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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.

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Tales of Tuscarora

Would you be interested in submitting a piece for Tales of Tuscarora? We are always looking for stories to tell! Email lindsay@tuscarora.org

I Belong to the Kingdom of God - Ruth Vallevik

Tuscarora

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Ruth Vallevik

Director of Women’s Ministry, Church of the Lutheran Brethren

My home’s in Montana, I wear a bandana
My spurs are of silver, my pony is gray.
While riding the ranges my luck never changes
With foot in the stirrup I’ll gallop away.
— Glenn Ohrlin

Yes, my home is in Montana.  Never mind that I don’t spend my days riding the range or sporting a bandana.  This is my home.  Though raised on the West coast, educated in the Midwest, living as a new bride on the East coast and teaching in many places, Montana has been my home for thirty-seven years.  I love the contrast of wide open range and wheat fields under the Big Sky with the rugged Rocky peaks and wide rivers.  It is here I served in ministry with my pastor-husband for 24 years, raised our two children and since his passing have served as Director of Women’s Ministries of the CLB for over a decade.  I love the bustle of my city of Billings as well as the tiny mountain village of Red Lodge nearby, where I often go for “soul care” days.  Here, in my favorite quiet spot (except for the noisy, rushing creek) I sit with my open Bible and open heart to commune with my Father.  As I ponder the majestic mountains around me I gain perspective.  They existed thousands of years before me and will exist long after my brief stay on this planet has ended.  Burdens are transferred to the loving shoulders of my Father whose promise comforts me.  Here my prayers rise to Him who created all this beauty.

Montana.  My home.  My earthly residence.  But in a far greater measure, I am a citizen of another world; I owe my allegiance to another.  I belong to the Kingdom of God, an invisible family of those who have been gathered in by the gracious invitation of Christ, my King.  It is He who paid the penalty of sin that I so richly deserved, who gave me a new heart, who calls me to follow Him, and will one day return to take me – and all the vast number of this kingdom - to live with Him forever.  It is He with whom - through a mystery I do not understand- I have a living, daily, intimate relationship.

You have likely recited the words of the “Lord’s Prayer” hundreds of times:  “Thy kingdom come…”  Maybe you have never really thought through what that means.  Is His kingdom here and now or there and then?  Who is a part of that kingdom?  Who is the King, and what is my relationship to Him?  How can I live as a duel citizen, belonging to an eternal kingdom and yet living among my family and neighbors as a subject of human government and authority?  If He is returning to earth as promised, how shall I live while I wait?  At the Women’s Retreat in November, under the theme of “The King and I” we will search the Scriptures to find answers to these questions and others, and as we learn I pray that our hearts will be lifted in joyful praise to the One True King. 

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On my desk stands a sculpture of two women, one exhausted and bowed down, the other supporting her and pointing upward.  I identify with both.  Sometimes I am the burdened one, and sometimes I am the encourager who points to King Jesus, our hope and our help.  I am praying that as we gather together in November the King Himself will meet with us, that we will learn of Him through searching the Word, grow in our love for Him, commit to following and serving Him, encourage one another and rejoice in anticipation of His return.  

I will gladly leave my beloved Montana home – briefly – in order to carry that message.I hope to meet you there!

If you are interested in joining us for our Fall Women’s Retreat, learn more by visiting our website.

My First Summer at Tuscarora - Hannah Riehle-Moeller

Tuscarora

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Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story…those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south.
— Psalm 107: 2-3

“It’s only going in reverse!”

Clammy from apprehension and humidity, I turned to my faithful co-pilot Kiana and told her the gold Tuscarora van wasn’t driving forward. My first official day as summer Staff Supervisor at Tuscarora, and this 15-passenger van was ruining my first impression.

This moment made me think of my own road before coming to Tuscarora.

In my relationship with Jesus, I have actually been going steady with the reverse gear. I initially learned of a relationship with Jesus as a freshman in high school. For nearly ten years, I went on an unrelenting pursuit to be good enough for Him. I attended youth group and bible study twice a week, I served on our youth ministry leadership team, I planned and attended summer mission trips, prayed over friends who struggled in sin, and raised my hands and closed my eyes hoping to hear His voice during worship.

