Speaking at TEDx Zagreb in a few hours…
Here’s the rather random backstory about how I found myself in Croatia preparing to speak on “business networking.”
Eighteen months ago, Ryan Stephens graciously asked me to do a guest post on his blog about my approach to networking. I don’t pretend that I’m an amazing networker who can solve all your problems. Generally I’m upfront with people that, “I can’t solve your problems, but I might know someone who can help you.” 😉
A number of people tweeted the post, and I received some attention for it. However, I was completely shocked when few weeks later, I received an e-mail from Nenad Maljkovic, saying that he saw a tweet linking to my blog post, and liked it… and would I be interested in speaking in Zagreb at TEDx?
Not every day you get invited half way around the world to speak based on a random guest post on a friend’s blog.
Thx Ryan, Nenad, Zjelko, and my other hosts here–I have truly appreciated your hospitality.
It is a bit of a dream come true to give a TED talk, as two years ago I titled an intern application “Next Life Goal: Speak at TED”.
How to Hire And Work With a Virtual Assistant
I used to rely heavily on a virtual assistant, and got a lot of questions about the process. This blog post tries to answer them. These days I spend most of my time writing code and very little time managing emails/meetings, so when my last VA graduated college and moved onto a real job, I didn’t look for a new one.
My explicit instructions for hiring a virtual assistant, including copies of my templates are below.
It all works–when my virtual assistant Katie went on vacation for the entire summer, it took thirty minutes of my time to train someone else–fifteen minutes to explain things the new VA didn’t understand from my templates, and fifteen minutes to give her an e-mail on my Google Apps account. And she’d never worked as an assistant before!
To be clear, a virtual assistant isn’t the same as an outsourced Executive Admin. A friend of mine is the EA for the CTO of a public company, and when I asked about her job, she said a good EA does far more than simply schedule meetings:
It is part of my job to sit in on the CTO’s staff meetings, and to know the direction and goals of our company . I am the CTO’s partner and it is my job to make sure that the meetings I allow onto his calendar fit into the bigger picture of what were doing.
What I’ve learned from having a virtual assistant:
- How to be very explicit with my instructions
- I know better what should be outsourced. It’s almost always faster for me if it’s a one-time thing. But if it’s a repetitive task, it’s probably worth teaching her.
- I get a heckuva lot more done–she not only removes time, she removes annoyance–that mental friction that comes from having to do tasks that I downright hate (like scheduling meetings.)
- She not only takes care of things for me, she does them better and faster than I ever could. Face it–just as you’re uniquely talented at some things, you’re uniquely flawed in others.
- How to teach my employees to teach themselves–it’s rewarding when my VA says she’s learned a ton from working with me!
How I setup my virtual assistant system:
First–what tasks are you going to have them do? How are you going to communicate with them?
I recommend before you start communicating with an actual VA that you take some time and roughly draft out your guidelines for how to manage your calendar, meetings, travel details, and contact and account information. For examples, see the end of this blog post.
Second–who to hire?
- For a personal assistant, trust is PARAMOUNT. Katie has full access to my Paypal account, credit cards, calendar, e-mail, etc. She could REALLY mess up my life…
- Reliable college students are often a great fit because you only need to pay them more than the minimum wages they’d be paid for washing dishes… $8-$15 an hour depending on whether they’re an independent contractor or part-time employee.
- (Despite the naysayers in the comments below, the two college students I’ve hired have said they learned more by working for me than any other boss they’d ever had… plus they valued the flexibility and part-time nature of the job.)
Here are the 10 documents I use. (I just stick them on my personal wiki under a single folder titled “Reference: Assistants”.)
- General Information About Being My Assistant–Start Here [Self-explanatory]
- How to Add Events to My Calendar [Covers my five calendar categories and reminders]
- How to Schedule My Meetings [Addresses the people side of scheduling meetings]
- How to Add Someone to Jeff’s Contacts [Self-explanatory]
- How to Process My E-mail–Ignore For Now [For now, I find it simplest to handle my own e-mail]
- How to Use my Wiki [Explains my folder architecture]
- Press Kit [My assistant is responsible for getting press passes to events I want to attend–these links prove that I’m eligible]
- Travel Information [Self-explanatory]
- Jeff’s Contact Information [Lists contact information for me, my family, and my housemates]
- My Accounts [Lists my low-level usernames and passwords for different accounts across the web]
General Information About Being My Assistant–Start Here [Self-explanatory]
(as my VA, feel free to add stuff here as you think of it–ultimately, I want to have a VA document that is clear/self-explanatory/concise…)
Very First Things E-mail: [I copy and paste this into the first e-mail I send to FirstName@jeffwidman.com]
- I created a mail account for you – FIRSTNAME@jeffwidman.com.
- That account also provides access to your own Google Calendar and Google Docs on the jeffwidman.com domain
- I added that e-mail address as an administrator on my wiki.
- Go to wiki.jeffwidman.com and login to the wiki using your login instructions.
- Find the folder called “r: Assistants” and read the document “General Information About Being My Assistant–Start Here.”
- Read everything else.
- Go add yourself as a contact in my address book–be sure to include your mobile phone number.
- Setup a meeting with me in the next few days–schedule it on my calendar using the wiki instructions.
- (Come prepared with an agenda of things you don’t understand from reading the wiki.)
- Over the phone, I will give you the secure version of my password–please be VERY careful with this.
- We’re off and rolling!
Start by reading these articles: http://delicious.com/jeffwidman/virtual-assistant
My vision of a successful VA relationship:
– You not only handle my administrative tasks, you do so better than I ever could have.
– I tell you what I want, and you figure out how to make it happen.
– You handle my calendar, schedule meetings, and occasionally other tasks.
– You do not prevent people from contacting me, but instead force them to clarify rather than “chit-chat”.
– We both teach each other to collaborate better–suggest technology, interpersonal skills, marketing advice, etc.
– Never make it look like I’m soooo important that I need an assistant. (You’re freeing me to focus on what I do best.)
– Deadlines are important. ‘Nuf said. (Let me know if a deadline is unrealistic.)
– Unless specified, assume time zone is Pacific Standard Zone.
– When you first start working, I NEED confirmations that you received the task (”On it–will be done at Xpm” is enough).
– When you complete tasks don’t require sending me anything, all I need is an e-mail that says “XXtask done”
Communicating with me:
– Skype: to clarify questions, quick status update, or confirm you received a task
– Phone: Don’t worry about calling me at a bad time. If I don’t want to answer the phone, I won’t.
