Camp Traditions: OPPC

Last Saturday we concluded our final full week of camp programming with youth and volunteers from Orchard Park Presbyterian Church. Reflecting on our time together is Chair of the Pyoca Advisory Council and Camp Friendly Director, Rob Peterson.

“It’s not just a place…it’s an experience!” was the slogan used by Pyoca for many years and it sums up why I (and my family) have become grafted into the larger Pyoca family over almost twenty-five years as a camper parent, camp leader, and Advisory Council member. For me, Pyoca is sacred space, not because of the place itself but because of the Spirit that permeates the community that is formed during each camp week. It’s time apart, away from the busyness of daily life, when we intentionally come together to dwell in the presence of God and celebrate each other. I have found few other places where I experience this to such a degree, and it’s what keeps me excited to do what I can to help this place and community grow into the future.

i-4DtmjWt-ThOrchard Park Presbyterian Church has had a long and fruitful partnership with Pyoca, one that we treasure. Summer camps are in our congregation’s DNA: we have held camping programs since the early days of our church, and we’ve been working with Pyoca for at least thirty years. I give thanks for those who had this vision and the commitment to make it a reality, and for our Pyoca partners through the years!

Over time our camping ministry has grown from the “original” Camp Friendly for 3rd-5th graders to include Jr. High Leadership Camp as well as EPiC (Everything Possible in Christ) for 9th-10th graders. We welcome all, not just members of our church, to our programs for younger campers; this has blessed us with connections to families and congregations from around Indiana and surrounding states. For us camp is not only a discipleship ministry for children and youth of our congregation, but also an outreach to others as we “camp on”. This year we shared camp with 84 campers in our three programs: thank you to these campers for coming onboard, and especially to their parents who entrusted us with their care during our week at Pyoca!

Our camp program has also become an important spiritual and leadership development tool for our Youth Ministries as we partner with Pyoca staff to care for and lead our campers. High-school, college-age, and post-college young adults, most of whom came up through Pyoca camping experiences, willingly devote a week of their time each summer to nurture our campers – and, as they learn, it’s a 24/7 job! One of the greatest joys of my long involvement with our camp program has been the opportunity to participate in the growth in these young people as they progress from camper to leader.  


Our camps could not continue without the strong commitment of adult leaders, congregation members as well as church staff, who share this love of Pyoca and camping. This year we brought 25 counselors and adult leaders to camp, and although there are too many to name individually, I must single out our other adult leaders for their continuing commitment: our camp doctor Dr. Tricia Galanti, Nancy Peterson (my lovely wife, the craft lady), Kristy Truax, who helps in so many ways, and our spiritual/camp leaders Rev. Trish Lisa (Camp Friendly), Rev. Jenni Cartee (Jr. High Leadership Camp), and Katie Haugk (EPiC).

There’s so much in our camp experience that it’s not possible to share in detail, but I would like to give one example of the ways lives are changed at camp. One of our campers, like others before her, had some struggles at the beginning of the week, sure she didn’t want to be at camp and therefore not eager to participate. Over several days, as our counselors and Pyoca staff worked with her, through the moving of the Spirit we saw her begin to engage more, smile more, and willingly try some new activities. i-N3rBXQn-ThNear the end of the week, when everyone was tie-dying t-shirts, what she wrote on her shirt said it all: “the best place on earth – Pyoca”. It again brought to my mind that old Pyoca slogan: “It’s not just a place…it’s an experience!”. It’s the place, yes, but also the people, and, most importantly, God working through us – and us opening to God – that make it all possible. Thanks be to God for Pyoca, for the Pyoca community past and present, and for the connections that we share through our ever-growing faith experiences there.


Rob Peterson


Camp Traditions: OPPC

Camp Traditions: The TALKS

This week’s blog contributor is Beatrice Beverly, the Program and Volunteer Director of Stop the Violence Indianapolis. Each summer Beatrice brings 24 girls from Indianapolis down to Pyoca for “The TALKS,” a program which empowers young women to be the best version of themselves. “The primary purpose of the “The TALKS – identifying the Mirror in YOU™” workshops is to start young ladies on a path of self awareness and self worth by starting with the inside.” IMG_5179

There are several things I can honestly say that I have been known to say: be careful what you ask for and I’m not doing that!  GOD always has the first, second, third and every other word in between the last.

