Our Last Week

Our team enjoyed a last campfire Sunday night. We went to the fire pit right on the lake shore down at the end of an old road that went through camp. Randy and Susie treated us to s’mores. It was a cool and calm night, perfect for a fire.

Monday and Tuesday were our last work days. The women finished painting the nurse’s room in the welcome center and recoating the log frames in the dining hall. We cleaned the two floors of the chapel building and organized the costume room.

The men began the week by fixing all the wobbly wooden chairs and benches in the dining hall. They replaced some rotten siding on the craft building. Work was also done in the director’s home. Broken tile was replaced, a window frame was extended, and a suspended bathroom ceiling was installed. As usual, by God’s grace, we accomplished much more this month than we thought possible!

Tuesday night we had a final gathering. Cal and Bonnie joined us. They have really become a part of our team this month! We were treated to an excellent and moving mini piano concert by Bonnie and Ruth. They each played two of their favorite hymn arrangements and God was praised through their talents. Following the concert, we all enjoyed delicious snacks and played a fun and rowdy game of Pyramid. To end the evening, we had our final ‘circle up’ to pray, sing the RVICS song “The Family of God”, and share good-bye hugs.

We will miss this beautiful part of God’s creation. Even more, we will miss our new friends who have become part of our “family”. It was a great team to work and play with!

Everyone headed to their various destinations Wednesday morning. We began the 180 mile trip to our son Doug’s house near Hayward, Wisconsin. About 90 miles down the road, a tire on the camper blew. God was watching over us as no accident was caused, the blown tire was on the passenger side, there was a wide shoulder, Steve was able to get the spare on, and there was a tire store 15 miles down the road. About two hours later we were back on the road with four new tires. God is good!

Now we are at Doug’s house until Monday morning, enjoying family time and helping out a bit around the house. Our next RVICS project will be in February, so until then, God’s blessings to you!

Work Week Three at BCBC

We so enjoyed this week at camp! The fall colors were awesome and most of the week was sunny and in the 70’s. What a beautiful spot to spend these precious fall days! Tuesday afternoon was a perfect day for another pontoon ride. We spotted deer, loons and a bald eagle on that ride! What an awesome Creator we have!

The women moved on to paint the other half of the Welcome Center. After the guys dismantled the office, we painted it to match the camp store half. The nurse’s station inside the welcome center got a first coat of paint after the men moved all the store and office equipment back into place and emptied that room. The log door frames in the dining hall were also cleaned and recoated with finish.

The men finished laying the new flooring in the four room bunk house. Reassembling the store and office equipment was a challenging job. They also replaced several support posts on the chapel’s deck and repaired the stairs. Potential squirrel holes were boarded up on one bunk cabin.

Bible study on Tuesday night was led again by Micah. We explored lessons from the book of Mark. Wednesday evening’s social started with an exciting game of Molkky. We then moved inside to celebrate Chuck and Ruth’s anniversary. A great time was had by all!

Our tour day on Friday began with a scrumptious breakfast hosted by Cal and Bonnie at their beautiful log home. After a great time of fellowship, we were treated to a fascinating tour of their bee operation, “Baby Bear’s Hives”. We saw an active bee display box, their centrifugal honey extractor and their colorfully decorated hives protected by an electric fence to keep the bears out. We moved on to the Itasca County Historical Museum in Grand Rapids where we viewed many interesting displays. To make this an official RVICS project, we topped it all off with a stop at Dairy Queen. It was a wonderful day!

We took a few walks on the bluff and along the lake shore, enjoying the brilliant colors in the trees and being happily surprised by the presence of wildlife.

The two of us put about 8 miles on our hiking boots along the Trout Lake Trail on Saturday. Our destination was the Joyce Estate. In 1917, Chicago lumber baron David Gage Joyce developed a summer retreat here called Nopeming, Ojibwe for place of rest. Joyce equipped his estate with civilized comforts in this rustic setting. The amenities included a private telephone cable, electric lighting, hot water system, greenhouse and a golf course along with the main lodge, two cabins, maid’s house and other buildings for a total of over 40 structures. The Joyce family used the estate until 1972. Nature has taken back much of the area, but a few buildings remain and it was fun to explore them. A perfect spot on the lakeshore was found for our picnic lunch. We enjoyed the beautiful fall colors, the lakes and brooks, and the peacefulness of the hike as well.