– E-mail: I generally assign tasks via e-mail–easier to track over time.
– Urgent questions–use: Skype chat, phone, SMS text message. NOT e-mail.
– Non-urgent questions: just e-mail/SMS/skype chat if simple. Call if complex.
(How to leave voice mails: http://delicious.com/jeffwidman/voicemail)
Communicating with others:
– Never masquerade as Jeff.
– If someone wants to talk with me, that’s fine–see the page “How-to Schedule My Meetings”
– Be honest, be tactful, and be yourself.
– You are empowered to make decisions under $50. (Please notify me what you did.)
Paypal is preferred. Let me know if you want something different.
(Note: I’m always open to suggestions. I currently list my Google Voice #, up to you whether to change to your personal #. You are welcome to include your personal website and twitter handle as a way of advertising your services.)
Remote Assistant for Jeff Widman
(XXX) XXX-XXXX | YourEemail@example.com
YourWebsite.com | twitter.com/YourUserName
How to Add Events to My Calendar [Covers my five calendar categories and reminders]
Be very clear about time zones.
Generally I will forward you e-mails for events to add to my calendar.
- Unless I make additional notes, assume it’s for my day-to-day calendar.
- E-mail me a simple “done” so I know you took care of it.
- Do not create all-day appointments on my day-to-day calendar–either block out the specific time I’m busy (eg, 8am-6:30pm if evening free), or put in followup calendar for reminders. (Otherwise it screws up free/busy information that I share with others).
- If duration unspecified–use your best judgment…
- Reminders–I never use popups. E-mail preferred. Text message reminders to important meetings. Look over my calendar defaults to understand my preferences. Use your best judgment…
- If I’m meeting someone, include the location and their phone number in the title. eg, “Meet Tim (123-123-1234) @ Location”
- Do not use “Meet X” for community events–“meet” is a hot button for me meaning I need to be there.
- If it’s a physical location that I don’t regularly visit, please put the physical address in the location so I can quickly Google map it. (If e-mail says “Jason’s house” just put that in the location–I’ll know where to go.)
- If I e-mail you a link to an event, please put the link in the notes–often these events go under community, and I’ll attend if my schedule’s free (and want to check out the link ahead of time).
Currently, these are my calendars:
For day-to-day stuff that I need to attend.
This is the only calendar I share with my family/key friends, so if I’m busy, it needs to be on here. If I may/may not attend, it’ll probably go under community events.
Default alerts: e-mail day before and sms before any scheduled calls and meetings.
(If it’s important, change to e-mail 3 days before, and text message 10 hours before face-to-face meetings or 20 minutes before telephone chats.)
Things I may or may not attend. Generally not important, but I want to know about. Basic settings: E-mail alerts 7 days before (I’ll make a decision then)
This is my tickler calendar to remind me of stuff I need to follow up on at a later date, or decisions I’m postponing. Never put actual events I’m attending here. Always phrase appointments with verbs. (ie, “decide on…, call X about Y, schedule…)
Default reminders: e-mail 3 days in advance and a text message the day of. (Goal: get my e-mail inbox under control, so I don’t have to get texted about stuff)
Where I track family/key friend’s birthdays & anniversaries. These should be all-day events in Google Calendar. Default reminders: 7 day e-mail (I’ll decide whether to get a gift) and e-mail that day (so I can call/e-mail them).
This is where I stick recurring monthly appointments to call specific mentors in my life. Reminders: e-mail the day of. Try to schedule these appointments at least two days apart.
How to Schedule My Meetings [Addresses the people side of scheduling meetings]
Rule #1–use your best judgment, even in spite of these rules…
(I trust you, and I’ll let you know if I disagree.)
- I start my working day between 8 and 9am
- I generally quit work between 6pm-1am
- I work 6-10 hours per day
- I go to bed around 10:30pm–although not uncommon to pull an allnighter.
- I work best in three to five hour chunks–thus I prefer to batch a bunch of meetings/calls together.
- As a strong extrovert, I’m normally quite energetic after a face-to-face breakfast/lunch meeting, and like to have the next few hours free to work off that energy
- I prefer to keep my evenings (after 5:30pm) unscheduled
- My life is full, but my schedule is currently very flexible (I like to attend lunch-time frisbee twice a week)
- Optimum schedule: Lunch T/R, breakfast any weekday
- You have full access to my calendar, so schedule wherever works best–we’ll refine over time
- (I work hard to keep my calendar updated all the time. If something needs to be rescheduled, I’ll let you know.)
Responding to Meeting Requests:
- Currently, most meeting requests from others are people reaching out and looking to connect via phone…
- I love talking with them, but want to make sure they’re serious about the call.
- Ask which topics they would like to discuss, and put in the calendar description notes.
- Here’s a sample e-mail I’ve used before:
This is YourFirstName, Jeff’s virtual assistant–I manage his calendar and schedule meetings.
Jeff said he appreciated your reaching out to him–he would love to chat with you.
He normally finds a 20-30 minute phone call most efficient.
However, Jeff doesn’t want to waste your time, so he asked that you e-mail me 3 potential discussion topics/questions.
Please send me your phone number, and two good days/times to call you this week (include time zone). I’ll set an appointment on Jeff’s calendar and get back to you.
By the way, I checked out your blog–very nice! [totally optional–only if true]
Scheduling meeting requests I’ve confirmed:
- If they respond, email Jeff the confirmed meeting time and location–BCC’ing often works well.
- If they ignore you. Send a 2nd e-mail three days later, and ask if they saw it–often, they just forgot to respond. Ask me if you don’t hear back after two e-mails.
- When you communicate with anyone, be clear you’re merely facilitating a meeting–you’re not trying to make Jeff seem busy/impressive. Never be pushy.
- Here’s a great sample e-mail:
1. How about <meeting place> at <time>? (You initiate the meeting place.)
2. When would you like to get together? (Let him set the date.)
- See the “How to add events to my calendar” wiki page
- ***Important*** Make the title “Meet w/NAME (PHONE #)”
- Give them my Google Voice number
- If we’ve never met, they can see a picture of me here: http://www.jeffwidman.com/blog/about/
- While most lunch meetings last 1 hour, I prefer to build 1.5 hours into my calendar just in case things are going really well.
- I’m not rich, but don’t want to meet in McDonald’s either–and I try to always pickup the check. (I find having them suggest a place solves the problem.)
