We Planned For the Future, But…

Posted by & filed under General, Giving, LOG, Stories of Ministry.

LisaOlsonFamily1000In The LOG we always like good Redwood Society stories – about people so touched by God at Mount Hermon that they’ve chosen to extend their legacy here with an estate gift. It is humbling to discover how some bequests arrive at an “appointed” time and in the exact amount needed for a crucial ministry opportunity. God delights in making this happen.

My own journey with my will and estate offers a word of warning. My husband, Mark, and I created a simple will when our first daughter was born. (Young parents, be sure you do that! Select a guardian yourself, not a court-assigned judge.) We also purchased ‘income replacement’ life insurance policies, with face values of ten times our salaries. By investing the proceeds at current interest rates the survivor could replace the income of the one who’d died. We were advised that would sufficiently sustain our lifestyle.

Then as many young couples do, we filed it, and never thought about it again … until. Twelve years later Mark was diagnosed with acute leukemia that took his life after a fierce nine-month battle. When serious illness is diagnosed, it is too late to revise your plan; you have to live – and sometimes die – with it.

Mark and I were both sobered to realize that, now as a ministry leader, his income had more than doubled in those twelve years. Also, we’d underestimated our income when we purchased our life insurance, as more than a third of our compensation was in tax-free housing, utilities and perks. Our premiums were low, but so would be the proceeds.

Plus, our family had grown! We now had four children, ages 6, 8, 10 and 12, one with autism, one with epilepsy. I worked part-time to help with speech therapy and medical expenses, and was consumed with being a mom.

There was nothing we could change, so we focused on fighting the cancer. It weighed heavily on Mark that I would immediately need to work full-time, since our meager life insurance proceeds would not begin to cover his income portion.

And that’s what I did. Within two weeks of Mark’s home-going I was working full-time so we could keep our medical benefits, and I cut our budget to fit within my salary alone. God has faithfully enabled me to provide for my kids, and the insurance was enough for a down payment on a house. In that way, Mark was able to provide that first home for us, for which I have been extremely grateful.

Even with few assets, our will still had a charitable clause: if our entire family suffered a catastrophic event, our estate would pass a substantial portion to our ministry as secondary beneficiaries of our life insurance policies. That would have represented a significant gift, marking our legacy there for generations to come.

Though we had an ‘estate plan’ – a will and life insurance – we did not review it annually as our family grew and needs changed. If you are without an estate plan that covers current needs, please address that today. Many free online tools can help you prepare a simple plan. Then revisit it annually! And don’t forget to include Mount Hermon in your will or as a beneficiary to an insurance policy, HSA or retirement plan, leaving a legacy for those who will follow you here in the redwoods.


Literally…Life Transforming

Posted by & filed under General, LOG, Stories of Ministry.

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Experiencing the truth of Jesus’ love in a camp environment is not to be underestimated. I’ve known it personally in my own life, I’ve see it in the life of my son and I’ve watched it all around me at Mount Hermon for over 18 years. This reality and truth comes in many forms: a powerful message spoken to us through a speaker, the open heart and listening ear of a counselor toward a tender, restless youth, the “respite” for parents as their child with special needs is lovingly cared for, allowing them to reconnect as a couple, or to quietly walk through Gtod’s majestic creation.

The impact is life-transforming, literally.

For generations Mount Hermon has provided a loving hand to those who need a little help to get here. Generous donors have opened their hearts to make this possible. In 2015 over $440,000 in camperships were granted. Some give because they’ve experienced Jesus’ love here and want others to do the same. During a leaner season of life others have had the blessing of receiving a campership so they or someone they love could come to camp. Many times we see this latter group “return the gift” through their support of the Campership Fund—to pass their blessing on.

Below is a note we received by just such a person.

“When my daughter was struggling in her faith as a teenager she attended camp at Ponderosa Lodge. Her interaction there with Christ and her counselors sustained her during a dry season. As a single mom with limited resources I could not have made that experience a reality without the support of a donor who sowed into her, never seeing her face or knowing her name. I am sowing this gift to do the same for another—may the Shalom of God be with the child and parent. Thank you!”

