Sunday, May 31, 2009

Where the Streets Have No Name

Week 1:  May 31-June 6

Well, here I am at Echo Ranch Bible Camp. I arrived in Juneau, Alaska around 9:30pm (local time) last night after 12 total hours of travel time. They have a really tiny but neat airport, including stuffed grizzly and black bears on display. After picking up my baggage, my counselor-picker-upper person and I made the 30ish mile drive down one of the few roads in Juneau. I couldn't believe how much green they have here. If there aren't buildings, there are only forest, mountains, and ocean. It's incredible. I didn't even want to talk during the drive because I just wanted to look around. It seems like the trees never run out up here. We had the thickest forest you could imagine on the right and the ocean and mountains on the left. I also saw my first glacier ever, which I guess we'll get to explore more when we go into "the magical land called town" on July 4th.

After driving 30 miles, we reached the ramp that led to the water, where I was picked up by a skiff to take me the remaining 2 miles to Auke Bay. It was pretty chilly by then, probably in the 40s. Once I got to the camp, I took all my bags (I narrowed it down to 2 suitcases--one of them was 62 pounds--a duffel bag, and a backpack) down to the dorm and met my fellow female counselors. They are all sweethearts, and I'm really looking forward to getting to know all of them better over the course of the summer. After dropping my bags and unpacking a little, I headed outside to "see Alaska" (as a couple of the girls put it), but it was already a little too dark by then (around 11pm), so I came back inside to chat and unpack some more.

The camp is literally situated in a forest. The beach is probably 150 yards or so from the dorm/dining hall, where we live when we aren't in the cabins with the campers. If you stand facing the bay, you can clearly see the mountains in front you, as if they just sprout out of the ocean. Behind you is the forest, which encompasses the dorm, cabins, bathhouses, barn, and various other buildings of the camp. The horses are herd horses, so they just wander around at night and are wrangled up again in the morning to be used for the horsemanship classes or riding. There's poop everywhere, so you have to make sure to avoid it when you're walking from place to place. I don't know my way around here at all since I missed the official camp tour yesterday, but I figure it shouldn't take too long.

Today was my first official day of counselor orientation. After getting a whopping 4 hours of sleep last night, I spent breakfast talking to several other counselors and trying to remember everyone's name. There are about 11 other girls and about 5 or 6 guys (I think). The rest of the day included chapel (Olivet wasn't enough - just kidding), counselor devotions, a talk on what being a counselor was all about, and puppet practice! I'm going to be part of the puppeteers, which is a lot more fun than I thought it would be. Our puppets will be singing and dancing to a bunch of kid Christian-reworded songs like the Gilligan's Island theme song, "I Love Rock and Roll", "Sk8er Boi", and others. Then we came back and had calzones and crab for dinner. Tomorrow we're taking an all-day hike to Camper's Cove and sleeping in tents. Good times.

Again, there is zero cell phone service up here. The counselors are allowed to be on the Internet 6-9pm on weekdays and most of the day on the weekends, except from weeks that we are with the kids. (When we aren't assigned to be counselors for the campers, we will be on the work staff--cleaning and all the rest of the grunt work).

I'm feeling pretty overwhelmed by the newness of everything, but I'm hoping this will start to feel familiar pretty soon. It's amazing being in the middle of God's creation. I can see him both in nature and in the other counselors and staff workers who are here. Every person at this camp clearly loves Jesus, and it's so awesome hearing them express that love so candidly. God is definitely going to mold me through the examples of these people and through the campers themselves. I know I have a lot to learn, and I can't even imagine how much of a struggle it will inevitably be, but I eagerly anticipate the challenge.

Thank you all so much for your prayers. I will update as often as I can.

The Fly

I wrote this on the plane on the way up here yesterday...

So after my iTunes-imported movie Into the Wild cut out after 1 hour and 17 minutes, I thought the best way to further kill time was to write some more! I’m currently en route to Seattle, WA from Chicago. We took off around 3:30pm CST, so it is anywhere between 5:35 and 3:35pm now. According to the handy dandy map in the back of the Alaska Airlines magazine, this flight goes through Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Canada (Manitoba, Katchewan, Alberta, British Columbia), and then Washington. I haven’t been to any of these places other than IL and WI, so this is exciting to me.

Air travel—and layover travel, for that matter—has been interesting so far. It’s been quite a workout lugging my duffel full of anvils around various airports. I gave up carrying it on my shoulder after awhile and decided to drag it on the ground. On my flight from OKC to Chicago, I found a note on a napkin in my seat from a somewhat secret admirer (it had his name but no way for me to identify him) after I got back from the “lavatory”. On this flight, I got the outstanding privilege of sitting behind two screaming toddlers and beside a mom and her 11-month-old son (who was, thankfully, significantly quieter). Good times.

My dad got to come home from his business trip last night instead of after I left today, so it was really great to have the whole family together right before I had to take off. It was still hard, though. I was already crying when I hit the middle of airport security. I will really miss them, but I look forward to keeping in touch via snail mail. This is how a technology-spoiled college student can work on her penmanship skills. I’m going to have to draw the line at cursive, though.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

One Step Closer

So I'm less than 12 hours away from the great departure, and all I'm thinking is that I wish I could pack like a normal person. I know I'm bringing way too much stuff, but I just can't help myself - just in case I happen to need every single extra thing in my suitcase.

