Pioneers and Legacy

In 1958, a group of at least eight men explored the piece of property east of Hinckley that would eventually become Camp Nathanael. On Tuesday, I attended the funeral of one of those men. He was 92. Back in January I attended the funeral of another one. He was 88. Back in 2011, one more. I know for sure that at least two of the others have also passed away, and I found obituaries online that appear to be for yet two more. I wonder if those guys would get together in heaven and stomp around in some remote areas looking for another place to build a camp. It wouldn’t surprise me. They were men with a vision and a plan.

I don’t know if any of them ever thought about the idea of creating a legacy. I suspect not. I think those who create lasting legacies think less about how the future will remember them and more about faithfully pressing ahead to take hold of that for which God took hold of them.

But I’m so grateful for those men. The thing they built shaped my life and thousands of others. Those men are gone but their legacy is not. We always grieve the passing of men like these, but we need not be concerned about the lasting impact of their investment. I’m confident of this because we’ve stayed true to our mission. From Camp Nathanael’s earliest years there has been a commitment to raising up young men to be Christ-following leaders. More than 500 high school guys have studied and practiced Christian leadership at Nathanael. That’s a legacy.

 All six of our 2016 program staff leaders (Ben Aurich, Andrew Banker, Wesley Butler, Kelson Oram, Garrett Orlow and Sawyer Clement) are products of Camp Nathanael’s commitment to leadership development. They served competently and sacrificially. Twenty-five noncoms served this summer, sacrificing the opportunity to sleep in, get a summer job, and hang out with friends. Instead, they were role models and leaders for hundreds of boys, building legacies.

 We’re proud of our first three Legacy Noncoms. Kyle Berndt, David Carlson and Jonah Figueiredo. Last fall they committed to pursuing a program through the school year that would require them to meet regularly with a mentor, study a book on Christian leadership, lead a Bible study, mentor a younger guy, memorize a significant passage of Scripture, complete a project that contributes to the ministry at Nathanael, participate in at least one promotional event, lead a training session for their fellow noncoms, and more. We presented their Legacy Noncom rank at an evening campfire during the summer. Currently, we have four additional guys pursuing the Legacy Noncom rank.

 May God continue to richly bless this ministry of raising up Christ-like leaders.

Distinctively Nathanael

One of the nice things about living in this area is the wide variety of Christian camps available. Christian Camp and Conference Association lists 27 member camps in Minnesota, and 80 camps within a four-hour drive of Minneapolis. It’s a wonderful thing that there are so many great ministries ready to make a positive impact on the lives of children, youth and families.

The challenge can be deciding which camp is best for you or your children. You wouldn’t go wrong attending any of these camps. They’re each special and distinctive in their own ways, as their fans and loyal campers would be happy to tell you. However, not every camp is best for every camper. It makes sense to consider the things that make a camp stand out from others. Consider what makes each camp distinctive.

Camp Nathanael is distinctive because:

  • Nathanael is exclusively for boys and young men. Our mission is to raise up young men to be Christ-following leaders for his kingdom. The world needs godly men. We believe this happens best in an environment where we can minister exclusively to guys.
  • Nathanael is a camp that active boys love. Our programming and daily schedule are great for boys who love to be active, play hard, learn new skills, explore and spend time outdoors.
  • Nathanael offers some amazing and very popular Father-Son camps. These half-week sessions give dads a chance to spend high quality time with their sons doing things men and boys love to do.
  • Nathanael provides adventures for guys. Our wilderness trips (whitewater canoeing, climbing and rappelling, trail biking, BWCA trips) are great for young men who want to take their camp experience to the next level. But even our residential camps are full of adventures.
  • Nathanael’s skill classes offer the chance to learn or hone skills in a variety of areas including shooting sports (archery, riflery, shotguns), woodworking, trail biking, climbing and rappelling, model rocketry, outdoor survival and more.
  • Nathanael trains and equips young men to lead and serve. This has been Nathanael’s core mission from the beginning. Each summer more than two dozen high school aged guys (we call them noncoms) spend the summer with us. Following a rigorous application process they spend two weeks in training and then serve in a variety of ways through the summer. They lead cabins, teach skill classes and Bible studies, lifeguard and serve on grounds and kitchen crews. They are trained, coached, mentored and evaluated throughout the summer. Most spend three summers with us and are given increasing levels of responsibility and leadership.
  • Nathanael continues to mentor and encourage selected noncoms even through the school year. Those who choose pursue our Legacy Noncom program will meet with a mentor throughout the year and will fulfill a variety of requirements, including mentoring a younger guy, completing a study on leadership, memorizing Scripture, completing a project to benefit the ministry of Nathanael, participating in a weekend retreat and more.

