Friday, May 15, 2020

Thanks and Goodbye!

As many of you know Bev and I will be moving back to the Fraser Valley (Agassiz) near the end of May.  I just wanted to simply say thanks for your incredible support over the last eight years and share a few of my memories.  If you're wondering how it all started - prior to Camp Evergreen I was working at Elkview Mines as a haul truck driver.  Cousin Norm was the first person to let me know that Camp Evergreen was looking for a director and Andrew, board chair at the time, was quite persistent in pursuing me.  Bev and I actually said "no" a couple of times in the early conversations, but God had other plans and I arrived on site near the end of July 2012.  Bev, Mitch, Captain Tinkleberry (cat), Beans (cat), Tango (dog), and Scamp (see below) joined me at the end of August.  I want to say a special thanks to the seasonal staff of 2012 who opened their arms to welcome Mitch into their fold.









One of my earliest - and favourite - stories was in the spring of 2013 when I experienced my first flood here at Evergreen.  We had a guest group on site and the power went out - always a challenge for sure.  A tree had fallen on the power line in the middle of the creek.  The creek was flowing at a high rate of speed, rising by the hour, and until that tree was removed the power company could not restore power.  There was a very real chance that if they did not get the tree off the line in the next hour, we could very well be without power for at least a week.  Several options were tried including a grappling hook and shooting an arrow, when finally Rolf got out his 243 Winchester and literally shot the tree off the line!  It blew apart and if you can believe it one of the branches fell right back on the line!  Rolf shot the final branch off and power was quickly restored!  Here is the power company installing a new power pole as the old one was falling into the creek.



Many staff, campers, and guests remember our dog Scamp.  When we first arrived at Evergreen Scamp was addicted to the guest groups and we had a very hard time keeping him home.  If we wanted to know where Scamp was we would look for a group of girls, and nine times out of ten you'd find Scamp in the middle getting his belly rubbed.  There came a point where Scamp was banned from the Pond Study activity because he kept eating the frogs that the guests caught.  We also had to keep him out of the archery range as he would just wander in front of the targets.  Scamp was a favourite of many and will be missed.  Thanks Andrew and Lisa for looking after Scamp in the Family Camp canoe race!




Of all the seasons at camp I would have to say that my favourite season was summer camp.  And of all the camps we ran, Sparks would have to be my favourite.  There were always an extra amount of sticks we had to clean up at the end of the camp as it seemed like every boy needed his own.  The campers would often have flashlights with them in the middle of the day, and they sure loved tuck time.  (I love tuck time!)  It was a joy to see many of these young campers make their first commitment to Jesus. 








We have had many, many, volunteers over the years and I always appreciate how they are willing to give of their time and energy to help us in our ministry.  I know you're not supposed to have a favourite volunteer (and I actually have quite a few) but I do need to mention my friends Helmut and Doris who sold their farm and decided to spend their spring and summers at Camp Evergreen volunteering.  They are definitely a staff favourite!  Thanks Helmut and Doris for your encouragement.







Another one of my favourite memories will be the Wednesday BBQ in the field we had each week in summer weather permitting.  After a delicious hamburger, Helmut and I would often end the evening with an unofficial ice cream bar eating contest, and then we would pretend to be lactose free so we could have the popsicles as well!  I also appreciated Helmut doing the actions for the YMCA song at the rodeo as seen below in one of my all time favourite pictures.  Thanks Harold, Ken, and Dylan for joining Helmut and for your enthusiasm!






I had the pleasure of meeting Walter for the first time at camp's 50th anniversary.  Immediately I could tell that this was a special man of God and over the next few years as Walter spent more time at camp I grew to appreciate his phone calls, e-mails of encouragement, and the fact that he loved Crocs as much as I do.  Walter was our first full time director here at Evergreen and kept lists of his campers and staff so he could pray for them.  His heart was big and I consider it a privilege to have known him for those few short years.  Sadly Walter passed to glory last last year.  I still have his number in my cell phone...





