What Mount Hermon Taught Me About Writing and Life

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

by Joseph Bentz

The Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference has been a crucial part of my calling as a writer. Of the nine books I’ve published, all but the first one came from connections I made at Mount Hermon. I connected with my publishers and also found my agent there. I have made many friends at Mount Hermon and have also served as a faculty member at the conference about fifteen times.

Oddly enough, I didn’t really want to go to the conference the first time I signed up. I didn’t know much about writers’ conferences and had never heard of Mount Hermon. I signed up only because I happened to see a brochure that showed a particular editor I wanted to meet was going to be there. I went solely to see him. It was a seven-hour drive from my house, and at the last minute, I almost backed out.

I’m Glad I Went

The editor I wanted to see ended up canceling, so I didn’t meet him. But I fell in love with the conference anyway. I had brought nothing to pitch and had no idea what sessions I would attend, but I soaked in all the information I could and met fascinating people at every meal and in every workshop. With all these writers surrounding me, I had found my people. I was hooked on this conference.

The next year I came back more prepared, and I have attended most years ever since, either as a conferee or faculty member.

Important Lessons Learned

Mount Hermon has taught me some important lessons about writers and writers’ conferences. Here are a few that I wish I had known from the start:

• I don’t have to force everything to happen in my career as a writer.

As a newer writer, I often went to Mount Hermon feeling great pressure to get some specific result. I felt I had to meet a certain editor or had to get someone interested in a particular proposal. I eventually realized the best things that emerge from the conference are often much different from what I go there to seek.

One year I brought a proposal for a series of World War II novels I hoped to write. I got nowhere with that proposal, but on the evening before the conference officially started, I happened to sit down with an editor who listened to an idea I had for an entirely unrelated nonfiction book I thought about writing someday. She loved it and asked for my proposal. I told her I didn’t have one, I was just talking. I went home and worked on the idea and proposal over the next six months, and that led to a contract and a relationship with her publishing company, which resulted in my next five books, with more to come.

• Knowledge is important, but relationships are even more important.

Some people who can’t decide whether or not to go to a writers’ conference ask, why pay all that money to go to a conference? Can’t you get most of the same information online? If information were the only thing that mattered, I might agree. But I would not trade the relationships I have made at Mount Hermon for anything. I am not referring only to connections with editors and agents, as helpful as those have been. I’m talking about friendships I have formed with some of the most amazing people I have ever known. What’s not to love about a place stuffed with fellow writers and fellow Christians with remarkable stories to tell?  

• Some of the best answers I receive at the conference are for questions I didn’t even know to ask.

Mount Hermon has helped to expand my universe of what is possible for me as a writer. It opens up ideas, genres, markets, techniques, and opportunities that never would have occurred to me on my own. I go with my eyes and ears wide open, asking, what might I try next?

•  Mount Hermon is a spiritual place, bathed in prayer, and in the presence of the Holy Spirit for more than a century.

The physical beauty of Mount Hermon is inspiring, and the way God shows up is breathtaking. If you listen, he will speak to you there.

Joseph is mentoring a nonfiction clinic at Mount Hermon this year. The title of his sessions is Writing the Irresistible Nonfiction Book. Find out more about Morning Mentoring Clinics here.

Joseph Bentz

Joseph Bentz is published in both fiction and nonfiction, with four novels and five nonfiction books. His most recent book, Nothing is Wasted, was published in 2016 by Beacon Hill Press. His novel Dreams of Caladria was published by Enclave in 2015. He is currently at work on a book about passages of Scripture that have changed the world. He is a professor of English at Azusa Pacific University in Southern California, where he teaches courses in writing and American literature. His blog, Life of the Mind and Soul, can be found at www.josephbentz.com. He frequently teaches at writers’ conferences and also speaks at churches, professional conferences, and other venues around the country.

Early Bird Catches the Discount

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Attendees seated at Mount Hermon conference grounds

Haven’t registered yet for the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference? Be an early bird and save $75 by registering before February 1st. Registration includes conference, lodging, and meals.

You don’t want to miss Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference’s golden anniversary celebration. A fifty-year milestone means a bash of epic proportions with lots of extra-special things planned, including four keynote speakers.

Registering now to secure your spot will not only save you money, but will help you secure your favorite housing option. Because lodging is limited, and with everyone wanting in on the celebration, accommodations are filling up quickly. Coming with friends? Just name your roommates when you register.

Don’t know anyone to room with? The registration team is skilled in teaming registrants with other like-minded people. Many lifelong friendships have been forged by meeting new roommates. (Read “Let God Pick Your Roommates.”)

If you like to eat (and, honestly, who doesn’t?), the meals are plentiful and delicious. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert—oh my. Buffet tables are loaded with options for a variety of eating styles. If you have specific food limitations, you may let the registration staff know by filling out the Special Dietary Information form.  This form must be submitted no later than MARCH 5.

The Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference has always been multi-faceted: First Timers Contest, pre-conference mentoring clinics, morning mentoring, major morning tracks, afternoon workshops, advanced submission manuscript critique opportunities, optional activities, and mingling with agents, publishers, and your peeps—fellow writers.

Don’t wait. To save $75, head to our website and register now, http://writers.mounthermon.org/registration. (The early-bird discount will be applied after registration is complete.)

Mark & Joan

Posted by & filed under Associates, General, Kindling.

Part of the family…that’s Mark and Joan Folden. They have left their fingerprints all over Mount Hermon both literally and figuratively.  Chances are you may have met them

Mark shares their story:

“I grew up attending Mount Hermon as a teenager.  Early on in our marriage, we began to attend couples conferences and family camp with the children and renting cabins through Mount Hermon.  A few years later, we were able to purchase a cabin of our own. This allowed us to spend even more time at Mount Hermon. Our children were able to attend multiple day camps while we enjoyed the adult teaching. A favorite time was Sunday morning Bible study with Roger Williams. It didn’t take long to realize this would be our favorite place to spend our time. 