Today we went back to Grace Bible Chapel for worship. It’s a bit chilly today, so we are relaxing in the camper. I’m sure we will venture out for a walk later.

Work Week 2 at BCBC

Last Sunday afternoon we welcomed retired RVICS, Pat and Orval, who came back to one of their favorite project sites to help us for the week. We all enjoyed a campfire on the beach that cool evening. Monday we had a grill out and potluck supper. It was a great time of fellowship.

We had another good week of work with much accomplished. Project hosts are usually amazed at all we accomplish during our stay. The men finished staining the outsides of the dining hall, three bunk cabins and the Welcome Center. They also began laying vinyl plank flooring in a four room bunk house.

The women sanded, cleaned and varnished all the tables in the dining hall. Next we moved on to the Welcome Center to paint the inside of the camp store. Susie also began work on repainting the camp’s sign. Ruth continued sewing curtains.

Bible study Tuesday night was led by Micah, the camp’s activities director. He gave a brief history of the camp and compared the camp experience to the Israelites crossing the Jordan River on dry ground. God was with them before the crossing and after the crossing, but the moment of crossing brought them a special closeness to God. Wednesday night for our social we played two riotous games of Pegs and Jokers. Delicious snacks were also enjoyed.

We had a very interesting tour on Friday. Ray Boessel, owner of the Hafeman Boat Works near the tiny town of Bigfork, produces handmade birchbark canoes. Working in a log building which he also built by hand, he has crafted almost 400 canoes in the last 40 years. His canoes are constructed using only birchbark, black spruce root and white cedar wood with no glue or screws. It was fascinating to hear him explain the process from cutting the birchbark and gathering the spruce root through the many steps involved in producing the finished canoe. After the tour, we enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Pine Cone Cafe in Marcell and a brief stop at the Edge of the Wilderness Discovery Center.

For our Saturday outing, the two of us traveled to Hibbing. There we viewed the operating Hull-Rust-Mahoning Mine. It is an open pit iron ore mine that has been called “The Grand Canyon of the North”. At one time it was known as the largest open pit mine in the world. It is also a Registered National Historic Landmark. The enormous pit measures 1.5 by 3.5 miles wide and is 600 feet deep. It was interesting to watch the huge machines at work down in the pit and to see some of them up close on display. Next we tried to visit the Greyhound Bus Museum in Hibbing, but it was closed due to Covid 19. We had lunch at the Boom Town Firewood Grill and stopped in Nashwauk on the way back to view the Hawkins Mine. This mine is no longer in use and the pit has filled in with a beautiful lake.

We have been enjoying outdoor time at camp this weekend, too. What a beautiful creation God has blessed us with! It is delightful to watch the changing colors of the trees. We can see differences daily. The call of the loons on the lake is exciting to hear. We have also discovered and used the old switch back trail up to the bluff. It’s more fun than the stairs!

Sunday we attended the Brace Bible Chapel with two of the other team couples. After hearing an excellent sermon, we went out for dinner together at Sammy’s. We’ll have a relaxing afternoon, probably take a walk and then gather with the group to play Pyramid tonight. We will be all ready for another week of work!

Work Week 1 at BCBC

We began our week with a campfire on the beach Sunday night. It was a treat to see the beautiful pink sky and its reflection in the water as the sun set.

Our new team members, Ricky and Tresa, were having engine problems and Monday the guys towed the truck to a spot where a tow truck could get to it. It’s not fun having vehicle issues away from home, but they are among very helpful people. Someone even decorated their truck for them!

We explored the little nearby town of Bovey on Monday, Labor Day, with Ricky and Tresa. It was the hometown of Eric Enstrom, the artist who photographed the picture “Grace”. In 2002 the Minnesota State Legislature established “Grace” as the state photograph of Minnesota. We wandered through the antique stores and checked out the ‘Speakeasy’ and escape tunnel in the basement of Annabella’s Antique Mall.

Some of the guys did a little rescue work Monday as well. The camp’s 20 foot water carpet float was blown off the beach Sunday night and ended up against the shore across the lake. The guys hopped on the pontoon and with the help from a couple of fishermen got it hooked up to the pontoon and then towed it back to camp.