After many years of Christian service in various places, I have never believed more strongly in the value, importance and impact of a ministry than I do in Nathanael. Thousands of men look back on their Nathanael experience and remember it as life-shaping. Hundreds more, including myself, agree that Nathanael equipped them for a life of of Christ-focussed leadership and service.

Mark Watkins
Executive Director

 

The Importance of Places

Through the years I’ve come to appreciate the importance of places. God often uses the places we encounter to shape and set the course of our lives. Consider these examples.

ABRAHAM

There is a mountain in the region of Moriah. God told Abraham to take his son Isaac there and sacrifice him as a burnt offering. Abraham obeyed. He prepared the altar and raised the knife before God stopped him. God provided a substitutionary sacrifice. Clearly this was a terrible experience for Abraham (and Isaac!) but he passed the test. And he learned important things about God. God keeps his promises and he provides.

Think about what that mountain meant to Abraham forever after that. I’m sure whenever he thought of Moriah, or came back to that place, he remembered what God did there, what God taught him there, how God used that place to change the course of his life.

JACOB

About 10 miles north of Moriah is a placed called Bethel. Jacob named it that. Jacob was on the run because he decided it would be better not to hang around his brother Esau. One night on his journey he laid down to sleep, with a rock for a pillow. He had a dream about a staircase and angels. And God made amazing promises to Jacob, about his descendants, the land they would possess, and God said, “I will be with you and watch over you wherever you go.” Jacob made a commitment: “The Lord will be my God.” And he named the place Bethel.

Twenty five miles northwest of Bethel is the Jabbok River. It flows west into the Jordan. Many years later Jacob was on his way back to reconnect with Esau. Now he had a large family and many possessions. They needed to cross the Jabbok so Jacob sent everyone on ahead, and was alone on one side of the river. He wrestled with God. God changed his name to Israel. Jacob named the place Peniel and he said, “I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

Think about what those places meant to Jacob forever after that. I’m sure whenever he thought of Bethel or that crossing of the Jabbok he remembered what God did there, what God taught him there, how God used that place to change the course of his life.

JOSEPH

If you go 15 miles straight west of Peniel, back across the Jordan River, you come to Shechem. Joseph’s father sent him there to check on his brothers. After the sheaves and stars-bowing-down dreams, and the special treatment from their father, the brothers aren’t fond of Joseph. They plot to kill him but instead toss him into a dry well. When a band of slave traders comes by. They sell him.

Think about what Shechem meant to Joseph forever after that. I’m sure whenever he thought of that place, or came near to that place, he remembered what God did there. They weren’t happy memories but Joseph recognized that God used that place to set the course of his life, so God could use him to save the lives of his family members, to preserve Israel, and ultimately to provide for our salvation because our Savior would come out of Israel.

MOSES

Head quite a ways south from Shechem and you come to Mt. Horeb. Moses was tending sheep there and came across a bush that was on fire but not being consumed. God spoke to Moses from that bush. They had a discussion about what God wanted Moses to do: go and fetch the nation of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. Moses had some thoughts about how he didn’t think that was a good idea and that he wasn’t the right guy for the job. In the end, Moses obeyed. God used Moses to bring about the release of Israel.