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This story is very close to my heart because that girl is my niece, Jordan, and that note is from my sister, Vana. Jordan is now 27 and still powerfully recalls the summers she spent at Ponderosa Lodge. Jordan says:

“Attending Ponderosa was a gift that gave me a reprieve from the onslaught of the world at a pivotal age. It showed me a world where people my age were striving hard to live for something bigger and better than just themselves. The camps, and later working on summer staff, have helped to strengthen my bedrock with the Lord and grow me into the woman I am today. I am forever blessed and grateful for the effect Mount Hermon has had on me and my walk of faith.”

You may have a similar story because someone opened their heart to make the way for you! We are immeasurably grateful to you who choose to give the gift of camp to another. Vana and I will never be able to thank the person who paved the way for Jordan, but we campers are going to have some beautiful stories to share around the campfire in heaven.

The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Matthew 25:40 (NIV)


Family Camp Summer Theme: Settlers of Hermon

Posted by & filed under Alumni, General, Stories of Ministry.

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This summer at Family Camp we will be invited to “Come and Settle” with God. Using Psalm 23 along with a portion of John 10, campers will be encouraged to explore what it means to have God as our shepherd.

On Monday we will look at the first stanza of Psalm 23, and explore the idea of God as our shepherd who provides for all of our needs. He provides us rest, renewal, and refreshment. On Tuesday we will jump to John 10, where Jesus tells that He is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for us. Thursday will focus on God’s presence with us in hard times, including dark valleys and attacks from our enemies. Finally, on Friday, we will see how God initiates a relationship with us and pursues us relentlessly, no matter our response.

To contextualize our spiritual curriculum, campers will be invited into the land of Hermon. Hermon is a quaint and quiet land. The Army first came to the area to build an outpost but quickly saw the potential of what a great settlement it could be with rich veins of ore, rock and coal, land for wheat, overgrown forests for responsible foresting, pastures for livestock, mainly sheep, and clay for building houses, buildings, and more.

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The Army sent a call to those in the East inviting them to come and settle this fine piece of uninhabited land. Many came. When they arrived, they discovered it was just as the Army had reported, a land ripe for settling and leaving the stresses of their old lives behind them.

As news of Hermon began to grow, people did come, but some came for other purposes. Some pioneers came only to stay for a little while and then plow through to see what was next, missing the whole point of what the land had been intended. And with new people, came other kinds of people. People who didn’t care about working the land, or finding new land. Just people who felt that they could benefit from the work that others did and left behind them.

But the Army has stayed true and consistent since the beginning. They came to set up the fort, they guard the roads keeping the Settlers of Hermon safe during the harvest season and are quick to assist when trouble arises.


Ponderosa Summer Theme: Through the Woods

Posted by & filed under General, Stories of Ministry.

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Last summer as I read through all the student evals, I was struck by the reoccurring statement that I saw students write: that they “learned that they could become more like Jesus no matter what they struggled with or did in their past.” As we grow closer to Jesus, we learn that He loves us and His love covers our sin and struggles. And yet how often do we still fear that there is something that will keep us from being able to truly experience His love? These students’ statements made realize that we needed to camp out right there, in the middle of all the things that we think could separate us from God’s love. And to shine the light of the Gospel truth that nothing can separate us from God’s love.

The theme this summer at Ponderosa is “Through the Woods.” “The Woods” is the place in each our lives where we hide our secrets, sin and shame. It’s in this darkness where we hide from God, convinced that if He saw what we hide or do in darkness, there’s no way He would still love us. And yet the truth we’re declaring to students, as Paul writes in Romans 8, is that not even the Woods can separate us from God’s love. His love is the light that shines in the darkest parts of our lives, and calls us to journey through the Woods and live with Him. Romans 8 is the central truth to this theme and how Paul drives it home in verses 38-39 in which he declares “For I am convinced that neither death nor life…nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Please pray for the students and staff who will embark on this journey this summer, that they would be led one step closer to Jesus and know the truth about God’s incredible love for them.

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Kidder Creek Summer Theme: Rooted

Posted by & filed under General, Stories of Ministry, Youth.