Although this was just a three day work week due to Labor Day, a lot was accomplished. After cleaning it off and masking the stone work, the guys stained the outside of the large log dining hall. It looks awesome!

The women worked inside the dining hall. We were thankful for that as it was a bit cool outside with temperatures only getting in the low 50’s. All of the chairs, benches and tables had to have their old leg pads scraped off. They had been attached with Gorilla Glue. The bottoms of the legs were then sanded, the furniture washed, and new pads cut and applied (with more Gorilla Glue). Ruth worked at her sewing machine repairing several quilts from the camp guest cabins and making some new curtains for the cabins.

Our morning devotions are a bit different this project. We can’t do the traditional RVICS hugs due to the Covid virus. So, in case anyone really needs a hug, we provided a bagful! It’s been great having Ruth play the keyboard to accompany our singing. On most projects we have to sing acapella. Tuesday night Bible study was led by Cal and his wife Bonnie. Among their many other talents, they are beekeepers. They shared many fascinating bee facts with us and applied them to our lives as Christians. Wednesday night was our first social. We had so much fun and laughter playing two games of Pyramid and indulging in delicious snacks.

After our half day of work Thursday, the two of us headed to Grand Rapids. We visited Dairy Queen, Walmart, Aldi’s, a hardware store and topped it off with pizza at Sammy’s. Friday we caught up on chores and climbed up the stairs to hike up on the bluff again. Our team tour on Friday began with a wonderfully delicious supper at the Forest Lake Restaurant in Grand Rapids. We went on to the tiny town of Cohassat for a gospel concert and revival meeting presented by the Master’s Voice Quartet. The music was great and the sermon was intriguing.

Saturday was cool and overcast – a perfect day for a walk in the woods! So we packed a trail lunch and the two of us drove to the Lost 40 Trail in the Chippewa National Forest. The Lost 40 is an area consisting of 144 acres of virgin pine old growth forest. It has never been harvested due to an 1882 mapping error that marked it as part of a nearby lake. The pine trees in the forest are up to 350 years old and the tree trunks measure from 22 to 48 inches in diameter. We followed the interpretive trail through these majestic pines, hiking about 2 miles. On the way back to camp we stopped at the Edge of the Wilderness Discovery Center and learned more about this area.

All the team couples worshiped at different churches Sunday morning. We went back to the Evangelical Free Church in Grand Rapids and had lunch at Sammy’s afterwards. It is a beautiful day with temperatures in the low 60’s, sunny and calm. We enjoyed a hike up to the bluff again. There were two deer waiting for us at the top, but they didn’t stay long enough for me to get their picture. Now we are awaiting the arrival of Pat and Orval, friends and retired RVICS, who are coming up to work with us this week. This camp was one of their favorite projects and we can understand why!

Bluewater Covenant Bible Camp

Early in the morning on Wednesday, September 2, we hooked up the camper and drove 400 miles to northern Minnesota for our next RVICS project. Set on 21 acres in the woods on the shore of crystal clear Bluewater Lake, is the Bluewater Covenant Bible Camp, our home for the month of September. The stated mission of this camp “is to provide both a spiritually and physically enthusiastic environment that brings adult, youth and children into loving relationship with God and others through Jesus Christ”. We are excited to help them fulfill this mission!

After being warmly welcomed by Chad, the camp director, we got settled in and explored the camp a bit. Since we are leaders on this project, we met on Thursday morning with Chad and Cal, the head of maintenance. We discussed details of our time here and the work we will be doing. More exploring occupied most of our afternoon. A climb up 103 wooden stairs took us 60 feet up to the top of a bluff overlooking the lake. We followed a trail through the camp’s challenge course and along the ridge of the bluff, enjoying the beautiful views. Later we drove into Grand Rapids to locate the church we will attend Sunday and, of course, to check out the selected restaurant for the group on Sunday by having supper there.

Friday was a day for paper work, welcoming the other team members, getting them settled and giving them a tour of camp. One of the couples is brand new to RVICS and it was a joy to meet with them as they became “official” members.