We began volunteering about 12 years ago, starting out ushering and collecting tickets at the Saturday night concerts. Over time our involvement increased to include ‘hosting’ a donut table during the summer coffee breaks, serving as door greeters to the dining hall, table setters, and helping serve the guests at the Sunday night barbecues.  We also enjoy working in the auditorium during the summer and Christmas concerts.  We love interacting with the guests as we greet people, collect tickets, and help with seating. 

For a number of years we did ‘airport runs’, picking up speakers and musicians during the summer.  We enjoyed having these people captive in our car for the hour it took to drive over the hill.  Great memories and friendships resulted from those experiences.

One of our favorite times is meeting the guests each week throughout the campus, greeting them, remembering their names and talking with them about their lives. Connecting with people we come to know brings an instant smile.

Being part of the volunteer family allows us to have a closer relationship with those we serve and work with. We have made lifelong friends and have had the joy of celebrating events of happiness as well as caring and praying for other volunteers as we go through challenging times.

When we first heard about Mount Hermon’s Associates in Ministry, we had a heart tug knowing we wanted to participate.  The Associates in Ministry Celebration each year, including the Friday morning prayer time, has become the highlight of our Mount Hermon experience.  We strongly believe in the Redwood Society. We know that leaving a financial legacy to Mount Hermon will help continue the mission of ‘Lives Transformed’ for many years to come.

We feel abundantly blessed having an opportunity to serve at Mount Hermon.”


Mark and Joan are a beautiful example of the faithful friends that help make Mount Hermon so special. They love and care for our guests and staff so generously. Thank you to Mark and Joan, thank you to our volunteers and thank you to our Associates. Mount Hermon would not be the same without you! 

By Kerry Phibbs
Advancement Team

God Knew All Along!

Posted by & filed under Kindling, Redwood Society, Stories of Ministry.

Have you ever had a moment where you realized God had been working “behind-the-scenes” for years without you even knowing it? I certainly have, and last fall at Mount Hermon we experienced one of those God moments that only He could have orchestrated. 

Last summer a couple came to us expressing interest in purchasing two homes for Mount Hermon. It was their desire that we would use these homes for staff housing. We were overwhelmed and so thankful. We identified two perfect houses close to the Conference Center, but there was a slight problem: the homes needed some work, and one of them needed a lot of work. 

After a careful walk-through by our maintenance department, we determined that the needed work would come to about $150,000. That’s a lot of money, and we didn’t quite know where it was going to come from. But God knew all along. 

A number of years ago, Betty Joseph and her husband Bill made the decision to include Mount Hermon in their will.

They were members of the Mount Hermon Redwood Society. Although I never knew Betty and Bill, I know that they must have loved Mount Hermon deeply.

Bill went home to be with the Lord a number of years ago and Betty graduated to be with the Lord in April of 2015. We received notice of a gift from their estate last fall and I remember the day we received the gift. In the midst of this exciting time when we needed about $150,000, guess how much Betty and Bill blessed Mount Hermon with through their stewardship? $145,000! 

Do you think God knew those many years ago that through Bill and Betty’s careful estate planning He would provide for this specific need at this specific time? I absolutely do, because our God is a BIG GOD!

I am so grateful for each and every ministry friend who has included Mount Hermon in their wills.

Bill and Betty’s story is just one of the many examples of how God uses these gifts to meet very specific and significant ministry needs. 

Have you and your family been blessed by the ministry of Mount Hermon? I encourage you to prayerfully consider putting Mount Hermon in your estate plan. I believe the Lord already knows how He will use your gift to bless so many. 

The Redwood Society exists to thank those who have included Mount Hermon in their will or estate plans. For more information, please contact me at 831.430.1243 or jr.loofbourrow@mounthermon.org.

By J.R. Loofbourrow
Vice President of Advancement

Reporting Back: The Kitchen

Posted by & filed under Building Projects, Kindling.

The Conference Center kitchen is one of Mount Hermon’s busiest camp zones and it’s hard to overstate its impact on guests. 

With the kitchen’s help, families get a break from having to shop, prep, cook, and clean up after a meal so they can focus on rich fellowship and connection with each other.

 Fun Kitchen Facts:  

14 hours a day the kitchen is operating to prep, serve and clean        

100 staff are employed during summer         

240,000 meals are served every year

10,000 donuts are made each summer (most importantly!) 

Recently, some specific areas of the kitchen were in dire need of structural repair and equipment replacement. We reached out to donors like you and you responded!

Thanks to you, the kitchen now has…  

New flooring and sub-flooring (restoring structural integrity)

Giant Steam Kettles (for cooking pasta, corn, and ribs)

New Tilt-Skillet (used to brown meat, sauté veggies, and stir-fry)

New Steamer (for cooking rice and veggies)

Thank you for your generous gifts toward this project. Our prayer is that these upgrades will bless millions of people in the decades to come in this vital ministry zone. 

By Topher Matson
Advancement Team

Come and See God’s Great Love!

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

You may think that when our busy summer season finishes, it’s time for a break. No way! Our program team is already planning for our busy season of fall youth retreats. This past fall more than 800 students attended one of our five Fall Frenzy weekends, uniquely designed to give Jr. High and High School students all the fun of a week of camp in three short days!

The theme was Wonder: Come and See God’s Great Love! Our theme verse was 1 John 3:1, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” Focusing on the story of Zacchaeus, students examined the amazing truth that God loves us and calls us his children. 

This all took place at the Mount Hermon Boardwalk, an amusement park theme we created full of child-like wonder!

There is something special that happens when students attend a Fall Frenzy with their youth group and leaders from their church.

Having quality time together at camp often cements relationships for years to come. It builds trust and openness, and campers get to continue their growth with God throughout the year alongside the people they began it with. This was certainly the case with Courtney, who attended Fall Frenzy for the second time this past fall.

Back in the fall of 2017, Courtney came to youth group for the first time.

