Some things I’m thinking about…

As I sit down to write, winter is settling in at Hidden Acres. The snow is falling in earnest and the wind is blowing with conviction. Can snow fall in earnest? Can wind blow with conviction? I might normally say no, not literally. But I’ve been reflecting on Psalm 148. In that psalm both the winds and the snow are said to do God’s bidding. And they are among the many parts of creation called upon to praise God. If wind and snow can praise God, might they not also act with earnestness and conviction?
In my new role as Facilities and Environmental Stewardship Director, I have been reflecting on the mission statement of Hidden Acres: to “provide a welcoming, peaceful gathering place where diverse groups of people experience life-giving connections with God, one another, and nature.” One of the things I have been thinking about is how I see myself in respect to nature. Am I part of nature or am I separate from it? And does it make a difference? Psalm 148 invites angels, stars, the sun and moon, mountains, wild animals, flying birds and more to join together with people of all stations in life to praise the LORD. This psalm challenges us to see ourselves as part of God’s creation, one among a chorus of voices singing out the praise of the God who created us, loves us and whose strength promises to help us in our need.
But environmental stewardship also implies a special role within creation. In Genesis 1, God creates humankind in his own image and charges women and men with the responsibility of overseeing the rest of creation as God’s representatives. We human beings are part of creation but we also have a unique ability to choose to live in obedient submission to God our Creator or to reject him and his love. Stars praise God by emitting their fiery brightness. People praise God by yielding to God’s love and walking in relationship with him. Praising God in the way we treat creation involves understanding that the world is our responsibility. It is given to us to care for so that it can continue to be a gift from generation to generation.
Praising God in the way we treat creation also involves understanding that the world is a gift. The natural world is a gift of revelation, revealing the majesty and power of God. It is a gift of provision, offering us what we need to sustain our bodies and our lives. It is a gift of beauty, offering magnificent sights, sounds, tastes and smells that can fill us with joy. Finally, it is a gift for the curious, offering avenues of inquiry and study into how it works and what it tells us about reality.
How do I enjoy the gift of creation? How do I care for creation in ways that respect God’s intentions for the world? How do we do that at Hidden Acres? How can we do that better? These are some things I’ve been thinking about as the snow falls and the wind blows.
Brent Musser

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Church Builder

Kindred Church Builder – Available until July 31, 2017

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Developing Leaders


Our 2016 LITs heading out for their camping trip!

A summer camp experience at Hidden Acres can provide a young person with so much. It can be the place they overcome fears and conquer the climbing wall, meet a new best friend that sticks with them for life, hear about the unending love that our God has for us and so much more. It can also be the place where they learn how to lead and have the opportunity to put that learning into practice.

This summer we had 13 youth participate in our Leaders in Training (LIT) Program. This three-week program provides opportunities to build community, learn about leadership, explore and develop faith, gain practical leadership experience by working alongside our summer staff and have a ton of fun creating memories together. This year, we are thankful for the support that MCEC has given towards this program through the Legacy Initiative Fund.

Deborah Odia, who came to Hidden Acres for the first time this summer, described her experience as being wonderful from the very start despite her nervousness, “I remember feeling welcomed into the community by the staff and other LIT’s, some of whom had been going to the camp for years.”  Karina Leclair, another first timer at Hidden Acres, shared about the importance of being organized when providing leadership and how the program helped her grow: “I gained a lot of leadership responsibility during this week that helped build my confidence.” Alexis Peters, who had been a camper for the past five summers before joining the LIT program, reflected on her experience during the end of summer Out Trip as an event that had a big impact on her faith. “Being able to spend the time bonding together and sharing our testimonies made a huge difference. We were given the time to reflect and speak to God. Not only have I learned to trust more in God, but my relationship with Him is stronger from my experiences this past summer”.

Alexis summarizes the experience well, “The L.I.T program is awesome! I can’t wait till next summer!”

Chris Pot, Program Director

See Full Newsletter Here!


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Summer Staff Reflection – 2016


Andrew with one of his cabin groups

This summer was one the most memorable summers of my life.  When the opportunity to work as a camp counselor for the summer first came up, I was admittedly a little apprehensive.  Having never counseled before, I was unsure of what to expect.  What I experienced, however, was nothing short of spectacular.