I need to say thanks to my seasonal and permanent staff.  You truly made my job easy and it was a real pleasure to lead you.  We all had our own unique gifts and personalities and from the way our summer camp and guest group ministry grew we can look back and say we did a great job.  I also want to say thanks to my personal family members who shared their time with Camp Evergreen. 

















Something I appreciated most about being on staff here at Evergreen was seeing so many lives transformed by the power of Jesus.  From campers to staff to guests, God was truly at work in and through us.  There are too many stories for me to even begin sharing.  Campers who became Christians at camp and ended up bringing their non-church families to church!  Staff who joined us struggling in their faith and seeing God very clearly enter and change their lives.  I truly believe that Camp Evergreen is one of God's most powerful tools in Central Alberta.

I need to say thanks to the board both past and present for your support, for showing me what a good board looks like, and for taking a chance on this unknown haul truck driver.  It's been a pleasure serving with you.  (Thanks Kevin for liking numbers a whole lot more than I like numbers!)



And finally, a big thanks to you, the greater constituency.  Without your financial support, without your hours here at camp, we simply could not do this work.  You welcomed us with open arms, you checked us out, (remember that first visit Mike and Andrew...), you encouraged us with your notes, and most importantly you prayed for us.  Bev and I are truly blessed because of you.






May God richly bless you and Camp Evergreen in the coming days and months.

Bob "Ranger" Kroeker
Executive Director





Friday, May 1, 2020

Eight (Ate!)

I haven't even started the blog and some of you are wondering what's up with the number eight?  Why on earth is Ranger making such a big deal?  I'll tell you why.  In the midst of COVID-19, in the midst of closing our summer camps for the first time ever, we need a little bit of good news.  And you know me, I can make septic tank arrivals good news!






The big deal with the number eight is that we received eight HBII Container c/w Restrict(s) - at least that's what the invoice says.  In regular language we have received eight bear proof garbage/recycling containers that are now strategically placed around Camp Evergreen.  My challenge to you is to identify where each bin is!




Some of you also might be wondering why on earth would we purchase what appear to be expensive garbage bins at a time like this?  Well you're correct.  They are expensive - Two Thousand Three Hundred and Seventy dollars per unit!  Kevin you do the math...  We will get to that later but on to the good news.







When Mountain View County allowed us to build a new lodge they placed a few (read a LOT!) of caveats on their permission.  One was to have bear proof garbage cans.  I've lived here almost "eight" years and have yet to see a bear.  I've seen bear scat (polite word for poop), I've seen Rolf's signs up - "Don't go any further bear activity",  I've seen bear foot prints (paw prints?), and I've seen several pictures of bears taken from game cameras on site.  So there are bears here, I just haven't seen one!  Well now we have bear proof garbage cans!






It's also nice to have eight aesthetically pleasing garbage cans around site.  The only down side?  We can't just send a couple of staff in the gator to pick them up for the Wednesday BBQ in the field.  These units weigh a lot!

And to the cost.  The total cost (that Kevin has already figured out) is $18,960!  That's a lot of money!  However, thanks to a grant from Alberta Beverage Container Recycling Corporation (thanks Jim) and Haul-All Equpment out of Lethbridge building them for us (thanks Twyla) and great Evergreen people to carry the ball while I was out of the country (thanks Marla, Courtney and Rolf) we got them for absolutely free!  You read that correctly.  No shipping cost no nothing!  See why I'm so excited!






Evergreen To Go continues to keep us busy as well as brainstorming ways that we can engage, support and encourage our campers this summer.  We did get a ray of hope yesterday with the government opening up announcement regarding opening up the economy.  We will wait (patiently) to see where that goes.

As always your support is deeply appreciated!

Bob "Ranger" Kroeker
Executive Director





Friday, April 24, 2020

The Craziest Storm!