It was a Halloween event, and she had been invited by a friend. Courtney had never really been to church before, but began attending youth group regularly. Just two months later, she decided to come with the youth group to Fall Frenzy at Mount Hermon. That weekend changed everything!

After her time at Mount Hermon, she continued coming to youth group, and was noticeably more engaged. She began to open up more and build relationships with the leaders. Several months later she made the decision to place her trust in Jesus and get baptized! She now comes to youth group and church every week and is going on her church’s Mexico mission trip this year. On top of all that, she is already signed up to come to Mount Hermon’s Campers in Leadership Training program this summer! 

The best part of this story? This year, Courtney brought her friend, Amanda, to Fall Frenzy for the first time. We can’t wait to see the ripple effects of what God started in Courtney’s life at Fall Frenzy and how it will continue to spread to others. 

Please join us in praying for all of the students who attended Fall Frenzy, that they would continue to grow closer to God and more fully understand his wondrous love for us!

By Andrew Summers
Advancement Team

Introducing Naomie Bragado

Posted by & filed under Kindling, Staff News.

Naomie is our Director of Children’s Ministries and we thought you might enjoy hearing her passion and excitement.

Topher: Tell us about your fun family!

Naomie: I came from a big family of 11. My husband (Justin) and I have just four kids—Jaida (9), Levi (8), Moriah (6), and Kiana (2). You can typically find us playing board games, spending time at the beach together, or doing just about anything fun outside as a family. 

Topher: What’s your background in Children’s Ministry? What called you there?

Naomie: Years ago, I was a middle school math teacher. My dad passed away suddenly, and it was a big blow. It caused me to think about my own life. If the most important decision a person can make is to follow Christ, is this the best way I can help others put their trust in Jesus? I decided I wanted my focus in life to be on teaching kids directly about God. Before I knew it, I was serving as Children’s Pastor at a large church in the East Bay. I really enjoyed helping kids experience Christ. I served in that role for eight years total – the last two were spent launching a satellite campus.

Topher: What excites you most about your role at Mount Hermon?

Naomie: Two things really pump me up. First, overseeing Mount Hermon’s children’s camps means I get to work with a passionate, talented team of young adults. It’s wonderful to help develop God’s next generation of church leaders. Second, Mount Hermon has a unique opportunity to reach unchurched families for Christ. Families who won’t set foot in a church today still come to camp and hear the gospel with open hearts and expectation. Our job is to make space for them to experience God’s love and challenge them to plug into a church when they return home. In a way, serving at camp means I’m still serving the church too!

Topher: In your few months here, what has been a highlight for you and your family?

Naomie: It’s incredible the feeling of legacy that’s here at Mount Hermon. Getting to be a part of generations of parents and kids experiencing God here is both exciting and humbling. As a family, we’re thrilled to be part of the ministry work God is doing here for eternity.


We’re thrilled to have Naomie so passionately fitted to her role! Please lift Naomie and Mount Hermon’s Children’s Ministry team up in your prayers as they serve families through various events throughout the year. 

Interview By Topher Matson
Advancement Team

Securing Our Family

Posted by & filed under Kindling, Stories of Ministry.

One of the biggest blessings of my job is working with the many military families who come to Family Camp. Most of you know that we have a campership program that brings military families to a week of Family Camp free of charge. Each year I marvel at how the Lord uses a week of camp to heal these families who have sacrificed so much, and to draw them closer to each other and to Himself. 

Several years ago I received an email from DeeDee. Her husband Spencer, who was not a believer, had just received an honorable discharge from the Marines after serving 14 months in Iraq but having a physical disability that didn’t allow him to continue to serve. They had a special family circumstance. Their eleven-year-old daughter, Kayla, had a number of major medical issues. They had traveled the country seeking help and finding few answers, while spending tens of thousands of dollars out-of-pocket for medical bills. DeeDee knew Kayla would need some special accommodations to be able to come to camp for a whole week, and we were happy to make them!

“To say that Mount Hermon has saved our family unit, would be one of the greatest understatements we can make. Mount Hermon not only has saved our family unit multiple times, it has secured our salvations.”

So DeeDee, Spencer, Kayla, and two younger daughters came for a week of Family Camp, and had the most amazing time! Two years later they returned for another week of camp, and DeeDee and Spencer even came to a Couple’s Retreat. Mount Hermon had become a sacred place for their family, providing time together and beautiful memories. 

I am devastated to say that last year Kayla’s battle with illness ended and she went to be with the Lord. This past summer was the family’s first time back to camp without her. DeeDee’s parents, neither of whom were walking with the Lord, joined them for support.

DeeDee and Spencer approached me on Tuesday of that week, and told me, “One of Kayla’s dreams was that her dad would come to know the Lord, and Spencer did!” DeeDee asked me, “Would you baptize both Spencer and our seven-year-old daughter Kadence this week?” I was overwhelmed, and we made plans to baptize them in the Mount Hermon swimming pool. Our worship leader that week, David Bardowell helped me, it was such a special and holy moment as we were surrounded by family and
close friends.

Several months after camp I received a phone call from DeeDee’s father. He excitedly informed me that he and his wife had rededicated their lives to the Lord at Mount Hermon and were now attending a local church in Southern California. I asked them which church and was amazed at the answer. “David Bardowell’s church! And we are both getting baptized this weekend!”

In the midst of tragedy comes the surprise of blessing. DeeDee sent a note to me with these words: “To say that Mount Hermon has saved our family unit, would be one of the greatest understatements we can make. Mount Hermon not only has saved our family unit multiple times, the Lord has used it to secure our salvation.”

We miss Kayla dearly, but are so comforted and encouraged by the knowledge that now her entire family will one day see her again when they join her in eternity with Jesus.  

By Dave Burns
Director of Adult Ministries

Redwood Camp Renewal

Posted by & filed under Alumni, Building Projects, Kindling, Stories of Ministry.

Have you heard? We are in the midst of renewing Redwood Camp!