Even with all these things, I felt my relationship going in reverse. When I sinned – especially that one struggle I could never rid – I ignored God, and isolated myself in the darkness of my bedroom where no one could help me. I had to clean and fix myself up before going back to youth group or church.

Then, a year ago, I met Jesus while sitting on the toilet. Then, I met Him in my bedroom. I encountered Him while I unlocked my heart to my best friend at the bar. He pursued me when my transmission was broken down and I was only going in reverse.

Grace means we accept our failure – past, present, and future – and we accept that rituals or self-righteousness will never save us. I thought I did everything right to deserve a relationship with Jesus, but I was only made worthy through His death and resurrection.

So, fast forward to this summer. The summer staff program began with three counselors, a new supervisor, and many wide-eyed teens eager for their summer ahead. We attended Mt. Bethel church a few Sundays throughout the summer. One particular Sunday, Pastor Chris taught Psalm 107, and verses two and three pulled on my heart: “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story…those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south."

The summer staff came from the north – is Stroudsburg far enough north? 
The south – Karlie and Karsten are from Maryland!
The east – Brooklyn and Queens, Plainfield and Rockaway
The west – Martha is from Colorado and I am from Illinois!

The summer staff came from all directions, each with our own distinct stories of struggle, joy, salvation, and hurt. Some of us grew up at Tuscarora, some followed our friend here for the first time, and others did not know this Jesus fella’. Throughout the summer, the staff learned of Jesus and His grace through individual devotions, small group, attending Sunday church services at Tuscarora and Mt. Bethel, and talking with each other while completing our tasks at work. Each day on staff was a new opportunity to encounter Jesus, learn of His redeeming grace, and develop a personal story.

Though verses two and three are a highlight for me, the entirety of Psalm 107 shares stories of God’s deliverance and gratitude of the wanderers, fools, rebels, and sinners. I give thanks to our Father for His grace, provision, and faithfulness to the Tuscarora summer staff this season.

I hope Tuscarora continues to be a place where the redeemed can tell their stories, even if they are only going in reverse.

In case you were concerned, the gold van drives forward now, too.

How To Plan a Group Retreat

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For where two or three gather together in my name, there am I among them.
— Matthew 18:20

For churches and ministries across the globe, the tradition of retreat can be a great time to set themselves apart from the stress of everyday life, fellowship with each other, and hear the Lord's voice. This was modeled by Jesus as He retreated for prayer amidst teaching and healing.

And sure, that sounds like a great idea - but as any pastor or ministry leader knows most great ideas require a lot of work. At Tuscarora, we want everything about the retreat experience to be as easy as possible - so our staff is ready to help you with any questions you may have!

But for some, the task of organizing a church or group retreat might still seem too daunting. But did you know each retreat starts with four big decisions. With some advance planning, a successful retreat is well within your grasp.


WHY

There are a lot of reasons you might want to take time away - and none of them are bad! But you will probably find your time of retreat most rewarding if you decide upfront on your, "why."

You may simply want to deepen your relationship with God. Maybe you are looking to practice a spiritual discipline like spending time in scripture or prayer. Maybe you just need time away from church for a specific ministry to find a way to connect with each other. Maybe your church leadership is in need of a strategy planning meeting.

Whatever your need, deciding on your why first is a great way to make sure you leave your retreat with your goals met.

WHO

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Who are you planning this retreat for? Is it all the members of your church? Your church members and their friends? What about just men, women, or families? Just adults, or are children going to be invited? What about JUST children (with supervision of course!)

There isn't a right answer. But each group has different needs. Answering this question will help you to decide what your potential attendees care about and how to make sure they register!

WHERE

We're biased. We hope you would decide on Tuscarora for your church or group retreat! That's our passion and our ministry.

Truthfully, you don't even need to travel very far to have the experience of retreat. Coffee and cake in someone's home can be special, as well as a meal shared in a church basement.

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But there is nothing like visiting a Christian Conference Center for several days of retreat. The experience gives you the true mountain top experience. The size of your group, the type of programming you're interested in, and the age of your attendees will all determine which facilities you may want to consider. Is mobility or transportation a concern? What activities does the facilities offer? These are all questions you would want to ask as you shop around.

