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3300 River Road
Mount Bethel, PA 18343

(570) 897-6000

Christian retreat center for New Jersey and Pennsylvania marriage retreat, singles retreat, women's retreat and youth summer camp in Mount Bethel, Pennsylvania.


Tales of Tuscarora

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Tusca-Romance: Matthew and Katie Ruppert



We are Matthew and Katie Ruppert!

Matt and I grew up going to Leisure Week with our families every summer. Neither of us is able to remember a time without Tuscarora. From the time we were 4 and 5 years old the tradition of the family program was a part of our lives, and we can't even remember when we first met.


When we were older, and started the teen program at Leisure Week during high school, we began spending a lot of time together. He would walk me “home” (back to Hillside) at the end of every night.

Though we wouldn’t see each other or talk much throughout the year, in the summer it was like no time passed. We liked each other, but neither of us ever said anything about it. FINALLY, the summer after my first year of college (I had liked him since I was 14), on one of those nights when he was walking me "home," we stopped to talk and ended up talking about us!

We started dating and we would see each other once a month for that first year (he was away at school). The second year we were dating, I was in South America and we would email every day and talk on the phone each night.


That summer (2 years from when we started dating) he planned a picnic by the river and asked me to marry him! We got married this past August. 


It may sound cheesy, but I really think I always knew Matt was the one for me! I dated other guys throughout high school, and relationships would always end after spending a week at Tuscarora with Matt! He was my standard. Matt was also sure of our future long before we started dating.

I definitely knew a long time before we started dating. Whenever I thought about my future, I couldn’t imagine myself ever being with anyone else. Anytime that I liked anyone else, it felt uncomfortable or I just knew in the back of my mind that my future was with Katie.
— Matt

We never would have met or had a relationship if it wasn't for Tuscarora. It’s a really special place to us. We first started to get to know each other on those walks from Riverside to Hillside. We hope to bring our own kids to leisure week one day, and to continue to be involved with the Tuscarora family!

Our advice? Serve each other joyfully. When you see that something needs to be done or that the other person needs something, just do it- joyfully. Even if it’s something small, it makes the other person feel known and loved.


Tusca-Romance: Jamie and Kari Stedjan



Tuscarora is often the place people are brought together in a unique atmosphere to grow special relationships. One example of this is the romance of Jamie and Kari Stedjan.

Kari Battillo grew up right up the hill from Tuscarora Inn and Conference Center. It was a part of her life from the very beginning, and became a part of her childhood where she would swim or play. Jamie Stedjan came to Tuscarora for the first time as a second grader attending Junior Week which soon became a family trip to Leisure Week each year.


Their paths crossed for the first time when he was 12 and she was 11. Though romance was not on their minds, they began fostering a special friendship that grew summer after summer until they were inseparable. Just a few years later they shared their first kiss at Teen Week in the Senum Thompson Center. This building was also the place of one of Kari's fondest Tuscarora memories. This building was named for her grandfather, Reidar Senum and  was dedicated in his name when construction was completed. She remembers how happy her grandmother, Norma, was to be there with her children and grandchildren, and that the work of her grandfather was able to live on through this exciting day.

I knew Kari was the one even before we started dating. Though I had other girlfriends, I always found myself hanging out with Kari again at Leisure Week because there was always something about her.
— Jamie Stedjan

Tuscarora wasn't just the setting their love began, but they see it as the reason their foundation is so strong. They were able to get to know each other at a young age, develop a strong friendship that continued over the span of years, and cemented the Christian values that they share. They grew and matured in their faith side by side, and believe this experience drew them closer together.


What began as a summer relationship, moved to Minnesota where the two attended Hillcrest together and continued to date through college. After Jamie graduated in 2013, he planned to propose to Kari. He knew he wanted to commemorate the large role Tuscarora had played in the their relationship.

