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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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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!