Everyone relaxed Saturday morning, did chores and explored. Our introductory ‘popcorn meeting’ was held Saturday afternoon. It was a beautiful, calm evening calling us for a pontoon ride on the lake. We have the use of the camp’s pontoon and even have an experienced pontoon driver on our team! We had a leisurely ride around the lake watching for loons and just enjoying God’s creation. Notice how all the pine trees are trimmed evenly at the bottom. That’s as far as the deer can reach when feeding during the winter!

Sunday morning the team attended the Evangelical Free Church in Grand Rapids together. Afterwards we enjoyed lunch at the Country Kitchen. This beautiful afternoon, sunny and around 70 degrees, is calling us to a hike up on the bluff again. This week we’ll be ready to get to work!

TBE Week Four

This was our last week at Texas Baptist Encampment.  The guys finished digging trenches, laying conduit and mounting outdoor light fixtures.  Then they moved on to installing several switched outlets in the Tabernacle.  Some of the men installed dehumidifiers in several dorm buildings and continued replacing lights with LEDs.  They fixed a few toilets and did several other minor repair jobs

The women applied sealer to more outdoor benches.  They also cleaned out a dorm building that had been used as a woodshop during the winter and was filled with sawdust.  A little touch up painting was done, corner guards were installed in Thibodeaux, and the storage room and behind the stage in the Tabernacle were emptied out and swept.  They removed duct tape and its sticky residue from the stage floor and from electrical cords, organized the paint room shelves and sorted the old light bulbs and ballasts that the guys had replaced.

We had a last social gathering Wednesday night.  We played two games of Molkky.  After a lot of back and forth scoring, the guys won that game.  During the second game nobody was doing well and we finally decided that the first person to hit any peg was the winner!  The evening ended with a trip to the Dairy Queen drive through.  Since indoor seating was closed due to the coronavirus, we had a tailgate ice cream party!

After our last morning of work Thursday, we were treated to a delicious seafood dinner in the dining hall prepared by the camp director and his staff of four young men.  We got packed up and ready to go in the afternoon, filled up the truck with gas, checked for bread at the grocery store, met with the camp director and did our paperwork for headquarters.  We had a final ‘circle-up’ with our team for prayer and good-byes after supper.  Once again, we will miss this crew and hope to work with them again somewhere down the road.  We left early in the morning Friday and drove 12 hours, 600 miles and half-way home.  Since most campgrounds are closed due to covid-19, we stayed overnight in a Walmart parking lot in Kingfisher, Oklahoma.  We were awake early in the morning on Saturday so got on the road before 3:30 a.m.  Another 600 miles brought us home.  It is great to be home even if we have to self-quarantine for two weeks!  God is good!

TBE Week Three

Our work from last week continued.  The women painted a second coat in the two Thibodeaux bathrooms.  Their next project was to put two coats of polyurethane on the boards that had been stained, sanding between the coats.  We loved working with a view of the bay and watching the pelicans fly by.  The dolphins, however, remained elusive.  The women also wire brushed two large circular benches and put a sealer on them.

The men completed the hydration hut roof and continued to work on installing new LED  lighting.  New push and pull plates were installed in the dining hall to replace doorknobs.  The men needed to dig trenches and lay conduit to bring electricity to each new light pole.  They even wired and hung a light on a palm tree!  Benches were constructed using the boards prepared by the women.

Our social Tuesday night fell on St. Patrick’s Day, so a green potluck supper was planned.  It was also a celebration of the anniversaries of Tim & Donna and Guy & Jeanenne.  Delicious food and fine fellowship were enjoyed by all.

Bible study Wednesday night was led by Brittney, a staff member here at camp.  Released from prison just one year ago, she told her story and how God used the tragic events in her life to bring her close to Jesus.

Our tour options on Friday were quite limited due to COVID-19 closures.  We began with a take-out lunch from The Point.  We had to say ‘good-bye’ to one of our couples who felt they should go home now because of COVID-19.  Michael and Gracie will be missed!  The Matagorda beach was going to be closed beginning Monday, so that’s where the rest of us went.  The guys played a free round of mini-golf with Tim’s putter and golf balls since the visitor’s center was closed.  We all enjoyed a walk on the boardwalk and beach observing dive-bombing pelicans, numerous blue jellyfish and a group of teens out of school surfboarding.  This beautiful day ended with a stop at Dairy Queen where we enjoyed their last day of indoor dining, and a stop at Walmart in Bay City.