Think about what that place meant to Moses forever after that. I’m sure whenever he thought of that mountain, or came back to that place, he remembered what God did there, what God taught him there, how God used that place to change the course of his life.

GIDEON

Remember Shechem where Joseph was sold as a slave? And Bethel where Jacob had his dream? If you go a little south of Shechem and a little east of Bethel there was an area known as Ophrah. There was an oak tree there.

Gideon was near that tree threshing grain in a winepress. Israel was doing strange things like that out of fear of the Midianites. One of God’s angel warriors sat down under the oak and said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” Gideon wasn’t convinced and told him so. After a brief discussion and a quickly consumed offering of bread, meat and broth the angel was gone, leaving Gideon standing next to a charred rock. Gideon went on to be used by God to defeat the massive forceslined up against Israel.

Think about what that place near the oak tree meant to Gideon forever after that. Whenever he thought of that place, or came back to that place, he remembered what God did there, what God taught him there, how God used that place to change the course of his life.

RUTH

Head south from Ophrah about 30 miles. In a field outside of Bethlehem, Ruth meets Boaz. He is very kind to her, allowing her to glean in his fields. One evening at the threshing floor, Boaz had his dinner and laid down for the night. During the night Ruth uncovered his feet (wink, wink). Ruth and Boaz are married and have a son who they name Obed. Obed becomes the father of Jesse. Jesse becomes the father of David. Jesus, our Savior, comes from the line of David.

Think about what that threshing floor meant to Ruth forever after that. I’m sure whenever she thought of that place, or came back to that place, she remembered what God did there, what God taught her there, how God used that place to change the course of her life.

One significant thing all of these accounts have in common is that God used places, a hill, a river crossing, a dry well, a bush, an oak tree, a threshing floor as places to change these people and set the course for their lives.

God can speak to you anywhere. And he wants to. How does God use places in your life?  My challenge for you is to watch for that and pay attention. Maybe you can already look back at say, “That is a place God used to speak to me or challenge me or encourage me.” As you move through your life there will be more places like that. We should never worship those places but they become markers for us, reminders of how God has guided and directed our lives.

MY PLACES

There is a room in the lower level of a church in Brooklyn Center where God called me, as a kid, to full time Christian service. I think if I walked into that room now, the ample hair on my arms would stand up.  There is a Field House at the old campus of Bethel University near the State Fair Grounds where, at the age of about 12, God used the message of a well-known speaker to challenge me to get serious about following him. Another place is the BWCA where I’ve paddled and hiked over a thousand miles. God revealed himself to me there over and over.

And finally, there is Camp Nathanael. God used that place to set the course of my life, starting when I was 10 years old and continuing through college. 

I want Camp Nathanael to be one of the places God uses in the lives of thousands of boys and young men, to challenge them to walk closely with him, to become like Jesus, to become godly men, and to become Christ-following leaders for His kingdom.

A Trail of Evidence

Our theme verse for 2015 was Acts 4.13: When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 

Peter stood and spoke. The result? These powerful Jewish leaders were astonished. They saw Peter and John’s courage. And they knew this depth of conviction and character didn’t come from a privileged background or advanced education. They attributed the quality they saw in Peter and John’s lives to the fact that they had been with Jesus.

The incident that started this ordeal for Peter and John was that they had healed a man. They were careful to give the credit to Jesus Christ, of course. The Jewish leaders could not deny the evidence. The man was healed. The question we considered at the start of our summer season was what would be the evidence resulting from our ministry this summer? Every day during camp, in every role, we make choices. We leave a trail of evidence.  Our challenge is to be sure the evidence shows that we “have been with Jesus.”

The evidence from our summer of ministry is clear. Boys found Jesus. Boys watched noncoms demonstrate what it means to live a life sold out for Jesus Christ. Night after night following campfire there were quiet conversations in every corner of the dining hall. Those were spiritual conversations where campers asked questions and our leaders responded with God-directed wisdom.

Our theme verse says that folks took note that Peter and John had been with Jesus. The question we asked on the first night of training back in June was, “How can you be sure people know that you’ve been with Jesus?” The answer is…be with Jesus. People will know.