WHEN

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Tuscarora is open all year round - but our winter groups definitely have a very different experience than our summer groups! In winter we hold coffee house style trivia events, serve LOTS of coffee, and see our guests head out into the snow for sledding and skiing. In summer, water recreation is a popular way to bond and build relationships. It's tough not to create life-long relationships when you're gripping a boat tube together.


Whatever you're thinking, don't get too stressed! Remember, the great thing about ministry is how much of the groundwork the Lord lays for us. As you plan your retreat - don't forget about Tuscarora!

If you are interested in hearing about Church and Group Retreats at Tuscarora, make sure to fill out an interest form!

How to "Be Still"

Tuscarora

There was a time when summer was a season to rest. When the days got longer, kids were off from school, and time seemed to slow down. Lately, it feels like the summer months can be the busiest of all - with vacations, holidays, and sports schedule.

We understand if you're looking ahead to the fall months and feeling a little bit overwhelmed. Here at Tuscarora our business is rest and relaxation - but even we leave the summer months feeling like we haven't taken the time to ready ourselves for the season ahead.

The Bible makes no question about how important this is. Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still, and know that I am God." Being still doesn't come easily to many of us, we have trained ourselves to be active and moving every second of every day. But, if God makes a point of commanding us to Be still, how can we make it possible?

1. Find a time

If you feel like you don't have the time for stillness, it's just because you haven't made the time. Whether it's a weekend away, or five minutes every morning, time that you decide on and build into your schedule is more likely to happen.

2. Find a place

There's a reason people love to vacation in beautiful places - often the right setting can put us in the right frame of mind. If you find a place that's beautiful and peaceful, you are more likely to feel peaceful in it. You're also more likely to find the rest you're looking for. This place can be your bed, a special chair, outside on your porch, in the shower, or even a place like Tuscarora.

3. Relax your body

Maybe to relax your body you need fuzzy slippers, a satin bathrobe, and twelve hours of uninterrupted sleep. Maybe you just don't want to talk to anyone else for a little while. Maybe you just need a deep breath, a cup of coffee, and some time in your Bible. Being still means different things to different people - but without relaxing your body it's really hard to follow the next step.

4. Relax your mind

This can be the most challenging step. Even sitting still with our eyes closed, many of us may feel our minds are going full steam ahead. We can think about our to do list, events we need to attend, and meals we need to make. But relaxing your mind is an important part of stillness, so it's worth trying.

5. Open your heart

This step should naturally follow the rest. Once we are resting our bodies and our minds, and open to the voice of the Lord, He can come in to fill us with the things we need. Though we can achieve physical relaxation on our own, a deeper spiritual relaxation needs to come from time in His presence.

If you are feeling tired and worn out from the work of this season - in the calendar year in life - try to follow this commandment to be still. Approach God with a relaxed body, mind, and heart as the scripture tells us and see how God can prepare you for what's to come!

Serving with the strength God provides -Brian Abrahamsen

Tuscarora

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At Tuscarora, summer is finally here. We are once again reminded by the miracle of creation of the hope we have received in the resurrection of Jesus. This winter presented us with many challenges which sought to attack our hope.

In February, we lost a dear friend in Rev. George Aase, who was a part of the Tuscarora ministry from the very beginning. He served as the Tuscarora Chaplain from 1991-2007, was a support and counsel to staff, and a friend to guests. He will be greatly missed by all.

In early March, a nor’easter for the history books took its toll on our grounds, causing our Spring Women’s Retreat to be cut short due to power outages and road closures. Clean up from this storm lasted for weeks, and we lost many of the trees around our grounds.

It often seems the tasks that need to be done outnumber the hands, and funds, we have available. But God is faithful! The Bible reminds us in 1 Peter that we serve, “with the strength that God provides.” We have seen an increased amount of new volunteers and donors who are helping to do this marvelous work.

So, with this in mind, I invite you to join us in this next exciting season of ministry, whether as a guest, donor, or volunteer. Come, grow closer to God, and discover His plan for you. Partner with us in this adventure. To God be the glory, for ever and ever.

 

Brian