Friday, October 25, 2019


Steaks!  I was going to start my blog by saying - "who doesn't like a good steak?"  But I stopped myself just in time because a lot of people don't like steaks.  And that's OK.  So I'll start by saying, "I like a good steak!"  The one thing I don't like about steaks - is BBQing them for company.  You see I haven't quite mastered how long to cook them.  I have this guide from Lobel's (some sort of fancy meat company from New York) that I get out every time.  I pull out the tape measure, faithfully measure how thick the steaks are (and then ask Bev to confirm), check out the chart as to how long to cook them, and inevitably the steaks are either still mooing or completely done in.  I have a hard time finding that sweet spot in the middle of the steak.

So the only thing I really like BBQing for company is pre-cooked farmer sausage from...Super Store.  You read that correctly.  Now I know I work at a Mennonite Camp and consider myself fully Mennonite, so I should be talking Winkler or Rempel farmer sausage from Downes Rd in Abbotsford.  But here's the deal, both Bev and I prefer the "Mennonite Style" farmer sausage from Super Store!  Easy to buy, easy to cook, and if you have - let's say almost your whole family over for lunch - you can cover the entire grill with sausage and not worry about giving anyone the gills because you forgot to rotate the meat.  But as usual I digress...

The steaks we're talking about in today's blog are stakes!  Our survey company (it's not like we own it) Al-Tera was on site Wednesday to survey the new lodge, the grease trap, the road way, and the new 10,000 gallon exciting and dynamic septic tank.  Bob T,  Don, Rolf and I (well I actually didn't do a lot!), were the roadies who tied survey tape to long spikes and then pounded them and the stakes into the ground. The picture below of Rolf, Don, and Bob T, is a little misleading.  At this point we were still waiting for Corey (Al-Tera) to finish setting up, and were just giving him some friendly advice.

It took Corey quite a bit of time to get ready to survey the lodge.  First thing we had to do is find Julia to get her to move her car (Mazada not a Honda as we thought) because last time Corey was here he left a spike in the ground to help connect to a satellite.  So he set up his $85,000 machine in the parking lot, headed over to where the new lodge is, set some reference points, came back to the parking lot for his machine, set it up near the new lodge, and we were ready to go.  It seemed like it took longer to set up than to actually survey out the lodge.  (I can sense a blog coming about how long it's taking us to get ready for the new lodge vs the actual time needed to build the new lodge!)

Within a couple of hours and after a great lunch (a good tasting potato and bacon chowder made by Autumn - thanks Autumn!) we were finished.  I can now take you to the four corners of the new lodge, show you where the grease tank is going, and yes, we can actually stand right where the fabulous septic tank is going!  (As someone once said, 10,000 gallons is a lot of poop!)  Some of us on staff saw the stakes for the lodge and thought, that looks smaller than I was expecting.  Others thought it looks pretty big.  One thing is for sure, the new lodge will allow us to not only grow, but to serve our guests, campers, and staff, so much better.  I can hardly wait!

We are still waiting (patiently...) on the Alberta government to respond to our septic system plan and well water licensing.  The bids for phase 1 and 2 of the septic upgrade are due in at the end of the month with construction slated to start April 15th.

When people ask how is Reaching Higher going?  My response is great!  We have been working as hard and as fast as we can from day one - April 7th, 2015, up to and including today, and not once has finances slowed us down! How cool is that?

Thanks for your ongoing support.

Bob "Ranger" Kroeker
Executive Director

Friday, October 11, 2019

Picture This

Pictures.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  They also say that Henrik Ipsen was the first person to use the phrase!  I've had a few favourite pictures over the last seven years I've been at Evergreen.  I'll focus (pun intended) on one picture in a minute but let me share a couple in the preamble!  And as far as the preamble goes it was difficult to narrow the "field" down.

For those of you who know the Kroeker family, you know that we really (really) like Disneyland.  Bev's parents used to be snowbirds in Palm Springs (Sky Valley) and we would vacation there every year.  Disneyland was a quick trip away and so our love for Disney was launched.  Here we are as a family on Radiator Springs Racers playing Uno.  I wonder who won?

