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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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"Power" of Hospitality


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So far, this March has been a month to remember at Tuscarora. The nor'easter two weeks ago reminded us that those things that are out of our control (weather, and electricity or the lack thereof) are not out of God's control. Power was restored on Tuesday and we began welcoming guests as normal.

One of the great things about Tuscarora is that we are tied to tradition. We have many guests who choose to return to our grounds year after year. These guests become a part of the Tuscarora family. The staff often gets accustomed to seeing the same faces enjoying our ministry.

But every once in a while we have the opportunity to meet guests who might not have visited otherwise.

Last Saturday evening, when we were full with weekend guests, we received a call from Jersey Central Power & Light asking about room availability for the following week. About 200 lineman from around the United States were going to be in the area, working to restore power in Sussex, NJ and needed a place to stay. Having the availability and wanting to serve, but knowing there wasn’t staff scheduled, we took a leap of faith and said yes.

Nothing would be final until Sunday morning, but the evening was spent planning for the arrival of these new guests even though it might fall through. That night, we began reaching out to anyone that might be available. We would be short staffed, but members from all departments of the Tuscarora staff arrived to clean bathrooms, vacuum, and make beds. Even Brian Abrahamsen was making beds for six hours alongside managers, supervisors, volunteers, and one very enthusiastic four year old boy!

From parking attendants, all night office hours, and 6:00 AM breakfasts, the Tuscarora staff came together to make it happen. After a stressful few weeks one would never expect to hear laughter as so many unusual participants were found on the grounds Sunday afternoon doing the work that needed to be done.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
— Colossian 3:23-24

While many guests to Tuscarora have mountaintop spiritual experiences, the work of performing the ministry runs the risk of feeling repetitive. But moments like these, we have the chance to step outside of the ordinary, to appreciate the people we work alongside, and truly understand the power of hospitality.

At the end of the day, when two hundred linemen checked in and the parking lot was filled with trucks, we had the opportunity to serve the community at large and help others receive electricity. During their stay, as they rested from weeks of hard work and public service, we pray they were able to become aware of the broader ministry of Tuscarora.

It is our mission to provide hospitality to groups in need of refreshment and we were able to provide that in a different way this past week!

What the Storm Can't Stop



In Matthew 8, the Bible tells a comforting story about the Lord’s approach to the storms of life. Jesus steps onto a boat, and his disciples dutifully follow him. While they are on the boat, circumstances change.

And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”
— Matthew 8:23-27

The day before the Spring Women’s Retreat, the Tuscarora staff was much like the disciples upon entering the boat. The storm was forecast, but we were prepared to follow our call to ministry and continue with the upcoming event as planned.

By Friday afternoon, the nor’easter forecasted had arrived. The winds raged, the rain and snow came down, and Tuscarora lost power at 3:30 pm. With 180 ladies here for a retreat, and an incredible sense of optimism, the program began.

As nightfall approached, reports of the widespread damage began to come in. Trees and wires were down blocking most of the roads. Electricity was out throughout most of the Lehigh Valley and northwestern New Jersey. Those guests who had made it to the grounds were facing a night with no power, no heat, and limited running water. They gathered in the dining room for a dinner served by candlelight. Cold and tired, this was not the retreat they imagined.


The temptation to say, “Save us, Lord, we are perishing,” in these moments is great. Too often, we try to decide how the Lord will speak to us. We plan to leave our everyday lives and experience His spirit in places like Tuscarora, where we are comfortable and peaceful. But in the Matthew 8 story, Jesus is not troubled by the storm, only the disciples.

Through the storm Jesus said, “Why are you afraid.” There, in the darkened dining room the attitude became one of expectancy. The storm was so severe, the circumstances so unique, that many women wondered what they were there to experience. What was so important that Satan would try so hard to stop it?

Knowing that God often speaks loudest during the darkest hours, we were not afraid of the snow, or the wind but rather looked forward to how God would reveal more of who He is to those of us who came.
— Carol Andersen

The spirit of the Lord is not stopped by the wind, the rain, and the snow. Choosing to stay in the candle lit dining room, our worship band lead the group of ladies in several songs. Voices, unaltered by microphones and speakers, were raised to the heavens glorifying the Lord. Hearts, burdened by frustration and discomfort, praised the Lord despite the circumstances.


Eventually, the storm quieted, but so did the storm within the hearts of our guests. Terry Wilson, called in to speak when we heard our planned speaker couldn’t arrive, spoke about changing our perspective and realizing we are enough. We have enough. We do enough. Our God, even in the midst of the storms of life, is enough.

In the morning, we assessed the downed trees and power lines. Power was not estimated to return until Wednesday. The damage in the area was worse than Hurricane Sandy years before. At its peak, over 587,000 homes were without electricity.

