And We’re Off!

Today the middle school students along with 4 awesome leaders (Chris McIlhenny, Sheri Hoke, Joanna Maart and Pastor Craig) depart for at week in Washington DC.

Please keep us in prayer and keep coming back to this site as updates will be made every day. Expect to see pictures of our students smiling faces and our experiences.

Live, Love, Lead,

Pastor Craig Maart


Wednesday, Taco Thursday and Friday at camp

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The best part about being a student pastor is being side-by-side with students and other leaders when students make substantial spiritual breakthroughs in their lives. Yes we are having a lot of fun, but part of the fun has been spiritual movement within our students.

We have specifically prayed with students about things they want to let go of, such as fears, false identities, selfishness and anger. God’s spirit has worked in our students directly as well as through the speaker, Wayne, and the leaders.

Thursday night, after the evening chapel message on loving the outcast, difficult, needy and caring for others like Jesus did, we had fantastic discussion time. There has been some rough treatment of each other within our group of boys and God broke down some walls. Two of our studly boys stepped up to confess and say sorry to others in the group. This opened up a great time of sharing decisions on how they will treat each other. We ended with a fist bump circle (because guys don’t hold hands) and prayed together. Mr. Wakefield and Pastor Craig were smiling from ear to ear. And that is a looong distanceJ

The girls experienced their own bonding. Girls who don’t normally hang out with each other got to know each other and care for each other in amazing ways. This was especially evident through what will forever become known as “Taco Thursday. They mixed well in the cabins, made bracelets, origami and other crafts together. It was cool to see them all become mother hens for each other.

One other unique part of camp is the small group from China here this week. Most do not speak English and are using an interpreter. They have been so complimentary of our group for our care and hospitality to them. This is very cool.

Calvin Carver was given a “certificate of excellence” from an activities director for serving all afternoon at the extreme swing. This was also very cool and affirming of what we want our students to be. Nice job Calvin.

It has been so fun, other than the taco Thursday thing, to be at camp with this group of students. For the 8th grade students, this is their last big event in middle school. We get to launch them into middle school to continue on as powerful disciples of Jesus.

We so appreciate the love, support in prayer and finances from our church family. Camp is a giant boost to the disciple-multiplying process. We hope these posts have helped you feel connected to our experience. Without your support, this week would not happen. We can’t wait to report and share stories in person.

Special Prayer Please

Please pray for our middle school group at camp. Taco Thursday did a number on 5 of our students. After a miserable night of relived tacos in the cabins, those 5 students got an early ride home. Pray for safety, health and rest. The leaders were up a lot last night washing bedding and trips to the nurses cabin, so please pray for grace and rest tonight before the drive home.

I hope to get one more post with pictures up before we leave camp. With all the extra excitement the blog has slide down the priority list.

We look forward tonreportimg back to church tomorrow around 3:00 pm.

Tuesday at Camp Orchard Hill

We have gotten into the rhythm of the schedule at camp and things are going well. We are having so much fun because the activities are endless. As long as you can stay awake there is plenty to do. Pastor Craig even got to show off his mad kick-ball skills. The fact that he did not remember to pack shoes and is living in sandals may have been a bad choice, especially when playing kickball. He may have tweeked an ankle, but hey, pain is temporary and glory is forever!

We have had the privilege of celebrating the birthdays of Miss Melinda Rosario and Emily Parker at camp. They had the male counseling staff circle around them to sing the “happy birthday” song. It was uncomfortably loooong for the ladies in the middle. Funny for us to watch. We are also celebrating “Joy Hibshman appreciation day”. I’m not sure why, but these are the fun things that happen at camp.

On top of all the fun is chapel, worship time, the speaker Wayne, “Word Time (morning group devotions) and break-out sessions. This is the most valuable time at camp. We really get to slow down long enough to dialogue about what’s going on in our lives. We get to be open about what is holding us back from being ready for the more God has for our lives. Our fearless leaders; Melinda Rosario, Joanna Maart, Mark Wakefield and Pastor Craig are enjoying the process these breakout and discussion times become. We have been in 2 Corinthians 4 for our morning word time. What a great passage to read and talk through together.