This is going to be an epic summer. God is going to do great things. I have no idea what else will happen, but I'm doing my best to just hand it over and have no further expectations. All I can be sure of is that He will do what He will do and that I don't want to miss out on the ride.

Please keep us in your prayers as this journey begins. I love you all.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

In a Little While

For those who have already seen my Echo Ranch page, I thought it would be good to post something a little different.

Seven days out, and I am scared to death.  Alright, maybe not quite to that extent, but saying that this will be a completely new experience for me would be an understatement.  I fully expect to be challenged, humbled, and frustrated.  More than anything, I fear that I will be ineffective as a counselor and example to these kids.  Despite my doubts, however, I know that I will also be filled with joy, rewarded, and awe-filled.  God has called me up there for a reason.  I look forward to seeing His plan unfold, however unsearchable His ways are.

I read something in Isaiah 51 that I found very encouraging.

12 "I, even I, am he who comforts you. 
       Who are you that you fear mortal men, 
       the sons of men, who are but grass,

 13 that you forget the LORD your Maker, 
       who stretched out the heavens 
       and laid the foundations of the earth, 
       that you live in constant terror every day 
       because of the wrath of the oppressor, 
       who is bent on destruction? 
       For where is the wrath of the oppressor?

 14 The cowering prisoners will soon be set free; 
       they will not die in their dungeon, 
       nor will they lack bread.

 15 For I am the LORD your God, 
       who churns up the sea so that its waves roar— 
       the LORD Almighty is his name.

 16 I have put my words in your mouth 
       and covered you with the shadow of my hand— 
       I who set the heavens in place, 
       who laid the foundations of the earth, 
       and who say to Zion, 'You are my people.' "

If the Lord lays it on your heart, please pray--among other things--that... 
  • I will allow the Lord to use me however He sees fit.  It will require a great deal of patience, humility, and perseverance.  You can never know how much of those qualities you have until they are tested.  
  • the hearts of the other counselors and camp staff will be open to instruction and full of love and effective teaching for the campers
  • the campers will also come with open hearts that will be receptive to God and His love for them
Thank you for the love and support so many of you have already shown.  I really appreciate it.  This is going to be an amazing experience, and I can't wait to share it with all of you.

I've been asked a lot of questions about camp, so I'll try to list the FAQ here.

What kind of access will you have to the outside world?
I will not have cell phone service, so I'll get to go through a nice detox from text messaging.  I will have Internet access (obviously), but I won't get to heavy bandwidth-hogging things like uploading pictures or videos.  Those will have to wait until I get back home in August.

When are you leaving/returning?
For all who are interested in the nitty gritty travel details, I will be departing from Oklahoma City on May 30th at 12:40pm and arriving in Juneau at 9:39pm (local time).  I'll be starting the journey homeward on August 18th, flying overnight, and arriving in OKC at 12pm on August 19th.

What is the time difference?
There is a three hour time difference between Juneau and CST - they are three hours behind.

What will the weather be like?
Highs should be in the 50s and 60s.  It rains a lot.

What kind of camp is Echo Ranch/What kinds of kids go to Echo Ranch?
Just check out the website:  You'll find a lot of detailed information there that I don't care to describe in detail myself.  I'm too lazy.  And it's 3:30am.

I think this is about it for now.  Feel free to leave questions, comments, complaints, cookie recipes, music recommendations...  Just whatever you feel led to do.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Reagan Taylor: A Passion to See Others Discover Christ

Written by Jon-Michael Gwinnell

It has been said that the purpose of missions is to create worshippers of God around the world. Reagan Taylor has a desire to do just that. She has a passion for Jesus Christ and a desire for others to know him.


Reagan’s motivation for serving at Echo Ranch is simple, “I hope to fall even deeper in love with God and help others do the same. I want to be able to give answers and encouragement to kids who are searching for Truth. More than anything, though, I just want to help kids know how much they're loved.”


Reagan grew up in Oklahoma CityOklahoma and is currently attending college at Olivet NazareneUniversity in Bourbonnais, IL. Reagan is the oldest of four and has much experience ministering to her younger siblings and youth of all ages.  I have helped out in children's Sunday school classes and played with kids at the Mother's Day Out program at my home church. I am currently a youth leader in the senior high group at College Church in Bourbonnais.”


During the fall of 2007 Olivet held a missions conference and Echo Ranch Bible Camp was in attendance. There were so many opportunities to serve but something about Echo Ranch caught Reagan’s eye. “I visited the booth, got a brochure, and knew I had to go!” This is the first official missions trip that Reagan will have ever been on. What made her choose Echo Ranch? “I would like to serve there because I know it will be the most amazing "God experience" I could ever have. I love working with kids and showing them the love they may have a hard time finding elsewhere. Ever since I discovered the awesomeness of knowing the Lord myself, I have wanted to help others discover it too.”

Only God knows what’s in store for Reagan as she serves at Echo Ranch in 2009. But what can be certain is that it will be a transforming experience. Reagan has plans of being a high school counselor and youth worker. She hopes that this summer in Alaska“will give me further experience with kids of all different backgrounds.” The most important thing is that the young girls of Southeast Alaska hear the gospel and someone showing them the love of Christ. Please pray that the Lord will prepare Reagan’s heart to serve effectively for Him.