Once the roads were clear, Tuscarora made the difficult decision to end the weekend after dinner on Saturday. Many guests didn’t want to leave, expressing over and over that Tuscarora had been a safe place in the storm for them, never causing them to be fearful, and in fact creating a unique mountaintop for this year’s retreat.

We laughed and enjoyed sweet fellowship in spite of the limited heat, hot water, and yes….coffee. There was no shortage of food or lack of hope - but an abundance of sweet Christian fellowship, making new friends, discovering creative talent and exploring difficult topics.
— Carol Andersen

Only Jesus has the ability to calm the storm. Only Jesus commands the winds and the seas.

Tuscarora is humbled by the joyful hearts that rode out the storm with us. We are thankful for the many hands who have worked over the last few days to repair the damage, on our grounds and everywhere that was impacted. We are thankful for the generous hearts that have provided gifts of support to help with the clean-up required.

This experience has revealed that we are always dependent on the support of others. We are dependent on our guests, who allow us to perform the ministry we are called to. We are dependent on our volunteers who give their time and talent when needed. We are dependent on our donors, who anticipate our needs before we even ask. Many of our guests this past weekend made gifts to the ministry as they left, and while we were still offline, gifts came in online to relieve the clean-up efforts.

It is our prayer that God is even calling some of you to support our ministry through this storm. Gifts can be made online by visiting, or mailed to 3300 River Rd, Mount Bethel PA, 18343. While our need is great, God has always provided for our needs in the past, and we are faithful that He will do the same now.

Please keep Tuscarora in your prayers, as we are often called to perform our ministry in the midst of physical and spiritual storms. Remember though, even when we are frightened and call out for help, we can be reminded that our Savior is never stopped.

To support the ministry of Tuscarora Inn and Conference Center while it works on storm repair and clean up, click here.

20 Questions with Tuscarora Staff - Sara Pensyl


 Sara, her husband Marc and son Michael.

Sara, her husband Marc and son Michael.

1.       What is your name and position at Tuscarora?

Sara Pensyl, Program Manager

2.       How many roles and jobs have you had here?

Oooosh a lot! I worked on Summer Staff where I worked in the Dining Room and on Jobs, but also held positions on wait staff and in the Snack Shop throughout high school.

3.       When did you first visit Tuscarora?

When I was five years old and we moved to Pennsylvania – we came to swim in the pool – my first memory of Tuscarora is the shallow end of the big pool!

4.       When did you come to know the Lord?

July 1994 in the gym during Junior Week at Tuscarora

5.       What is your favorite place on the grounds?

The dock down in the water – to sit and reflect and watch the sunrise

6.       If you could eat three Tuscarora meals forever – what would they be?

Eggs and potatoes, penne pasta with red and white sauce (not mixed), salmon

7.       What is your favorite event that takes place at Tuscarora?

Christmas Weekend is pretty special – all the excitement and joy is infectious! It’s a ton of work, but to see it all come together and the glory go to God makes your heart burst.

8.       Three favorite Christian songs?

Whatever is on the radio/someone else is playing. Music is more of a background thing for me.

9.       What made you decide to work at Tuscarora?

 Sara with Paul (and Brian) viewing the solar eclipse.

Sara with Paul (and Brian) viewing the solar eclipse.

Brian and Paul kept calling me. I kid, I kid. Honestly? God – it was a total God thing to move back here with my family and work here. There was prompting from God and arguing from me and finally a peace and a decision!

10.   Best lesson you’ve learned during your time here?

How to work with so many different personality types. And grace. Always grace. How to have a certain measure of grace. I’m still terrible at it, but I’m learning.

11.   What is your most treasured Tuscarora memory?

Seeing Jesus during the Summer of 2003 during a session in the Auditorium

12.   What is the best part of your job?

I love laughing with my co-workers! I love the family feel of the staff!

13.   What is your favorite Bible verse?

Isaiah 30:21 “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’”

14.   What is something guests don’t know about you?

I don’t like talking into the microphone. I do it because I have to.

15.   How would you describe the mission of Tuscarora to someone who had never been here before?

To be used by God as part of a ministry that will bring glory to Him; to point to, and share God in all we do, develop, in the conversations we have, and the relationships we form.

16.   What is your favorite movie?

I don’t know. I don’t really watch movies. Anything hilarious. I like to laugh.

 Sara: lower right hand corner

Sara: lower right hand corner

17.   What’s your most common snack shop order?

Peanut Butter ripple in a dish

18.   If you could stay anywhere on the grounds where would it be and why

Hillside. It’s where I first stayed and I love the way it smells.

19.   What is your favorite thing to see guests doing?

Sitting, talking, laughing – enjoying relationships

20.   What is your biggest hope for the future of this ministry?

That we can create a place, an experience that allows people to experience God here at Tuscarora the way I have over and over again.

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.