The worship band has been fantastic. Their hearts for leading in worship and not just playing music is evident. They add a lot to the chapel services.

Wayne, the speaker for the week, has been doing a good job of keeping one theme clear. His progression throughout the week has been good and understandable for our students. The students really seem to enjoy his speaking.

A few classic things we get to experience at middle school camp are:

– boys running out of clean shirts by Wednesday night. Just turn them inside out and your good.

– meals in a crowded dinning hall

– running everywhere for no reason

– trip to the drugstore for meds and softer tissues

– late night trips to the nurse because students did not take their night meds at dinner

– broken glasses; repaired with super glue

– cleaning up the effects of sickness

– preventing a domino effect due to said sickness

– afternoon anti-siesta time. Who needs to rest during the day?

– plenty of “natural gas” emitted from the boys cabin. Girls don’t do thatJ

– Countless times being asked, “what time is it?” and “what’s next” as we stand next to a schedule on the wall.

It’s a good thing these experiences are counter balanced by things like:

– camp staff pulling me aside to compliment our students who have helped out with various things.

– seeing students singing out together

– seeing students reading the Bible and discussing it together

– lots of laughter and smiles

– the look on kids faces when the are on a tube behind the boat or on the extreme swing

It’s awesome. The tiredness is worth it. At least I am saying that nowJ

I hope you are enjoying the pictures and highlights. I am having computer issues but hopefully a few more posts will make it online.

Well that’s the short report for today. We are alive and well. There is enough food and we haven’t lost power this year. BONUS!

Until Later….

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The First Day at Camp Orchard Hill – 2016

Monday July 25, 2016

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The trip to camp was a little warm, but went smoothly and we arrived at camp with excited kids. After the fun process of separating a trailer full of luggage everyone got settled into their cabins. Thank goodness for air-conditioned cabins.

We went though camp orientation and an evening camp party before we headed to the cookout dinner. Then we had some free time before the evening campfire and our first session with Wayne, our speaker for the week.

The theme for the week is, “Ready for More”. In order to handle more of what God wants for us, we need to get ourselves ready. How are we preparing ourselves for what God has next for us? Wayne did doing a great job of helping us apply scripture to this process in our lives.

After the campfire service we went to discuss what we just heard. This is the most fun and effective part of camp for leaders who serve at camp. This is why we go. We get to help students we know process scripture and how we will apply it. This is what Jesus did with His disciples. This time is so sweet.

Getting to sleep the first night of camp is always interesting. Sometimes I think I would rather go to the dentist than get everyone settled down the first night of camp. Imagine trying to calmly walk twelve wild animals through the woods on leashes. Well that is about the same thing and getting everyone to sleep the first night of camp.

Monday morning we woke up around 7:00 am, went to the flagpole, breakfast, morning cabin devotions, activity electives, lunch, cabin clean-up, more electives, a thunderstorm, more food and our evening chapel time. It has been a good first day. Plus I got to try origami for the first time!

I hope you enjoy these daily blog posts and pictures. It is important that you feel connected to the discipleship process your students are going through. Stay tuned and I guarantee you will see at least one picture of your son/daughter with a big smile on their faces.

Please pray for our week at camp.

Leader Recognition – Washington DC – 2015

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A trip like this cannot happen without trusted Godly men and women who choose to invest in our students. I want to say a special thanks to our leaders for helping make this trip a blast and spiritually impactful. They endured the creaking beds, damp floor in the girls dorm room, peanut butter and jelly for 5 days straight, clogged toilets, a lot of driving, van issues, lack of sleep, 2 trips to the ER, constant questions and adjustments and more creaking beds. They stayed strong, were calming influences, lead in love and enjoyed being with our students.

