Thursday, 17 December 2015

Tis the season...

Christmas time has come to Shekinah. Many of us this time of year are contemplating the desire to look at Jesus’s earthly walk with new eyes for a fresh year ahead. For us at Shekinah, this season involves decorating with lights and wreaths to create an atmosphere of celebration of Jesus’s birth. We want to create that atmosphere for our big Christmas event: A Buncha Guys Christmas concerts. These concerts are the best excuse for a supporter of Shekinah such as yourself to find yourself within our walls during the Christmas season.

We love to see familiar faces and new ones coming through the Timber Lodge doors to experience with us the sights and sounds and smells and tastes of Christmas. It is an opportunity to come together with our camp family and make a human connection in the midst of this dark and frosty season. It is one of those times you can confidently drive down the steep and wintery hill in the dark and know with certainty that you will reach the top when you go to leave and you are not alone in that endeavour. It is a time to hear some great music that appeals to a wide swath of listeners that speaks to the heart and invigorates the soul. You can hear the 4-part male voices of A Buncha Guys and this year, we had the special treat of the unique blend only a family band could achieve from the Friesen family. Thanks to Chris, Louise, Silas, Simone, Godwin, Amos, Junia, and Caspian for providing us with joy from your singing and many instruments. You truly were a special guest.

Another bonus of coming to the Shekinah version of the Christmas concert (as opposed the Knox concert in Saskatoon, which is also very good and highly recommended) is that you get to enjoy a very fine selection of Christmas baking from the Timber Lodge kitchen and that in itself is reason enough to make the trip out. Take part in the fellowship time after the music has finished ringing through the beams of the Timber Lodge and stay as long as you like tasting the treats and enjoying the company of friends you haven’t seen for a while who share your same love for the setting and mission of Shekinah. Consider giving generously to support the work of Shekinah when you attend the concert where the beauty of Shekinah’s ministry and the joy and hope of Christ’s coming are manifest in the faces of those around you and the warm memories of what camp has done in our lives and the lives of those who need it. While this year’s concerts have come and gone, I hope to see you all when we do it again next year and wish you and your family a merry Christmas.

It's getting closer!
In other news, the toboggan run on Quill Hill is getting close to full snow coverage, one centimeter at a time it seems. It almost seems like temperatures might actually stay below zero now so the ice for skating and broomball should be ready to go soon but at the moment is not and although snowshoeing and skiing are not really in the cards right now, the upside is that hiking is still relatively easy because of the lack of snow and access to all of our hiking trails is good to very good. So get outside here or wherever you are and enjoy the beautiful outside weather which through the grace of God we are able to enjoy despite the somewhat ominous implication that winter may be fundamentally changing through a gradual shift in climatic norms to warmer temperatures for Saskatchewan.

So in conclusion, may your holidays be filled with the love of family and of God above who humbled himself 2015 years ago to be born in a manger and live among us so that we may come to know his desire for us, that we share his love with friend, enemy, and stranger so that we may fully embrace the love he has for us, which is unconditional, undeserved, and wider than our understanding. Merry Christmas.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Stories from Summer Camp 2015

Hello Hello!
I must first apologize for the tardiness of this post! I should have posted this end of season report sooner! Personally, adjusting to the new season has been busy and time consuming, preventing me from sitting down and writing. However, I still think it is not only important to write about summer, but also life-giving! And so, let’s reminisce about the previous season:
To put it simply, camp was awesome. And I mean that in the total sense of the word. I am still in awe with regard to how well camp ran, and how our staff worked, how each person loved each other and this place, and the goodness that God blessed us with. After giving my summer report to the board, they reminded me that there is truly something incredible about this statistic: no campers left camp early due to homesickness. It seems that I had forgotten why we don’t want kids to get homesick. It’s not because we don’t like dealing with homesickness, but rather because we (camp staff) want every camper to love Shekinah as much as we do. We want Shekinah to be a second home for campers the same way it is for us.