Although it’s likely been said before by others, Hidden Acres is a truly special place.  Very few workplaces offer the opportunity for employees to work and live in such close proximity.  And yet, at Hidden Acres, everyone is able to collaborate effectively because of a shared set of values and a genuine concern for each other’s well-being.  Over the course of the summer, I always felt so supported: as a counselor, as a young adult, and as a Christian.

I was also so blessed to work with a variety of young campers.  These kids have (sometimes) boundless energy, and an insatiable curiosity, which is inspiring to everyone around them.  Watching my campers canoe for the first time, work together to pitch a tent, or sing songs of praise during Focus, gave me clear confirmation that the work I was doing was very meaningful.

It’s safe to say my summer at Hidden Acres proved to be an unconventional work experience, particularly for a University of Waterloo co-op student.  But the growth I experienced, coupled with many happy memories and new friendships, made this summer very special.  I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

Andrew Zettel, Boys Inclusion Counselor

See Full Newsletter Here!



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BBQ Chicken Legs: Still Kicking at 50 Years

Dale Leis manning ticket sales as always

Dale Leis manning ticket sales as always

The Hidden Acres Annual Chicken BBQ turned 50 years old in 2016 without much fanfare. But it certainly was another successful outdoor party here, hosted by lots of volunteers for around1000 satisfied folks who came to enjoy the latest celebration in this event’s long history at the camp. In the midst of all the busy activity, Dale Leis, who has been faithfully manning the ticket table at the BBQ for many years, turned to me and said, “I would like to make a donation to cover the cost of the chicken this year.” He added that he had realized it was also fifty years since he had started feeding chickens, a notable coincidence.

I quickly recovered from the shock of his statement and thanked him for his generosity. Then I needed to dash off to show someone where to take their donation of pies for the pie auction. I actually never made it back to talk further with Dale that day, but made a point to follow-up later.

I sat down with Dale earlier this month to pick up the conversation. I had to wait for a rainy day when he wouldn’t be out on the tractor doing field work.   So Dale, I asked, why did you decide to donate the cost of the chicken for this year’s Chicken BBQ?

Dale told me that he had thought about finding a way to provide the chicken for the annual chicken bbq in the past and it just hadn’t worked out. This year he was struck by the fact that this was a special anniversary for the Hidden Acres BBQ and that it coincided with the 50-year milestone for his own chicken farming business. It seemed like now was the right time to do it.

Dale related that his parents had been very involved at the start of the annual barbecue, and this would also be a way to honour them. Oscar and Anna Mae had been involved in supporting Hidden Acres from its beginning back in the early 60s. Dale along with his wife Elaine have continued to support the camp in a variety of ways, including Dale’s term as President of the Board and Elaine’s involvement on the Retreat Committee.  So they have been well acquainted with the positive impact this ministry has on people’s lives. As Dale noted, “This involvement has given us insights that motivate us to support the camp.” He then referred particularly to the program for low-income single mothers and their children, and the many children whose camp fees are subsidized by the camp each year. He concluded by reflecting that during the fifty years his chicken business has grown, for which he is grateful to God, Hidden Acres Mennonite Camp and Retreat Centre has also grown and been blessed—and in turn has been a blessing to many others.

I thanked Dale once again for his donation and for taking the time to share these thoughts with me. As I drove away, a scripture sprang to mind, the one that observes it is more blessed to give than to receive. Gratitude is meant to overflow! I felt uplifted and refreshed by the gratitude that had spilled over from one family’s life to affect others connected to this ministry. Many such acts of generosity have been shared in past reports and newsletters. I also reflected on Dale’s comment that it was partly because of his and Elaine’s volunteer involvements that they were aware of the difference the camp was making. I couldn’t help but wonder: might there be others thinking about contributing because of an impact the camp has had on them or someone close to them?

Camp Nisbet, Executive Director

See Full Newsletter Here!

