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The Bulletin - Summer 2021
The Encouragement Circle (TEC) seeks to unite individuals who have demonstrated leadership, a high level of involvement, and a passion for the ministry of the Christian Camp and Conference Association. We aim to offer fellowship and updates to its participants and provide opportunities to help support and encourage the current leaders of the Christian Camp and Conference Association.
Twice a year TEC sends The Encourager to keep everyone updated on events in the world of CCCA and beyond. We also hope to provide insights into a few of the members and fun facts about our shared heritage.
These newsletters are designed to keep the TEC community connected between Zoom calls which we plan for January and September each year.
Thanks for your years of service and for continuing to support the great work of CCCA. If you have a story to tell, a little-known fact to share, or an encouraging word to offer, please feel free to send submissions to Lori Price or post to our new Facebook Group Page (more details below)
A Tribute to Bob Kraning
by Stan White
Bob’s name is synonymous with Christian camping for literally thousands. That is probably the way you know and experienced him. For some it was his humor, wisdom, and availability at youth camps and family camps at Forest Home. He had a unique ability to connect with young kids, students, and adults, but especially with men, that allowed him to speak into their lives in a very transformative way.
His encouragement extended worldwide. So many of his camp ministry peers, maybe including yourself, recognized how his influence, due in part to his gifted speaking ministry at various Christian camping gatherings around the country, could have an impact nationally. As a result, he was elected the president of the Christian Camping International/USA Board of Directors in 1981. During his tenure, as he encouraged the national leadership to "stick to the knitting," some international challenges arose in CCI among its eight divisions. In the minds of some, as Bob represented the US division, he was the bad guy. However, Bob took the long view as he stood in the gap. He showed great wisdom, strength, and intentionality as he moved with a keen diplomatic flair. It was his steady hand during those turbulent times that helped Christian camping around the world move in a healthy direction by creating a greater sense of unity and cohesiveness. Bob's influence helped set in motion a growing movement that now embraces 22 national or regional associations in various strategic areas of the world that support camping ministries in over 60 countries and reach an estimated 13 million campers annually.
His key collaborator was John Pearson, the executive director of CCI/USA. John shared with me many highlights and lessons learned from working with Bob. The two of them not only worked together on the international front but also launched CCI/USA into a more effective means of supporting camp and conference ministries that is still in place to this day.
John’s successor at CCI/USA, Bob Kobielush, wrote this: “As a leader of leaders, Bob, along with Carol, also always found time to minister and care for those living and serving at the grassroots. That was certainly true while Bob served as the chairman of our board at CCI/USA. From strategic board leadership, serving more than 800 Christian camps and conference centers and some 6,000 leaders throughout the country, Bob would move from teaching a seminar to then sitting with Carol to offer counsel to some hurting couple. The legacy left by Bob lives on in many of our lives, while his encouragement to “finish well” rings in our ears. Truly he set the course for so many of us, and we thank you, Carol, for sharing him so freely. God bless you and the family as you too look forward to that grand reunion in heaven.”
The past president of Christian Camping International, Dan Bolin, penned this: “Bob’s likeness should be etched on the Mount Rushmore of Christian camping. I was one who profited deeply from Bob’s wisdom and friendship. When I became the director of Pine Cove, I asked Bob to mentor me. He willingly agreed. When I found myself in deep water, I would call Bob for a lifeline. He may not have had time for me – but he always made time for me. I will always be grateful for his investment in my life personally, and professionally. And our industry will be marked forever by his joyful commitment to the Lord, ability to clearly teach God’s word, love for people, and godly character.”
At a recent gathering of some folks who had the privilege of working with Bob on a day-to-day basis at Forest Home described him in the following ways:
· “He made our lives fuller.”
· “He developed an amazing staff culture.”
· “He had the ministry of “with,” how to be with other people.”
· “He was a Christian leader who knew how to have fun.”
· “He was like the portrait of Jesus smiling.”
· “I love how he honored Carol [his wife].”
The Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 3:2-3: “2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. 3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”
Bob, thank you for writing on our hearts through your ministry among us, near and afar.
Center Stage with John Ashmen
by Bob Tissot
John Ashmen has a long history in Christian camping. His first home was a camp in Colorado, and he grew up at a camp in New Jersey. He launched his career in 1974 at a nondenominational camp, serving most of his 15 years there as executive director. After spending the next three years leading a denomination camp, he moved to the national scene where he spent 15 years as Vice President of CCI/CCCA. His duties were those of a COO, specializing in planning, producing, writing, and launching many of the programs and services that helped the association grow. Upon leaving CCCA, he assumed the presidency of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, rebranded in 2018 as Citygate Network. In all his roles, he has been a faithful servant in lifting up the name of the Lord.
John recently introduced “Hope in the Gate,” the new media arm of Citygate Network. For the first project, he teamed up with Amy Grant and ran a three-day retreat for rescue mission residents at her Tennessee farm. The initiative weaves together mission, camping, and gospel music dynamics in a powerful way. The incredible response has already resulted in a second event at the farm and numerous opportunities for collaboration across the country. A 15-minute video of the first event can be accessed here. Take some time to view the video, and then pray for wisdom and direction as John and others seek God’s best in the days ahead.
Center Stage with Dan DeGroat
by Dan Bolin
When they write the history of Christian Camping International, there will be a very big chapter about Dan DeGroat! God used Dan, and others, to establish CCI associations in Russia, India, East Africa. His efforts have been felt in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa. The impact of his strategic efforts and faithful service will ripple around the globe for many generations.