 

They Were Astonished

“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” Acts 4.13

We’ve just concluded another summer of adventure and growth for hundreds of boys and young men, as well as dozens of dads and sons. We were blessed with a very positive spirit in camp this summer. Campers were fully engaged with learning new skills, playing all-camp adventure games, doing activities with their cabin groups, and studying the life of Peter during our Bible Exploration times.

Our staff and noncoms displayed commitment and competence as they led the program and guided campers’ experiences. Our theme verse for the summer, quoted above, served as a direct challenge to noncoms and staff to make it clear through their life and words that they have been with Jesus. And it was clear.

One of the most exciting parts of the day is looking around the dining hall following evening campfire and seeing four or five campers sitting one-on-one with noncoms having significant spiritual conversations. That’s the culmination of the teaching and modeling that happens throughout each day.

Camp Nathanael offers a great Christ-centered adventure for boys. Our campers and parents appreciate our commitment to raising up young men to be Christ-following leaders for his kingdom. And a week at Nathanael is a great value, financially. So even though attendance this summer was down about seven percent compared to 2014, we’re optimistic about Camp Nathanael’s future and the potential for growth.

Our best advertising is word of mouth referrals and recommendations. Since, as a friend of Nathanael you understand and appreciate this ministry we’d be grateful if you would tell the people in your sphere of influence about us. As always, we welcome your insights and feedback. And if the ministry at Nathanael has had an impact on your life or on the life of someone close to you, we’d love to hear about that, too.

Anticipation

People look forward to lots of different things, whether it’s Christmas or a birthday or a visit from family and friends. At Nathanael we’re anticipating many good things, too! Spring is our time of greatest anticipation. There is a long list of things we begin looking forward to when the days get a little longer and the sun a little warmer.

Camper registrations are arriving daily so we know there are already dozens of boys (and dads) who are anticipating a great week at camp. Hundreds more will sign up over the next few months. Soon more than 500 campers will be ready and waiting; that’s a lot of anticipation going on.

And we love getting camp ready for them! We spend hundreds of hours each spring “waking camp up” from it’s winter slumber. This year we’re sprucing up the dining hall with all new windows, and new doors on the east end. The dining hall will also get a new roof, and we’re adding a porch roof along the south side of the building to provide some shade and shelter. Also new this summer is our 9-hole disc golf course. The course was finished just in time for MANCamp last September, so this will be its inaugural season.

Trail Biking Base Camp is the newest addition to our adventure trips. Following some orientation and instruction at camp, these campers will head out to some of Minnesota’s mountain biking areas, including Cuyuna Country State Recreation area. Guys entering grades nine and up are eligible.

We’re always on the edge of our seats wondering what this year’s noncom team will look like. We’re in the midst of recruiting our summer leadership team. We’re receiving applications from the high school guys who will serve as new and returning noncoms. What unique personalities and abilities will they bring, and how will those things contribute to Nathanael’s ministry this summer? They’re going to make a huge impact on hundreds of boys, so this recruiting process is vital.

We’re also assembling our program staff leadership team, including the positions of Assistant Director, Program Director, Resource Director, Waterfront Director, Maintenance Director and Quartermaster. In addition to their specific areas of responsibility this group trains, coaches and mentors the noncoms. So it’s important that they have a heart not only for camp in general, but specifically for the development of high school aged young men. As Director, I greatly look forward to sharing the leadership of camp with this group every summer.

We’d love for you get in on the anticipation and excitement. There are many ways you can connect with Nathanael and lend a hand. Spread the word about camp to your friends, come and help on a work day, pray often for Nathanael, or help provide the financial support we need to sustain this exciting and impactful ministry. We’re always happy to connect with you about the possibilities.

A Word to Our 2014 Leadership Team

Camp Nathanael’s mission is to raise up young men to be Christ-following leaders for his kingdom. Our noncoms are the focus of this mission, and our program staff members are the ones who carry it forward. Nathanael’s ministry to boys through our summer camps is the crucible in which this leadership laboratory functions. Surrounding all of this is a circle of administrative and support staff who provide the setting in which this mission takes place.