And so, our staff that worked towards this goal this year included 1 kitchen coordinator, 8 full time counsellors, 10 counsellors in training, and a great deal of support from volunteers. Allison Schmidt was our kitchen coordinator for the second year in a row, doing a tremendous job with the menu and kitchen organization. Our returning counselors were Meghan Wiens, Nora Pederson, Jenae Funk, and Matt Schellenberg. Or new counselors were Brita Pederson, Ryan Wiens, Dylan Longhurst, and Bandon Janzen. One interesting quirk about our counselors is their love for travel and service. 6 of our counselors have travelled to Guatemala either with Rosthern Junior College Alternative Learning Service Opportunity week or Canadian Mennonite University’s Outta Town program. Speaking of the Outta Town program, 2 of our male staff have been on the program previously, and the other 2 are now currently studying with the program. The 2 staff who did not spend time in Guatemala spent time learning and serving in Granada. The counselors used their experience with service to serve the campers, even sharing their stories during our Bible time. This summer’s curriculum was all about peace; peace with self, peace with others, world peace, and peace with creation. The counselors took on the responsibly of leading a full week of bible for our Sr. Teen camp. They used the curriculum as a basis, but relied on their personal experiences with peace. It was truly incredible to see the staff enjoy taking such a responsibly.
(Left to Right, Top Row: Dylan, Ryan, Matt, Brandon. Bottom Row: Nora, Brita, Meghan, Jenae)

We also had a superb group of 10 counsellors-in-training: Adelle Sawatzky, Dannica Funk, Hailey Funk, Jadyn Lennea, Kaitlin Kolbe, Jesse Neufeld, Zachary Stefanuik, Avery Leblanc, Marcus Kruger, and Conner Friesen. This group of high school students quickly bonded together and began to care for and encourage each other. The C.I.T’s loved spending their time at Shekinah, being a part of the family, and working with the campers. One great thing about our group of C.I.T’s this summer was that they all returned to be campers during our Sr. Teens week! Sr. Teen’s landed up being our fullest week this summer with 33 campers total. Our Jr. Teen’s weeks combined had 40 campers, and our Children’s weeks combined had 30 campers. Our total camper number ended up at 111, which is a little less than 2014. Of course, there is the long list of volunteers that made this summer possible, and better than ever. Volunteers can spend time with us, either in the kitchen, bible tent, or in spirit through our Camp Connections program. This program just finished it’s 2nd summer running, and has really begun to grow roots.

(Left to Right: Hailey, Adelle, Zachary, Marcus, Jesse, Avery, Connor, Jadyn, Kaitlin, Dannica)
Already, I’ve been talking with others and planning for Summer Camp 2016! I’m excited to begin putting these conversations into action, including searching for a new nature focused curriculum for our staff and campers. Yes, that does answer the age-old-question of whether I plan to return for summer 2016 J I’m very excited about continuing my leadership in the summer camp program. Since we’re still in the planning stages, unfortunately I can’t announce much else right now, but stay tuned in to our website, Facebook, and Instagram for updates throughout the year! Like always, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns regarding summer camp, feel free to contact me.
Take care for now,

Katie Wiebe
Summer Camp Program Director

Monday, 8 June 2015

Grand Camp 24 - 26 July 2015

I can’t remember the first time someone brought up the concept of Grand Camp to me. I do know that it was in the first few weeks after I had started and so we weren’t quite ready to do anything about it. Several weeks ago I was approached by some of the members of one of our local churches asking if there was something we could do. The main reason behind hosting a Grandparent – Grandchild camp is to create and environment whereby the next generation will have the opportunity to experience the presence and glory of God in a non-traditional setting. The weekend is designed to be fun and interactive for the grandparents and the kids while also allowing relationships to build and grow.

The concern that seems prevalent amongst many of the grandparents in our congregations is that their grandkids are exposed to so many different influences today, yet somehow they are not exposed to God’s love. There is a hole in our congregations. The congregation is aging and the youth are voting with their feet. Sunday School classes get smaller and the classes for the older kids get cut. Some Sunday school programmes are even asking the question of whether or not they should continue. If ever there was a need to expose our kids to the love of God it’s now, but the traditional recipe does not appear to be working.

This is certainly not the case in all congregations as some churches are thriving and growing. Is it a question of theology? I don’t think so. The church has grown and evolved over the last 2000 years and now it is time to think about what we are doing and how we are doing it. So what does this have to do with Shekinah and Grand Camp? Well this is an opportunity to look at things with new eyes. Do you want your kids in church but you don’t know how to get them there? Do you want them to want to go and get involved? What does a church filled with engaged and excited youth look like? These are some of the questions we want to explore this weekend amongst the grandparents. By no means is that the focus. The focus of this weekend is the grandkids. Let them have fun with each other, with their grandparents and in the presence of God. This is not a weekend to do church but rather a weekend to allow kids to come and have fun and get exposed to world they may be missing out on.

One thing to think about is what happens when we return to our congregations, to the routine? How do we follow this up? Well that remains to be seen, but if we want to achieve something and make a positive impact we need to take the first step.