There’s nothing quite like watching a camper’s journey throughout their week at Redwood Camp. Many come in shy and resistant, but by the end of the week they are expressive and open. Through the love of their counselor and the power of God, they not only encounter Jesus but they are able to experience real and lasting transformation, and we see it every day!

Many of the facilities, including the cabins, at Redwood Camp have been in service for over 60 years, and the time has come to renew Redwood Camp! We are in the process of building a number of new cabins (two of which will be ADA accessible), doing a floor-to-ceiling remodel of all the existing cabins, remodeling the bath houses, improving Victory Circle, and more! 

What we are most excited about in the project is the addition of a half bath to each existing cabin. This will eliminate the need for campers to wake their counselor to take them to the bathhouse in the middle of the night. This change alone will have a huge impact on the camper experience as well as a major reduction of fatigue for our counselors throughout the summer.

Why is this project important?

Did you know that over 60% of Christians in America accept Jesus as their Savior between the ages of 4 and 14? Redwood Camp ministers to kids right in that age window! The Lord works powerfully at Redwood Camp, and over the decades, thousands of kids have met Jesus and begun their journey with Him on that sacred ground. 

So where are we now? We have laid the new underground utilities, poured new foundations, and framed the new cabins. We are on track to finish Phase 1 (construction of new cabins and remodels of existing cabins) before camp starts in June.

Will you please be praying for the Redwood Camp renewal?

Pray that the weather will be favorable, that there will be continued unity among the contractor and sub-contractors, and that we will finish the project before the first campers arrive!

Thank you to the hundreds of families who have generously given to make this project possible. There is so much more to do at Redwood Camp so we still need your help!  

If you would like to be part of renewing Redwood Camp, you can go to http://www.mounthermon.org/renewredwood or contact JR Loofbourrow at jr.loofbourrow@mounthermon.org.

By Andrew Summers
Advancement team

A Special Adventure

Posted by & filed under Associates, Kindling, Stories of Ministry.

Several months ago I was a guide on a Canopy Tour that I will never forget. Every tour has a unique feel depending on who is with us, but this tour was different. On this tour was Zach, a ten-year-old boy with autism and cerebral palsy. He was joined by his full-time one-on-one aid. 

When we get a call asking about accommodations for a guest with special needs, we do whatever we can to make sure that the experience will be awesome. For this tour, we scheduled three guides, rather than the normal two, so that I could zip tandem with Zach throughout the entire tour. Zach was completely non-verbal, but it was easy to see that he was having an amazing time. His aid told us that he loved adventure activities, he had even been white-water rafting!

As Zach and I zipped, his screams of excitement could be heard throughout the forest, he was having the time of his life! At each platform, his aid would take out his “yes/no” cards. She would ask, “Are you having fun?” He would eagerly and excitedly point to the “yes” card. 

When we finished the tour, his parents were so grateful that he had been able to have this experience. They thanked us profusely, and they even brought him back to do the Canopy Tour again a few months later! It is such a blessing to see first-hand how God is using our Adventure Ministries to touch lives in unique and special ways. 

By Michael Cahalan
Adventure Guide

All Things New

Posted by & filed under Alumni, Associates, General, Kindling.

Do you like “new?” New car? New boss? New school? New child? New neighborhood? New friend? New job? New challenge? New problem to solve? New In-laws? I guess it depends on what is “new,” right? 

In a powerful passage of Scripture found in Revelation 21, it talks about a day when all things will be made NEW. It is a day when God will wipe away every tear from crying eyes, a day where there will be no more mourning, or pain, or death. It’s hard to even fathom such a day, a future day that gives us hope as we trudge through days that can include difficulty, loneliness, fear, and heartache. 

Each December our Board of Directors chooses the theme verse for the following Mount Hermon year, and the verse they chose for 2019 is …

“I am making all things new.”  – (Revelation 21:5)

All things. New. God is the one making them this way. Wow!!!

I am looking forward to being in the Mount Hermon Auditorium and watching people read this verse on the large wood placard that hangs down from the ceiling. I will be praying for the hope and healing that this one sentence of truth will bring to the many who visit our grounds. 

Thank you for your investment in this ministry that helps people be refreshed, renewed and transformed by the God who makes all things new. Your prayers, encouragement, involvement and financial support are vital in keeping this ministry thriving.  

To God – the one who makes all things new – be the glory! 

By Mike Romberger

Interview with the Conference Director

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

50 anniversary logo and Mount Hermon photo

2019 will be a special year for many of us: births, weddings, books published. It’s going to be extra special for the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference — 50th Anniversary.

The party begins on April 10 with the Pre-Conference Mentoring Clinics. The main conference starts April 12 and runs through April 16. 

Here’s Director Kathy Ide talking to Patricia Durgin of MarketersonaMission.com about what you can expect when you attend Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.

Don’t delay. Register Now and take advantage of the early-bird discount of $75.

Take the First Step

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized, Writers Conference.

First timers contest


“Coming to Mount Hermon was a pivotal moment in my writing career,” a First-Timers Contest award winner said.

Perhaps you’ve always wanted to experience the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, so you too could have that “pivotal moment.”

But maybe you’ve been in this First-Timers award winner’s shoes. “I had heard wonderful things about Mount Hermon, but our tight budget meant a conference was not in the cards this year.”

Guess what? If you’ve never attended and always wanted to go, you can enter the First-Timers Contest and perhaps win a full scholarship to the 2019 conference. Ten winners will each receive free registration, economy (multiple occupancy) lodging, and meals (travel expenses not included).

If you haven’t previously considered attending, you may want to consider what these contest winners said about the conference’s benefits:

    • “The faith on campus was palpable, and I was refreshed and restored in a way I was not anticipating. I left not only with a pocket full of contacts, but also a deep assurance that God had a plan and a purpose for my writing.”
    • “I walked away with some practical tools I needed, but God also confirmed what I had been sensing: that for me writing needs to be a ministry and that if I am with the Lord, I have everything I need.”

Already published? No, problem. The contest is open to both published and unpublished writers. Send a five-page fiction or non-fiction writing sample, one entry per person.  Entries must be in English and do not need to be overtly Christian but must have a Judeo-Christian worldview.