Again, our personal exploring options on Saturday were quite limited, so we just hung around camp relaxing and catching up on chores.  Jeanenne suggested a potluck soup supper and games, and we enjoyed the fellowship.  Today, with churches closed, we were grateful for the live streaming of our home church services.  It was also a nice day for a walk on the seawall.  We have one more week of work here and the Lord willing, we will begin our journey home on Friday.

TBE Week Two

The women began the week painting in the Thibodeaux conference building.  They gave a second coat to the lower walls below the chair rails.  Next they moved on to the bathrooms, painting them ‘tantalizing teal’.  A second coat would have to wait until next week as a group of campers will be using the building the rest of this week.  Their next jobs were in the dining hall.  They organized the food pantry and cleaned the outside wall of the walk-in freezer and refrigerator and mopped the floors inside the walk-ins.  The next job was to help the Campers On Mission women stain nearly 100 boards to be used for building benches.

The guys installed the new lights on the outdoor poles that were stripped last week.  Now they are installing lights around the soccer field.  They covered the hydration hut with metal roofing.

For our social on Tuesday night we played two games of Molkky.  The first game was played individually with Sandie being the grand champ.  The second game was men verses women.  That was a fun contest with the scores going up and down several times.  We had to finish the game with flashlights, but the men emerged victorious.  We ended the night with a campfire and puffed wheat Canadian treats.  Yen Tran came to our Bible study Wednesday night.  She told her life story of how she and her family escaped from Vietnam as it was being overrun by Communists in 1975 when she was 12 years old.  She fled in a small boat, to a ship, to a refugee camp in Guam, to Florida, Iowa and eventually Palacios.  Here she and her husband run The Point, a convenience store and restaurant serving Vietnamese and Mexican food.  It was an interesting and inspiring story.

Our tour destination on Friday was the Varner-Hogg Plantation State Historic Site in West Columbia.  The home and grounds tell the intriguing story of three owners:  colonist Martin Varner who was a land grantee of Stephen F. Austin, sugarcane mogul Columbus Patton, and Texas Governor James S. Hogg.  The plantation hosted sugarcane production, rum distilling and oil drilling as it transitioned through these families.  Originally the plantation encased 4,428 acres.  Mexican General Santa Anna was held prisoner on the plantation for a short period following the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836.  During the ownership of Patton, over 100 slaves lived on the plantation.  They hand-made the bricks used to construct the house, smokehouse, sugar mill and their own quarters.  In 1849, the plantation produced 275,000 pounds of sugar and 22,000 gallons of molasses. Following the Civil War, black convicts were used as free labor but treated cruelly.   Oil was discovered on the land during the ownership of the Hogg children, making them very wealthy.  After exploring the Visitor’s Center, we toured the plantation house, walked the grounds to view the ruins of the sugar mill, the barn, Miss Ima Hogg’s cottage and Governor Hogg’s outdoor bathtub which is a rectangular brick lined hole fed by an artesian well.  A tasty lunch was enjoyed at Elmo’s Grill in West Columbia.

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Saturday was a relaxing day for the two of us.  We took a trip to the Matagorda Nature Park.  There we checked out the Nature Center displays, walked the boardwalk and beach along the Gulf Coast and had a picnic lunch.  A stop at Dairy Queen on the way home topped off the day.  Due to the coronavirus panic, church was cancelled today.  We worshiped with our home church via live stream and spent the day relaxing.

TBE Week One

We got off to a good start this week.  The women cleaned and disinfected two deep freezers, a refrigerator and an ice machine Monday morning.   A toothbrush and a plastic fork were just the tools we needed to get in all the grooves and corners.  Beginning with Monday supper and continuing through the week with three meals a day, the women helped serve a group of 300 ACE homeschoolers here for a week at camp.  Of course, the team got to enjoy eating the meals as well.

The men began Monday by helping move two new large and heavy Boom Ball games.  Then they moved on to greater heights.  They worked on roofing a new hydration hut and replacing fluorescent bulbs with LEDs in the dining hall ceiling.   Two guys worked on outside lighting.  They took out all the overhead power lines and light fixtures, stripping the light poles.  Then they ran conduit up three of the poles for new LED lights.