- I prefer lunch meetings within fifteen minutes drive from where I work (shorter is better–currently I work from home). This way I’m gone from work for a maximum of two hours.
- I enjoy all types of food–ask if they have a favorite.
- (Sushi, and other semi-adventurous foods are always fun.)
- I prefer to have them suggest a place–unless they’re from out of town, then ask me.
- In my Google Docs, under Reference, there’s a spreadsheet of Bay Area Restaurants–please add to it when I visit a new place.
- If they don’t know, call Jason XXXX or Andrea XXXXX (in my address book), tell ’em you’re my Assistant, and ask for ideas–they’re both foodies and know me/my style.
How to Add Someone to Jeff’s Contacts [Self-explanatory]
How to Process My E-mail–Ignore For Now [For now, I find it simplest to handle my own e-mail]
How to Use my Wiki [Explains my folder architecture]
Press Kit [I (used to) write irregularly for VentureBeat & Mashable. My assistant is responsible for getting press passes to events I want to attend–these links prove that I’m eligible]
http://delicious.com/jeffwidman/articles Examples of articles Jeff has written, useful when applying for press passes.
http://delicious.com/jeffwidman/press-kit for random stuff. (Website with articles/content by or that mention Jeff.)
http://delicious.com/jeffwidman/interviews for when people have questions about interviewing me.
Travel Information [Self-explanatory]
(Right now, I travel infrequently, so we’ll handle plane tickets, hotel rooms, etc on a case-by-case basis.)
All travel related emails–like itineraries, hotel rooms, conference registration numbers, etc–should be labeled with the “Travel Details” label–that label maps to a folder on Jeff’s iPod and phone so that Jeff can easily pull them up on his phone when he needs them.
Whenever you buy plane tickets, please forward the itinerary information to “firstname.lastname@example.org” (Unless I specify the trip is to surprise someone–my Tripit account makes my travel plans publicly available.)
Tripit( www.tripit.com ) Account information can be found in Lastpass.
Jeff’s Contact Information [Lists contact information for me, my family, and my housemates]
Public Contact information-Can give to anyone:
Google Voice Number: (XXX) XXX-XXXX
Private – Do not give to anyone:
Jeff’s personal cell phone:
Dad’s cell phone:
Parent’s home phone:
Sister cell phone:
My home address:
Housemate #1 Cell Phone:
Housemate #2 Cell Phone
My parent’s home address:
Time where I live:
[I used an embeddable clock widget that shows the time and date where I live. Handy if your VA lives in a different time zone.]
I used to list my low-level usernames and passwords for different accounts across the web, now I just stick it all in a shared Lastpass folder.
I’m officially a college graduate!
Hey all–I officially graduated college in the middle of September. Thx for all the support, encouragement, and friendly ribbing…
PS: Out of all the time I’ve spent learning how to negotiate, this was by far the most useful 90 minutes: Stanford Podcast with Joel Peterson.
Facebook Newsfeed Optimization
Back in May of ’09, I began managing all the Facebook marketing for Mint.com, and in four months I quadrupled (4x) traffic from Facebook–>Mint.com. Soon, more and more companies wanted me to manage their Facebook marketing…
Eventually, I received so much work through word-of-mouth that I hired a few of my really smart friends and started BrandGlue.com, an agency specializing in Facebook marketing.
We help companies use Facebook to build brands and sell products–primarily through Fan pages.
A few of our clients:
David Allen (“Getting Things Done”)
We optimize for the Facebook newsfeed algorithm, increase conversions from visitors–>fans, and integrate Facebook into the rest of your marketing (e-mail, website, offline, etc).
Latest success story: We grew facebook.com/failbooking from 16K fans to 41K fans in one week–with ZERO ad spend.
The 21 questions my friend asks me every night over the phone
Every day Jim asks Marshall the same 24 questions. Every day Marshall asks Jim the same 17 questions. Marshall and Jim each have a spreadsheet of each others questions where they record for each other the answers: yes, no, or a number. Structuring the questions in this way keeps the phone call moving. Each phone call lasts only a couple of minutes.
I thought it was a fantastic idea, so for the past three months, Brian Russell and myself have had a similar phone call every night.
There were three rules:
- We each wrote our own questions.
- We committed to call each night (except for when Brian was in South America)
- All the questions had to be specific–answerable with a yes/no or number between 1-10.
What we learned:
- Writing good questions is hard
- Honestly answering these questions is even harder–I’m confronted with failure on a daily basis
- The emotional connection of a phone call is SUPER important for accountability–when Brian was in South America, we tried using a spreadsheet, but I never remembered to update it.
- Focus on simplicity. If you can’t finish the phone call in 5 minutes, you’ll start dreading it (of course, most nights we end up talking for fifteen minutes, but that’s just bouncing ideas around and being friends.)
- The call is a great way to celebrate successes and reboot from failures–on a daily basis.
Brian and myself became friends in middleschool, and we’ve built a close friendship since then. I respect his reliability, his advice, and his sensitivity. Reliability is also a function of interest. Brian spent some time thinking about it, and decided this was something he was interested in enough to commit to for a month, and we’ve just kept going strong since then.
- Did you accomplish the three most important tasks on your todo list for today?(Have you set three todo’s for tomorrow?)
- How many hours did you work on tasks that would directly make money?
- Did you spend time reading/learning for the long-term?
- How much time did you waste on e-mail/the web?
- How many times were you late to meet someone?
- Did you compliment at least three people today?
- How many times did you criticize?
- How many times did you try to prove how smart you are?
- On a scale of 1-10, were you a non-interrupting listener, relevant storyteller, and intentional conversationalist today?
- (If Fasting day) Did you fast today?
- What was one way you failed today?
- How many times did you have a lustful thought about a woman?
- How many times did you worry today (like about the future)?
- Did you read your Bible today?
- Did you spend dedicated time in prayer today?
- How many people did you witness to today?
- How many pushups?
- Did you brush your teeth?
- Your plan between now and bed?
- By whose power did you live and for whose glory?
- Have you kept your eyes pure?
- Have you kept your thoughts pure?
- Did you read your Bible?
- How many times did you pray?
- Did you read a book?
- Did you procrastinate your 3 priority tasks?
- Have you set three tasks for tomorrow?
- How many hours did you work for money?
- How many times were you late?
- During conversation, were you proactive? (leading, affirming, exhorting, rebuking)
- How many pushups?