With no entry fee, all you need to do is polish those five pages and send them in. The deadline to enter is December 10 at midnight Pacific Standard Time.

There are guidelines that must be followed, so here are all the details.

You could be a winner and leave the conference repeating what these former winners said:

      • “The business of writing is full of ups and downs but the peace that I received at Mount Herman is sustaining me until I can come back for more next year!”
      • “I’m grateful for my time at Mount Hermon and the chance to attend as a contest winner. It was my first time at the conference, but I hope it won’t be my last.

The first step is the hardest. What are you waiting for? Take that first step.

Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference First-Timers Contest

Logo of christy awards

Christy Award Winners Announced Soon

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Joanne BischofThis week Christy Award finalists are waiting for the announcements—is their book a winner?

Mount Hermon attendees and faculty members have been represented among those finalists and award-winners. 2018 Mount Hermon faculty member Joanne Bischoff was one of those winners last year. Joanne’s book The Lady and the Lionheart is the first self-published book to receive the honor.

The Christy awards have accepted self-published titles for several years. Joanne had entered two previous titles, To Get to You and This Quiet Sky, both of which were finalists. Joanne says that “to have been awarded a Christy was a real dream of a lifetime.”

Cover the Lady and the LionheartThe Lady and The Lionheart has now been published in German, Romanian, large print, as well as an audiobook.

When asked if she will be publishing independently in the future, Joanne says she is writing a two-book series for Thomas Nelson at this time and is very content she will continue with them. However, she does have some fiction ideas, which may fall outside of their usual publishing realm, so may publish those stories independently.

The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) acquired the Christy Awards in 2016. The program gives awards in nine categories plus naming one novel “Book of the Year.” Members of ECPA see value in this prestigious Christian fiction recognition program. The ECPA board and Christy Award advisory board have an aggressive plan to bring out the best of Christian fiction.

The award announcements will be made at The Art of Writing Conference and Christy Award Celebration Gala on November 7 in Nashville. Joanne will be serving on a panel of authors at The Art of Writing Conference. Registration for both events is open until November 8. Register for either event separately, or both for just $99.

dining hall

Food, Friends, Fellowship: The Mount Hermon Dining Hall

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

“I find meals important for relationship building. The dining room atmosphere and staff make it possible for us to relax and enjoy the others at our table. Oh yeah, I’ve never had a bad meal.”

“Everyone who works there is pleasant and efficient.”

“Good variety of food, and plentiful!”

Who doesn’t like a good meal and great fellowship—together?

Mealtimes in the Mount Hermon dining hall are like conference gold. Good food, reconnecting with old friends, making new ones, meeting that special agent or publisher. Maybe even making that one special connection that changes your career as an author forever.

“The connections I made with people who get me have been priceless,” one attendee shared.

Another couldn’t help but gush about how she met her agent during a Mount Hermon dinner.

But have you ever thought about what it takes to provide that opportunity? All those meals?

Mount Hermon has served more than seven million meals in the same dining hall since 1989. That’s 240,000 meals each year. After thirty years, the dining hall and kitchen need some major renovations. New equipment, like four giant kettle pots and a tilt skillet, and structural repairs including under-floor pipes, the subfloor, ceilings, and significant repairs to the loading dock are critical—to the tune of $200,000.

Watch this video for more details.

Remember how you gratefully dished up barbecued chicken, pasta, salad, and veggies without having to clean up afterward? Think about that best friend you met over one of those meals. Or how about that agent or publisher who loved your pitch and, joy of joys, asked for a full manuscript over the French toast?

What are alumni saying about the meals and dining hall?

“I always appreciate the plentiful supply of salad and veggies,” said a guest.

“The food is always first rate and plentiful. They accommodate food sensitivities and allergies (please declare in advance). Good desserts too,” a member of the conference volunteer team told us.

We can’t forget the friendly and encouraging staff who have waited on us for years. Faculty, volunteers, and guests sing the praises of the staff:

“Food is top notch and the staff is amazing.”

“The networking and friendship building was out of this world.”

Bottom line, according to one attendee is, “We are spoiled rotten!”

Perhaps you can help so they can keep spoiling us in the dining room.

If you and everyone who has partaken of those 240,000 meals this past year donated only $1 for every meal eaten in the Mount Hermon dining hall, Mount Hermon could easily make that goal. Did you eat sixteen meals over the course of the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference? That’s only $16.

Would you prayerfully consider giving to the Mount Hermon kitchen project? Any amount will help. You may give a gift online, just click here.

Fall Festival at Kidder Creek Camp

Posted by & filed under General, Kidder Creek.

Thanks for joining us at our annual Fall Festival!

If you didn’t make it, mark your calendars because this is a can’t miss event.  Fall Festival will be the last Saturday in September in 2019, on the 28th.

We had over 150 volunteers and 1,000 guests join in the fall festivities.  Activities included Free Apple Picking, Caramel Apple Making Station, Free Apple Crisp, Zipline, Pony Rides, Archery, Dodge N Arrows, Giant Inflatables, Ropes Course, Laser Tag, Mountain Bike Ride and so much more!

Thanks again to all who volunteered, to all who donated to our Pond Bathroom Project and to those who just came to have fun with friends and family.

What a great day!  So glad that we get to open our doors to our community and neighbors for a fun filled family day!  See you Next Year!


image of christy award finalist

Christy Award Finalists Announced

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Hear ye! Hear ye! (sound of trumpets)
The announcement of … (more trumpets)

Each fall many Christian authors wait for the announcement of The Christy Award finalists. This year’s announcement made September 19 can be viewed at https://www.christyawards.com/finalists-winners.html. Nearly thirty Christian fiction books in nine categories are selected as finalists.

The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) sponsors the book awards each year. It was established in 1999. The award was named in honor of Catherine Marshall’s bestselling novel, Christy.

