow in how comfortable they are on site and with their cabin-mates, grow in their faith and understanding of God through worship, exploring Creation, Bible study, and watch many of those kiddos grow up over the years (which is awesome, too)! And some of those campers become staff (like me) and we get to see them accept the invitation to serve the Lord and pour into the next generation of campers – passing on the knowledge, excitement, understanding, and care that they once received.
But one of the things that I treasure from all those things is the community – the people. There weren’t all that many Christian kids in my public school and there were a handful of kids my age at church, but at camp I learned that there were LOTS of kids my age who loved Jesus, too. And many of those acquaintances became friends.
We arranged our schedules so we came to camp at the same time and got to spend a week together and by Friday, didn’t want to leave. And some of those folks that I met at camp (who were staff and campers with me) have been my friends for 20-30 years. I can still call them or send a message on Facebook and we can catch up like no time had lapsed. They encourage me, support me, comfort me, and remind me of God’s love for me. Some of those folks walked with me when my best college friend died of cancer, have prayed me through difficult times, and have cheered me on when I set off on new adventures. They are “my people”, “my village,” “my family.”
I’m guessing that as you read through my story, you may have thought of some of those people, situations, places in your life. Aldersgate is “my place”. It’s where I feel most “at home.” Aldersgate, Asbury, Casowasco, Sky Lake, and Skye Farm are “those places” and are “home” for many campers, staff, and families and have been for over 70 years. Places where they met Jesus, met a future spouse, met and overcame challenges, and now share with their family, children, grand-children, or great grand-children.
I’d like to invite you to be a part of helping our five “homes” to be there next summer for campers, staff, and families. As I’m sure you know, the cancellations of retreat groups, summer camp, and events since March have hit our budget hard and we are looking at quite a loss this year without the financial support of individuals like yourself.
Thank you to those of you who are regular donors to CRM or have given to support one of our sites recently!! Your support has helped campers attend who otherwise would not have been able to be invited into the family at our sites and has helped to provide Christian hospitality to all those who visit our site.
If you are able, we invite you to click here to make a special gift to the Manna in the Wilderness Campaign. When the ancient Hebrew people fled from Egypt, they were faced with a real need for daily sustenance in the desert. The manna sent from God was intended to be used right away and helped them survive until they could thrive once again. Today, you have an opportunity to provide manna of sorts for your beloved camp and retreat ministry. We are trusting God to use people we know to be a part of sustaining this ministry – and maybe one of those people is you. You are invited.