If you’ve attended Black Rock Retreat’s summer camp in the past, it’s likely that you’ve already received a brochure for the 2014 summer camp program in the mail. But, if you haven’t, or even if you have and you just want to better understand this summer’s theme, you’ll want to read on.
For this very special interview, I had the pleasure of interviewing a man I respect a great deal. He’s been the Summer Camp Director at BRR for the past four years, with 2014 being his fifth year on the job. So let’s just get right to it, shall we?
Patrick: Joshua Foley, what is the 2014 theme?
Josh: The theme is “ROOTED.”
Patrick: I like it! We have a lot of trees at Black Rock. That should work…!
Josh: That’s actually a big part of why I used it. It’s something that was really relevant in Scripture; the Israelites were an agricultural society, so they did farming, they were surrounded by trees and nature as well.
And what’s cool about that is that we still have that. It’s something that we still have and understand, maybe not the way they did, but we still have that connection, especially here in Lancaster County.
Patrick: And what is the theme verse?
Josh: I haven’t nailed anything down quite yet. There are a lot of verses in scripture that I want to apply, so I can’t pick just one at this point. In the brochure we selected a passage from Ephesians 3. And I just love this statement Paul makes here:
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” – Ephesians 3:16-19 (NIV)
What I love about that is the imagery of being rooted in God’s love. That’s what we really want campers to understand. We can be rooted in lots of different things: sports, musical ability, friendships … or more shallow things, or even being rooted in sin.
I also love that this is Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians. It’s a powerful prayer. As a summer staff, I want this to be our prayer for the campers as well, that they will be rooted and established in love and grasp how high and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.
Patrick: So I expect you’ll be presenting the parable of the seeds sown during this summer…
Josh: Yep! We’ll be looking at that parable at some point, and talking about where we lay our roots and the results that follow depending on our “soil” or environment.
Patrick: What about some of the other Biblical verses, like John 15 “I am the vine you are the branches,” or statements about being “grafted” into God’s family?
Josh: Those are all things that are possible topics and I have them in mind for the summer. Regarding John 15, the vine and the branches; we want to talk about Jesus being rooted in the father, abiding in the Father; Jesus saw and then did what the Father did, and we are to do the same. Apart from that, we’re no good, we can do nothing, we get picked up and thrown into the fire.
Patrick: At what point in the past year or so did you know that you wanted to use “Rooted” as a theme?
Josh: It’s always interesting seeing how a theme develops, or where it comes from. It’s different every year.
Last year’s theme, “HELP!” – I was walking around camp, thinking about what the theme ought to be, and I couldn’t get that Beatles song out of my head!
Patrick: But nobody was singing the song throughout the summer!
Josh: Yeah, I thought everyone would just bust out into that song when they saw the shirt, but it wasn’t really happening.
Patrick: Well, at least you didn’t have to pay any royalties…
Josh: Ha! Yeah, that’s good news.
So, the “Rooted” theme … I think I had it nailed down during summer 2013. One of our worship leaders, Alisha Stoner, brought this worship song by Justin Rizzo called “Tree” to camp. The lyrics are basically taken right out of scripture (Psalm 1, Jeremiah 17:8), but put in first person. “I want to be like a tree planted by streams of living water / unmovable, unshakeable, let my roots go down deep / I want to be found faithful.”
And when Alicia would lead that song, it was so powerful. And Krystle Leininger, who was serving as crafts director, put those lyrics on the walls of the nature center. When I saw that, that confirmed it even more for me. Finally, when I got back the staff evaluation at the end of the summer, four different people specifically suggested “Rooted,” would make a good theme, which is what I was already thinking.
Patrick: I would expect we’ll be hearing more of “Tree” at Vespers then as well?
Josh: It was a staff favorite. I’d expect campers and staff will be happy to hear and sing it again this upcoming summer.
Patrick: This is your fifth summer as Summer Camp Director, which puts you in a tie with Dave Bouffard for number of summers served. Do you feel, for yourself and some of the long-time returning staff, that you are rooted in this ministry?
Josh: Yes. There is definitely that sense. It’s a question I ask myself multiple times a year, and certainly at the end of each summer: how long does God want me here? And right now I am confident that Bethany [Josh’s wife] and I are to stay rooted here for another summer.
Patrick: Granted, as far as application of the theme goes, it’s impossible to say until the time comes. But how do you imagine the theme will be presented or played out in a practical sense?