Dan’s love for camping started as a camper at Cedar Lake Camp and then as a summer staff member at a Child Evangelism Fellowship camp near Nashville. After college, God led Dan to work as a forest ranger. He soon found himself in his dream job at a premier site, Fall Creek Falls State Park near Pikeville, Tennessee.
As exciting as it was to work in a top park in a gorgeous setting, something was missing. Dan said, “I took visitors to the magnificent waterfalls, led nature hikes to breathtaking vistas, and was in charge of the Nature Center. Yet there remained an empty place in my heart.” Frustrated at the restrictions that he faced and his inability to talk about the Creator, Dan sensed it was time to consider other options. “Imagine taking visitors through an art gallery but not being able to mention the artist.”
God led Dan back into the world he loved, Christian camping. First, Dan found himself directing his boyhood camp. Next, he directed Little Greenbrier Lodge, bordering the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. His third stop was Sky Ranch near Van, Texas where he held several leadership roles.
Dan served on the board of CCCA (then CCI/USA) for several years, but at a national conference in St Louis, he found himself in the “wrong” seminar room but decided to stay. The Iron Curtain had just fallen, and the seminar presented the hope of using Christian camping to reach the next generation of young people in the former Soviet Union. God gripped Dan’s heart and he knew he was being called to work in Russia. He returned to his hotel room and phoned his wife, Becky, and told her what God had placed on his heart. Her reply was simple and direct, “OK, just take me with you.”
Dan and his family moved to Russia and CCI-Russia was birthed. They returned to the USA and Global Outreach Group became an independent ministry supporting Dan and others’ efforts to see Christian camping prosper and grow around the world.
The driving force is a clear statement that Dan repeats often, “a Christian camp is the most effective means of reaching the most receptive hearts.”
“I’d do it all over again,” said Dan. “Looking back I still see the faces of those youngest boy campers, wide eyed with ‘can’t wait’ anticipation. Maybe a little trepidation as night falls. And the high privilege of guiding a child’s journey to faith in Jesus.”
Dan continues to serve by writing and leading the Global Outreach Group. He continues to share his passionate love for Jesus and Christian camping. To learn more about Dan and the ministry of the Global Outreach Group visit www.globaloutreachgroup.org.
Who or what is CCI and what is its mission? CCI is the worldwide association uniting 24 camping associations of which CCCA is the largest. It is estimated that over 10 million individuals are impacted by the Christian camps throughout the world connected to the CCI associations. I had a chance to discuss CCI with Gregg Hunter, CCCA President/CEO, who also serves as the Board Chair of CCI. The global mission of Christian camps is to spread the Gospel message in the countries within the 24 associations. CCI is governed by a board of directors and elects its chairman for three-year terms. They host a worldwide conference every three years; the next planned global gathering is in 2023 in the Netherlands.
I asked Gregg how CCCA camps can interact with CCI in the global picture. He pointed out that CCI works with associations as compared with CCCA working with individual camps. Each CCI association works with individual camps, so a desire of a CCCA camp to partner with one of the CCI camps can be accomplished by contacting the CCI office who can provide a link and information on the requested country/camp. This can result in a sharing of information and can lead to a rewarding “sister camp” mentoring relationship. (For more information, go to CCI Worldwide or email Vicki Partridge.)
Gregg went on to share how much he values the relationship with CCI and being a part of the global outreach to spread the Gospel and see many come to Christ. Currently CCI is conducting a search for their next Executive Director who will lead CCI forward in developing new strategies for the years ahead. (If you know someone who may be qualified and interested, please forward this link to them: CCI CEO Search.)
Those of us who have been around for a long time recall that CCI/USA was the name of the US association until we changed to CCCA, which cleared up some confusion about who CCI was. I hope this short interview with Gregg helps the understanding of the role of CCI in the world.
Norman Doney, acting director of CCI-Worldwide sent an update and a response to several questions. Five regional on-line conferences were held last year. Although everyone would have loved to meet face-to-face, these gatherings were encouraging, educational and beneficial, to all participants.
After seven years of waiting, CCI-Worldwide will host a Global Gathering (in person) in the Netherlands, April 26 - May 2, 2023. Registration is slated to open in the next few weeks and excitement is growing for this long overdue reunion. Participants from all 27 associations, and many other countries where Christian camping is emerging are expected. This opportunity for personal interaction between camp, retreat, conference, wilderness, and adventure ministry leaders will enrich the experience for all who attend.
France, Argentina, and Sierra Leon have either recently joined CCI-Worldwide, or are in the process of becoming members this year. This is an exciting time for CCI-WW as the movement gains momentum around the world.
Three major challenges face the worldwide movement.
As many associations move out of the covid restrictions and into a post-covid world, many have lost members, and have had minimal fellowship. Many association leaders are exhausted. Norman has been reaching out personally to the association leaders to encourage and support them.
The war in Ukraine has obviously hindered the work in Ukraine, but it has also undercut the summer plans for camps in neighboring countries. Christian camps in Romania and Poland have offered refuge assistance. CCI-WW has been able to provide over $5,700 to camps housing refugees.
Funding for the movement is an ongoing challenge. Finding new committed sources of revenue is always a major concern.
Norman asked prayer for several important issues.
Wisdom in planning the International Conference in 2023.
Scholarships for participants from economically challenged parts of the world.
Financial support for the on-going work. The past two years have dried up the reserve funds.
Discernment for the search committee as they look for a new international director.
Norman has done a masterful job guiding the worldwide alliance over the past few years. His contribution has helped CCI-WW survive and thrive during some of the most challenging years of the movement’s existence.
Click the link below to access our current membership list. If you would like a more detailed contact list of our membership, please contact Lori Price. We ask that all membership information be used solely for the purpose of personal communication and not to be used for other mailing lists or promotional purposes.