One of the craziest storms that I’ve been in happened while I was leading Trails Away in the summer of 2015. We were riding in one of the fields across the creek when I heard what sounded like a herd of moose running through the trees to our left. When I turned to look in the direction of the noise, I did not see a herd of stampeding moose. Instead I saw every single tree bending low as if they were being pushed down by an invisible hand while a wall of rain moved through the trees and across the field. I shouted for my girls to get off their horses as quickly as possible, and just as the last pair of boots touched the ground we were instantly drenched from head to toe. We led our horses over to the barn as fast as we could, but when we opened the door so that we could take them inside every horses froze. You would think that they would want to get out of the storm as soon as possible, but they were paralyzed with fear when they looked at this unknown and unfamiliar shelter. No amount of coaxing or bribing could get them to step inside. It wasn’t until I went around and opened the door at the other side of the barn that we could finally usher the horses inside. Once that other door was open the horses could see a light at the end and in their minds they were stepping into a hallway rather than a dark abyss. They still didn’t know what would happen while they waited out the storm, but they were more willing to trust their riders because they could see it wouldn’t last forever.



How often are we like those horses? We get surprised when bad weather and the storms of life come along, and we get so swept up in our own emotions that we don’t see the shelter right in front of us. Often it isn’t until we see the light at the end of the tunnel that we finally step into the shadow of our Heavenly Father’s wings instead of turning to Him the moment that first rain drop hit our face.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:1-2

We can draw a lot of similarities between us and horses, but the truth is we’re not horses, so we shouldn’t be thinking or acting like them. We aren’t prey animals with a brain the size of a large walnut; we are made in the image of God and have not been given a Spirit of fear but of power, love, and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). We don’t need to be afraid of the fierce winds and driving rains of life because we know the One who calms the seas and quiets the raging storms.


When the storms and earthquakes and famines of life advance upon us we can think to ourselves, “This came without warning and at an incredible speed. I don’t know how I’m going to get through it, but I know where I’m going to get through it.” The world will through all kinds of curve balls and monkey wrenches at us but we don’t have to stand out in the open and try to catch them as they come. At the first hint of trouble we can run to our Father and take refuge in His arms. There is no curve ball so fast or monkey wrench so large that God can’t handle, in fact He is not surprised by anything that’s happening in our world.

Sometimes we may need the door at the end of the barn to be opened to remind us that we’re not stepping into the darkness and making our home there forever. Rather, we’re walking into a hallway where we will worship our way through the chaos as we draw closer to the Lord. Storms never last forever. While our horses were waiting out the rain in the barn my girls and I were singing songs and playing games in our tent, and before we were back in the saddle riding through the sunshine. Trust that the Lord will not only provide you shelter through the raging storms of life but that He will guide you to greener pastures and still waters on the other side.

Katherina Toews
Head Wrangler


Friday, April 3, 2020

Director Update

Hello from Camp Evergreen,

Yesterday I woke up to -20 and sunny skies, this morning I woke up to a balmy -11 and snowing.  I'm not sure I like either of those options.  :)  It's been a while since I've brought you an update and to say that things have changed since my last update would be a gross understatement!  Like you, we are experiencing many challenges as we navigate through this new "normal."  For me personally, I want to know when is this going to end?  When are things going to go back to "normal"?  When can I buy TP without people thinking I'm hoarding!  As we listen to the news, the forecast from a world's perspective is not that bright.  From what I'm reading and hearing, I believe that COVID-19 will effect our daily life longer than shorter.  And yet we serve a risen Lord, who is rock solid, and did not wake up this morning surprised at the state His world is in!  Amen?  Amen!

While it is true that COVID-19 has brought with it many (many) challenges, it has also brought with it many opportunities.  Please pray for us as a camp that as we navigate through the next several months, we will be sensitive to the Lord's leading to make use of our time, and to seek new ways in which we can see lives transformed by the power of Jesus!

What's currently happening at Camp Evergreen?  Like most other camps in Alberta, and across Canada, we have lost all our spring revenue due to guest groups cancelling.  While the good news is we're saving money on groceries, and utilities, we still have to feed our staff and keep some of our lights on and buildings warm.  (-20 yesterday doesn't help!)  For reference last year between March 1 and April 3 we brought in $28,676 in revenue compared to $0 this year.  While that in itself doesn't sound too bad, our projected income loss from March to the end of June will be about $270,000.  So while it's true that our current expenses are down compared to last year, we are still not able to keep up, and have given all our staff lay off notice.