Growing up in the city, I have never been an outdoor connoisseur.  I did not enjoy eating outside or actually playing outside (bugs were NOT my friend).  As I got older, I was able to make my own decisions and being outside was not one of my desired choices. I didn’t mind being outdoors for a tad bit but an extended stay was definitely out of the question.  I say all of this so that you can understand how a Seventh-Day Adventist, converted to Baptist, black city girl ended up appreciating one of the most beautiful pieces of land/atmosphere that I had ever seen in Indiana – PYOCA Camp and Retreat Center.

A sister-friend who is a member of one of the local churches introduced me to the Presbyterian faith, so I was familiar with the teachings but I was not aware at that time of the camp.   One bright and shining day I received a call about a potential opportunity and so begins my journey.  After much discussion, grant writing, site visits and meetings, STVI set sail on July 29th 2014, with 24 young ladies, chaperones, volunteers and facilitators on a bright yellow school bus down the highway of 65 South into a land of uncharted grounds as far as I was concerned.  In my mind I was responsible for individuals that had:

  1. never been out of their neighborhoods, let alone the city of Indianapolis
  2. didn’t know each other (hence the personality/alpha characteristics were quickly exposed)
  3. trusted me (as much as they could because they didn’t know me) to ensure their safety and well-being at the camp for the days we were to be there!

When I say I was so far out of my comfort zone and scared of the unknown it had me doubting and praying, praying and doubting and trying to figure out how to get this bus to turn around without revealing my fears as the driver drove down 65 South for the next 1 ½ hour.  I played in my head different scenarios; I silently cried (I mean a true internal hard/ugly cry), my stomach was having an internal boxing match and I was losing.  I feared snakes, bugs, staff (YES, I said staff), darkness, water, absolutely everything, I didn’t know what to expect and I definitely didn’t know how to react in an environment that I wasn’t comfortable with to begin with.


Well, we arrived and the very first thing I noticed was that Mike and another guy (I didn’t know who he was at the time but I now know him as Brad) stood in front of the Lodge right below a cross (I didn’t notice it during my previous visit) and immediately I felt peace!  It didn’t remove the fact that I was outside of my comfort zone but I did get a sense of “peace” which helped me to open my mind and be receptive to the possibilities that laid ahead of me for the week and it placed John 14:27 in my heart for “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” and for the rest of the week I felt GOD’s presence.

I felt him as I walked around the entire lake, through shrubs, spider webs, spiders, frogs and a host of other outdoor creatures!  I experienced him when we eat the meals that were prepared for us, I experienced him when I slept (for the first time) on a camp bed, I experienced him when I looked at the natural beauty that surrounded me in the wild flowers, fallen and standing trees and the fish and frogs as they swam in the lake.  I experienced him when the darkness of the night fell upon us and all I saw were the stars, I experienced him when we woke to see the sunrise, I experienced him as I watched girls for the first time swim in a lake, jump off the trampoline and canoe or kayak down the river, I experienced him when we sit in the chapel and praised GOD during our closing ceremonies.  So you see I experienced him during a time when I once said “I’m not doing that.”


I experienced him and was able to comfort young ladies and my peace became their peace and they too were able to experience the wonders of GOD. I remember one girl saying as we were walking the 3 mile trail – “we just got a lot of abundant buildings and houses in our neighborhood, we don’t have any of this.”  What an impact, a lifelong impact that moment of time will have on her life.

So you see if you just be still and let GOD lead you, you just might travel down a highway known as 65 South doing something that you said you would never do and land on the grounds of a place called PYOCA Camp and Retreat Center.



Sincerely, GRATEful…..Beatrice Beverly



Camp Traditions: The TALKS