Thanks to our friends Andrew and Lisa we discovered Maui back in 2015.  It has become one of our most restful vacation spots.  No matter how good your picture is, it's not even close to being there in person.

Finn and I go on regular walks.  Sometimes I bring my phone and often I don't.  Very happy I had my phone on me for this shot.  Anyone know where I was standing when I took the picture?

Kids!  My mom used to remind me that kids were baby goats and that I should call them children.  Well we are a children's camp for sure.  While we have all kinds of groups during the year, our focus has always been children in summer.  Here are a couple of my favourite campers!

This is the picture I wanted us to "focus" on.  You've seen this picture before and it's on track to be one of my absolute favourites.  We brought back the rodeo this summer and even though it was a bit of a work in progress, the summer campers and family campers really enjoyed it.  One highlight of course was the exploding outhouse.  (Have you heard of the book Race To The Outhouse?  Written by Willy Makeit and illustrated by Betty Wont)

Isn't this a great picture!  Starting at the far left and moving to your right we have Willy Makeit (Harold), Router (Ken), Acre (Helmut), and Stinky Pete (Dylan) - who's obviously fully engaged with the YMCA song!  Take a moment to click on the picture to make it bigger.  One of the first things you'll notice is the different understanding of the letter Y.  Willy has the tightest Y and by time we get to Pete...well I'm not sure if that's much of a Y anymore.  Willy looks like he is really concentrating, Router and Acre look a little surprised, and Pete  - as we already mentioned - is fully on board!  Did anyone notice Acre's boots?  One cowboy boot and one rubber boot.  Seems like there was a 50% chance of rain that evening.

I just want to say a big thanks to these four men for serving us this summer.  Harold was at the barn all summer, Ken built us a wack (and by wack I mean a wack) of directional signs, we had a hard time getting Helmut off the lawn tractor. and Dylan served us in maintenance alongside Rolf.  There is no way that we could run summer camp without our staff and volunteers, so if you think you've got the mojo to sing the YMCA song complete with actions, consider joining us next summer.  (We'll take you even if your actions are off key!)

We had four companies on site last week for a mandatory pre-bid meeting.  These companies will be bidding on phase 1 and phase 2 of our new and exciting septic system.  (You'd be hard pressed to see the septic system as exciting based solely on this picture!)  The bids will be awarded in November with construction scheduled to start April 15th - subject to frost!

We would appreciate a few extra prayers (and bodies) next week as we have a very busy week.  One very large guest group, followed by a large group, followed by our Lead Retreat with over 100 youth! Did I say busy?

Thanks again for your ongoing support.

Bob "Ranger" Kroeker
Executive Director

Friday, September 20, 2019


Autumn leaves are falling here at Camp Evergreen as we transition from our summer camp ministry into our busy guest group ministry.  The question that comes to my mind is - "where did summer go?"  When people ask me how summer was - I say great!  Our total number of campers was 1,071 which brought our occupancy to 103% - so that's good.  We had more than enough staff and volunteers - so that's also good.  And campers once again came to know Jesus for the first time - that's very good!

As most of you know (and experienced) we had a fairly wet/cool summer.  The bright side is there was never a camp fire ban, our grass continues to be green, and we didn't have much in the way of sun burn as there were maybe two hot days in a row!  While we did make some hospital runs, for the first summer in a while not a single ambulance was called!  That's also a good thing!

I love summer camp!  When asked my favourite time of year - hands down it's summer camp.  When asked my favourite age - I always reply our Sparks Camp (youngest camp).  Sparks once again did not disappoint as many (many) sticks found their way from the forest to the door of our cabins and dining hall.  Flashlights were always handy, Smarties and Skittles disappeared at a phenomenal pace, and lights out was a glorious 8 pm!

Campers of all ages grew in confidence this summer.  Campers who were afraid of horses conquered their fear and went on a trail ride.  Campers who were afraid of heights leaped into the zip line with pure joy on their faces.  But beyond the candy, beyond the activities and games, it's always a joy to see the singing in chapel and hearing stories of how God transformed lives again this summer.

