“How was the summer?”
It’s the hardest question to answer quickly. It was great, amazing, interesting, fruitful, exhausting, spirit filled, and powerful. But it’s hard to put into a few words the amazing ways God works through an available team. During the last 22 summers, the days have been invested in ministry with students and kids at camps and churches around the state. The team, comprised of young adults, travel to lead, teach and serve in kingdom ministry. It’s a dynamic combination – students who are able and available. Students who give up, for two months of a summer, opportunity to work or take classes and who use their gifts to share the love of Christ with others.
We praise God for the 2017 Harvest Summer Team. Here is the long answer to the question – including all the many little details, if you;d to read it!
Rock River Family Camp
The first, unofficial summer event happened over Memorial Day Weekend with a Family Camp at Rock River Christian Camp. Thanks to Deron Boyer for inviting us to lead music during the weekend. It was a great time of ministry. Thanks to my family for joining me – Ruby played mandolin and sang and Macy helped with a couple songs too. They especially loved the free concession stand every day at 2:30 and 8:00 pm. Special thanks to Rock River Camp in Polo, IL – we loved being with you all!
On Saturday, June 3, Harvest sang at Freedom Fest, a one-day music festival held in Lawrenceville, IL. It was perfect weather, we appreciated John the sound guy and we were thankful to Tim and Gary Pearce for inviting us to be there. The team was Bobby Davis, Kim Przybylski, Daniel Tatjenhorst and myself.
Those who joined me for Quest Camp were Tyler Roth (bass), Ryan Kennett (Guitar), Courtney Bettis (Percussion) and Ruby Price (Keyboard). Quest Camp is for first – fifth grade kids and their families. It was a delightful time of worship and teaching on the theme of Exploring Scripture. The camp was held at Lake Sallateeska in Nashville, IL. Thanks to Natalie Carlson for inviting us to serve. One interesting thing about this team was that the camp happened before the summer team formed. A couple days before, the scheduled drummed had to back out so I asked around the church office if anyone played drums – Courtney said, “I guess I could try!” And she did an awesome job on Cajon during Quest Camp!
Typically, the Harvest Team prepares for a few days, but this year it was shortened to just a couple days. Due to a funeral service for a family friend, a wedding of two Harvest team members and retirement of my dad, we had very little time to meet together as a team (I’ll mention more of these details later). This is one of the many reasons we’re so amazed by the summer ministry and it’s effectiveness. God worked through the team in spite of the crunched prep period. In our weakness He is strong! Thanks to the host families for providing housing during this time and during the summer (Rayles and Alvis). The team also ate an entire pizza during the preparation time, and though I wasn’t with them, it must have been an inspiring feat of motivation, a story that was retold a few times during the summer.
MMDC – Chatham, IL
Clint Benesh led the way for the middle school mission to Chatham, leading worship and helping with the trip. The last few years a small Harvest Team has led in worship for this weekend and I was grateful that Clint was able to take the lead.
The team for the first full week of camp was Jessie George, Chris Trimble, Ava Andrews, Debra Bircher and myself. We led worship in the morning and evenings for this high school camp in Astoria, IL. Additionally, members of the team took turns preaching during the services and sharing testimonies in the mornings. It was awesome meeting the students from this camp and we enjoyed serving here as the worship team for the first time ever. During this camp, we learned many new camp songs, Jessie’s phone broke, there wasn’t any cell phone signal for miles and on the last night, I fell on my tailbone during a volleyball game. It finally seems to have healed now about two months later. On the way back home we stopped in Rockbridge, IL for lunch. Thanks to Rose, Jane and Terry for inviting us to be a part of the ministry for the week.