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AED Donated

An AED is donated to Hidden Acres Mennonite Camp & Retreat Centre

When we initially made contact with Rescue 7 to ask if they would donate an AED (automated external defibrillator) to Hidden Acres we did not realize the wonderfully supportive community with whom we would be connecting. John McEachern quickly got back to us committing to provide partial support for our request through the Chase McEachern Memorial Fund . He then contacted Patrick Armstrong of the Dave Mounsey Memorial Fund  who agreed to provide the remainder of the funds needed to support our request for an AED.

Campbell Nisbet, John McEachern, Jeffery DeRuyter, Patrick Armstrong, Gloria Kovach

Campbell Nisbet, John McEachern, Jeffery DeRuyter, Patrick Armstrong, Gloria Kovach

On October 14th, Jeffrey DeRuyter (Guelph Police Chief), Gloria Kovach (Mother of Constable Jennifer Kovach, Patrick Armstrong, John McEachern (Father of Chase McEachern), came and presented Hidden Acres with an AED donated in Memory of Constable Jennifer Kovach, who died in the line of duty. The AED will be installed in the “Link” which connects our two retreat Centres.

Hidden Acres is truly grateful to receive this potentially life-giving gift. Thank you.


New Hamburg Independent Article


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Fall Senior’s Retreat

At Home: our houses, our hearts, our faith

Ingrid Loepp Thiessen

Ingrid Loepp Thiessen

Ingrid led the group in a day of reflection about the homes we were raised in, the homes we built, and our current homes. Using the lens of “home”, the participants reminisced as men and women about life’s journey from birth to death. Through music, stories, and reflections they celebrated God’s promise to dwell with them and expressed their longing to be at home with God.


Here are a few comments by participants.

“Loved the creative metaphors interspersed with singing. A powerful way of helping with life review – so very important.”

“Excellent presentation – worked many thoughts and memories of the past.”

“Interesting and thought provoking.”

“I really enjoyed the topic today- very relevant to me. Excellent day – one of the best I have been to.”

“Ingrid is an excellent presenter. I appreciated every session. I found this to be a warm and loving worship experience.”

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Working as a Team

Staff orientation week, Joey in in the red shirt!

Staff orientation week, Joey in the red shirt!

When I first set foot on the gravel parking lot in 2015 for my second year as a camp counselor at Hidden Acres, I didn’t know what to expect. Being a second year counselor meant there were higher expectations. I was going to be a leader, one of the guys that had the answers. I knew I was going to learn new things as well, but God showed me more than I could have imagined.

Single Moms Camp was my first week on the job. At the start I was nervous—tense, but excited at the same time. The week turned out to be my personal best! I actually handled every situation very well. I found I was a leader for the other male counselors and I used my experience to demonstrate maturity. It was a good feeling being independent and not having to ask for help. When the week was over I knew I had done a great job.

So naturally when kids’ camp came two weeks later I was pretty confident. I was ready to do things and be a leader!

That pride got tackled down quickly though. The kids, as awesome they were, were a handful. At first I tried to do everything myself. I tried to be the hero who could handle whatever came my way. But as the week went on and I pushed towards this goal I found myself tiring out and getting more and more drained. Being a counselor takes energy, so something needed to change. With still half a week left, it was time for a new game plan. I had no choice but to take a step back and let God take control.

I realized I wouldn’t be able to do things alone, so I turned to my co-counselor. We needed to work together as a unit, not as two separate individuals.

Working together and supporting each other worked out perfectly! When I needed to take a break from a camper he would step in. If he needed help entering into a new activity I encouraged him. This kind of teamwork was a new experience for me. From it I learned that to be a true leader in whatever situation God brings me into, I can’t have my pride get in the way and think I’m on a solo mission when actually I am in a community that has been put in place to work as a whole unit. We can do more together than what I can do as an individual.

Joey Winterbottom

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Corrie’s Story

What comes across when you first meet Corrie-ann is her warm, engaging personality, a quiet confidence and the ability to make the other person feel heard and valued. With her children, Corrie came to Single Moms Camp for the first time in 2004, returning for the next five years. Two of her children who have since served on our summer staff team have further extended the family’s connection with Hidden Acres.