- Did you brush your teeth?
- Your plan between now and bed?
Painting corners: How do you make decisions when your choices have unknown pros/cons?
(My secret sauce for decision-making. So simple… I must be stupid to benefit from this.)
For the past three summers, I’ve spent a week in the outdoors with my friends Ryan and Matt (one of those rare types with zero Google presence). We’ve gone backpacking, canoing, overseas, etc. These trips were great fun, rebooted my perspective with a week completely offline, and helped me build some incredible friendships.
That is, until last summer. Matt was starting school at the end of August, and Ryan was working until early August. And it just so happened that I’d been offered the chance to spend August at TechStars.
Decision: TechStars or my friends?
I spent two weeks agonizing over the decision, knowing that I was picking between two attractive options. The worst part was I didn’t know exactly what would be the outcome of my TechStars experience, nor whether the three of us could get together over Thanksgiving (the only potential compromise.)
How do you make decisions when your choices have unknown consequences–when you don’t know the pros/cons?
You paint the corners. ‘Cause you almost always know the absolute best and absolute worst. You just don’t know the probabilities.
This oversimplifies complicated decisions into a binary outcome.
Eg, if I go to TechStars, the best outcome included massive learning, extending my network, and connecting with Matt and Ryan over Thanksgiving. The worst outcome was a month in Boulder minus the opportunity cost of staying home.
If I go with friends, the best outcome was making money for a few weeks, plus spend a week with friends. The worst that happens is I make a little money, spend a week with friends, and forgo opportunities from TechStars.
The pros/cons are unknown–or rather, known outcomes with unknown probability..
I chose TechStars, and was also able to connect with my friends over Thanksgiving.
(Note: I first read about “Best-worst case analysis” in Ben Carson’s book, Take The Risk–thanks Jerome! I’ve found these four questions make most of my decisions very easy.)
Steve Blank provides another decision-making heuristic:
Think of decisions of having two states: those that are reversible and those that are irreversible. An example of a reversible decision could be adding a product feature, a new algorithm in the code, targeting a specific set of customers, etc. If the decision was a bad call you can unwind it in a reasonable period of time. An irreversible decision is firing an employee, launching your product, a five-year lease for an expensive new building, etc. These are usually difficult or impossible to reverse.
My advice was to start a policy of making reversible decisions before anyone left his office or before a meeting ended. In a startup it doesnt matter if youre 100% right 100% of the time. What matters is having forward momentum and a tight fact-based feedback loop (i.e. Customer Development) to help you quickly recognize and reverse any incorrect decisions. Thats why startups are agile. By the time a big company gets the committee to organize the subcommittee to pick a meeting date, your startup could have made 20 decisions, reversed five of them and implemented the fifteen that worked.
A thought provoking e-mail…
Recently Sean Murphy sent me this thought-provoking email. Perhaps you will enjoy it as well…
(He gave permission to post publicly.)
Thanks for the update. You are too well rounded and spiritually inclined to become a billionaire.
I am confident that you are going to meet with considerable success in this life, I think you should be true to yourself. I have seen too many people compromise hoping that the right job or car or salary increase or big bag of cash will allow them to move to a better lifetime.
The Irish have a saying “there are no pockets in shrouds.” It’s one I try to keep in mind. H Jackson Brown’s 21 suggestions for success are a little trite, but having observed a number of folks at Cisco and some other firms become multimillionaires I must tell you that for the most part they become more of whatever they were before.
If there weren’t happy before it didn’t help a lot. Many many got divorced and became estranged from their children.
One of the saddest meetings that I attended was about five years ago with some folks who had been mid-level managers in a semiconductor firm, they were all millionaires, all divorced, none of their children had managed to graduate from college and once they stopped talking about how much money they were making in the market or as Angel investors their lives were dust. They all had had the expectation that they could ignore their children until about 14 or 15 and show up with a big bag of money to make it all better. Needless to say it didn’t work.
I know that you will find whatever it is that you seek, just make sure when you get it that it’s what you really want. /SeanM
Box T Bible & Saddle Camp: Saying goodbye to a piece of my past…
[Purely personal post.]
It’s almost summer–and I’m excited about the next six months… Visit my family, hike the Grand Canyon, etc.
But it’s also time to say goodbye to a huge chunk of my life… a piece I can tell you about, but you’ll never really know.
For six of the past seven summers, I’ve worked at a camp in North Dakota. It wasn’t really work–more like living everyday to the din of twenty teenage boys, four counselors, two cooks, two helpers, a Bible teacher, the camp director and his wife, and maybe a guest or two. On average, thirty people slept in that small ranch house every night.
It was crowded. On the other hand, if you wanted space, you could walk two miles in any direction before hitting the next ranch.
All good things must come to an end (in this lifetime), and this year the camp director decided he and his wife are getting too old. Perhaps it’s true. After all, he is turning 81 in July. Although last year, I saw him running across the yard with a camper in tow.
This post is a memorial.
From the alumni of Box T.
To a man and a woman.
They served God with their lives.
And we were the recipients of their love.
Truly they blessed others.
And truly they were blessed.
So many stories.
Falling off my horse at a dead gallop
Rugby in a dried out slough
Someone’s boxers atop the windmill
Capture the flag with walkie-talkies and full facepaint
Thunderstorms dancing across the prairie
Early morning runs
Pulling woodticks off my skin
Sneaking extra desserts when the cooks weren’t watching
But more than anything else–I remember watching boy after boy make life-changing commitments to follow Jesus…
(They e-mail me every so often. Let me know what’s going on. They’re men now.)
Last fall I gathered stories from other camp alumni via Facebook and e-mail Enjoy, and feel free to add your own via the comments.
My memories of Box T are many, far too many for even my journal. As I reminiscence about all that happened there, I am continually brought back to how my time there impacted my life. I am thankful for the terrific Bible-based teaching that I received. It gave me a base to stand upon as I walked through college and now post-college life. The love of the Word was truly implanted in me at Box T. For it, I am forever grateful. I also was given many fabulous friends, several of which I will be in touch with for the rest of my life. Thank you, Lewellyn and Florence, for your faithfulness to the Lord and your desire to impact my generation. You truly have laid up your treasures in heaven, as the lives you have touched, including my own, far outweigh any price anyone could have offered for the cattle you used to tend. Thank you for being willing to give up your lives and let us invade your house each summer. Box T will always hold a special place in my heart. And, more importantly, my relationship with Jesus that flourished and grew by leaps and bounds during my time there has enlarged my heart and empowered me to go out and follow your example. From my heart to yours – thank you!