Jamie worked with the staff of Tuscarora to move the couch from the Senum Thompson Center where they shared their first kiss to the Pines Campus in order to ask Kari to marry him. She said yes, and they were married 6 months later on the stage in the auditorium building that started it all and bore her grandfather's name on January 4, 2014.

In the future they look forward to sending their own children to Tuscarora for Junior Week and Teen Week. These programs were major contributors to each of their lives and they hope it would be the same for their kids. Jamie and Kari also have a tradition of attending Christmas Weekend each year for the concerts and banquet. Tuscarora is beautiful in the winter, something that makes them think of their wedding day.

Their parting advice? Laugh a lot. Don't sweat the small stuff. Have fun together no matter what you're doing.


Tuscarora History - The Flood of 2006


For guests to Tuscarora Inn and Conference Center, the Delaware River is a central part of their experience on the grounds. It creates the serene setting for our retreats, and allows our guests moments of contemplation and peace. It is a visible feature that many remember for years after visiting.

In the early 2000's, the Delaware River became a different sort of feature as it flooded 3 times in 22 months - each time reaching the grounds and disrupting retreats. The first flood, in September of 2004, the one lane bridge at Belvidere Corner Road was damaged, forcing guests to drive around the damage to get to our grounds.

The one lane bridge was at the base of my driveway. Despite the fact that I could see my office window from my living room window, I had to drive a few miles to get to work.
— Brian Abrahamsen, Excutive Director

The second flood, in April of 2005, caused damage to the original river front deck requiring it to be removed and replaced.

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Finally, on June 29, 2006, after four days of rain, the water swelled until River Road was flooded from the grounds down to Belvidere, NJ. Tuscarora was forced to close early and send staff and guests home as the water rose over the road and stretched all the way to the Snack Shop.

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While current guests and staff who lived on the grounds were affected, a huge event loomed on the horizon. Junior Week was set to start in just a few days, and with it 320 campers would arrive for a week of camp programming. Tuscarora didn't want the flooded ground to impact the program.


In moments like these, we turn our eyes and hope to the Lord, and He provided. Thanks to the help of Upper Mount Bethel Volunteer Fire Company, Portland Hook and Ladder Company, alongside other local fire departments and volunteers, the grounds were cleared and all flooding taken care of before the event began.


Campers and counselors from that year of Junior Week probably remember some creative outdoor water games to make up for a damaged pool, and muddy puddles, but it was a miracle that the grounds were able to perform ministry so soon after such a major natural event.

After three years of significant flooding, steps were taken to ensure riverfront property could be safe from such damage. Through the Delaware River Basin Commission, a partnership between Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and New York City, the Flexible Flood Management Plan uses scheduled released of reservoirs to control the flow of water.


A Riverfront Retreat


"But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer."

-Luke 5:15

Life, even a Christian life, can be hectic. We hear this over and over from the guests of Tuscarora. They come to our grounds for a place of peace, fellowship, and refreshment away from their everyday life. Christian retreat has been a long practiced discipline of faith.

Why is it so valued? Because your heart craves it. It craves time alone with the Lord. If you are tired, worn out, and feeling defeated Jesus is calling out to you to rely on Him. To let him provide for you.

That's why we believe so strongly in this practice at Tuscarora. We are following an example set by thousands of years of believers along with Jesus Himself! He retreated to the wilderness often to spend time with His Father. Jesus often took this retreat in gardens, in deserts, along the sea, and in lonely places. He chose places that would reflect the beauty of His Father's creation.

At Tuscarora, we have the benefit of a beautiful rural setting along the banks of the Delaware River. You can glimpse the river from every spot on the grounds. During the summer it is the place for morning devotions and baptisms. During the winter, when frozen over, it provides a dazzling display of natural beauty that would humble any heart.

Today, read what the Bible says about the symbolism of rivers and waters. Glance at the Lord's beauty. It's our prayer that you would be drawn closer to the Father's heart through this digital retreat.