Since there were no empty rooms available due to the camp going on this week, our first social was a campfire by our RVs.  We played “Name that Tune” for a bit and just enjoyed fellowship time together.  Wednesday night we had Bible study led by Rob Kessler, the camp director.  He showed a video about mission work in a third world village and told about some of the mission trips he had been on.  He also encouraged us by reminding us that kids come to Christ at camp because of what we do here.  What better reason could we have for doing what we do!

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Our tour on Friday was a local tour.  We started at The City By the Sea Museum in Palacois.  There we learned all about the La Belle, a small French ship that was part of an expedition led by Sieur de La Salle.  Attempting to establish a colony at the mouth of the Mississippi, La Salle mistakenly landed at Matagorda Bay.  There the La Belle sank in 1686. It remained undisturbed for over 300 years until its discovery in 1995.  The  excavation headquarters was in Palacios.  La Belle has been one of the most important wrecks in the western hemisphere.  Besides being one of the oldest wrecks ever found and belonging to such a noteworthy explorer, the mud of the bay preserved many materials that normally would have decayed (including brain matter inside a skeleton’s skull).  Over a million artifacts were discovered.  Our next stop was the harbor at Palacios.  There we saw La Petite Belle, a fully functioning half-scale replica of the La Belle.  Also located at the harbor is the Fishermen’s Memorial.  Palacios is called ‘The Shrimp Capital of Texas’, so it was also interesting to see the dozens of shrimp boats in the harbor.  Our tour was topped off with lunch at The Point, a local Vietnamese and Mexican restaurant – and a late afternoon run to Dairy Queen to make it official!

Our own exploration on Saturday brought us to the San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge.  More than 400 species of wildlife make this refuge their home.  We hiked a couple of peaceful, beautiful trails and took the Moccasin Pond car loop.  We saw several kinds of water birds, a couple of raccoons, a possum, crayfish mounds, and three alligators.  One hike took us to the largest live oak tree in Texas.  It was a great day in God’s awesome creation!

After worship at First Baptist today, we returned to the Bayside for another delicious shrimp and catfish dinner.  It is a beautiful sunny day in the lower 70’s, and I hear a seawall walk calling!

From Tejas to TBE

Monday and Tuesday were our last days of work at Tejas.  The men continued working in the Fishermen’s Cove cabins installing horizontal boards above the wainscoting.  They came close to finishing, but the final boards will have to be placed by someone else.  The fence was completed by two of the guys.  The women primed additional boards for the men, and washed windows in the Dining Hall.

The team enjoyed a last gathering Tuesday night for a rousing game of ‘Seven’.  Afterwards we ‘circled up’ for our final ‘good-byes’ and prayer for safe travels for our team.  We have enjoyed our time at this unique camp.  We worked and played with great people and we will miss them.  Our prayer is that God will bless this camp and use our efforts to assist the camp in its mission to “set the stage for Jesus to transform lives”.

Wednesday morning we headed out for our next project.  120 miles brought us to Texas Baptist Encampment in Palacios along the shore of Tres Palacios Bay on the Gulf Coast.  We worked at this beautiful camp last year in February and look forward to our month here this year.  In existence since 1902, TBE is the oldest camp west of the Mississippi River.  It can accommodate up to 800 people.  It is a place where “fun, fellowship, and a focus on God take priority” as lives are impacted for eternity.

On Thursday we met with Rob, the camp director, to discuss our stay here and the projects to be done.  In the afternoon we welcomed the rest of our team.  We have a total of five couples here, two of whom are new to us, and we are looking forward to working with them all.  We had our “Popcorn Meeting” Thursday evening to get acquainted and to discuss our project here.  Friday we took the team on a walking tour of camp.

We had plenty of relaxing time on the weekend and enjoyed a few walks along the seawall in this beautiful part of God’s creation.  Until today, which is cloudy and a bit rainy, the weather has been great with sunshine and temperatures around 70 degrees.  We all went to the First Baptist Church here in town on Sunday and then to Bayside Seafood for a delicious lunch.  We’re ready to get to work on Monday!