– Michelle Widman
Wow….There are so many great memories that I have had from Box T.
I remember that first year that I camp to Box T as a camper. Had four of the best counselors and met so many great friends. Box T was such a crucial turning point in my life that first year of camp, it helped put direction for where I wanted my life to lead.
I was amazed at how Box T had the perfect balance between bible study, having fun, and working hard. Having been able to be a part of the staff this last year was such a blessing. I am always grateful for the sense of unity that the Christians life brings especially at camp.
My brother once listed on his blog all the places that he calls, “Home.” Box T would definitely be near he top for me. I have learned many life long lessons from the bible teachings and also made life long friends.
Random Memories: riding horses, talking with LT in his office, seeing how many people we could fit on the couch, late night talks with the counselors, making staff shirts, the pentathlon, dressing up at d-camp for breakfast with Daniel, Bryan, and Josiah; intensive bible study, staff pies, listening to Mark Wager, driving the blue gopher, going on staff rides, dunking campers in the pool, riding to the big hill, fixing fences, horse training, snicker salad, learning from The Boss, fixing go-carts, points time, post cards, fire works, volley ball, camp fire…
Thanks Llewellyn and Florence for the forty years of service to God and the campers. I will never forget the lessons I have learned and friends I have built at Box T.
May the Lord bless you as He turns another page in your life.
~Brad W. (S. Muffin)
Since I was eight years old, Lewellyn has been telling us “this might be our last year” or “probably just one more year” of camps. I hoped against all hope those years that there would be “one more year” long enough that I might have the chance to finally go, just once.
Today, twelve years later, I have six Box T summers worth of memories to sort through and choose four hundred words from.
It was at Box T that my decision to follow the Lord became not a choice made once, but a lifestyle to be lived daily. It was there my dad and later my sister got saved, and there I met my best friend.
My favorite memories of Box T are not of the major things; not of awards ceremonies or even staff rides. The best of my memories are of the things that happened over and over again-sitting in the kitchen talking and hanging out with the staff; searching for Florence’s coffee cup and sitting by her chair, discussing the to-do list for the day; hugging Lewellyn good night every night, him kissing the top of my head and saying “good to have you here” ; grocery shopping with Florence, finishing up and saying “do we have to call home and see if they thought of anything else?” I remember having Arby’s for lunch on those days and milkshakes as we left to head for home; Florence calling me Connie -my mother’s name-half the time; sitting in the trailer during points time eating candy, talking, and yelling “fifty!” Lewellyn: “Sixty?” “No! Fifty!” when Lewellyn asked for points.
I remember clearly the day Lewellyn first called me “my niece.” Up until then, I had always been “Florence’s niece.” He gave me my first lesson in driving stick-a two minute crash course moments before I was expected to drive campers around. He challenged me, by his example as well as by his words, to follow the Lord wholeheartedly.
One evening, Florence and I were sitting in the living room and one of the guys walked through. He made a comment I don’t remember and then said “Katie hopes she’ll be as beautiful as you someday, Florence” Florence shook her head and said “I don’t think so” but I looked at both of them and said, “Yes, yes I do.” Florence will always be one of the most beautiful women I know, for she has such a gentle, quiet, beautiful spirit. I have learned a lot from her about what it is to be a woman of “noble character” in God’s sight.
– Katie Bartlett
Box T. When someone mentions those words, so many memories flood my mind. The camp has been such a blessing to so many people, in a plethora of ways. To describe Box T memories would take a whole book, but something that sticks out to me is a memory I have of the last summer at Box T: the summer of 2008. I had never really thought of driving the trucks out there, because I didn’t have a clue of how to drive stick. But, one afternoon during points, Lewellyn was giving us heads-up on what our work jobs were to be that day. I had been on odd jobs and painting all week, so I assumed that would be it. But, to my surprise, Lewellyn announced I was going to be driving the red truck and searching for wormwood. I declared I did not know how to drive stick and I didn’t think that would be a good idea! He assured me he would teach me and that was that. You know, you don’t question the Boss’s orders! So, after the girls were assigned their crews, Lewellyn and I hopped in the red truck. He told me to turn it on and push down allll the way on the clutch. He then told me to shift into first and slowly, very slowly, let up on the clutch while pushing on the accelerator. He gave me a five minute crash course driving: “Shift into first …. Okay, shift to second … shift back to first … now to second … Okay, you are ready. Drive up onto the road and get your girls.” I was shaking. I had the life of my girls in my hands! No one was hurt and we had a fun afternoon gathering wormwood and realized that what the Bible said about not letting a woman’s words be like wormwood were right on track!
This memory is special to me, because anyone who has been to Box T knows that driving stick is a necessity there and it is a privilege to be taught by Lewellyn. I didn’t hit anything that day, but my driving was not lacking in jerkiness for sure! Even so, when he saw me after work, he told me that I had done well. The confidence he shows in teaching you and the assurance he gives afterward is an amazing testimony of his patience with his staff. Thank you, Lewellyn!
– Katie Shorma
To put my favorite memories from box t into a 400 word entry, is a hard thing to do, and to narrow the selection down to only one is even harder. I’m going to have to pick the summer of 2004, when I attended older boys camp for the first time.. The effect that camp had on my life was tremendous and affects me to this day. It was that year that I put my faith in Jesus Christ. I’d grown up in a Christian home, but what the bible teacher, Mark Wagar during bible study one night effected me and touched my heart. I can remember lying awake in my bed, the first bed on top as you walk into the second room. I lay awake that night for hours wrestling with the decision I knew I was going to have to make, to stubborn to admit that I hadn’t been saved the last 9 years as everyone thought. The memory of that night is a memory that has stuck with me for nearly five years, and I’m sure is one that will last a lifetime. There are numerous other great memories I have, like the time Nic Bargen was holding the fence down for me during capture the flag, and let it go to soon, leaving a two-inch scar on my knee for life, or the day I popped the tire on the s-10, and sent Uriah running a mile back to camp back to get help, along with many others, but the one that has had the lasting effect on my life is the one I shared above. Thank you to Lewellyn and Florence for providing this camp for me to camp at, counsel at, and for a great place to grow in my relationship with Christ.