Many of you know that we have launched (reminds me of a Mennonite joke about Mennonites working at NASA and stopping for lunch every time they said launch...) Evergreen to Go.  We are selling meal packages and delivering them to our supporters who live within an hour from camp.  The exciting part is that for every 30 meals that we sell, we are giving away 15 meals through our local ministerial here in Sundre.  We are also looking into ways that we can connect with and bless our immediate neighbours.  Our seasonal staff are also working on connecting with our campers via phone and social media.  There is no shortage of ideas for sure - picture Yodel and Hum coming right into your living room or a Zoom scavenger hunt!

What about summer camp?  Like you we find ourselves asking that question almost every day.  Quite simply what we can or cannot do in summer will be dictated to us by Alberta Health and the province of Alberta.  At this point we are planning on running summer camp and are continuing to prepare.  We are also planning on what summer camp could look like under different scenarios.  I believe firmly that we will have ministry this summer, I also believe that it will look different than last summer.

Reaching Higher continues to move ahead - albeit a little slower.  We want to continue with our water licensing as well as continuing to work with the Alberta Environment on our waste water system.  However the actual construction on site that was scheduled for mid April has been postponed, as well as any other lodge work, until September at which time we will reevaluate.

How can you help?  One would think the obvious answer would be to help us financially if possible.  And while that is important for sure, we covet even more your prayers.  Pray for the staff who are currently on site.  We are severely limiting our contact with the outside world and I would ask you to pray with us that COVID-19 would not make it's way onto our 480 acres.  Pray for us as a staff as we continue to live together, as we continue to work together that God would give us an extra measure of grace.  While it is true we have a little more "elbow" space than the regular family, we still need to live with each other.

And of course if you can help us financially that would be greatly appreciated.

As we move forward together let's all be looking for new opportunities to "tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power, and the wonders He has done."  Ps 78:4

Thanks again for your continued support.

Bob "Ranger" Kroeker
Executive Director

Friday, January 31, 2020

Two Bracelets



Today my guest blogger is David Song who has been a member of our staff seasonally since 2014.  I was encouraged as I read what David had to say about his experience here at Evergreen and I trust that you will be encouraged as well.  Here's what David has to say...

Good Day,

My name's David Song, but if you met me at Camp Evergreen, you probably know me as Iggy.  And if that's the case, you'll know me as a loud, energetic, and outgoing staff member who gets creative on the canoe pond, knights people at the archery range, and approaches every single wide game like it might be his last.  You'll also know that I love getting to know people, whether you're a camper, a Pit Crew or Intern, a member of a guest group, or a fellow staff member.

Up until recently, you wouldn't have known me as a guy who likes to wear bracelets.  I never have in the past, and I am horrible at making them myself.  But nowadays, I wear not one, but two bracelets on my right wrist, and I deeply cherish the things they represent.  I'd like to take this time to share the story behind each one.

Let's start with my green bracelet, a standard piece of identification for all Evergreen summer staff.  I don't need to wear it outside of the summer, but I choose to because I'm proud of the work I've done at camp.  Or perhaps I should say: the work that God has done through me.

I've had the privilege of working at Camp Evergreen for six years: three springs, two falls, and six consecutive summers.  That's a lot more than many people get to do, but between financially supportive parents and a God-given desire to invest in camp ministry, I made it happen.  Now when I first joined the staff team in 2014, I didn't think I would enjoy working with children and youth.  I'd never done it before, I was anxious, and the only reason I even signed up was because I had many close friends on staff.