The Christy Award Gala is being held November 7 at Lipscomb University in Nashville. ECPA is also offering The Art of Writing: A Focused Conference for Writers, Storytellers and Publishing Curators. The conference will be held in the afternoon before the gala. Speakers at the conference include Jerry Jenkins, Donald Miller, and Charles Martin, 2017 Christy Book of the Year winner.

The gala will feature authors Charles Martin, Francine Rivers, Carla Laureano, Sarah Arthur, and Cynthia Ruchti.
ECPA will also be celebrating the legacy of Madeleine L’Engle, author of more than sixty books including A Wrinkle in Time. This year is the 100th anniversary of L’Engle’s birth.

Registration is now open for both events. The fees are $69 for the conference, $69 for the gala, or $99 for both.

symbols of experts

How To Be An Expert

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

by Cheri Cowell

Do you consider yourself an expert? As speakers and writers, like it or not, we are seen as experts. Wearing the expert mantle takes some getting used to, but if we want to carry the message that’s been placed in our hearts into a world full of “experts” on just about everything, we need to get comfortable fast. Here are some things to consider in hanging your expert shingle out.

Experts Are Seen and Heard

First, experts are seen and heard in a variety of places. They are seen on television, in magazines, and online. They are heard on radio, TV, and at conferences. Experts have websites and books and articles. Experts speak and write on their topic. Have I described you? Consider expanding your arena if you’ve got limited exposure.

Experts Are Quoted

Second, experts are quoted. If you’ve written and spoken on a topic, you can be quoted. You are an expert. Register at these sites so you can be the next “expert” quoted: expertizing.com, PRLeads.com, and AuthorsAndExperts.com (paid service).

Experts Speak

Lastly, experts speak. And if they are also Christians, they believe the message they have to share can change people’s lives. Now don’t confuse the word expert with know-it-all. No one wants to hear from a know-it-all Christian, but if you’ve published your message in an article or book, then you know more about that subject than the average person. You are, therefore, an expert. Register at this site to let others know you are an expert speaker: ExpertsWhoSpeak.com.

Becoming a ‘Subtle’ Expert

The above suggestions are more “out there,” but there is a way to be more of a subtle expert. In today’s world, this approach may win more fans than you can signing autographs. We are bombarded today with experts touting their knowledge. You and I are just as turned off by it as our readers are. Perhaps this is why we shy away from calling ourselves an expert. We don’t want to be seen as “one of those people.”

So what is the answer? It is called Community Sharing. It is done through message boards and groups, where like-minded people gather online to share with each other. Here are the steps to be a part of a sharing community.

  • First, you need to understand it is a community. So you are not joining the community as an expert, but rather as someone also interested in the topic at hand. When you join, I suggest you simply lurk for a while. That’s right, lurk. Hang out and listen; get a feel for the lay of the land.
  • Next, when you feel compelled by someone’s need, offer your knowledge, your advice, and/or your words of encouragement. Remember, you are one of them, so come along beside them and offer your gifts as someone who’s been there and who understands.
  • Now, this is the magic–how to turn this into a subtle expert pitch. You will need to set up your profile, signature, or avatar (Google and Yahoo profile) to include a link to your website. Thus, when you give away great advice or just the right solution that helps someone, readers will click on your website in your signature to learn who you are. They don’t see this as “one of those” people selling themselves, but rather as someone who served them and who they want to get to know.

I liken this to the “Jesus way” of hanging out with sinners and meeting their needs. In community sharing, we are simply being Jesus in a broken world. When you meet their needs, they will want to know more and your more is where your expert status is developed on your website.

A couple of places to find boards and groups:

Whether you are a more traditional expert who is seen and heard, who is quoted and speaks, or a subtler expert who seeks to serve, don your expert mantle and get out there with the message God has given you. There are so many “experts” in the world with many messages, may your message be the one that points others to the One who is the real expert they seek.


Cheri Cowell headshot

Cheri Cowell, owner and publisher of EABooks Publishing, is passionate about helping others see God’s Word come alive, and she is excited to expand that mission by helping fellow authors take advantage of the new publishing trends. Says Cheri, “Whether your vision is e-books, print, or audiobooks, we can help you expand your reach with the message God gave you.” Cheri maintains a busy schedule teaching at Christian writers’ conferences. For a list of where you can meet or hear Cheri, or learn about publishing your own books visit http://www.eabookspublishing.com/


Introducing Topher Matson

Posted by & filed under Kindling, Staff News.

Topher is the newest member of our Advancement Team, and we couldn’t be happier that he is with us! We thought you would enjoy a chance to get to know him.

More than 22 years ago something significant happened in my life. I saw the Welcome to Mount Hermon sign for the first time. The scent of the redwoods and the flickering canopy overhead was breathtaking, but it would be only a portion of my memories made on that trip. I was full of anticipation and anxiety about this unfamiliar thing called Family Camp. Would I make friends? Would it be fun?

Within hours I had my answer. I was introduced to my Day Camp counselor “Jell-o” and the most fun and craziness I had yet experienced. I started to love the goofy songs we sang. I forgot about being cool. I ran all over camp playing games, meeting up with friends and having fun – and all of it was parent-approved! When Saturday came, I sadly watched as the Welcome to Mount Hermon sign drifted away in the rear-view mirror.

A few summers later, I knew Conference Center and Ponderosa Lodge like the back of my hand. I found myself surrounded with lifelong friends and this once “new” place became home. But the most indescribable experience year after year was that of feeling loved, forgiven and part of a heavenly family with a loving Savior. If you’re like me, you sense it whenever you set foot here – and every time it’s more fresh and exciting than the last.

Eight years later, I was fortunate enough to serve three summers as “Spiff” at Day Camp. It was an unforgettable adventure – seeing how God uses camp ministry to bless entire families while blessing the staff through service to Him. Summer 2007 was special to me because a friend of mine from college served at Ponderosa Lodge. I had my suspicions God was tying the knot around us, and after that summer I was sure.

She’s now my lovely bride of nine years, Kelly.