Guest group ministry is also close to my heart as we get the privilege of portraying the love of Jesus to a wide variety of children, youth, and adults each week.  Traditionally 40% of our summer campers have no church connection.  A lot of those campers come to Camp Evergreen with their school or scout groups and then return in summer.

This September and October are again very busy as several of our guest groups are a little larger than normal. Great for revenue, a little hard on us as staff!  In fact if you are available to join us between October 15 and 20 we would love to see you here at camp.  William D Pratt school is joining us for the first time with 146 students plus adults!  Yikes!  (Where is that new lodge when you need it?).  Lunch on the 17th has William D Pratt plus Ecole Madeleine d'Houet for a total of 231 students over lunch!  Did I mention we're looking for some extra help?

And what about those ducks?  Remember we hired Finn back in March to start wrangling those ducks.  Reaching Higher continues to move forward.  We've drilled two new water wells as a part of the water licensing process.  The application for our septic system is moving forward as we've been asked some clarification questions from Alberta Environment.  (That's a good sign!)  And we're planning on meeting in a couple of weeks with four companies who will be bidding on phases 1 and 2 of our septic upgrade.

In case you missed it, just before summer CrossRoads Church in Red Deer gave us a grant for $10,000 to build a new kitchen across the creek at Foothills Outfitters Camp.  Rolf was able to get phase one done for this summer which allowed our camps across the creek to cook (Sous-Chef Kato whipping up breakfast) and eat under shelter from the rain,  Our goal is to finish the kitchen in spring.  Thank you very much CrossRoads!

Thanks for your continued support.  If you ever find yourself in the neighbourhood please stop by.  I would love to show you around.

Bob "Ranger" Kroeker
Executive Director

Friday, May 24, 2019

Duck Wrangling 101

By time the new lodge is built we should be quite proficient at wrangling ducks in a row here at Camp Evergreen.  In response to the seemingly never ending number of ducks waiting to be lined up, we have begun discussion on adding duck shooting this summer as an activity to help keep the ducks under control!  Just kidding!  But it does seem like the ducks keep on coming.  Or maybe they just keep getting out of the row.

Case in point.  Our new septic system duck.  We just found out that the county will not give us permission to build the new lodge until our septic system has been approved.  We knew all along that we needed a new septic system, and that it needed to be approved by the ministry of environment, but news that we had to have approval before starting construction - was a new duck to us.

Things often don't move very fast on government desks so we would ask you to pray for favour, and a speedy (positive) decision.

The second duck is our ground water evaluation.  I mentioned this duck before and this is the one duck  that keeps growing until the point our friend Bob Thiessen started calling it a goose.  When  all is said and done the "evaluation" part will cost us $50,000.  All our wells need to be up to today's standards which means the best case is upgrading our wells.  The worst case is installing new wells.  Upgrading our wells is a cheaper option, but it means that at a certain point we'll be in the middle of our busy guest group season without water!  The new well route will be more expensive, but less disruptive.

It's safe to say that the rules and regulations today are far more strenuous then back in the late 1970's when the current lodge was built.  In anticipation of the ducks getting in a row we need to sense the urgency and follow up with our commitments.  Now is the time to support the financial duck!  :)

Foothills Outfitters kitchen continues to move forward.  The funds have arrived and the first load of lumber has been purchased and delivered.  We're pretty excited about how this kitchen will vastly improve our food and eating experience across the creek.  Rolf is busy tongue and grooving (we think Rolf is pretty groovy!) the base together.  This afternoon as a staff we were able to celebrate Rolf's 10ish years here at Evergreen.  Thanks Rolf for all you do for us!