– Tyler Treadway
Box T will forever be the beginning of a new place in my life. I was a camper a younger girls with Ms. Beth when I knew for sure that I had given my life over to the Lord. Over the next several years, I was a camper and a counselor. I was blessed to be able to use what I learned as a camper while I was a counselor.
The Lord used Lewellyn and Florence in my life in so many ways. Florence taught me how to be a submissive wife who was willing to leave everything up to her husband and to the Lord. Lewellyn was an amazing example of someone who completely followed the Lord in all he did. Lewellyn’s Christianity was never about religion, but was all about relationship. Relationship with his Savior and relationships with those around him.
Box T was the first place I really got to ride horses (everyone knows what I mean ;)) I will forever relive barrel racing and sunrise rides. The many scars I have remind me of the pain and training I went through while I was riding in North Dakota. The beauty of the barren land of North Dakota will always be one of my favorite places to ride horses.
Lewellyn and Florence, I can’t thank you enough for opening up your home to me and for being the examples you were over many years. I miss you both and will always hold you very close to my heart. I love you both very much!!!
– Sarah Carsten
What can I say! My first ever trip to Box T was D Camp this past summer and it stands out as a high point in my life!! I was so anxious to find someway to wiggle back up there next year only to find out that that won’t be possible. I heard so many great things about Box T before I ever went up there. People telling me that “I HAD to go there!” and that it was “SOO different than other camps!” I figured it couldn’t be that much different. How wrong I was. From the first moment pulling onto the driveway, I knew I was in for something. I was welcomed with open arms. I was listened to. I was encouraged. I laughed more in the 5 days of D Camp then probably at any other point in my life. From the anonymous postcard that embarrased me so much I turned a few shades of red to getting bucked off of Buddy the horse to nighttime sing-a-longs, I had a blast. I learned so much about myself, others, and my Lord above all else!! I was riding high on Box T fumes for the two months (Don’t believe me? Ask my friends and family – I couldn’t shut up about the place). I made some AMAZING friendships and deepened ones I already had. I pinch myself when I think that I got to be a part of something so unique and so special. I’m still applying lessons to my life from the messages and experiences from Box T. I wouldn’t trade that week for anything. I’m humbled that I managed to squeak in under the wire! Lewellyn and Florence did a bang-up job creating something so fun, so alive, so fresh, so godly and so wonderful for so many years. I never would’ve imagined I’d have such fond memories of a tiny town in North Dakota! I’ll most definitely miss it.
– Jonnique Peters
Here I am, sitting down to write what could be a compilation of years and years of fun and memories, but more importantly an investment in a life that has been changed forever. I think often what my teen years would have been like without the influence of Box-T, and all it held for me and so many others. I have so much to be thankful for as I think back on the 10 years I spent as a camper, and a cook, and then a counselor.
I remember my first memory of Lewellyn vividly. He was visiting with someone sporting a Chicago Bulls basketball hat. Remember when they were all the rage? I knew he was pretty cool right then. I had no idea what an important role he and dear Florence, would play in my life.
Oh, I must have been a handful at twelve, but they were so gracious and kind to me, yet honest and forthright. The character they tried to build into my lonely heart was a work in progress from then on, and they inspire me still today.
I have many great memories, a few too many embarrassing moments, but mostly things engraved on my heart from the countless hours of Bible study, memorization, and “character building” moments in Lewellyn’s office. I laughed the hardest there, wept tears of joy and heartache, cried out to God from the depths of my soul, and got to know the Lord on a deeper level after my salvation. Box – T is where Christ first became real to me, and for that I am grateful beyond what words can express.
Who knew on all those walks down that driveway, when thoughts and dreams were shared among the closest of hearts, that I would have Lewellyn give the message at my wedding, that my daughter, Madeline Isabelle, woud be affectionately be named after ” Florence Isabelle, and that after eighteen years, I can’t imagine them gone without crying out to God…
I had a dream of myself singing this before a hushed crowd after Lewellyn and Florence pass on into eternity to meet the Saviour they have so sacrificialy served for over 50 years. The song writer seems to have written it just for them, with just a few changes from myself, and so my tears flow, every time I hear this sung, and I sing along with them in my mind and heart, and pray the legacy they have left to their son and daughter, is the one I will leave to my sons and daughters. A legacy of unconditional love, the greatest fruit to bear. So sing along with me now, and let’s thank them together for giving to the Lord. We are all lives that were changed.
I dreamed I went to heaven
And you were there with me;
We walked upon the streets of gold
Beside the crystal sea.
We heard the angels singing
Then someone called your name.
We turned and saw a young man running
And he was smiling as he came.
And he said, ” Friend you may not know me now. ”
And then he said but wait,
You had that Horse and Bible camp
When I was only twelve.
And every summer you’d pray for me
As I was having fun,
And one year when you said your prayers,
Christ’s love became real to me.
Thank you for giving to the Lord
I am a life that was changed.
Thank you for giving to the Lord
I am so glad you gave.
Then another man stood before you
And said, “Remember the time
You didn’t know where it come from,
The camp had many needs.
You didn’t have much money,
But you gave it anyway.
Jesus took the gift you gave
And that’s why I’m here today.”
Thank you for giving to the Lord
I am a life that was changed.
Thank you for giving to the Lord.
I am so glad you gave.
One by one they came
Far as the eye could see.
Each life somehow touched by your generosity.
Little things that you had done,
Unnoticed on the earth
In heaven, now proclaimed.
And I know up in heaven
You’re not suppossed to cry
But I am almost sure
There were tears in your eyes.
As Jesus took your hand
And you stood before the Lord.
He said “My child, look around you.
For great is your reward.”
Thank you for giving to the Lord.
I am a life that was changed.
Thank you for giving to the Lord.
I am so glad you gave.
Thank you for giving to the Lord.
I am a life that was changed.
Thank you for giving to the Lord.
I am so glad you gave.
Thank you for the opportunity to share our hearts, and how your legacy of love has changed our lives into vessels of honor for Him. Great will be your reward.
Loving You, Because I’m Changed,
Jessica Cannaday Rivers
– Jess Rivers
Lewellyn and Florence,
Being at Box T this summer with my girls was so special. Though my life has changed a lot since my “Box T days” coming back reminded me of how much both of you have impacted my life.
Looking back I see how much growing I did while I was there, and how much patience you both had with me.
