A 2017 “Story of Impact”
and Staff Testimonial
About Deer Run Camps & Retreats
“You know, there’s a saying among the counselors that there’s healing in this valley. That no matter who you are, or where you’re coming from, you will, whether you like it or not, encounter the presence of God. These are lofty claims, but you know, ask any one of the visitors, counselors, campers, or retreaters whose walked these grounds for more than a day or week and they’ll tell you that every word of that saying is true.
Of course, for most of them, you won’t have to ask. The truth is painted on their faces. Smiles. Tears. Laughter. Wonder. Delight. You can see it all so plainly. At least that was my experience when I stepped down into the valley of Deer Run. If I’m not mistaken, I’m not the only one.
Every year, thousands upon thousands of men, women, and children come to the grounds of Deer Run for you name it. Camps and getaways, church outings, business meetings, seriously, Deer Run is buzzing with activity almost all the time. But what is it that drives folks to come? What on earth convinces a college student to give an entire summer looking after kids? I mean yeah, they’ve got all seven levels of accolades and amenities, but none of those things can possibly be it. Well, I can tell you what it is.
I actually, literally got to call the camp home for nearly two years and believe me, I’ve gotten to taste and see exactly what it is that makes Deer Run tick. And it’s that something that everyone seems to want to be a part of.
When I first arrived at Deer Run, I was just a counselor. Low level and awestruck, I remember wandering around the property with my eyes wide open. I was dorky, young, and completely clueless as to what God was going to do. Maybe you experienced the same thing when you first stepped down into the valley. It’s almost like there’s this sense of hushed awe that lays over the grounds, like I couldn’t stop myself from going, “Whoa.”
I used to talk with Trig, my roommate, about why this was. He agreed that it was for two reasons at least. First, we noticed that the hills and valleys are inherently beautiful. By that, of course, we meant that no matter what season, what day, or what time you look at the place, it’s always beautiful. The second more important reason is that the whole place is drenched in the Holy Spirit. Honestly, these 100 plus acres have been covered in so much prayer it shouldn’t surprise us that God moves so tangibly. And Deer Run is actively working to create an environment where people can encounter God like never before.
For example, not only do campers do things they normally wouldn’t do, such as shoot arrows at other people or climb high walls or well, this, but the kids are able to do all this in an atmosphere where it’s safe to ask questions and be vulnerable. They also have bible studies, worship, and speakers every day and they do all these things together. After all, God is just as present during a precious worship service as He is when you’re about to free fall into a 100-foot swinging ark in the sky. And this is true for both day campers and overnight campers. No matter where a kid is at camp, there are reminders of the gospel everywhere. And year after year, God honors the excellent work and sacrifice of so many by moving powerfully and visibly.
Like just last summer, as far as we know, 126 campers decided to give their lives to Christ and that’s just the ones we know about. Y’all, God actually moves. And that’s so amazing! That’s literally one of the best things ever! But campers aren’t the only ones who get to experience this astounding, life-changing atmosphere of camp.
It also has incredible effects back home. There are countless stories of how parents have been amazed to find out that their kids’ new favorite activity is reading the Bible, or about how they’re now being a light for Christ at their school. Even then, there’s a whole other group of people that get to be steeped in this place and the effects are evident.
Being a counselor at Deer Run is tough in absolutely every way possible. Physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Yet time and again, college students not only come back to serve at camp again, but they bring their friends. Crazy, right? But sure enough, last summer alone 80 students came out, voluntarily I might add, to be a part of Deer Run’s history.
Now I should be clear, camp counseling isn’t always smiles and kids painting your face with mud, which it is sometimes. It really is. But there are unexplained complications and frustrations that come up like when Tennessee decides to invite a storm to the party, or you’re just plain worn out. But it’s in those overwhelming moments that God uses the unexpected to restore us back to life. Jokes. Tears. Notes. Friendship bracelets. Worship. And literally a host of other things to startle us by who He has made us into and what He’s done in us by the end of it all.
At least that’s what happened to me. And John. And Josh. And JJ. And Jenny. Mara. And Hal and Katie Beth. And Benji and well, everyone. So as I said, I can attest to all of this firsthand. I’ve only scratched the surface. When I stepped down into the valley at Deer Run, I had no idea that these would be the same ones who would rally around me when my mother was suddenly diagnosed with breast cancer and passed away a week later. I didn’t know that they would walk with me through every heartbreak and failure. I didn’t know that they would become my family. But it all happened.
I’m here to ask you to give to Deer Run. We all know that more money doesn’t mean God is able to do more. God is able to do whatever he wants to, however, Deer Run is a place of excellence, sacrifice, generosity, and obedience. From what I’ve seen and experienced, God has honored this service with His holy presence and by moving both mightily and consistently. Even now I get chills when I think about how He has met so many thousands of people between the dust and trees of those hills. It’s all happened due to Christ’s laying on the hearts of faithful men and women to sacrifice their time and money for His glory.
So many have already come alongside and supported the work that’s happening at Deer Run. I pray you’ll do the same. The valley’s arms are open wide and the story of Deer Run has only just begun. The next chapter starts with you.”