He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.
— Psalm 1:3
He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’
— John 7:38
And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him.
— Matthew 3:16
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.
— Isaiah 43:2
Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.’
— John 4:10

How to Make a Difference: Counseling at Tuscarora


At the beginning of a new year, it's fun to turn our attention to the months ahead. One of the things we do to prepare for the summer is begin recruiting counselors and volunteers for our summer camps: Junior Week and Teen Week. During these weeks, our counseling staff dedicates a week of their summer to leading children and teens to the Lord. These volunteers play an integral park in the success of our ministry.

Counseling at Tuscarora is something which bonds every person throughout the decades who has experienced it. For many, it is the first time they step forward into a position of ministry, and there are many lesson's learned along the way.

Today, a few of our counselors from 2017 tell you a little bit about what this experience was like for them.

Julianna Henao

My favorite memory from counseling both Junior Week and Teen Week would have to be the simple moments and the in-betweens.

Sometimes at Junior Week we’d be walking from crafts to Bible Jam and my campers would pull me into a walking hug or look up and smile at me. At Teen Week my campers might find me during free time to hang out. These moments had no agenda, just a simple glimpse of love.

My best memories are the conversations I had with my girls about some of the simpler things – family, school, friends, relationships, etc. I loved hearing about the things they held in their hearts and share my story with them. Simply put, my favorite memory was the laughs, the late night banter, the conversations at meals, and the random outbursts of singing worship songs as we got ready for our next activity.

Through counseling, I learned just how much I needed to fully trust and rely on God. That no matter how well equipped and trained I was, no matter how much knowledge I had, I could not do it on my own strength. I learned that, while God has been using me as a vessel to spread his Truth and Love, he was also trying to share these things with me.

I also continue to learn, year after year, just how unique we all are. I have tried (and failed) to compartmentalize my campers, to mentally label them as a specific way, and even at times to compare them with each other. However, through all those failed attempts trying to do it my way God has shown me His true self, his heart for all of us, and his desire for us to truly love each other.

Tuscarora has had such a huge impact on my life. I have been going to camp since 6th grade and it was at winter weekend in 2008 where I truly surrendered my heart to Jesus and began my walk with him.

Tuscarora has been a place where I found and experienced God’s love for the first time and every time since Tuscarora to me has been a physical reminder of God’s promise and his faithfulness. I have found such an amazing community of Jesus loving, God fearing believers through Tuscarora. Whether it be the staff or my fellow counselors, I have experienced the true understanding of “family” at Tuscarora and it has given me a glimpse of what Heaven will be like.

Tuscarora has truly changed my life and continually helps me draw closer to Jesus through serving opportunities like Junior and Teen week counseling!

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Daniel Larsen

As a Counselor, I can tell you that it is quite the ride at Tuscarora. One of my most favorite memories was when we, as counselors, decided to hold an Unofficial, but was pretty much official, Counselor Belly flop contest one afternoon during the week.

This got the kids super excited. Some counselors kept it quiet and others told their kids but once the crowd of kids gathered around that pool it was truly amazing the joy, laughter, and the occasional cringing faces of the kids. This moment will go down in history because the years after will be talking about the legendary yet creative belly flops that some of the counselors performed.

Through all the fun and games, we do take time to recognize why we are all there and who we are there for. Most people would assume that their kids are there to learn the Word and grasp an understanding as to who God is.

Though this is true, the counselors also manage to learn new things. This is especially true for me. Since the very first year as a counselor, I was taught patience, kindness, and a whole other meaning of the word love.

Patience was learned through the rowdy, yet meaningful room wraps that occurred. In-between all the times of, “I’d like to finish the room wrap and all I need is 5 more minutes” and the “please be quiet so that we can go to sleep” the boys that I was blessed with were able to convey their thoughts on what ever questions we discussed after the sessions.

These were the moments where I learned the kindness and love. Through their crazy boy like outbursts, they explained who Jesus was or what He was about in their own young and innocent words. As a youth leader outside of Tuscarora, this drove me to a better understanding of what it meant to lead young hearts and minds through their journeys or starting a journey to the understanding of God, His son, and what He did for the world.

