Fall is here, and even though the summer programming is done, we are still staying busy around here. We took some time to debrief and evaluate this past summer, and it was a blessing to look back and see what God did through the ministry of The Firs. Many kids made first time decisions to follow Jesus. Families had a safe place to send their children, and they also got to hear the story and experience the love of Jesus. Child Evangelism Fellowship was at the Retreat Center for a week. Many churches came and had their own retreats. It was great to hear reports of how they were able to experience the love of Jesus and have so much fun at the same time. We are definitely praising the Lord for the protection and health that He provided this past summer. Will you please thank the Lord with me for the blessings?
We have a few retreats, this fall, at the Retreat Center and up at the Chalet. We are starting to work through the budgeting and planning for next year. I have had a few requests for Family Camps, Firwood Reunions, and Senior Retreats. We are just starting to plan the next year, so if you are one of those that might be interested in any of these ideas, we need to hear from you. Would you be interested in a Family Camp, Firwood Reunion, or the Senior Retreat? Please let me know so that we can start to plan. If you have any other ideas, please let us know about that as well.
In the last update, I mentioned theCOLLEGIUM – a year-long, Christian College Residence Life Program that we want to pilot this year. We have 13 young adults signed up that are living in the dorm above the Dining Room. These Residents have signed on to live on campus in a discipleship community, where they will learn project management, event planning, and they will all learn how to cook. That is the hope anyway. They will be around all year, and then are committed to be on summer staff next summer. They will intern around here and at some of the local ministries around. We will have all year to train and disciple them to be our summer LPs, and they will also serve as hosts and kitchen staff throughout the year. A few will move in in October, so I will send you a picture in the next update. Please be praying for the program and our Residents. There are many young adults that have no idea what they want to do after high school. Some will go to college and walk away with a degree and a huge debt load – and still not know what to do. We are hoping that we can help with that. If you want to hear more about it, please let me know.
I want to remind all of us that the work at The Firs is the Lord’s work. We get to partner with Him to do His work. Lately, I have had the opportunity to speak and share about the Lord’s work at The Firs. I was able to speak at the Whatcom Youth Leaders Summit last weekend, and I will be at a men’s group this Saturday at Cordata Presbyterian. I will be speaking to the Prime Timers at Northlake Community Church on the 20th, and I will lead a hymn sing. I will also be speaking at a church on Lopez Island in October. I have been meeting with people individually, as well. If you have a gathering or group that would like to hear about what the Lord is doing at The Firs, please do not hesitate to let me know. This is a great season to head out to churches to speak. If you know of anyone that needs to hear an update about The Firs, please respond to this email and lets get something on the calendar.
Thank you to all of you that continue to be Champions of The Firs, by continuing to give to the work of the Lord here. We want to thank you for your continued support. I am also hearing from many folks that are not receiving this update. If you know of anyone that wants or needs to receive this update that currently do not, will you please reply to this email and let us know? We want to get out the story of what God is doing here.
Please continue to pray for The Firs. There is still a lot going on here. Will you please pray that God would continue to bless and give us wisdom and discernment to continue to do His work here at The Firs?
God has been doing some amazing things here. Every week, campers are making decisions to follow the Lord. We had 60 campers accept Jesus into their lives at one of the middle school weeks, with many more accepting Jesus the other weeks. God continues to do His work at The Firs.
I hope that you are having a great summer so far. I know there is about a month left of summer – for some of us anyway – but I hope you have had a great one.
We have had an incredible summer here at The Firs. In past summers, I have spoken at Firwood, but this is my first summer seeing all of our programs and the campers at all locations. It has been a blast to have Firwood back up and running and to be very busy at Fircreek with a waitlist of almost 500 campers. The Retreat Center has been pretty busy as well, with hundreds of campers coming through this summer. We have some amazing programs, as you already know, and we continue to serve churches, the community, and families.
We are past the halfway point of the summer. Firwood is in its last week and there will be three more weeks of Fircreek after this week. Firwood will still have guest groups coming throughout September, as will the Retreat Center. We have had a few groups up at the Chalet, this summer, but are starting to book groups for the fall and winter – January and February are booked.
Evan Bryant will finish out the summer with Fircreek, and we welcome Ellie Fowler as the new Fircreek Director. Ellie will start mid-August, to finish out the summer with this year’s crew. She was already scheduled to be the speaker at Fircreek next week, but we are excited to welcome Ellie as our new Fircreek Director.
We also welcomed two new cooks this summer. God blessed us with George Woods and Valerie Vos, so we are also excited for the new staff we have in Food Service.
There are still a few positions open, and I am in the process of evaluating our programs and current open positions. Please pray with me for the wisdom to have the right roles, and for the Lord to bring the right people to fill those roles.
The last thing I want to tell you about is that I am going to run a pilot program with some young adults this fall. We will call it theCOLLEGIUM, and it will be a year-long Christian College Residential Program, with internship and intentional community. More on that next month.
Please continue to pray for us and for the summer staff. Pray for continued health and that God would protect us from outbreaks of any kind. He has been so good. Please continue to pray for safety and for protection, but most importantly, please pray that campers continue to experience the love of Jesus in the way that they need.
Thank you for your prayers and support. If you have any great stories to share from the summer, we would love to hear them. There have been so many good ones! By the way, we now offer wakesurfing at Firwood. Kids and staff love it!
Hello Everybody!! I hope that you are having a great day today. Thank you for taking the time to read a quick update about all of the things happening at The Firs.
Summer: As you probably know, we are gearing up for another busy summer here at The Firs. The Retreat Center will be busy again, with groups every week of the summer. Fircreek will be running a full program and spots are filling up. Firwood will be running a 5-week season, starting in July, and registrations are about halfway there. We haven’t run Firwood in the past two summers, so people are still just finding out about it. Please be praying for folks to hear about Firwood and for camper spots to fill up.