Matthew 17:20 reminds us that if we have faith as small as a mustard seed, we can move mountains, and God used the little faith that I had in 2014 to make a difference.  That summer I quickly became a member of our A-Team, which meant I was responsible for leading various activities like archery and canoeing - and the job fit me like a glove.  Of course, there were also the wide games, from classics like Jug and Jog, to new shenanigans we make up every summer.  It didn't matter how sick or tired I was: I always overflowed with energy and joy when I got to participate in a camp game.

2014 was a fairy tale, a dream come true.  Subsequent summers, however, forced me to learn some tougher lessons.  For all my friends on staff, there was the occasional person I did not get along with.  Someone who chose to judge me without getting to know me.  Someone whose personality did not mesh with mine.  Camp is full of humans, after all, and that means it isn't perfect.  Conflict will inevitably arise, and learning to manage said conflict in different ways has been an invaluable experience.

I also learned that even though camp is an incredibly fun job, it's still a job.  There were days in the summers (and especially the springs and falls) when I was tired.  Days when I did not want to serve food or clean bathrooms yet again.  Couldn't someone else do it?  Couldn't our leaders stop assigning us seemingly unnecessary work projects.  I asked these questions many times, and God had to work on me before I realized the importance of being a good teammate on a hard a day.  Everything we do at camp is in service of the Kingdom of Heaven: even the jobs and roles that appear thankless and needless.

Having said that, camp is more than just a job.  It is a community.  And that brings me to my second bracelet: the beautiful red, black, and yellow one.  A good friend of mine from Evergreen made it for me this fall.  And when I look at it, I am reminded of the other key part of my camp experience: the relationships God has blessed me with.

In 2011, I came to Evergreen for the first time as a 15-year old teen camper with my best friend.  At once, I was welcomed and accepted for who I was.  Not only where the activities and games an absolute blast, but I also embraced the chance to explore my then-fledgling faith.  I knew that God had to be at the heart of such a lively and loving community, and I knew that I had to go back.  Two years later, I made the decision to apply for staff.

At Camp Evergreen, I've met a lot of incredible young men and women who desire to follow Jesus.  Many of them have since moved on, but the impact they've had on me remains.  My camp friends accept me for who I am.  Thanks to them,  I've learned that real friendship is about genuine love and mutual respect.  This has allowed me to move on from certain people in my life, former friends who no longer build me up.  And it's also enabled me to take it in stride when others decide they don't want to be my friend.

Even more importantly, my friends have always pointed me towards Jesus.  Their kindness and integrity are reflective of the traits our Lord wants us to cultivate.  When I feel angry or down, my friends consistently encourage me with kind words and counsel.  And God has used their counsel to teach me more about who He is: a perfectly loving and just Father who is always deserving of my trust, even when I harbour strong doubts about Him.

All these experiences have helped me learn the most important lesson of my life thus far: that God created every person, including myself, fearfully and wonderfully.  I did not believe that for most of my life.  When I looked in the mirror, I used to see a short, overly quirky guy who lacked all sort of abilities that others possessed.  There are lots of people who are more athletic, more intelligent, more charismatic, and more talented than I am.  And years of comparing myself negatively to others caused me to believe that I have little value as a human being.

God used Camp Evergreen to show me that such a belief is a lie.  My camp friends have affirmed my worth.  The camp environment has given me a platform to imply my strengths for good.  Every year, the campers remind me that they don't care how tall I am or what skills I have.  They do care about whether or not I genuinely invest in them - whether or not I strive to bond with them and improve their experience.  And Jesus has blessed me with the desire and the ability to do so.

I know the Lord has used camp ministry to impact numerous lives, and I am grateful to have been part of that process.  Now, it is finally time for me to move on to Indianapolis, where I'll be pursuing a masters's degree - and a career - in sports journalism starting January 2020.  I am hardly thrilled about the idea of leaving my home and community here in Calgary.  And on some level, I am heartbroken about not returning to Evergreen next summer.  (Ranger's note - we will miss you Iggy!)

Yet, I know it is time for me to apply what I've learned at camp.  I know that God is trustworthy, and now I must trust Him.  I know that He provides for me in every way, and now I must be confident that He will.  I know that in my absence, God will raise up new staff to impact the lives of future campers, and now I must be willing to pass the torch to them.