Florence, I always think of you when I think of hospitality, submission, joyful serving, and completely surrendering everything to the Lord. When I’m tempted to hold on to my “things” that seem so important to me I think of how you opened your home every year and nothing that happened there phased you. You didn’t care that certain cooks set the oven on fire, burned the food, did things differently than you did. It didn’t matter if ten extra people showed up unexpectedly just before lunch, you cheerfully served them. While I love all those things about you and will always be learning from your example my favorite thing was the giggles we had together. I love your sense of humor and am so glad I had the opportunity to discover it while I was a cook.
Lewellyn, you amaze me. I could say a lot of the same things I did about Florence. You hold possessions so loosely. An example that comes to mind is the Dodge pickup. I think I still have a piece of that truck that I knocked of on a pole somewhere. But you let us drive anyway, even if it meant early retirement for that truck:-) For some reason when I think of the truck it reminds me that to you, people and their souls are so much more important that anything else in this life. I appreciate all the wisdom you have passed on to me. Your sharing scripture before meals taught me so many life lessons.
Thank you for all the sacrifices you made for each and every one of us over the years. I love you and am praying that my girls will be able to experience something like “Box T” in the years to come.
– Rebecca Rankin
Dearest Lewellyn & Florence,
As I write to you, my head knows the reality that Box-T will not continue, however my heart cannot fully comprehend it. I have many fond memories of long trail rides, barn games, and memorizing verses in the laundry room. However my favorite memories were when girls would get saved. I loved seeing the joy in the girls’ eyes when they realized that they once were lost but had been found. I loved getting into the girls’ lives and seeing them focus on Christ. I remember specifically one girl who for a long time had rejected the gospel and even came two years in a row and still didn’t want to get saved. I was heartbroken that she kept on rejecting Christ. I prayed for her but didn’t have much faith, thinking that if she was ever going to get saved that she would have made the decision already. When she came back the third year, I never would have thought that she would get saved. However as you know the Lord had other plans and had been working on her heart. She got saved that year! It was absolutely amazing how the Lord worked in her heart!
Box-T has made a difference in my life as well. It was at Box-T that I realized the importance of a consistent quiet time. I also learned how to get into girls’ lives, the importance of evangelism, and discipling others. You have helped me to become closer to the Lord and desire to do His will in my life.
Box-T has had a major impact in my life as well as in others lives. It has caused me to realize that the essence of Box-T isn’t ending, but will continue throughout eternity! Many people from all around the United States and even different countries who have gone to Box-T and gotten saved are carrying on the mission of Box-T to share the gospel and build up the church. All those people who were saved and will get saved will worship our precious Lord and Savior throughout eternity! So in reality the affects of Box-T will never end!
Thank you so much for making the decision to follow the Lord’s leading in starting a camp in your home! Your selflessness and giving all into the Lord’s hands is a great example to myself and many others.
– Ashley Jacques
Box T will always hold a special place in my heart. I never forget the thrill as a camper of visiting with Ms. Beth. I had been struggling with prayer in the life of a believer, and the Lord provided her as someone to listen, love and direct me according to the Word of God. I can’t put into words how much that meant to me. I loved Discipleship Camp – being challenged and encouraged to walk as close with the Lord Jesus as I could rather than as close to the fenceline as so many of my friends seemed to be doing. I loved being a counselor – the silly giggles with the other staff when we were overtired, teasing Lewellyn about falling asleep during points discussion, working on the plays, the very close friendships that were made, and so on. My all-time favorite memory, though, has to be when Kelli and I got up early for a sunrise bareback horse ride. I loved the horses and being able to work with them! I loved the smells and the sore legs when the week would first start, and then the excitement when the saddle would feel familiar after a couple of days! And I always looked forward to the long Sunday afternoon ride across the beautiful prairies.
Thank you so much, Lewellyn and Florence, for opening your home without reserve. Your example in serving the Lord with everything that you had and reaching out across America to love and teach so many young people has been a tremendous testimony and blessing. I love you!!
– Emy (Bulow) Huseby
One of my favorite times at Box T was when I was a cook at Younger Girls Camp. Almost every morning during morning recreation the cooks, Florence’s slave, Florence, and Elisha Bulow all got together in the blue trailer for a prayer meeting. We would start out by sharing the little gems that the Lord had showed us in our morning devotions. I was really encouraged by the things that people brought up, and it helped me remember things I read by sharing them with others. After the sharing, we would find out how to pray for the campers, and then have a prayer meeting for them. It was a refreshing time of the day to be encouraged by the Word and to be able to pray for others salvation and needs. I think that one of the most special things about Box T was the encouragement to be in the Word and to study it. To be encouraged to share what you were learning from the Bible, and to be encouraged to go home and encourage others in God’s Word. As a camper you talked about what you read at mealtime, and as a staffer you got a chance in the morning to share, and hear others share. My favorite thing about Box T was the encouragement by others from the Word, and just being encouraged to talk about the Bible outside of church.
– Nicole Jacques
When I think about Box T all I can think of is “wow.” How can I even start on all the memories, the challenges, and the blessings that fill my mind? The times I’ve spent at Box T and with Lewellyn and Florence will forever be cherished in my heart.
Discipleship camp ’01 was the beginning of many wonderful times to remember…Lewellyn’s GrapeNut desert spilled out on the sidewalk…smoke everywhere from sauce on the bottom of the oven we forgot to clean (I think at least 15 people asked if we burned the pizza!)…Ryan and Joel washing dishes ALL morning just to get an extra piece of cheesecake…setting out bits of leftovers or extra deserts confident that Jeff would clean them up for usJ…the “Jezebel” joke on Andy that we all paid for…all the compliments and satisfied sighs that made every meal worth making.
Box T took counseling to a whole new level for me. I feel like I got more out of each camp than the campers! I was challenged in my walk with the Lord, in my leadership abilities, in speaking out when I’d rather be shy, and in working with my fellow counselors as a team. As hard as it was to get up so early for those counselor devotions and my own quiet times I loved those beautiful mornings. And the counselor rides!! We had so many adventures. Poor Joel probably had the most…when his cinch loosened running up the road and he landed in the ditch or when Landy stepped in a gopher hole and he went flying and got knocked out.
My times as Florence’s “helper” were some of the best and most missed. The 3-cart grocery trips…mountains of laundry…working in the garden…doing the photo album…watching and learning from Florence’s every day…and laughing-oh how we laughed! And how can I leave this list of memories without mentioning the biggest change in my life? I wouldn’t be married to my best friend, Joel Ribbey. Some of you were there and remember that chapter in our lives. I remember that last summer when the staff rallied around me and supported me so much…and teased me of courseJ. I wish Joel was able to write his own memories down but he is in Afghanistan and doesn’t have access to any computers right now. He has even more to be grateful to the Tewksbury’s for as it was Discipleship camp ’01 that he stopped faking it and surrendered his life and heart to the Lord.
