There are many words to describe our 2014 Bakery Trip but I’m not sure any of them are adequate.

This past Friday, August 8, we loaded up two vehicles full of middle school bakers and headed off to the Wisconsin Dells. For a handful of kids, this was their first time camping. Many had never been to Wisconsin, and few had seen Chicago. As we passed through Chicago, one child looked at the sound barrier wall and asked, “Is that the Great Wall of China?”


We arrived at Deer Creek Campground in the late afternoon, set up our tents, and then drove to Randoplh to eat a tasty dinner provided by Dave & Betty Wiersma. We also cooled off in the Randolph Community Pool. We laughed pretty hard during swimming because of the epic dives taking place by our group.

Saturday we went to Mount Olympus, road incredible rides, got soaked on water slides, and descended on the Pizza Ranch for dinner. I know for a fact they didn’t know what hit them. Mounds of pizza consumed in no time flat.

Sunday we road the Wisconsin Ducks, shopped around the Dells, and spent a long afternoon hanging out at the campground. During that long afternoon we capped off our series on prayer by having the kids paraphrase the Lord’s Prayer. I was thrilled by how some of the prayers turned out.

IMG_2637That night we also challenged the group to work together to start a fire, and get everything set for dinner. We let the students know that we (the adults) would be by the store if they needed anything, but that they had 45 minutes to get the job done. As we walked away, chaos took over and I wondered if they would succeed. It turns out they quickly nominated a leader, who then organized the group. To our amazement, when we walked back, they had a nice fire going, dinner stuff ready to go, and even picked up the campsite a bit.

IMG_0996 IMG_0997Overall, we had an amazing trip. The weather was perfect, the van didn’t break down, and the kids had a blast. One of the hilarious things about middle schoolers is that they often don’t go home with everything they came with. The ultimate proof of this was a ten minute conversation I had Monday morning about a pillow left in the boys tent. None of them would claim the pillow because they all believed they had one packed. It took a lot of convincing before one of the boys finally realized he did not actually have his pillow packed.

Another hilarious thing about middle school students in the funny things they say, often without trying to be funny. They are taking in the world, trying to understand whats going on, and often speak before they think.

There was talk of a “Mobil 7-Eleven,” confusion over whether wind turbines produced wind or used wind, and many other things that would take too long to explain, but we absolutely hilarious.

We appreciate all of you praying us through the summer, and supporting the Bakery in a big way. With your support, we sold over $4,200 in baked goods this summer, smashing last years record by over $1,000!!! You helped the kids feel special and I can’t tell you how much your encouragement meant.

Sometimes, as I look back over a summer, I’m not always sure what the kids took away from their experience. Some learn how to bake, some learn about Jesus, some learn the importance of working together, others learn the importance of following instructions. This summer I realized that for a few kids, they discovered they had worth. The people in their lives had led them to believe they were worthless, and through the love and encouragement they received through the Bakery, they realized they were loved. They saw people care for them. They heard about Jesus pursuit of them. I saw kids grow this summer because they had hope.

This made it especially difficult on Monday as we arrived back to Grand Rapids, to have some parents not show up to lovingly greet their children. All of the kids were excited to see their parents, and when they got off the van, saw other parents greet their children, and wondered where their mom’s where, it was utterly heartbreaking.

Today as I wondered how the bakery children were doing, my question was at least partially answered. One of our students rode down on his bike and hung out at the church for at least three hours. He ate lunch with the farm kids, played drums with Julie, and shot some hoops with Jake. He needed to touch base. For him, the Bakery was a place where he really received loved and care, and I’m glad he had that experience. Thank you for helping provide the Bakery program for the 12 students who participate this summer. Keep praying that God would use the Bakery, and many other NCN programs, to touch their lives in deep and profound ways.