Annette Brill Bergstresser
Camping staff members follow call to seminary
This year, 10 of the 33 first-year students at AMBS share a common background as staff members at Mennonite camps and retreat centers. Meet one of the 10: Jeff Boehr of Bluffton, Ohio.
First Mennonite Church of Bluffton, Bluffton, Ohio
Education and program of study
I majored in business administration and accounting at Bluffton University. At AMBS I’m working on a Master of Arts in Christian Formation with an emphasis on spirituality.
How did your camp staff experience play a role in bringing you to seminary?
I’ve been connected with Camp Friedenswald in Cassopolis, Michigan, for a long time. My dad helped build the cabins there in the 50s. I used to bring youth groups there from First Mennonite. I served as a summer camp pastor for a week and helped with programming for some winter retreats. I’ve volunteered every year with our youth group at indoor/outdoor work days. Most recently, I was program director there for three years, which was an amazing experience.
I was thinking about coming to seminary for a long time. All my experiences along the way have helped nudge me toward AMBS, and camp is no exception. At Friedenswald I had the opportunity to write summer curriculum and help lead worship experiences, and to think about what it means all along the age spectrum to be connecting our whole selves to what God is doing in the world — in nature, creation and community and our own inner life. This all became real for me in a practical way as I needed to think about how God was speaking to me and our staff about communicating this in a way that would hopefully be relevant and allow God to touch people at camp. I felt I should come to AMBS to gain tools for this work and to explore in a deeper way what it might mean for me going forward.
Are there any specific stories you could share?
Over the years when I was bringing youth groups up, I enjoyed building relationships with staff members. When I was on staff myself and doing programming, I would draw on those relationships and bring some of those people back in. Those were wonderful resource moments – interactive moments – remembering as well as doing something new with what was going on in our lives in the present.
I love the outdoors and want our youth from the church to be connected to that wholeness of who we are as a people of God’s creation and to tie that experience to their own spirit. Camp is a great place where that can happen.
What are your thoughts about the future?
I’m considering some form of chaplaincy and possibly spiritual direction. With the experiences I’ve had and from being with people at different stages of life, I’m drawn to the idea of accompanying people through a certain segment of their life experience — it could be in a hospital, a retirement community, a prison. I’m open to what might be out there for me to take part in next. I also find that I’m surprised at how things turn out at times. I’m grateful for the different ways God is working in the present and will always stay with me.
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, Lee Hiebert, Melissa Atchison, Brian O'Leary and Joel Beachy.