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Faith Tonnesen

This past summer, I was blessed with the opportunity to serve at Junior Week. Not only was I counseling with some of my favorite people, but God gave me campers better than I imagined! I had six campers, four 9-year-olds who knew each other beforehand and two 12-year-old best friends.

One of my favorite memories took place on the last night of camp. As one could imagine, everyone was tired, yet forcing themselves to be awake with a great group of friends. We were up after session and of course lots of emotions come out when young girls have been running around all week and are up past their bedtimes.

The girls were laughing about things from their past, reminiscing about what God had taught them the past week, and sharing secrets with one another. While the girls were laughing about a funny story, began crying about a memory from home. Within seconds, someone made a joke, and everyone was laughing again. We were up much later than I would like to admit to, but had an amazing bonding moment of sisters in Christ. Eventually, I prayed over each girl and we all went to bed.

That week I had learned more than just the importance of naps. My campers showed me what child-like faith was. The girls were focused on caring for one another more than anything. The older girls did not pout about being with the younger girls, but rather embraced them and lead them. The girls who knew the Bible better did not leave the others out of conversations, but rather explained the different aspects of the Bible. When the Bible would be explained to them, they would not doubt God’s powerful hand, but believe it as truth.

Throughout the week, the girls held each other to a higher standard. One example is using God’s name in vain. The girls loved each other and loved God too much to allow one another to use God’s name in vain. With love and encouragement, they would correct each other. More important than what others thought or what society says, the girls saw God’s truth as their unshakable foundation. Though they would ask questions, the questions would be to know God better—not question God’s authority. The faith I witnessed was inspiring and lacked in this world.

That week, sisters in Christ were brought together to challenge and encourage each other in God's Word. I am more than grateful for the opportunity to be a counselor for such wonderful campers!

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Robert Schippers

My favorite memory as a counselor take place on Funky Friday. This is because I love to see the kids dressing goofy, laughing and having a good time. Plus this is also an event the counselors take part in and I feel this really inspires the kids to get into the fun seeing that the ones they look up to are doing it.

One thing I have learned through my experience as a counselor is just how big of a difference one week can make in a child's life. Through all the years I have counseled  it amazes me how kids that come from rough backgrounds can go home as almost new people with great intentions and a new drive to go out and spread what they learned about God.

Tuscarora has impacted my life in a huge way. I have been going to Tuscarora every year of my life from Jr Week, Teen Week, Leisure Week and Winter Weekend. This has given me a great tight-knit group of friends that I still stay in contact with and Tuscarora has acted as a second home for me, granted I live down the street. But even though I do live so close, being at Tuscarora feels like you are in a little bubble and its the most amazing feeling.


Tori Oswald

When I signed up to be a Junior Week counselor a couple of years ago it was a total act of faith and trust. I did not know anyone there but I knew that this is what God wanted me to do. Little did I know that a decision I made years ago would change my life forever and make my faith and trust in God so much stronger.

After my first year of counseling I was struck by the unity and love of all the counselors that made me want to come back the next year and counsel.

 Over the years of being a counselor I have been able to see God moving not only in my life, but my campers as well. Being a counselor at Junior Week can be tiring but it is so rewarding to be able to look back and see what God has done.

 I love having the opportunity to see my campers be excited to be at Junior Week and eager to learn more about God. The unity between the Junior Week counselors help make the week so much better.

It is very comforting knowing that whenever I need something I can reach out to one of my fellow counselors and they would help me in any way they can. All of the counselors are more than just counselors to a couple of kids teaching them the word of God, we are a family moving in the same direction of showing God’s love to all of those around us.

I am beyond blessed to be apart of the Junior Week staff and I am so thankful for it. The friends that I have made while counseling at Junior Week I know I will be lifelong friends

If you are at least 16, you can be a Junior Week counselor, and if you've graduated high school, you can be a Teen Week Counselor! Apply TODAY by visiting our website!