Beulah Bible Camp
The next full week was Beulah Bible Camp. We left on Sunday evening to set up and get ready for camp and had supper at the Eldorado Mexican Restaurant. We were glad to be joined by Alexis Barajas. Alexis is my first cousin once removed and though I haven’t spent too much time with her over the years, she jumped right in and took part in ministry with the summer team. She played keyboard, Ava played bass, Chris played drums, Debra sang, Jessie ran sound and I played guitar. During this week, we led worship and led a class with the kids. The group did skits, led games, shared testimonies and had a great time serving at Bible Camp. Thanks Debbie and the entire tearm for your leadership at camp!
Beulah Beginning Camp
Beginning Camp is a two-day event that follows the four day Bible Camp. These young kids are a blast to work with. Debra had to leave for the weekend camp, but the rest of the group stayed to lead in worship. During this whole week, the team went to Sonic, the Dairy Barn, played Canadian Salad and had fun living in the nice motel like rooms directly behind the Tabernacle. Suzanne, Ruby and Macy joined us for an evening at Beulah. They intended to stay longer but Macy got sick and they had to go back home. A special thanks to Lindsay for leading this camp!
On Sunday, July 2, the summer Harvest Team led worship at Troy UMC for two of the morning services. Following worship we had lunch at Joe’s Pizza with some others from the church. Thanks to Troy UMC for being a home base for Harvest Ministry.
FCA Motocross Camp
On July 3, I left for West Lebanon, IN for the FCA Motocross Camp. This week was a totally new experience. Thanks to Lee and Donita for inviting us to lead in worship. The team for the weekend was Max Leutkemeier, Chris Trimble and myself. The camp was really well organized for the week. The teens drive to the track each day, ride their dirt bikes all day, learned from pros, then come back in the evening to have dinner, down time, worship and small groups. Since we were gone over July 4th, Max and I went to see fire works in a neighboring town. Max served on a summer team a few years back and has helped with a few events here and there. But, in what may be the most random event of the summer, Max and I sat in the van in an unfamiliar town watching fire works on July 4th.
There were lots of kids who responded and gave their lives to Christ. We praise God for the work that was done! And a special thanks to Gary and the team at Hanging Rock Christian Camp!
Temple Baptist Church
On the way home from that camp at the end of the week, Chris and I stopped in Amish country and then stopped by the old Capital in Vandalia, IL. Later that afternoon, we met up with Clint and headed to Temple Baptist Church in Centralia, IL. It was an awesome evening of leading at an Association youth gathering. We played a few games, led worship and shared a message. Students responded to God’s love and it was an awesome night.
Junior High Alive
The next day, after worship in Troy, IL, we headed to Junior High Alive. Ava was unable to be with us for the week but Blake was able to fill the role. The team was Debra, Jessie, Chris, Blake, Clint and myself. Attendance was up at Junior High Alive and the worships times were awesome! Thanks to Greg Groves and Andrew Spainhour who were the speakers. A lot of students came forward during altar times to pray and respond to God. Our team led worship, led a seminar each morning, help lead devotions at night and each team member took a turn talking or sharing. In addition to running sound and tech, Jessie also helped lead the way in speaking in worship, transitioning between some songs and inviting people into prayer and scripture. It was really cool.
I also enjoyed this week because the middle school group from our church attended the camp. Ruby was an official camper and we had great leaders who helped keep things together: Jennifer, Destiny, and Clint (who doubled as the TUMC leader and the Harvest Electric Guitar Player). Suzanne and Macy also joined us for the week and so did Tina and Barrett.
First UMC, Vandalia, IL
The next day, on July 16th, we led worship and preached at First UMC in Vandalia, IL. The team for the morning was Debra, Chris, Blake, Jessie and me. Jessie preached the sermon and did a great job. After the service, we went out to lunch with the Trimble family. Thanks for lunch and thanks to First UMC in Vandalia for your support and connection!
Epworth Journey Camp
Epworth Camp began immediately and it was a fun week. We have led music for this camp most every year since 1992 (I did it a few years before Harvest even started). Though the old Epworth Campground was sold a while back, the core leadership took the structure, tweaked it and formed Epworth Journey Camp, which now currently meets at Durley Camp in Greenville, IL. Amazingly, attendance has gone up for all the Epworth Journey Camps and it was another great year of inviting students to walk with Christ.
