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    You have probably heard the illustration of the pebble dropped into the pond, causing waves of impact to ripple out in all directions. For me, going to camp was the boulder chucked into the pond of my life, that created the waves I’m still surfing on.

    I showed up to WLD Ranch as an awkward 7th grader, not knowing anyone at Jr. High week, and over the next five summers I was transformed into a slightly less awkward high school senior, who knew a little more about himself, had half a clue about where he was going, and more importantly, was following Jesus. At camp, I encountered Mr. Pat, and Mr. Clint, and Miss Stacy – counselors I looked up to who loved Jesus. I met Jim, Steve, Melanie, Lisa, Beth, and a whole bunch of other friends, who like me were learning to take steps toward and with Jesus, and would be community for me during those formative years.

    My city self hiked in creeks, butt slid down muddy ravines, rode a horse named JoJo, or Spook, or some other horsey name, sang the songs, paddled the canoes, slept out in the woods, and drank the bug juice. I remember waking up on Tuesday mornings at camp, and being so happy that the week was barely half way over!

    One summer, a ministry team from Houghton College was there the week I was at camp. I’d never heard of Houghton before, but it was enough that when I got mail from them, I actually read it instead of adding it to my grocery bag of college brochures that all sound the same. Halfway through a visit to Houghton, I knew it was where I wanted to be for the next four years, and that launched me on another wave of growth and discovery. I learned how to play volleyball and downhill ski. I had a radio show on the college station, wrote sports for the newspaper, walked on to the track team, and played seven intramural sports. I went to class too, including one where Bob Smalley put us up in the ropes course, and took us rock climbing, and backpacking class with Doris Nielsen, (who we called “Mabel.)” I found out I could add a major in Outdoor Recreation alongside my Communication major, and make a career out of not wearing a tie, being outside, working with people, and calling it ministry!

    Mabel got me to work for her summer STEP program too, taking kids out in the woods on backpacking trips, and running them through the ropes course, for “personal growth.” Well, a lot of personal growth happened out there, some of it even by the kids probably… my second summer I was matched up with a co-leader named Evelyn, who was gorgeous, but clearly not my type.

    So Evelyn and I have been married for coming up on 22 years. (I know, right?) A couple states, 5 houses, 5 dogs, and 2 teenage boys later, here we are. She directs The MARSH Day Camp, and I’m Program Director for Family Camp here at Sandy Cove.

    Now maybe I’m just Forrest Gump, and not everyone else’s life list of defining moments would be rooted in camp. But why take the chance?

    However, if you missed out on camp yourself as a kid, or you wish you could join your kids at camp, or you just need more of those “defining moment” ripples in your family pond, why don’t you join me at Family Camp? Come on in – the water is fine!

    Nate Ransil
    Nate Ransil
    Nate joined the Program department at Sandy Cove in 2003, and transitioned to director of that team in 2014. Nate graduated from Houghton College with a double major in Communication and Outdoor Recreation (yes, it is a thing) and got to know his wife Evelyn while co-leading backpacking trips for at-risk youth. Hopefully not as at-risk are their two sons, Caleb and TJ, who have spent all their summers at Sandy Cove, Camp Sandy Cove, and The MARSH! Nate enjoys being outside, being inside, being handy, the beach, snowboarding, roller coasters, training aardvarks, bodybuilding, contributing to quantum theory, and making up fanciful, if not entirely accurate, biographical details.
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