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There are so many messages coming at us in today’s world.  It can be easy to feel blown around by the winds of pop culture. That’s why it is so important to invite kids into the hope of the eternal truth of God’s Word. In Colossians 2:7, Paul gives the instruction to “Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”

Our theme for summer 2016 is “Rooted.” We each have roots and we each have to choose where we allow our roots to grow. Do we allow them to grow down into our personal talents, our outward appearance, our social status? These options are temporary and unsteady. Instead we’ll be challenging campers to allow their roots to grow down into God’s eternal love for them. Once firmly rooted, they will be prepared to navigate the joys and difficulties that they face every day.

Please join us in prayer as we unfold this theme in the coming months. Our desire is that campers would leave Kidder Creek with a better understanding of how to grow in their faith in Christ.


Redwood Summer Theme: Port Redwood

Posted by & filed under Alumni, General, Stories of Ministry.

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After narrowly escaping death on the open sea, ship destroyed and captain lost, four swashbuckling pirates wash up on shore in their dinghy. In desperate search for water to quench their thirst, they stumble upon an unknown treasure. Loading up as much as they can into their small dinghy, they head to Port Redwood with one mission in mind, get another boat without being seen or suspected and get the rest of that loot! Just as their quest begins the pirates discover they have stolen the treasure of the Dread Pirate King. They begin to hear the rumors of the dread that follows this king and any who cross his path. As they continue preparations the crew realizes they are missing one of their own and fear the worst… The Dread Pirate King has taken him captive. Soon after they receive correspondence from this mysterious King, leaving them to wonder who this mysterious Pirate King is and what he wants with them. After hatching a plan to discover the truth of this ominous king, the crew recruits the townspeople of Port Redwood, to help them discover the truth of the Dread Pirate King.

This summer we will discover who Jesus is, shining light on the myths about Him, while seeking to understand what it means that Jesus is King. Using daily small groups, founded in scripture, we will take the misconstrued ideas society has about Jesus and debunk them, one at a time illuminating Jesus’ Kingship. We will start the week showing that Jesus is not taking captives, but is inviting each and every one of us to follow Him! As the week continues we will dive into Jesus’ revolution not of violence, but of love and His new Kingdom here, where all are chosen! Campers will learn that they are worth “walking the plank” for as Jesus gave His life to save theirs, and they now have the choice to follow Him. We have weighed the evidence and decided Jesus is worth following, and now that they have all the evidence the choice is theirs.


Camp Sabbath Rest

Posted by & filed under LOG, Staff News, Stories of Ministry.

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No Summer Sunday Morning Services

Summer at Mount Hermon is amazing, and I can’t wait for June 2016 to come. My favorite moment of the week is when families show up for Family Camp on Sunday afternoon as the energy and anticipation vibrates throughout the mountain! For three months we have the privilege of enjoying group after group, week after week. Additionally, placed between weekly Family Camps, we have offered Saturday night dinners and concerts, stay-overs, and Sunday morning worship services and meals. This place never slows down. Never.

After experiencing one summer at Mount Hermon I became quite concerned about our staff’s need for a “Sabbath rest,” and so we began to do some research. We learned that most other camps have built rest into their summer schedule between Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon, allowing their staff the ability to catch their breath and get ready for the next week of high energy activity.

Therefore, after months of prayer, discussion and input, we made the decision to no longer provide summer Sunday morning worship services at Mount Hermon. The two main reasons are …

  • To provide our staff weekly refreshment, both physically and spiritually
  • To allow our staff to attend their own local church and not miss that for an entire season of the year.

Be assured that Mount Hermon will continue to provide a delicious Saturday banquet and outstanding concerts throughout the summer. Those who stay overnight on Saturday can attend one of the many good local churches in the area on Sunday.

We appreciate that not all will be pleased with our decision, but we do hope you understand why this decision was made. We thank God for the many decades this Sunday service has blessed lives, including mine. To God be the glory!


The Lasting Impact of Summer Staff

Posted by & filed under Alumni, General, LOG, Staff News, Stories of Ministry.

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We love re-connecting with Mount Hermon Summer Staff Alumni and finding out where and how in their journey God has been using their staff experience. Meet Dr. Terry McGonigal, who helps shape young men and women for ministry at Whitworth University in Spokane, WA. Terry served on Redwood Camp summer staff in 1972.

Q: How did serving at Mount Hermon impact you?