If you're reading this, I hope that you've gotten some idea of what Camp Evergreen means to me.  If you are a camper, it has been my joy to hang out with you over six years.  If you are a campers parent, thank you for trusting us with your children.  If you are one of those camp friends I hold dear, you know exactly who you are.  And if you're a staff member with whom I'm not close, I still wish you the best, wherever you're headed.

Finally: if you're one of the teenagers I've gotten to know through Pit Crew and Internship over the past few summers, get excited.  You are the next generation of Camp Evergreen staff, and I hope you receive the opportunity to learn, play, laugh, and struggle just as I have.  Our Lord will use you to change lives in ways you can't imagine, and He will change your life in the process.  I'm so thankful I stuck around long enough to meet some of you and work with you on staff.  And I will always be rooting and praying for you, no matter where I am.

My two bracelets tell my story.  I can't wait to hear yours.

Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid.  Do not be discouraged.  For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. - Joshua 1:9

Thanks David for sharing with us.  And thank you for your continued support.

Bob "Ranger" Kroeker
Executive Director

                    "Iggy"

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Twas The Night Before Pond Hockey

Well if you're reading this today (Thursday), it's actually two nights before Pond Hockey!  Thanks Katherina for being my guest blogger today.  Enjoy!







Twas the night before Pond Hockey, when all through the camp
Not a staff member was stirring, not even little Scamp
The hockey sticks were placed by the rink with care,
In hopes that Pond Hockey would soon be there;
The hockey players were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of slap shots, body checks, and trophies danced in their heads;
And John in his Blackhawks jersey, and Lane in his Calgary theme
Had just settled their quarrel about who had the best team
When out on the rinks there arose such a clatter,
They both sprang from their seats to see what was the matter.
Away to the Welcome Centre they flew like a speed skater
Tore open the doors and hopped in the Gator
The moon in the sky and the freshly fallen snow,
Gave the glows of midday to the rinks down below.
When to their wondering eyes did appear
But the quadboni running with no snow left to clear,
With drivers so bundled and quick
They knew in a moment it must be Rolf and Dylan his sidekick
More rapid than bunnies his shovelers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and directed them by name:
Now Cicelly!  Now, Feli!  Now Jonas and Sina!
On Jono!  On, Lukas!  On Wendell and Carolina!
To the side of rink one!  To the side of rink two!
Now shovel away!  Shovel away!  Shovel away!  Hop to!
As the snow in the midst of a winter blizzard flies,
And when they meet with the forest, fall to the ground;
So too that's where the ice makers can be found
Pulling hoses full of water, and a little Zamboni too -
With a mighty shout, Lane and John heard on the rinks
The laughing and working, and winter boot clinks.
As John and Lane turned the Gator around,
Bob rushed to croki curl with a bound.
He was dressed in full hockey gear, from his head to his toe,
And his clothes were all covered with dog hair and snow;
A frozen jug in his hand and a hockey stick he had slung on his back,
He slid the jug across the ice with a smack.
His eyes - how they twinkled!  His ice fishing jokes, how merry!
He called for Bev to come see his great shot
While Courtney and Autumn found the perfect hot chocolate spot;
Harold, Eden, and Luis practiced their reffing calls,
While Theo, Max, and Jonah decked out the dining halls,
And Ken and Sarah cooked and baked to feed ravenous appetites.
Down at the barn Katherina and Mikaela got the Clydesdales ready with care,
And back in the office Colleen prepared for the players who soon would be there.
The rinks were prepared, they were ready to go
While shovelers prayed that it would no longer snow.
Lane and John looked around at the works in awe,
Pleased with the way it came together, they let out a great whoop and yee-haw!
As the sun shone on the camp down below
It could be heard over the speakers, so everyone would know,
"Happy Pond Hockey to all, and to all a good game!"

Thanks for your continued support.

Bob "Ranger" Kroeker
Executive Director