The team for the week was Chris, Debra, Jessie, Ava, and Me. Suzanne, Ruby and Macy joined us for half the week. And Blake joined us in playing for part of the week. Additionally, we had a mini Harvest reunion when some others showed for a couple days to visit: Kim Przybylski, Leanne Willis, Emily Lynn and Trenton Gonzalez.
A big thanks to Deborah, Tim, Gary, Lee and Amy for inviting us to serve during the 2017 Epworth Journey Camps. Praise the Lord for the many students who experienced Christ.
Epworth Generations and Fledgling Camp
The weekend following the Junior High / Senior High Epworth week we led worship for Generations and Fledgling Camp. These two camps ran simultaneously one with kids and one with families. We held worship and meals together and the rest was mostly separate. Thanks to Patty for speaking for the event. Thanks to the leaders in invited us to be a part of the weekend.
One night, Ava and Jessie decided to make ten pounds of mac and cheese for the team. We met in the ministry hut about 9:30 pm and it was a party. The blessings of fun camp memories are awesome and make a big impact in friendships and connections.
Clay County Fair
Harvest had a great time leading worship for the Clay County Fair on Sunday evening following Epworth. The summer team was joined by Clint Benesh and Sadie Murbarger. Thanks to Peter Wherely for inviting us to come and thanks to all the churches who helped support and come out for the night. It was a great evening of music and a great witness while the fair was going on!
Following the worship concert, we all went to a Mexican restaurant where Ava got to celebrate her birthday with the funniest song along with whip cream on her face from one of the waiters (picture below). It was great to have Debra’s parents with us for dinner that evening.
We spent the night in Troy, IL that Sunday evening and the next morning packed up to leave for Silvis, IL. For the past three or four years now, we have spent a week at Silvis UMC ministering to and with kids in the church and neighborhood. Harvest leads the music and the lessons each evening. During the days, we typically take part in the community park program, have a fun day and take part in the ministry of the church. For this week Jenna Biagi joined the team. She wasn’t able to go for the summer but was able to be a part of the week and it was great to have her. Suzanne, Ruby, and Macy also joined us. During the fun day, we went to the American Pickers Shop in LeClaire, Iowa, stopped by the John Deere sites in Moline and had ice cream at an old soda fountain.
We praise the Lord for the kids who gave their hearts to Christ in Silvis, IL. We’re thankful for the invitation to serve – thanks to Janet, Mary and Joye!
Beulah Family Camp
We left Silvis on Friday morning and then had lunch in Springfield, IL with Jackson and Jessica Price. Jackson and Jessica met on Harvest back in the early 2000’s and he is a worship leader for a local church up there. After a stop in Troy (to quickly mow the grass at home) we got in the van and headed to Beulah Holiness Camp, which began that evening. The team configuration changed a bit for this week.
Ava played bass, Jessie helped with speaking and tech, Drew Allsman played drums, Brian Caringer happened to be there and joined in on percussion, and Clint Benesh led worship and played guitar. Loren Fear and Jordan Harper (from Troy UMC) also joined the team as dorm sponsors for the week.
It was a great week of preaching, worship, mission and connection. Thanks to Bob and Jim for inviting us to serve for the week. It was fun for me since several family members were with us for the week – including Mom, Dad, Suzanne, Ruby, Macy, Elle, Annie, Anthony, and Glenn.
Christian Disciple Farm, Sullivan, WI
We finished up at Beulah after seven days and then headed back to Troy, IL. The summer was officially wrapped up with the team. The final week of the summer, I was invited back to the Christian Disciple Farm to work with the current college age band for Epworth League Ministry with Ken Rhengians. It was a great week of playing music and working with the team.