Once again, God has brought Kelly and me back to our “Mount Hermon home” together, with the addition of our seven-month-old son, Parker. As I pass the Welcome to Mount Hermon sign today, I’m reminded how God continues to grow His ministry to those who gather here. Being a new parent, I think a lot about ensuring Mount Hermon’s future for my growing family. I reflect on those in heaven who faithfully prepared a place for me to be rooted in the gospel, and I gaze in wonder as God continues to unveil His vision for  this precious place for generations  to come.

From my family to yours, thank you for your faithful support of Mount Hermon’s unique ministry. We marvel to witness your gifts furthering the mission of lives transformed
through Christ.

Please reach out. I’d love to chat when you’re here and hear your Mount Hermon story!

Reporting Back: Lakeside Remodel Update

Posted by & filed under Associates, Building Projects, Kindling.


We are thrilled to report that all three Lakeside Lodge buildings, 60 rooms in all, have been completely remodeled!

Last year we completed the remodel of the Lakeside 500 building just in time for summer. This year, we set an ambitious goal to remodel both the Lakeside 600 and 700 buildings, and thanks to Tommy Beadel’s crew with extra help from a local construction company, we finished just in time for Family Camp.

THANK YOU to those of you who contributed to this project. We know at the end of the day it’s not about the rooms, but about what happens in the rooms. Here’s what a teenage boy shared at Victory Circle during a week of Family Camp earlier this summer:

“Our family has been doing the devotions at the end of each day before we go to bed. My family and I have been going through some major struggles, especially my mom and I. We have been butting heads a lot lately and it’s been rough. We’ve even been debating whether I should move out or not. But being at camp it’s crazy, in just these past couple of days I can already tell that my Mom and I are already getting our relationship back like it used to be when I was younger and I just want to say, Mom, I love you.”

Your gifts help create the spaces where transformation happens! Thank You!

We couldn’t do it without you.

A Story of Service

Posted by & filed under Associates, Kindling, Stories of Ministry, Volunteer.

What would we do without Volunteers? The gift of service from these incredibly faithful friends makes a significant difference at Mount Hermon. I have had the joy of knowing Bob and Peggy Mapes for 20 years. They are everywhere—faithful friends, Associates and longtime volunteers.

What brought you to Mount Hermon?

As newlyweds in 1957, we journeyed from Iowa to Sacramento. We learned of Mount Hermon through Sunday School at Arcade Baptist and we began attending Couples Conferences. Then we moved to San Jose and brought our children to Family Camps. After purchasing a cabin in 1978 our participation and love of Mount Hermon grew rapidly.

You are such faithful volunteers. How did that begin?

Bob was involved in repair jobs through the years, but our major volunteering began 12 years ago in Auditorium hosting. That led to dining room hosting, table setting and many others. We have grown to love our volunteering friends. We pray for each other, for Mount Hermon’s ministry and for its staff. A love of the Lord, Mount Hermon and people = a JOY-filled volunteer.

What does being a volunteer and an Associate mean to you?

You take ownership of the ministry when you get involved in serving and giving. It has caused us to want to be part of meeting needs in tangible ways and to pray for the staff and the ministry. It has been a blessing getting to know the staff. This a special place in our hearts.

The Mapes are truly wonderful folks. We love all our volunteers and couldn’t do what we do here without them! Next time you’re here, hug a volunteer!

Incredible Generosity

Posted by & filed under Giving, Kindling, Redwood Society, Stories of Ministry.

For Bill Ives, nothing was more important than family. He was the proud father of three children and eight grandchildren, and his favorite thing to do was spend time with them. Bill’s Mount Hermon story started like so many others: an invitation from a family member. His daughter Cathy and her husband Gary began coming to Family Camp around 15 years ago. After telling their family about the incredible experience they had, everyone decided to join in.

Since Bill knew this would mean a week of dedicated time with his kids and grandkids, he was excited to come!

For the last decade, Mount Hermon served as their family gathering place, where Bill’s son from Colorado and his daughters from Atlanta and Piedmont gathered each year with their whole families. Bill was not a church-goer and didn’t talk a lot about God. Cathy remembers the ten years they came to family camp vividly, noting that Dad loved coming to Mount Hermon and spending time with his family. He was at every session, engaged and excited to be there. Some of his favorite times were meeting up with the men in the family for early morning coffee on the Dining Hall porch, riding the train to the beach, and relaxing on the meadow.

A couple of years ago, Bill’s health began to deteriorate, and his children encouraged him to re-evaluate his estate plans. At that time he made the decision to include Mount Hermon. Bill’s daughter Stephanie shared this about her father:

“Dad modeled incredible generosity. The kind of generosity that didn’t seek to attract attention or get credit. He delighted in giving generously. He didn’t talk about it, he didn’t lecture us about it. He just modeled unselfish generosity. He had the perfect combination of contentment and generosity. Can you imagine what the world might be if everyone was like that?” Sadly, Bill graduated to be with Jesus in February. Stephanie also shared this precious memory from Bill’s final days: Dad didn’t talk about it much, but he believed in God. He spent his last days on a ventilator in Intensive Care going in and out of consciousness. After five days when the ventilator came off, we all crowded around as he seemed eager to tell us something. His voice was weak, he could only say a couple words at a time, but he said, “Jesus said I got you.” And then “Jesus loves us. Jesus loves all of us.” Dad knew where he was going and we had the incredible blessing of having him tell us that because of Jesus we get to go too.

We are incredibly grateful for Bill’s life and love for his family and Mount Hermon. The legacy he left Mount Hermon will minister to campers for decades to come. Bill’s gift comes at a pivotal time, as we are in need of funds to begin the Redwood Camp renewal. Because of Bill, thousands of kids who come to Redwood Camp in the days to come will encounter Jesus and experience His transformational love. Thank you, Bill!

Associates in the Making: Abbie and Sonja

Posted by & filed under Associates, Kindling, Stories of Ministry.