Monday, 25 May 2015

School groups 101

Hi Folks,
As you may or may not know, this is the middle of a busy school group season at Shekinah. Teachers from all over are bringing their students for a day or two of retreat at Shekinah. These camping retreats are a great way to celebrate the impending end to the school year and get a taste of what summer will be like, spending time having fun outside. The school program at Shekinah has a number of angles for learning ranging from teamwork, leadership, confidence building, nature studies, camping skills, ecological appreciation, spiritual growth and all manner of different flavours that teachers bring to the table. Bringing a school group to Shekinah creates the opportunity for meaningful outdoor education. We hope to be an important resource for the teachers who come here.

On the flip side of the coin, school groups are very meaningful to Shekinah. We appreciate the life that the students bring to the camp. As the school program director at Shekinah, I have a specific appreciation of teachers who are dedicated to bringing their class here year after year. When I started this job, Kristy left me with a written sheet of advice. On it she noted that there are some teachers "who have been doing this for quite some time and have their trips down to an efficient art... it's a beautiful thing". These teachers are a joy to work with and make my life much easier in this job. One such teacher is Diane Beaule from Venture Heights Elementary School in Martensville. Within my first month of school programming in 2013, I saw her run a 2-day camp like a well-oiled machine. I noted she looked very practiced and comfortable in the role. At the time, we were rebuilding the chalet from the flood and Diane walked around the corner and was greeted by Carl Wiens who was working on the rebuilding project. The two talked like old friends and I realized then why Diane was able to get so much out of her time here. If she has been bringing her class since Carl was the director here, Diane and Shekinah go back a long time. Longer than any other teacher still bringing their class here today. This year was the last camp before Diane's retirement from Venture Heights and I got a chance to ask her about her time spent here at Shekinah. No-one has a perspective exactly like hers. Through the years, the school program has seen different activities come and go and different directors sit in my chair and fill this job. One thing I hope though is that long standing supporters of Shekinah realize how much we appreciate them. We appreciate Diane and her dedication to outdoor education. We appreciate parents who send their kids to camp every  year and invite their friends. We appreciate annual Timber Lodge retreats from church groups and quilters and scrap bookers. It is through you that Shekinah's vision is fulfilled.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Vounteer Bonanza!

Hi folks.
The last two weeks have been busy with spring cleaning and preparations for summer. We have had a few different volunteer groups go through to give us a hand and they have been greatly appreciated. It began with 3 eager students from the Ecoquest program from Saskatoon. They were here for 3 days and covered a bunch of jobs from raking gravel to cleaning windows to grounds cleanup. They came on a school placement and I think they had a great time getting outside of the classroom setting to do some hands-on learning. Their energy was certainly appreciated and if you make it to Shekinah in the next few months, you will benefit from the work they put in. 

The second group to make their way through was a volunteer chainsaw gang. They braved the snow to help cut firewood for the upcoming seasons and got a lot of work done! We worked through the bush along Coyote Fairway to pull out standing dead logs and buck them up for firewood. This is a big job every year for Shekinah and it was very rewarding to see those stacks of wood at the end of the day. And it was rewarding to see people with close ties to Shekinah back here helping out with this ongoing tiresome yet thankless job. 
One of the wood stacks from Saturday
The most recent volunteer group was part of the Rosthern Junior College Alternative Learning and Service Opportunities program. 12 students gave us two days of their time and energy. We got really muddy as we dragged the water bloc sections into submission and got them folded up onto pallets. Then we set to work on the massive task of dismantling the collapsed coverall building and moving its contents into our brand new pole shed. We got a ton of work done there as well and it is well on its way to being cleaned up.  These students were able to serve God with their hands and remembered what it feels like to get a sun burn even though they didn’t travel to warm southern destinations like some of their classmates. 
Every time we have volunteers come to Shekinah, I am absolutely blown away by the amount of work that can be accomplished in a short time. I am humbled by how slow it would take me to do the same jobs by myself or with just the Shekinah staff yet we finish the jobs in a few short hours with a volunteer crew. I hope these volunteers also got something out of spending their time here and I believe that the work we did was very rewarding. This certainly will not be our last volunteer days of the year so if you feel like this is something that appeals to you, stay in touch with us here at Shekinah and we can connect you with an opportunity to serve that suits your time and talents.

Hope to see you soon.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Spring Melt 2015: A damaged road and could today be the day the river goes?

For everyone in Saskatchewan you will know already how nice the weather has been. The snow seems to be disappearing at a rate we are happy with when we think back what everything looked like this time a year ago or even two years ago. After a couple really long winters we deserve to outside and enjoying the sun in March, after all it’s nice to remember that not every winter seems to stretch into April or even May.