Corrie recalls that her week at camp always felt like an oasis—a protective “cloak” from the pressures and issues of daily life—managing her household, paying the bills, raising three growing kids all on her own and planning for the future. In the camp community Corrie found healing, a place to ask questions, and the chance to learn and grow.

Gratefulness for her positive experience at Single Moms Camp led Corrie to want to give back to the program. This past summer she willingly agreed to be a resource person for the week, where she shared with the other women how the challenges of helplessness and hopelessness in her life were turned into opportunities to learn forgiveness, compassion and empathy, allowing her to grow into the person God intended her to be.

This year’s program theme was “Ripples”, using the visual of a pebble tossed into the water. The resulting ripples radiate out in an expanding circle to affect everything in their path. Corrie built on this concept as she told her story of having absentee parents, spending years trying to fit into various foster homes, experiencing the breakdown of a group home placement and finally being dropped off at a shelter to fend for herself. The trauma, abuse and system failure in her life experience left her facing motherhood as a teenager, but out of this crisis she determined to choose a different path for herself and her child. Today Corrie would say that all of it laid the groundwork for the person she has become and her role as a family support worker, a vocation she is passionate about.

After telling her own story to the women, Corrie invited everyone around the circle to take a stone, drop it into a pool of water and share part of their own experience. As the session began to draw to a close, one normally very quiet participant hesitantly came forward and dropped her stone into the water. She shared that in school she had always felt very alone—an outsider who was frequently teased and bullied. However, in grade 4 there was a red-haired girl who for some reason stood up for her against the others. In Joanne’s mind it was the first time anyone had provided a measure of protection for her. It was a kindness she would never forget.

What she shared next was equally unforgettable. Today, she said, she felt grateful to finally be able to thank that person. The red-haired girl was, in fact, Corrie. The connection between Joanne’s childhood memory and this camp visitor had dawned on her when she heard someone say Corrie’s full name: Corrie-ann Snow.

Up until that moment, Corrie, along with the other women, felt drawn into Joanne’s story—but she had no idea the storyteller was speaking about her! Her response, when Joanne looked her way and revealed her remarkable discovery, was one of utter surprise and amazement. Of course, the whole exchange paved the way not only for deeper and more lively discussion among the women, but a renewed connection for the two it most affected.

That’s part of what we’re all about. Hidden Acres is indeed a place where connections are made, relationships are fostered and amazing moments like this can happen.

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Green Roof Now Complete

New Hamburg Independent Article

Not Just a Roof

G2 G1

Something new is going on at Hidden Acres. As I type these words, several workers are on site, installing a “Green” roof over our Stonehouse meeting room.

A roof is an obvious necessity in renting facilities to many diverse groups, running retreats, providing space for leadership development, and operating our summer camp programs. And the old roof was badly in need of replacement. While it would have been easy to simply replace it with the same materials used before, Hidden Acres’ Board and staff always ask the question—is there another way we can do this that demonstrates better “appreciation and care for the natural environment”?  That is, after all, one of this organization’s core values.

The answer in this case is yes—go for a green roof. Around here we are eagerly anticipating its completion! But how does one capture our excitement and try to pass it along in a newsletter article, because when it’s all said and done, isn’t it just a roof?

The answer is no! And here’s why:

  • A green roof extends the life of a roof. Covering the waterproofing membrane, it provides protection from UV rays and extreme daily temperature fluctuations, extending the roof’s lifespan to twice as long as conventional solutions and reducing maintenance costs.
  • A green roof is more energy efficient. Shading the outer surface of a building envelope has been shown to be more effective than internal insulation. In summer, the green roof protects the building from direct solar heat; in winter, it minimizes heat loss through the added insulation overhead. This translates into fewer greenhouse gas emissions, in addition to cost savings.
  • A green roof is an efficient storm water management tool. The soil & sedum blanket absorb and retain rain water, much of which is used by the plant material. The water that does run off the roof is reduced and time released.
  • A green roof serves as a natural habitat where many types of birds and insects can find homes and forage for food. With our two observation windows, visitors will be able to watch it happening.

So there you have it! We look forward to sharing the benefits of this decision for the next 35 to 40 years, and hope the excitement about “going green” catches on!


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