There are two little ladies that have come on the Mount Hermon scene recently that are truly champions of this wonderful ministry. They love each other and everything Mount Hermon! Abbie (9) and Sonja (10) have been attending the same week of Family Camp for several years but according to them, it was the first day of Family Camp 2017 where their “Best Friend” status was sealed. Abbie’s mom Kelly shared with me,

“Abbie loves the swings at Day Camp and that’s the place at camp where the two girls talked and decided to become best friends. After that was Redwood Camp and the Associates in Ministry Celebration. Not only do these two girls just happen to have families that go to Week 2 of Family Camp, but our families live 20 minutes away from each other back home!” I chatted with Sonja and Abbie to hear more of their story.

What do you remember about the first time you met?

Sonja: “I had a lot of friends and family at Family Camp but when I met Abbie, I knew she would be my best friend!” Abbie said the same thing about Sonja.

What’s your favorite memory at Mount Hermon?

Abbie: “Last year when Sonja and I walked to the playground and became best friends.” Sonja: “When we were at Redwood Camp last year I didn’t want to go on the Geronimo swing but Abbie encouraged me, so I did it and really liked it.”

How would you describe each other?

Abbie: “Sonja is energetic!”

Sonja: “Abbie always acts like herself.”

How would you describe Mount Hermon?

Abbie: “Coolest place on earth!”

Sonja: “I wouldn’t be the person I am today at 10 if I hadn’t gone to Mount Hermon.”

What are your future plans?

“We want to go to Family Camp every year and Redwood then Ponderosa and then go on Summer Staff, hopefully at Day Camp or Redwood Camp. We already have our camp names: Flip (Abbie) & Flop (Sonja). Then we want to live together at Mount Hermon with our husbands and our ICE CREAM!”

Kelly also shared with me, “I’m so grateful to God for this Mount Hermon friendship, and the best part of this friendship is that Abbie’s friend Sonja comes as a package. Sonja comes with an amazing family. A family that sets a Godly example of love and grace towards our family. This story of friendship between two little girls represents Mount Hermon to a tee!”

It just so happens that both Abbie and Sonja’s parents are Mount Hermon Associates. A love for Jesus and a heart for Mount Hermon runs deep in both of these sweet girls’ families. This story is unique to Sonja and Abbie but not unique in the story of Mount Hermon. Many lifelong relationships have started here, from husbands and wives, to best friends, to most importantly finding a Savior who will walk us into eternity. Thank you for being part of what keeps this ministry moving forward. We are very grateful.

Year After Year

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

There are few things in the world as impactful as a week at Ponderosa Lodge.

When I was in high school I spent five summers coming to Ponderosa, and my life was transformed because of it. I was also lucky enough to spend three summers as a counselor. One of the best parts of counseling is seeing campers come year after year. I love seeing how God in His sovereignty chooses to work in campers’ lives. Sometimes it really is a
multi-year process!

I would love to share a story with you about a camper who came to Ponderosa in June. This was his second year at camp and, as his counselor tells, this was the year that God truly transformed his life:

I remember Travis from last year, he was the “cool kid.” He was too cool for everything: Bible study, activities, even too cool for girls! He made it very clear that even though he was at a Christian camp, he was only there to have fun. Throughout the week he didn’t contribute during small group time at all. By Saturday, though, I could tell it had been a good week, and the whole cabin, including Travis, said they hoped they could all come back next year and be together in the same cabin again. 

This year, Travis was back. At the beginning of the week he again made it clear that he had no interest in any of the spiritual parts of camp, but at least he was having fun with the games and activities. As the week progressed, I could tell he was becoming more engaged and was listening to the speaker. He started asking questions in small group time. At first he was asking with a challenging and defensive attitude, but that soon changed.

On Thursday he pulled me aside, and said, “All this stuff about God’s love you’re talking about, I see it in the people around me, but I don’t really understand it.” That opened up an opportunity for us to talk about God’s love, and how God uses others to show us His love. That was the moment when I really noticed things had changed. Travis became excited to worship and listen to the speaker! At the end of the week, he told me that he had made a decision to follow Jesus, and was talking about how excited he was to get involved at church back at home!

Wow! Now that is a life transformed! We are so grateful that Travis was able to have this experience at camp, and we are thankful to you for your support of this ministry. You help make these stories possible! Please join us in praying for Travis, and for the hundreds of other campers who have come to Ponderosa Lodge this summer as they transition back to home and school life this fall.

Yay God!

Posted by & filed under Kidder Creek, Kindling, Stories of Ministry.


We don’t always get to hear how God continues to work in campers’ lives after they leave camp, but sometimes we do and it is so encouraging to hear stories of the life transformation that starts at camp and continues throughout the year and for years to come.

Christina, one of our counselors from last summer, now our Ranch Camp lead, had the privilege of hearing first-hand how God was able to use her last summer in the life of a young camper.

“The day we had all been greatly anticipating had finally arrived. It was the first day of camp, and as parents and campers were settling in, a former camper, Katelynn, and her mom greeted me. Katelynn’s mom pulled me aside and told me that since her daughter was here last year, her life had not been the same. I asked how so, eager to hear what the Lord had done. She explained that my teachings as her daughter’s counselor were quite impactful. She told me how Katelynn had made the commitment to read her Bible every day since she left camp, and she had done just that. Even through the difficult chapters of the Bible, she broke it down into small pieces to study it better and has asked questions when she needed assistance. Because of Katelynn’s dedication to reading her Bible daily, her family has been greatly influenced.

Later that evening, as our campfire was ending I felt a small tap on my shoulder, and I turned to see that it was Katelynn. I made room for her on the wooden bench, and I listened intently as she told me how last summer changed her life. She thanked me for helping her set the goal of reading her Bible daily. I felt so privileged to hear firsthand that she was searching to be closer to God
and that God was meeting with her and moving many mountains in her young life.”

At Kidder Creek, when we hear a story of a life transformed we enthusiastically say “Yay God!!” Yay God that we are privileged to be a part of His work here at camp!