Summer Help: We are also looking for summer staff at all locations. We need Dining Room help, as well as cooks for all locations. We need CITs at Firwood and guy counselors. The Lead Positions are filled and we are praying for a few more staff to fill our teams.
Employment: The Firs is also looking for a few positions, including a Housekeeping Supervisor and housekeepers, a Cook for the Retreat Center, and an Executive Assistant for the ED. All of the positions are currently posted on the website. If you are interested or know of anyone that would be interested in these positions, please share the link with them.
Activities Zone Leader
Family Fun Night – food
Counselors – male counselors
Guest Services –
September dates with multiple events
I recently heard a story of a teenager that accepted Jesus here at The Firs, almost 100 years ago. At a retreat 2 years later, he received a calling to preach and serve the gospel. He later started a conference center similar in size and scope on the East Coast. He served for many years as a pastor of a large church and was president at a Christian liberal arts university and also at a seminary. His ministry impacted thousands and his children continued on in ministry, doing much the same. I’ll share more details at a later time, but that is the impact that the gospel has and it all started in this young man’s life here at The Firs. That’s the impact that The Firs has – impact to thousands after you leave here.
What story do you have that you could share about the life change that the gospel has had on you or those that have come here? I’d love to hear your story of how lives have been changed because Jesus was met here.
I want to share this verse from Ephesians…
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Epheshians 6:12
Will you be praying for the staff as we prepare for the summer? Please pray for protection and for us to remember that the battle isn’t against flesh and blood. It’s so easy to get discouraged right before the work that God will do this summer, so thank you for praying for us.
Thank you for your time and reading this quick update.
Greetings in the name of Jesus – thank you for taking the time to read this letter. My name is Lem Usita, and I am looking forward to meeting so many of you in the next few months. It is an honor and a privilege to be the next Firs Executive Director, and I am humbled by the opportunity to get to do so. I am also so excited about the work that God has done and continues to do at The Firs. I know that you love the work and ministry of The Firs or you would not have received this letter, so thank you for all that you’ve done and will continue to do for the work that the Lord is doing at The Firs.
As an introduction, I would like to share a little about who I am and where I am from. I was born in the Philippines, and my family moved to Hawaii when I was 4 and I grew up on the island of Oahu. I am a pastor’s kid and older brother to my younger brother and sister, Lev and Larisa. After graduating from high school, I moved to Ohio to study at Cedarville College in Cedarville, OH, earning a Bachelor’s in Bible with an emphasis in Christian Education, Youth Ministry. My studies continued, earning a Master’s from Biola University, as well as a Doctorate in Education. My doctoral dissertation focus is Adolescent Identity Formation in Online Space, studying how one gains a sense of identity and self online.
As a pastor’s kid, I grew up involved in ministry, singing and teaching at church, so I was a youth pastor for many years as well as a worship pastor in a few churches. For over 18 years, I have been involved in Christian Higher Education as a professor and Vice President of Student Life, teaching at multiple universities. I am passionate about the Next Generation of leaders in the church and our world, mentoring and training pastors and leaders for the church and the marketplace.
I lived in the Bellingham area serving as a Next Gen Pastor at a local church from 2017-2019. I spent a few summers speaking at Firwood, a few winters speaking up at the Chalet, and then also speaking at The Firs Annual Meeting in 2019. One of the things that I love about The Firs is the fact that spaces throughout The Firs are set apart for the work of the Holy Spirit. The life change and impact that happens as people interact with Jesus at The Firs and Firwood is the main reason that I want to be involved with the ministry at The Firs. God is working and moving at The Firs, and I want to follow God’s leading and ministry at The Firs. It is a space where people can experience God, and I want to continue to help create the space for others to experience the love of God at The Firs.
We are already working on the programming for the summer, with all of our programs up and running this summer. Pending state mandates and the ability to run camp, we will continue to run the Forest Preschool and summer programming at Fircreek. The summer is filling up at the Retreat Center, as groups are starting to come back and book their retreats. We also just hired a Firwood Director, so we will be programming for Firwood and hope to run at least 7 weeks of program and 3 weeks of guest groups. We will be creating spaces for children to experience the love of God and at the same time, be a resource for families that need a place for their children to go.
There is so much excitement about campers coming back to The Firs, Fircreek, and Firwood for the summer. There will be so many things that need to be done in order to prepare for all of this excitement, so will you be praying for us as we prepare for the summer program at all locations? Please pray that we will be able to recruit the summer staff necessary to run these programs this summer. Pray that we will be able to fill all the slots that are necessary to continue to run these programs this summer, and that are also necessary to continue to run The Firs, and that we capitalize on the excitement of these programs starting up again.
Looking forward to the next 100 years of The Firs; the fir tree provides the perfect analogy for how we need to prepare for what God has before us. The extensive root system of a fir tree – the rich history and heritage of the way that God worked in the past allows the tree to grow and reach into new spaces that it has never reached before. It is only by anchoring in the past that we can keep moving forward into the future.
I would also covet your prayers for myself; that God would continue to reveal His plans for the future. He has shown Himself faithful in the first 100 years and now we build for the next 100 years. Let’s continue to pray faithfully for God to give us discernment and wisdom to reach for new ways The Firs can help people experience the Love and Saving Grace of Jesus.
The Firs Chalet up on Mt. Baker has a new roof and we are very excited and very grateful about the completion of this project! Normally, we wouldn’t get all wound up about a new roof but this is “kind of a big thing”. This is a very huge and expensive project (approx. $230k) funded entirely by a very generous donation during a time we would never have expected to see it done. As a result, we have a new “50-year roof” to keep this fabulous building protected for decades to come. Praise God! Enjoy the pictures and rejoice with us.