God is already near: an adventure with the Fire Marshal

Bethany Birches--Dave and stairwell
Before ….

by Brandon Bergey, Bethany Birches Camp

This is a story about a recent requirement on Bethany Birches Camp by the office of the Vermont State Fire Marshal.

I remember it well… standing in the basement and looking out one of the windows; feeling both angst and joy.  The angst was related to discovering a problem for which the solution was unknown to me.  The joy was related to sensing that God was near and that an adventure lies ahead.

Bethany Birches--Dave and sheet rock
… and after!

In short, the adventure was to quickly update a building as required for safety regulations.  And, to do this with minimal resources in a short season that is not usually focused on infrastructure but rather on preparation for summer camp.  The greatest challenges were:

  • Lack of available money
  • Lack of available time
  • To synthesize my own desire to upgrade the building, meet the fire marshal’s requirements and accomplish the board’s mandate to spend as little as possible.

While we spent a hare more than “as little as possible” (choosing real wood for wall finish instead of wood paneling or sheet rock, for example) we kept it very close to bare minimum.  On top of that, we were finally able to insulate the roof of the building and upgrade its R value from 1.75 to 40!  Talk about savings in the long run!

Bethany Birches--ceiling insulation
Before …

As to the other challenges, money became available.  In just a few months we received $75,000 for the work.  We spent almost all of it on the project.  The money made some additional time available which helped a lot.  This confirmed my sense that God was not only near, but working through the authorities (Romans 13).

However, in order to upgrade the building in this process, I spent more time than maybe I ought. While the rest of my work did not suffer, per se, I look back and realize it cost me personally.  Our dog died while I wasn’t paying attention and a new challenge related to falling asleep started during this season of elevated stress.  How much is an upgraded building worth?  Paying through suffering and loss for the sake of Christ is cheap.  Suffering and loss feel expensive, though, if not in the service of the King.  It is evident that numerous guests to camp have already appreciated the upgrades.  I hope that the price I paid personally are useful to God.

Bethany Birches--cabin lofts finished
… and after!

Here’s an interesting point – when God breaks into our lives, “work” and “personal space” are not allowed to remain separate.  When having a child, one loses sleep. That sleep deprivation affects productivity at work.  Or, when something stressful happens at work, relationships or chores at home are allowed to suffer.  What this shows me is that our lives are not as segregated as we sometimes long for them to be.  We are one person carrying with us whatever we are currently carrying, wherever we go.  If the pain of a broken relationship is currently something we carry, we carry that pain to work and to home and to a dinner party and when walking the dog.  While this appears to be an unpleasant fact of life, one that we try to deny often, I give thanks to God that we are made in a way that allows us to be whole.

As I prayed in this blog post, “God, join us… in all our endeavors,”  I’ve since realized that if God is already near, my prayer ought to be more like “God, soften my heart and open my mind so I may see you and your guidance.  And give me the willingness to bear any cost for your sake.  I trust what Jesus has said: that if I release and entrust my life to you, I may finally possess it.”