Another exciting thing to report is the number of summer kitchen volunteers we already have lined up.  We set a goal this year of 4 kitchen helpers per week to make the cooking load lighter for everyone.  That means everyone will have either a morning or afternoon shift.  We're only looking for six more volunteers, two for each of the following weeks:

July 7-12
August 11-16
August 18-23

If you can join us in the kitchen or need more information please connect with Lane in the office.  At this point I'm very excited to share that all our summer staff are in place!  Thanks program team for your hard work and to God for providing our staffing needs for another summer.  Please remember to donate to our CSJ fund as we were denied federal staff grants for a second year in a row.

Speaking of dates - these should already be in your calendar but one of the practical ways to support us is by attending one (or more!) of our events.

June 8 - Tough Camper Run
June 22 - Annual General Meeting followed by the Open House followed by the first Alumni Day
July 17 - Alumni Afternoon

As always it's helpful for us to know if you're coming so we can have enough ice cream on hand!  Please call the office if you're planning on attending.

Thanks for your continued support, we appreciate it very much.  If you're ever in the neighbourhood please stop by I would love to show you around.

Bob "Ranger" Kroeker
Executive Director

Friday, April 26, 2019

Lawn Chairs and Baseball Gloves

My illustrious baseball career came to a short stop!  While I enjoy playing baseball, the only team I've been on was when Bev and I lived in Swift Current Saskatchewan.  Darbaryle Upholstering sponsored a slow pitch team that was mostly made up of players from our church.  I joined the team and lasted two seasons before we moved to Alberta for the first time.

The pitching was right down my alley (sorry to mix sport puns) as the pitcher lofted the oversize softball in a slow arch towards my bat - it was not that difficult to hit the ball.  I can't remember how well we did in the standings, but I do remember having a lot of fun.

Our son Mitch also had a short and successful baseball career.  Recently we were looking through some old pictures and found a couple beauties.  The greatest challenge in coaching a young baseball team is getting them to focus on the game instead of the bugs in the grass.

Why am I talking about lawn chairs and baseball gloves in this week's blog?  We're bringing back baseball to Camp Evergreen.  At this years Annual General Meeting and Open House (June 22 in the highly unlikely case it's not already on your calendar) we will end with a BBQ in the field and a baseball game or two.  So if you're coming - and you should come - bring your lawn chair and baseball glove.

The AGM in the morning is our most important day of the year and we need the support of our society members. There will be reports, a lodge update, staff sharing, and of course the now famous ice cream right in the middle of the meeting.

The Open House in the afternoon is a great way for you and your friends to experience camp.  Activities will be open and new for this year, will be a prayer tour in the afternoon led by our first full time director Walt Loewen.

We're also having two Alumni Days in 2019.  An opportunity to reunite and reconnect with former campers and staff.  For many of us camp has a strong memory and we would love to be able to get together and hear some of those "bear in the pantry" stories.  The first one is June 22 - which is also our AGM and Open House.  We will plan on taking some time in the afternoon to connect.  The second is Wednesday July 17th in the mid afternoon.  We'll join the campers for a BBQ supper out on the field (weather permitting) and spend some time after supper visiting. You may as well leave your lawn chair in the car!

It's always helpful for us to know who is planning on coming so we can be better prepared from a food perspective. We don't want to run out of ice cream!  :)

The lodge continues to move ahead as we get some more ducks in a row.  One of our newest ducks is a groundwater supply evaluation.  We're currently waiting for confirmation from the county as to what that exactly entails.  What we do know is our development permit is now delayed by at least two weeks.  Oh those pesky ducks!

Donations towards the lodge at this time are very helpful in allowing us to move forward.

Thanks for your continued support.

Bob "Ranger" Kroeker
Executive Director

Thursday, April 18, 2019

The New Lodge

Let me introduce to you the newest member of our Camp Evergreen team - the new lodge!  Finally after what seems many months - well it actually was many months - we have some pictures to show you of our new lodge.  As a board and staff we are pretty excited about the ministry potential this building will allow us to have.  We are still making some last minute (minor) changes so the final result will look slightly different!

