Published: April 29, 2016
Annette Brill Bergstresser
This year, 13 students at AMBS share a common background as staff members at Mennonite camps and retreat centers. Meet one of the 13: Joel Beachy of Kalona, Iowa.
East Union Mennonite Church, Kalona
Education and program of study
I received a degree in education with a minor in Teaching English as a New Language from Goshen (Ind.) College. I am currently working on a Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry at AMBS.
How did your camp staff experience play a role in bringing you to seminary?
I was a camp counselor at Crooked Creek Christian Camp in Washington, Iowa. I also served at Pine Lake Fellowship Camp in Meridian, Miss., for a number of years. I was on the board as vice president and then president, and I served as a camp pastor several weeks.
Camp was where I made my first commitments to follow Jesus Christ. Although I would not describe myself as a “camp person,” I have had some of my most meaningful encounters with God at camp. Camp provides an explicit and intentional focus on building your relationship with God, other campers and staff. By moving yourself outside of your normal routine of daily living, I find you have a greater awareness of how God is working in the world. Part of that experience comes from the direct encounter with nature and the beauty of God’s creation. But a large part of that encounter with God derives from putting down your phone, laptop, TV, book and other distractions. You may not even fully realize what you have signed on to when you go to camp, but you are almost always assured an experience with God that you do not have in your “everyday” life.
Are there any specific stories you could share?
At Pine Lake Fellowship Camp each spring we held a father-child retreat. It was a great opportunity for me to spend time with my two boys, where all of my attention and focus could be on them and our relationship together. By committing to attending the retreat, I was forced to carve out time that was meant just for them. I also found the relationships that I built with other dads and grandpas to be extremely rewarding.
What are your thoughts about the future?
I am currently the lead pastor at East Union Mennonite Church. I am excited to encourage our kids and young people to get engaged at Crooked Creek Christian Camp. I also look forward to partnering with the directors to see how East Union can both support the camp and engage God in new ways at camp.
More student stories
- Read "It only takes a spark: Camping ministry is common thread in AMBS students’ experiences", the feature article highlighting various students whose work at Mennonite camps and retreat centers helped spark their call to seminary.
- Read stories from Scott Litwiller, Michael Unruh, Michelle Curtis, Jeff Boehr, Lee Hiebert, Melissa Atchison, Brian O’Leary, Ben Bouwman and Renee Reimer.
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