To find out how well this is working, each summer we survey families after their camper returns home. I want to share some of the amazing comments we received from parents this summer:

  • Our son loved Camp Nathanael and hasn't stopped talking about since we picked him up. He loved Chas and Nathan, he loved the activities, he enjoyed being away from home, he loved the Bible study times and nearly everything about camp.
     
  • What a wonderful gift to be able to experience Camp Nathanael together with my son, and with brothers-in-the-Lord and their boys. Such great shared memories and adventures. I was so glad for Jonah to "see" older boys/young men (noncoms, staff) who are serving God and having fun at it.
     
  • Camp Nathanael is such a positive experience for young boys! The growth each year in faith, self-reliance, self-awareness, the bonding with friends, and great memories make for a wonderful experience! The variety and types of activities offered are amazing. This is a chance for boys to unplug and be boys for a week. It is fabulous! The counselors are wonderful too. The staff is so easy to work with.
     
  • Our boys and their friends had an amazing time at camp this year. As always they come home stronger in their faith and exhausted. I love how much they love camp!
     
  • One son had an excellent time on the North Shore. And our son back at Battalion Camp enjoyed the games and noncoms that guided their group.
     
  • He hasn't stopped taking about it. He absolutely loved every aspect.
     
  • He loves it! The games, how rugged it is and how people are friendly there. That he can be himself and not worry about anything.
     
  • He absolutely loves the camp. VERY positive experience, the activities, the staff, everything is great
     
  • Our boys choose this camp over ever other camp option...every summer. They love it!
     
  • My Son had a great time. He talked about his cabin leader, and said he was awesome.
     
  • My boys LOVE camp Nathanael. They look forward to going each year and have made lasting friendships with boys who tend to go the same week they do.
     
  • My son loves coming up and the variety in what he can do during free time. The noncoms are fantastic and do a good job.
     
  • He cannot stop talking about it. It was a wonderful experience for him and he feels more confident and validated as a person.
     
  • He has gone for 2 years now. Wonderful experience both times. He has come back with tremendous enthusiasm for developing his walk with the Lord. Skipped playing video games last night to work on verse memorization. I was stunned and thrilled.
     
  • Made new friends. Liked the noncoms in his Navajo cabin. He is considering being a volunteer in the future.
     
  • This is one of the best experiences for my son. He comes home feeling so fantastic about himself.
     
  • He talked about his cabin leader, then songs, then all the activities he did. He talked for about a week non-stop.
     
  • My oldest wanted a New Testament from the store before we left and has been finding Bible verses he likes since. He also wanted a cross necklace which he has worn daily since we got back.
     
  • He talked a lot about the people, especially his counselor and the other staff.
     
  • Being part of the "Camp Community.” He loved being at camp with his brothers and I loved how the noncoms welcomed him
     
  • He talked about the awesome noncoms.
     
  • He liked sailing. His instructor was so encouraging to him.
     
  • Being at camp for Father/Son is amazing. As a dad I appreciated the opportunity to connect with my Son. The morning devotion time was great. I had prepared some topics to spend time on with him and it made it a really rich discussion. This year the noncoms were great as well. I loved how they supported us as dads, but still engaged with the kids by playing games, etc. It is encouraging to know that my son can be surrounded by guys he can look up to at camp.
     
  • I was thoroughly impressed with the character, heart and faithfulness of the staff and noncoms.
     
  • I have experience at YMCA camps, and other church sponsored camps, which were all good, but Camp Nathanael outshined them in the quality of staff and the atmosphere. I would encourage anyone to bring their son here.
     
  • The noncoms’ involvement was fantastic. The boys really respond well to them and they are a great example.This is a one of a kind, invaluable experience to help broaden the interests of boys on their way to manhood. Camp Nathanael knows a boy's "sweet-spots" and offers them opportunities to experience the things that draw out their inborn interests. And all of it is couched in developing a relationship with Christ.
     