Here are some quick numbers:

1 - lodge
1 - elevator
1 - meeting room
2 - stories
2 - boot rooms - one really big!
2 - refrigerators - two different temperatures - you'll have to ask Ken...
2 - laundry rooms
3 - dining rooms - or one big one - for a total of 400 people (not squished)
3 - lounges/sitting areas
8 - hotel style rooms - expandable to 15

The lodge is approximately 22,000 square feet and will sit close to where our current mini lodge is located, overlooking the lower playing field towards the west.  We're hoping that we will be able to see some of the mountains from the upstairs rooms.

Some of you might be wondering - why a new lodge?  We've been turning campers away since January - shortly after registration opened.  We've also been turning guest group after guest group away from April to the end of October.  This lodge will allow us to expand our current style of ministry.

The lodge will also allow us to branch into new kinds of ministry.  We would love the host the Alberta Mennonite Brethren conference, we'd love to host church leadership teams and Alpha weekends.  There is a seemingly endless amount of new ministry that awaits us.

And finally this lodge is critical to our much needed winter revenue which in turn is needed for a healthy budget.

Many of you know that the board voted to start this lodge in October of this year.  We are still working with many, many ducks, trying to get them in a row for us to be able to put a shovel in the ground.  In fact a brand new duck showed up this morning!  One of the biggest ducks - finances.  Without your support this lodge will not move forward - it's as simple as that.  We have already raised in cash and pledges close to a million dollars towards the new lodge ($935,693).  We believe this project is doable because no contribution is too small - or too large for that matter!  :)

And Finn?  Finn is now almost 13 weeks old.  We're working hard on changing some of his bad habits and are rejoicing at his good habits.  At last weigh in he's 22 lbs already!  He's still pretty excited to see our guests so we're working hard at keeping all four paws on the ground!

May you experience God's blessing and goodness this Easter weekend.

Thanks for your continued support.

Bob "Ranger" Kroeker - and Finn!
Executive Director

Friday, March 29, 2019

Ducks...Lot's of Ducks

Remember me telling you about all the ducks we need to get in a row before we can start the new lodge this coming October?  (In case you missed it, the board voted to start the new lodge this October!)  Well Finn is doing his best with the ducks!  Since we last visited, some more unexpected ducks showed up in our pond!  There seems to be ducks coming out of the woodwork so it's a good thing we have a golden retriever on staff!  Way back in August, we hired a geo technical company to drill test holes where we want the new lodge to go.  They came, they drilled, they reported, and said yes, the ground where you want to build the new lodge is solid.  We continued to move ahead.

Last week we submitted our application for a development permit and were planning to start removing trees at the beginning of April - while our busy season is still about a month away.  And then, just like that, another duck showed  up!  It seems that even though we have a professional report on the stability of the ground, the county needs to still talk to the provincial government about our set back.  We're optimistic that the Alberta government will recognize our report, but you never know.  That means rather than starting to cut down the trees as we had planned...we find ourselves trying to get some more ducks in a row!

Another duck we found this week was the provincial election!  Who would have thought an election could be a duck?  If you didn't know, just prior to an election, counties are not allowed to "bother" the provincial government.  This could very well mean a delay in our development permit!

But not all ducks are bad.  The final duck for this blog is a 350K duck.  Since we voted to go ahead with the new lodge, $350,000 in pledges has come in.  How exciting is that?  This lodge will not get built if we all just think it's a good idea and it stops there.  This lodge will not get built if we all think someone else could and should donate.  The only way this will get built is if we all participate together, if we all give sacrificially.  We're not giving to a building and we're not giving simply to put up concrete walls.  We're giving for the opportunity to share the life changing Good News of Jesus Christ like never before.

We have a unique and distinctly powerful formula here at Camp Evergreen.  Guests return as campers every year.  Every summer campers come to know Jesus for the first time.  It's as simple as that and that is what we're giving towards.  Eric, our board chair, shared from Luke 11:8 at our last board meeting.  Jesus encouraged us to ask with shameless audacity.  It is with this same shameless audacity we ask you to join us, as we "tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power, and the wonders He has done."  Ps 78:4

Thanks for your continued support.

Bob "Ranger" Kroeker (And Finn)
Executive Director