During the days, we took part in the special needs day camp and in the evening, we would set up the sound and lead worship for the high school and college age volunteers who were working at the day camp.
I praise the Lord for Ken’s work and ministry. Thanks to Jenny and the entire band for letting me join you guys!
Other Great Experiences
On June 10 we got to attend Emily and Tyler’s wedding. I have known Tyler since he was a kid at our church in Troy. In fact, he was in the kid’s choir that helped Harvest record Walk in the Light album back in 2002. Tyler played drums all the way through youth band and up to college. He served on Harvest for three summers, one year as the official IGRC Intern for the ministry. During his Harvest tenure, he met Emily Gray who also served on Harvest Teams. Emily has been instrumental in traveling with Harvest, leading worship, connecting with kids and adults and making a huge difference in the lives of thousands of people around Illinois and the Midwest. Emily has continued to serve in Harvest even after college life and into her teaching career (since her summers were free). It was an honor to attend their wedding. Bless them in their new lives together. We’re so thankful they live close to Troy, IL!
Another milestone this summer was my dad’s retirement from active UM ministry. He retired from Troy UMC and June was filled with transition events. One June 4, there was an afternoon program and church dinner that people talked about all summer. Sue Busler and Loren Fear did an incredible job with the program! It was top notch. Thanks to the tech team for their work and to Jackson Price for the amazing video.
On Sunday, June 25, Troy UMC had a combined worship service and then an open house. It was well attended and a great marker for my mom and dad’s 29 years of pastoral ministry in one church.
These two events added to the craziness of the summer schedule, but I praise the Lord we were able to be involved!
Deep Cries Out
Love to walk with you
King of My Heart
Lay Me Down
Debra locked her keys out of her car.
Ava and the whip cream.
Buying milk at the Mulberry Grove Market.
Mac and Cheese at 10 pm.
Alexis and the bug during the Beulah Card game.
Chris jumping the docks at Camp Emmanuel.
The whole team fell asleep in the kid’s section at the Astoria library because it had air conditioning.
Free treats from New Baden Bakery – since it’s owned by Chris’s uncle!
We thank the Lord for the possibility of serving in ministry this summer. We thank God for the grace to serve and the Holy Spirit for boldly empowering the team. We also thank Troy UMC for being a home base and for housing students. We thank those who prayed for us this summer – there wasn’t one hiccup, even with all the little details and travel schedule. We also like to thank those who support Harvest financially. Thanks for your partnership. A special thanks to the team members and family members from this summer. A special thanks to Christine, Suzanne and Amanda for helping with office ministry this summer. And we’d like to thanks those who invited Harvest to serve. Praise the Lord.
OFFICIAL 2017 SUMMER SCHEDULE
May 26-29 Family Camp, Polo, IL
June 3 Freedom Fest, Lawrenceville, IL
June 4-6 Quest Camp, Pinckneyville, IL
June 9-11 MMDC, Chatham, IL (TUMC Middle School)
June 11-17 High School Camp, Camp Emmanuel, Astoria, IL
June 25-29 Beulah Bible Camp, Eldorado, IL
June 30-Jul 1 Beulah Beginning Camp, Eldorado, IL
July 2 Troy UMC, Troy, IL
July 3-9 FCA Motocross Camp, West Lebanon, IN
July 9 Kaskaskia Baptist Association, Centralia, IL
July 11-15 Junior High Alive, Eldorado, IL
July 16 First UMC, Vandalia, IL
July 17-21 Epworth Jr/Sr High Week, Greenville, IL
July 21-23 Epworth Generations & Fledgling Camp, Greenville, IL
July 23 Clay County Fair, Flora, IL
July 24-28 Christ UMC – Silvis Campus, Silvis, IL
July 28-Aug 4 Beulah Holiness / Family Camp, Eldorado, IL
August 6-12 Christian Disciple Farm, Sullivan, WI
Here are a few summer pictures, but you can see all of them here.