Please join me in saying thank-you to those who gave of themselves to multiply disciples in the lives of our kids. When you see them, please stop to shake an hand and say thanks. They gave of their vacation time to be on this tripl. Jeff and Lynelle came on very short notice. Praise God for how He worked things out for them. Be comforted in knowing our group was well taken care of because of these leaders.

Cristi Parker     Lynelle Murray     Joanna Maart     Jeff McIlhenny    Mark Wakefield

We are forever grateful to you.

More Pictures – Washington DC – 2015

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This post is just to show more pictures of our week.  We tried to spread the coverage.  Some are “attracted” to the camera more than others, so I hope you get to see yourself or the ones you are looking for. What a great week.

Saturday, July 18 – Washington DC – 2015

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It was a pleasure to be part of this week and see the growth in all of us. I love it when we get away from our normal way of life to focus and be stretched for God. When you think about seeing our group in their morning devotions, hearing about kids praying out loud with strangers and doing things they never thought they would do; that’s is so cool to see.

Our group stayed flexible, drama free, healthy and safe. This was the first week long trip where two students ended up in the ER, but we survived well. We became very tired, but it is such a good tired. Granted we are ready for non-squeeking beds, but this was so worth the effort, stress, finances and training.

To God be the glory for this group choosing to engage in His ongoing redemptive mission. We are all getting it. God wants us to multiply disciples of Him. Our identity is in Him and that gives freedom to live in what we are saved to be.

Thanks for taking the time to read these posts. It is our desire to help everyone feel part of this missions trip. When you see students, please ask them about what they experienced and just listen.   Hershey Free Church has a rich tradition and fresh commitment to missions. Thank-you for your support, prayer and encouragement along the way. We may not have radically impacted DC for Christ, but what we did mattered. It is clear that God made another big impact on us. Please pray for this impact to stick with us, keep us committed to God’s Kingdom and strength to lead ourselves through the lens of the gospel.

Friday, July 17 – Washington DC – 2015

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Friday, July 17, 2015

SG #1 went to Central Union Mission Shelter and helped with cleaning beds, folding sheets and towels and random cleaning/organizing. They got to see and experience where guest stay for the night. It was a personal encounter with the reality of homelessness. The facility was the nicest one I have ever seen. It was a lot nicer than the condition we were sleeping in, that’s for sure. Plus the bunk beds were wood and very sturdy. We tried to get them to creak, but we couldn’t. We all fought the temptation to lay down on the beds there and experience peace and quiet.

In the afternoon SG #1 served at World Missions Extension Center. This is a community center that uses education and activities to help kids and reach them with the gospel. We helped with landscaping, outside clean-up, scraping, painting, a/c window unit adjustment and talking with kids from the community there. They are doing good stuff for the Kingdom of God there. It was warmer out today, so water breaks were necessary. This was a good last service site of the week for SG #1.

It was SG #2’s turn to be up and ready to leave at 5:30 am for prepping and serving breakfast, handing out clothing orders and talking with guests at “Charlie’s Place”. This is such a great ministry that helps people in need and offers things to help those who want more help out of their situation. One thing that stuck out to a lot of us is the fact that there are more places in the city where people can get help if they want it. That was encouraging.

In the afternoon SG #2 finished up working with the kids they have spent the week with. It was good to hear their passion for reaching the heart of the kids and see their appreciation for what they have at home. SG #2 were troopers with these kids. They stayed flexible and prepared in an environment much different than they are used to or would prefer things to be. We all need to be proud of them.

After dinner at an Indian and El Salvadorian restaurants, we met near the Lincoln memorial for our final debrief and carabeaner times. After a week like this is it sure nice to sit down together as our whole group and share the highlights of the week. Each person shared the most impactful part of the week. These are the parts of a trip like this that parents and supporters need to see and hear. Students who are timid at the beginning of the week are more confident. The love and support of each other is real. The environment to speak freely is reality, and the courage shown through the week is revealed. That alone was my highlight. You don’t want stuff like that to end.

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