Terry: Dick Dosker, the camp director, deeply loved the campers, wanting them to grow in their relationship with Jesus, and into a life of discipleship. He showed me how to do truly relational evangelism with such a winsome manner. Ken Harrower’s mentoring as pastor to staff was also huge for me. Ken integrated serious biblical study, theological reflection and pastoral caring, and was a model of a life I wanted to emulate. I’m so grateful for both men.

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Q: What was your career journey after that summer?

Terry: After college, at Fuller Seminary I completed a Master of Divinity (’77) and a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies (’81). I then was Director of the Institute of Youth Ministries, a Young Life and Fuller partnership, from 1981-94. Our focus was integrating theological education with the practice of youth ministry. Since 1994, until recently, I was Whitworth’s Dean of Spiritual Life and Campus Pastor.

Q: What is your current role?

Terry: I am Director of Church Engagement. Through several grants we support various ministries, such as working with pastors to integrate spiritual formation with their craft of preaching. Our Academy of Christian Leadership equips lay people with ministry skills through tracks in Biblical Formation and Christian Leadership Development. This year we will support 55 Ekklesia Ministry Fellows, Whitworth students spending their summers expanding and deepening ministry projects around the world.

For information on these programs, see www.whitworth.edu/oce.

Read About Whitworth Programs


Felton Meadow Update

Posted by & filed under Building Projects, General, LOG.

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Mount Hermon’s Felton Meadow development project, which includes the Velocity Bike Park, is currently grinding its way through the Santa Cruz County planning and approval process. It’s been two years since the plans were first submitted to the County for review and subsequent discretionary approval, and you may be wondering what is taking so long.

In early 2015 the County determined that our project would require an environmental impact report (EIR). After lengthy preparations we officially entered into the EIR process in October 2015. So far so good. No red flags or issues that can’t be mitigated. You can be praying for a few areas of concern to our neighbors: traffic, biotic resources, and visual impact. These can be areas where the perceived impact overshadows actual.

We are hoping to have the draft EIR ready for public review early this summer, the final EIR completed by fall, and be back in front of the County Planning Commission before the end of the year. If all goes well, we could be moving dirt as soon as it is allowed in April, 2017.

feltonMeadow1000In January Mount Hermon hosted a “town hall” meeting for the local community. Colorful displays illustrated the site plan, environmental issues, building concepts and floor plans, and even general information about Mount Hermon. During the presentation our staff spoke about Mount Hermon’s long history in the area, how the community will be blessed through the programs and activities designed for them, and specifics associated with the actual construction, operation, and maintenance of the site.

The goal was to openly inform the public about what we want to do and why. More than 200 people attended including neighbors, business people and a local bike club of Junior High  students. We are encouraged by the swell of support we have since received. God is on the move!


Dale Pollock is the Facility Engineer for Mount Hermon. He brings 21 years of experience at Mount Hermon to his role as the Project Coordinator for the Felton Meadow development.

Read More About Felton Meadow


Blended Couples Retreat a Success

Posted by & filed under LOG, Stories of Ministry.

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What happens when you create a retreat for couples that are in a blended family relationship, navigating what it is to be a step-parent? What happens when you offer practical insight into new in-laws, ex-spouses, different parenting styles, finances and so much more…?

A whole bunch of people sign up! They came not knowing each other as couples and left as friends. Gil and Brenda Stuart, from Restored & Remarried, did a masterful job of teaching us, creating a safe environment for couples interaction and deep discussions that included laughter and tears. As a step-parent myself, to be part of this conference was both rich and encouraging.

It was interesting from my vantage point as the host to observe couples sitting down for the first session and it being very quiet in the room. By Saturday night we had to find ways to quiet them down!

This conference was born out of requests from couples saying they needed something to help them better understand step-parenting and all that goes with it. Either through divorce and remarriage or death of a spouse and remarriage, many find themselves in a position of his, hers, and now, ours. This retreat addressed those issues.

Attendee comments:

This is the best couple’s retreat we have experienced. It allowed us to fellowship with other couples facing similar situations.

Please continue this conference!!

We walked away with many new insights and techniques to parenting in a step-family. Thank you.

This was an incredible opportunity to communicate with like-minded people processing similar challenges in a safe, friendly and beautiful environment!