The melt at Shekinah has historically brought some challenges. Well, challenges is probably an understatement if we are thinking back 23 months ago to the day when the waters rose to unmanageable levels and pianos floated and you probably know the rest. So how is melt 2015 going for Shekinah?

Through the month of March we have been watching and speculating as to how things would go. Certainly there have been a number of factors in our favour. There is certainly not the snow accumulation that we have seen in previous years and the warm temperatures have led to a slow melt. All this is good for us and it was a couple weeks ago now that we saw the river start to rise and the creek that runs down into the river start to flow. The river has come up about 5ft from its winter levels and this recent stretch has not seen any significant rises in water levels even though the creek is now becoming more of a raging torrent.

And then unexpected happened! It is after all Shekinah right? On Friday afternoon we walked outside to find a raging torrent in an unexpected location. Coming down our road! With deep channels already carved out by the water we went looking for the plugged culvert or the spring that had popped up, but that’s not what we found.

What we found was water draining out of the field at the top of the hill and flowing “downstream” along the road. After some assessing we knew we needed to do something, but the question was what exactly? We decided to build a dam and divert the water to the other side of the road and hopefully create a new path down the side of the hill rather than our road.

The road was already a mess but we could potentially mitigate the situation. So we put down gravel only to see the torrent sweep it along in its path. Eventually we scraped up some mud and dirt off the road and put it in place. This worked. We were able to divert the water and we got lucky. We would like to claim that it was deliberate, but it wasn’t because the water we diverted flowed perfect to a culvert and so we did have to get it across the other “up” road.

Down by the office the water was pooling on the sidewalk and threating to breach the threshold. While we had diverted the bulk of the flow it was still gathering momentum further down the hill as water was running down the side off the valley to collect with whatever was managing to seep through our dam wall.

The following video shows us building the second dam on the down road to drain the water towards a culvert. This time we knew what we were aiming for.

We were reminded (not that anyone at Shekinah can forget) of the power of water and the damage that it can do in a very short period of time. As that memory gets entrenched in the banks we began monitoring the river for the duration of the weekend. The question looming, when will the ice go and what will it mean for us?

This Monday 30 March 2015 we are wondering if today will be the day. With big pools of water on the ice and the channel Reddekop island completely open the signs are there. The water did not rise overnight, but there were lots of really loud cracks that were heard coming from the river yesterday afternoon. Today could be the day and if it goes we hope and pray that the river ice is rotten enough that it simply breaks down easily and ice jams will not be a factor. But with Mother Nature you just never know what the next surprise will be… Watch this space.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Field trip - what I learned

Hi Folks.

Last week, Nick and I (Curtis) had the opportunity to spend some time at the CCI Canada-SK conference held at Redberry Bible Camp. There are two main ideas that have stuck with me since leaving there. The first was an answer to a question of how we measure success at our camps. One participant made the point that we have to compare goals back to our mission statement. At Shekinah that mission statement says “Shekinah is to be a place where all who come have the opportunity to experience the glory and presence of God”. The second concept I am stuck on is the idea that everyone who comes to your camp should feel blessed. This includes campers, parents, staff, plumbers, delivery people, and of course, volunteers!

It is no secret that Shekinah, like every camp, depends heavily on volunteer help and it is our hope that every volunteer who comes here not only feels blessed but has “the opportunity to experience the glory and presence of God”. In fact, I believe it is true that volunteers are in the best position of anyone to experience God’s presence here at Shekinah. As a volunteer, you get the chance to make a contribution of your time and talents to the building of God’s kingdom. Shekinah is hardly the only place where service to others is part of kingdom work and the benefits of volunteering anywhere are numerous and live-giving. Serving others helps to provide a perspective on our role in the world; it fosters humility. It gives a feeling of making a difference. It demonstrates the love of Jesus we want to share with the world. Paul Bailey, the speaker at the conference we attended, noted that people who volunteer have a longer life expectancy and report being generally happier with life.

Serving as a volunteer at Shekinah can take many forms. You could help in the kitchen during camp, pitch in with spring cleaning, help us tackle the ongoing task of cutting up firewood, donate time and talents to future building projects, help out with fundraising or recruiting efforts, or spend a week at camp as a CIT (if you are between grade 10 and 12). You might even get the chance to try something for the first time or develop a new skill, friendship, or attitude. There are loads of ways to get involved and I encourage everyone to consider if serving as a volunteer at Shekinah is something for you this year. Come, spend some time with us, and experience the glory and presence of God.