Josh: There are so many ideas! One of the things I thought of … it would be really neat to do some sort of experiment with plants. We could have three or four healthy plants, but at the beginning of the week we put different things in the soil, and by the end of the week, some will flourish and others will wither or even die. We could do a similar demonstration with seed-sowing, with rocky soil, or with thorns.
There’s this great passage in Job about what happens to a plant whose roots spread around a rock. Even if it’s well cared for and properly watered, when someone goes to remove the rock from the soil, the roots go with it. It’s like a prologue to Jesus’ parable. It has great imagery in it.
I want to empower counselors to talk to campers about these things in morning devotionals, and of course we’ll have these lessons and more during Vespers.
Patrick: You’ve started your hiring process for the summer?
Josh: Yes! We just finished Junior High Winter Camp, and I have six unread applications on my desk, so I have to go over those. During February, I’ll be going to different colleges every week for recruitment.
Patrick: Are there any big changes in terms of staffing, in terms of positions available?
Josh: Well there haven’t been any changes in position for a number of years, but this year I am thinking through one possible addition/change, but it’s still in the beginning stages of development! We will see where my thinking leads…
Patrick: Have you ever wanted to just … I don’t know … resurrect a theme from years gone by? Just page through the annals of Black Rock history and be like, “aha! This theme from 1992 is great, let’s just re-use it!” Or like, “I know, I’ll do ‘The Pieces Fit, Part Two!'”?
Josh: Well … you know, when we did Backward in 2012, I almost felt like I was cheating, because it was basically a re-doing of the 1998 theme “Livin’ Extreme!” with its theme verse Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” We talked about that all the time during “Backward,” so it was really just a repackaging of that theme. We talked about how the Christian life looks different from the ways of the world.
In some ways, that’s harder, because you have to figure out how to dig even more out of a past theme and not just re-use the same materials.
But, all in all … in some ways, every single year is a repackaging of the same message. We’re presenting the Gospel every summer, just putting it out there in a new and fresh way. It’s always the Gospel.
Patrick: In our interview with Dave Bouffard, we talked about balancing full-time ministry with family life. You have a son, Liam, and Bethany is due with your second child in late March. So you’ll have two children during this summer … it’s a blessing, of course! But the scheduling and logistics of you being where you need to be … do you have any anxiety or apprehensions about how things will go this summer?
Josh: In some senses, yes I do. Last summer, with Liam around, he was born after summer 2012, he was already 8 months old. He didn’t need as much constant, one-on-one attention. But this summer, we’ll have a newborn. In the past, Bethany has run the snack shop, and we’re not sure if she can do it this year.
But on the other hand, I’m not scared. Every summer since 2008, Bethany and I have had major changes and milestones in our relationship, and we were always at Black Rock together during those times. We were dating, then engaged, then married, then pregnant, then our first son, and now two kids. We go into every summer saying “this is scary, how will we handle this?” And every summer we come out on the other side saying “God was in the midst of that challenge,” and we experience healthy relationship through that. So I trust that we, with God, can make it work, regardless of the new challenge.
Patrick: I understand that Mike Hall is now on the camp grounds, living at Laurel House. He was the camp director from ’97 to ’99. Have you been able to turn to him for wisdom or guidance about being a camp director?
Josh: I’m sure I’ve talked to him about a couple different things, but I what I appreciate most is that he will stop and pray for me at random times. I think from his perspective, he’s been “out of the game” for so long, that there wasn’t much advice he could give me with all the changes that have taken place, but he can still pray!
Summer camp as a ministry and a program is constantly evolving. What’s really funny to me, I recently heard from Jamie Sensenig [Camp Director ’00-’03]. He’s out in California, and he just got a job as a program director at another summer camp. He called me to talk with me about summer camp ministry. And it was role reversal. I’d always looked up to him, and I even talked to him looking for advice when I started in 2010. But he called me looking for help and practical tips about what’s the latest thing; how can we meet the needs of kids and connect with them? Things change, and now I’m getting calls just because I’ve been in the thick of it for the past five years.
It’s safe to say that we have a lot to look forward to in 2014. I personally hope you enjoyed all this great insight from Josh Foley.
Are you a camper, staffer, or parent that’s excited about summer 2014 at Black Rock Retreat? We’d love to hear from you, so feel free to leave a comment below!