  • My son came back so excited about camp after his first week away from home this week. He definitely plans to go back next year. His first evening home he was "camp sick" (opposite of homesick).
     
  • I can't speak highly enough of the camp and our 12 year old son's experience. He had so much fun and came back so enthused about growing in his walk with God. It is fantastic to see!
     
  • Camp Nathanael has been an awesome experience for my son. The boost to his self-esteem is immeasurable!
     
  • I was impressed with the leadership of the young men at Camp Nathanael. Their dedication to God and their work while having a great time together is a blessing for my son to experience.

By responding to God’s call on your life to be involved at Nathanael this year, you made all of this happen. When we ask people how they first heard about Camp Nathanael, by far the most common answer is that they heard about it from a friend. That “word of mouth” advertising is precious to us. But it only works if the camper has an amazing experience that he wants to tell others about. Because of you, all of these campers had an adventure that they will talk to their friends about. 

More importantly, the Lord did his work in the lives of these campers because they came to camp and because you were great leaders and role models. Thank you!

Mark Watkins
Executive Director

Ready to Follow, Ready to Lead: A Word to the 2013 Leadership Team

Among other things, Nathanael is about leadership. Our mission is to raise up young men to be Christ-following leaders for the Kingdom. Nathanael has been doing that for more than 50 years. Hundreds of men point to their Nathanael experience as the foundation of their life of leadership. Wherever they lead now, they look back at Nathanael as the laboratory where they learned and practiced leadership.

You are a leader. You can point to many influences in your life that have contributed to your growth. And now, with one or more seasons at camp under your belt, Nathanael has contributed to your growth, too, probably in a significant way. You have studied leadership. You’ve talked about leadership. You’ve practiced leadership. Dozens of campers, along with fellow noncoms and staff have observed your leadership and learned from it. You’re a leader and there’s no going back.

The flip side of leadership is following. We’re all required to be followers in some aspects of our lives. First, of course, we follow Christ. But we follow in other areas of our lives, too. No matter what your position is in ministry, work or life in general you will have leaders whose direction you are asked to follow. Now that you’ve tasted leadership you also know some new things about what makes a great follower.

I want to say three things about being a leader, and three things about being a follower.

About being a leader:

  1. Lead like Jesus. Jesus was a servant-leader. He has changed the lives of millions by being the ultimate servant. Be like that.
  2. Be a man worth following.  Commit yourself to living a life of Christ-like integrity. Do people speak well of you? Determine to be the kind of man people think you are
  3. Leadership is a gift. A spiritual one. God has given it to you to use for his purposes.

 

About being a follower:

  1. Follow Christ first.
  2. Be careful who else you follow. Be careful who you allow to influence your life and who you model yourself after. Choose your mentors wisely.
  3. Once you commit to following, be faithful.

ives were changed this summer. Dozens of them. Your leadership made that happen. Thanks.

 

Mark Watkins

Executive Director

Celebrating a Heritage, Creating a Legacy

In 1958 Ed Nelson, Arnold Swanson and a handful of other men parked their vehicles on a gravel road, hiked through the tall grass and got their first glimpse of Lake Wilbur. I’m trying to imagine all the thoughts and dreams running through their minds as they walked that property for the first time. They checked the depth of the lake, considered where a dining hall and some cabins might be built, looked for appropriate places to play and swim. Those are the things that were running through their heads.

But in their hearts was something much more important than buildings and a swimming beach. In their hearts was a conviction that boys need Jesus and that boys need to know how to translate their walk with Jesus into a life that is sold out to living as a godly man. This would be a place dedicated to that. Buildings and lawn mowers and BB guns and bows and arrows were just tools to get a godly man next to a boy, so the man could illustrate with his life what it means to walk with Christ.

That’s Camp Nathanael’s heritage, firmly planted by dozens of men who invested financially, and gave their time, resources and boatloads of sweat-equity to envision and build this ministry.

