Summer school was never like this.
Approximately 40 Calvin students spent their summer in the high altitudes
of Snow Mountain
Ranch, the YMCA of the Rockies, near Fraser, Colo.
Just 20 miles from the southwest entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park,
the ranch offers every kind of outdoor experience imaginable. There are
hiking and climbing, of course, and horseback riding, canoeing, bird watching
and, oh yes, the ranch chaplain teaches fly fishing a couple of times
One of the most important things going on at Snow Mountain, however, is
happening in the minds and hearts of the Calvin students at the Leadership
Challenge Institute — students chosen out of numerous applicants
by the college’s career development director, Glenn Triezenberg,
and that fly-fishing chaplain, the Rev. Phil Dicks.
“This is a place where students discover their gifts and calling
in ways not possible in other places,” said Triezenberg. “This
place gets students out of their comfort zone.”
For 11 weeks, students work somewhere on the ranch grounds, attend weekly
seminars given by guest Calvin professors, staff members or graduates,
and meet in small groups for Bible study.
I was there the week of July 4 with my family and immediately saw the
impact of these Calvin students at Snow Mountain. There were Andrew Tazelaar
(Rochester, Minn.) checking us in at the registration desk and Kari Aalderink
(Jenison, Mich.) helping two of our boys through their first experience
at the ranch — the rock climbing wall. At evening vespers, Laura
Smit (Newmarket, Ont.) was serving as worship leader. And so the week
went, with group events organized by two Calvin Snow Mountain veterans,
Dave Deschamps (Arlington Heights, Ill.) and Annelise Pettinga (Grand
Legendary Calvin troubadour Glenn Bulthuis
and his family came up for the week, too, and he and I paired up to present
a talk on leading and working in groups, punctuated by famous Bulthuis
songs. It was there, and during the next evening’s “relationship
discussion,” that I saw the beginnings of how the Snow Mountain
experience was affecting the students.
Maybe it’s the air at 9,000 feet. Perhaps it’s the breathtaking
backdrop of the mountains. It could be the day-to-day challenge of working
at the ranch, not only with fellow Calvin students, but also with other
young people from literally all over the world.
All Calvin students
involved in the Leadership Challenge Institute also have full-time
jobs with Snow Mountain Ranch.
Whatever the combination of factors for each student, there’s
plenty of deep thinking about God’s call going on.
And these 40 kids take care of one another. During the week I was there,
it was discovered that junior Mayom Achuk, who was born in the Sudan,
didn’t know the exact date of his birth. His fellow students decided
that (at least for this summer) Mayom’s birthday would be July 7,
and they celebrated in grand style. A parent of another student wanted
to contribute something Mayom really needed, so Triezenberg went shopping
with Mayom for hiking boots during his birthday week.
The Colorado Alumni Chapter leadership wanted local alums to know that
this amazing class was being held in their own backyard, so a “Glenn
Bulthuis in the Rockies” concert was organized. It was a delight
to see students chatting with alumni at the pre-concert barbeque (music
provided by students Jackie Klamer and Kyle Sandison) and gratifying to
note that Bulthuis’ songs about vocation and following God’s
leading — some written over 20 years ago — hit home with students
and alumni alike.
The Leadership Challenge Institute at Snow Mountain Ranch is another example
of the innovative ways in which the college prepares tomorrow’s
agents of renewal. For next summer, choose a week that suits you and see
Perhaps you’ll hear God’s call a little more clearly in the
mountain air, too.