FENTON, MI – Shar and I recently had the privilege of participating in a God moment. We were sitting around the table with the Patterson’s, the Lynn’s, the Taylor’s, and the Schatz’s. Pastor Tim asked Mick and Jackie if they had ever considered serving in retreat ministries. Mick and Jackie looked at each other, and then told us it was something they had always wanted to do.
That moment started the beginning of a new future for Bambi. Interviews were conducted, references checked, votes taken, and the call was extended and accepted. Somewhere in the midst of all that was Mick’s first trip to Bambi. Mick saw it initially without Jackie. I wondered what he would feel when he looked at Bambi Lake for the first time. There was a lot to see - the grounds, the buildings, the area, the schools, and so much more. And there was a long way to go to see it. He had no prior experience at Bambi to draw upon, no emotional connection, and no life changing moment at camp to color his experience. There was just the camp.
He would look with fresh eyes, with eyes fixed on the Father, with eyes focused on the future. Was this the place, the ministry, God was calling him to invest his life? Would his family sense that same calling?
That first look was overwhelming for him. I know because I was there. I could see it in his eyes, and hear it in his voice. I felt for him as we went to the manager’s house for the first time - the place his family would live. We were in the process of remodeling the house, but all he saw was a house that had been dismantled. It wasn’t pretty. There wasn't a single room that was ready or even close to being ready. I watched and listened as he showed Jackie the house with FaceTime on his phone. I walked with him, painting a picture with words of what the house could look like, but at that moment it was floors without coverings, bathrooms without fixtures, walls in need of paint, dust and demolition debris.
He took it all in. A lot of questions were asked. A lot was said. But one sentence that I’ll paraphrase stood out: “As I walked the grounds,” Mick said, “I realized that this place has a wonderful heritage to build upon.”
Since becoming our State Director of Spiritual Refreshment and Retreats, Mick has been building on that heritage. There’s a whiteboard in his office that takes up most of the wall. It is filled with retreats, updates, and projects for the future. Improvements to the buildings and grounds are noticeably visible. It starts at the entrance of the camp where the signs have a fresh coat of paint and fallen trees and limbs have been removed. Mick oversaw the completion of the remodel of the manager’s house, and it’s beautiful. There’s a new stage in the worship center that makes a great statement. Repairs on the exterior of the lodge are taking place and the lodge is being repainted. The foyer has a new look that invites you to a fresh new experience at Bambi. One of the most noticeable additions is the waterslide. It rises 20 feet off the ground and descends 120 feet to the water!
The first time Shar and I went to Bambi together was for a pastors and wives retreat. It was a Godsend in our lives. We had recently returned to Michigan after eight years of college and seminary. We were starting a new ministry after serving as a pastor in a rural church for five years. It was the first time in our seven year marriage that we lived in the center of a major city. The parsonage was on a noisy, five lane highway. Our first child was born just a few weeks after we made this major move. He was so little that we laid him in an open dresser drawer at Bambi to sleep.
To say the least, it was a time of incredible transition in our lives. We arrived at Bambi exhausted, overwhelmed, and all the while trying to figure out the whole parenting thing. Shar was experiencing the beginnings of postpartum depression, but we didn’t know what that was at the time. There were all kinds of stressors in our lives. We needed encouragement, community, and a fresh encounter with God, and that’s exactly what we experienced at Bambi. The details vary, but believers all over Michigan have experienced fresh encounter and renewal with God at Bambi.
I had the privilege of experiencing Bambi retreats as a student, adult, parent and now as a grandpa. Our children have been to Bambi on numerous occasions, and so have their wives. Shar and I have taken our grandchildren to Bambi camping. The camp has been a blessing to three generations of Durbins, and hopefully that will continue as the family grows and new generations are born. We have come to know the blessing of Bambi and hope you will come experience it as well.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike Durbin is the State Evangelism Director for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Before joining the state convention staff, Mike served as Church Planting Catalyst and Director of Missions in Metro Detroit since 2007. He also has served as a pastor and bi-vocational pastor in Michigan, as well as International Missionary to Brazil.