So now thousands and thousands of boys have come through that gate eager for a fun week exploring and playing hard, and they’ve gone home changed. This summer a dad was dropping off his son for a week at camp. He said, “I’m so glad Camp Nathanael is concerned about more than helping children become adults. You’re about helping boys become men.”

There are dozens of outstanding Christian camps across Minnesota, and thousands across the country. A few are smaller than Nathanael, many are much larger. They’re all unique and special and worthy in their own way. But there is just one Camp Nathanael with an unwavering commitment to raising up boys and young men, showing them the way to Christ, and then teaching, training, and mentoring until they are strong and capable Christ-following leaders in their own rite.

This summer I watched twenty-four high school guys and six staff guys run a summer camp program with incredible competence and commitment. That’s what Nathanael does, unlike any place I know. It raises up strong and capable Christ-following leaders.

A few years ago a dream began to build in my heart about coming back to this place that was so significant in my life. Yeah, I was a little nostalgic about the whole thing but this wasn’t about nostalgia. I don’t work for Camp Nathanael because I’m so excited about red buildings or a small lake that really has no bottom (it just gets gradually thicker). In my heart is a conviction that boys need Jesus and that boys need to know how to translate their walk with Jesus into a life that is sold out to living as a godly man. And coming back to Nathanael I found a ministry that has not wavered from that original vision. I can hardly find the words to tell you how privileged I am to be part of this.

At our 50th anniversary celebration two weeks ago I spoke to the crowd of about 180 people and asked  those who accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior at Camp Nathanael to stand up. Then I asked those who made a significant spiritual decision at Nathanael including rededicating or committing themselves to living for Christ to join the first group. Finally, I asked those who point to Nathanael as a place that played a significant role in shaping their lives as man of God to stand. At that point perhaps three-fourths of the people in the room were on their feet. That was just a small sample of Camp Nathanael’s legacy. We could multiply that number many times over.

We don’t run a summer camp. We grow strong and capable Christ-following leaders. This world needs men like that. This is why Camp Nathanael is a very good place to invest. Camp Nathanael’s programs pay for themselves. But we have an annual budget of just over $100,000 that is covered entirely by contributions from friends of this ministry. We need your financial support to do this important work.

And the infrastructure of this ministry (grounds, buildings, board-level leadership) was built and is maintained almost entirely by volunteers. Camp Nathanael is a good place for you to give time. We’re preparing to build a new dining hall that will give us the modern facility we need to provide food serve for our staff and campers, and will help pave the way for three-season and perhaps year-round use of our facility. This is a good project for you to make a generous financial investment. I’m excited to ask this of you because this world needs strong and capable Christ-following leaders, and that’s what Nathanael produces.

Evaluation

In a few days we will be half-way through the summer season at Nathanael. Our noncoms are not just holding up, they’re getting better. They get better because they gain experience. They get better because they learn to trust the Lord for wisdom and strength. They get better because they are surrounded by great role models. They get better because they’re spending time in God’s Word. They get better because they are stretched and challenged. They get better because they’re meeting weekly with a staff mentor who is checking in, encouraging, providing accountability and praying with them. And they get better because of evaluations.

Every week each noncom receives an honest, straightforward evaluation from his supervisor for that week. These days, the forms are printed on goldenrod-colored paper. The forms cover seventeen items ranging from Affect on Morale to Punctuality to Physical Stamina. But the best part isn’t the form; it’s the conversation that takes place between the noncom and his evaluator. The goal is to make him better – a better leader, a better servant, a better disciple.

Digging through some old files here at camp we found some of my old noncom evaluation forms. They don’t reveal anything terribly profound, but they are significant to me because they represent what took place in my life here at Nathanael many years ago. My life as a Christian and as a leader was shaped and formed here by some godly men who invested themselves in me. The mission hasn’t changed. There are 24 noncoms on the team this year. Some of them, I pray all of them, are going to take what happens to them here and make a significant impact on Christ’s kingdom. I can hardly wait to watch it happen.