Every time I left Box T it was with tears. And now it is with tears that I say thank you, Lewellyn and Florence, for letting the Lord work through you…and though we can never go back again we will never forget.
– Esther (Eichholz) Ribbey
Sitting down at my desk, desiring to write a blurb on what Box T Ranch means to me, the memories feel a little fuzzy. Instinctively, I know that the ministry at Box T tremendously shaped my life. I know that the relationships I formed there-with Lewellyn and Florence, with fellow staff members and campers-are irreplaceably precious even if some were for just a season of time. God moved in my life there. Other people touched my life. I touched their lives. Give me a sec as the memories come…
Oh yes, certain things come into focus. The long hill-strewn drive into the ranch. My first time there was at night, but even in the darkness I could tell Box T had less trees than Washington state. Far fewer trees. The air was slightly muggy but comfortable as we stepped out of the van. Going into the basement, I was impressed that so many bunks could be efficiently compressed into that smallish space. Close quarters living, love it or loathe it, was a worthwhile experience.
The Box T folks had less of an accent than I expected. I guess not all legends about the Midwest can be true! But they certainly lived up to the reputation of good old-fashioned hospitality. And above all, the Box T distinctive that struck me from my first moment and lasted until my final departure 6 years later, was the overwhelming sense of God’s special presence that lingered everywhere at camp. It was oh so clear that the Lord God was at work in the ministry of Box T, and in no small part because Lewellyn and Florence rightly honored and loved God. The Lord in return blessed and blesses them greatly. And others such as me got to share in the overflow of His goodness.
Many specific memories also come to mind. Learning to bridle and saddle a horse. Watching other kids be scared of incredibly tame horses. Being scared of those same horses myself. Pool Wrestling. Vociferously talking about Pool Wrestling. Sitting on beds listening to devotions. Giving those devotions. Getting to chat with Lewellyn in the office. Laundry day. Apple pie. Tablecloth signing. Capture the Flag. Memory verses. Baptisms in the pool outside of Pool Wresting time. Watching other lives get changed. Watching my life, slowly, get changed. Understanding the Gospel for the very first time.
Life at Box T is rich. Thank you Lord. Thank you, Lewellyn and Florence, for being obedient to God’s call. Thank you to other staff members and campers for contributing so much.
– Ryan Heathers
One of my favorite memories of Box T happened on water balloon-filling afternoon. Anna Bouche and Jen Ott grabbed pitchers of water and dumped them from an upstairs window onto the boys who were filling water balloons below. The boys didn’t know who had doused them, and assumed it must have been Kelly Ueland. Kelly didn’t know anything about it, so when she came around to take pictures of the crew, she was astonished to be met by a crew bent on retaliation. They began throwing balloons at her, egged on by their “trustworthy” counselor, Joel Ribbey, who was yelling, “Points off for throwing water balloons at her! Points on for hitting her!”
Kelly came inside the house, and the whole story was explained to Lewellyn, who stood there shaking his head with his “I can’t believe the foolishness that goes on around here but it sure is fun” smile on his face. He warned Anna that if she tried any more tricks he would duct tape her to the deck. She said that if he did that she would get her fiancée, Steve (who is not a small guy) to come and rescue her. Lewellyn replied, “Well, then Bammer and I will duct tape Steve to the deck!”
There are so many other memories…the summer that Johnny was calling Jaidra every night, conspiring to answer the phone when we guessed he’d call and tell him “Oh, she’s on a walk with Ryan’ …being so excited to go on the staff ride the first year I cooked only to find that none of the counselors woke up for it, and couldn’t even be roused by Lewellyn…one year at D Camp overhearing Jeff (none too quietly) instructing the boys too ask the girls at breakfast what it means to be a gentleman and scheming to beat them too the question…enjoying a little R&R on the campers’ beds during Capture the Camper- hey, we did go out and find them eventually.
I am so grateful for all the blessings that God has given me through Box T- blessings of fellowship, teaching, godly examples, friendship, opportunities to serve, and fun times. Every time I went to Box T I was both challenged and encouraged in my walk with the Lord. It was always a learning experience, and God often used it to humble me. I am thankful to the Tewksburys for their faithful service to the Lord, and most of all thankful to God for what He has done through Box T.
– Abby Kramer
Dear Lewellyn and Florence,
Thanks so much for allowing the Lord to use you in Box T! I have learned so much from you, Bible studies, and life at camp. One of the biggest things was that I learned how to live the “rustic, everything’s-not-perfect” life. That’s much of what has made me who I am today. I am also constantly inspired by you to live more faithfully to the Lord.
Florence, my biggest memory about you was this past summer. We were in-between camps, and Katie B, Katie S., Rachel S, and I were in the kitchen, sitting down, eating and talking, with just the little kitchen light on. We heard someone coming, so we quieted down. The feet came closer to us, then you appeared with a surprised face. You said, “What in the world are you doing?” (it probably looked liked we were hiding, but we really weren’t!) We all laughed and Katie B. was the first to respond, “Having an early midnight snack!” You said, Ok!”, got what you needed and headed back upstairs. I always appreciated your humor and gracious attitude toward everyone in your house.
Also, how could I forget all those weeks of stripping, sanding, and refinishing with you! How often I asked you to check the work, hoping it would be good enough, and you said, “Well, we need to work on this spot.”
or “We need to redo that.” But somehow, we managed to get lots of furniture done! Thanks for all you’ve taught me. Lewellyn, I remember you for often making creative props for our plays. The most memorable was the gasoline fire for “hell”, during my first year at camp. I was a little scared to have to jump over that rod of fire with my flowing robe, but it was exciting at the same time! And no one caught on fire!
You’ve engrained in my mind what iniquity is, and inspired me to talk about the Lord at every possible opportunity! Thanks for all the encouragement to really get to know the girls and be a part of their life. It has been so rewarding to do so for the Lord’s glory.
God bless you both for all your work at camp! I know the Lord will continue to use you in mighty ways!
– Rachel Ueland
Box-T has been a consistent source of truth and encouragement to me.
Florence and Lewellyn, your love in action through the opening of your home and schedule each summer has been an awesome reflection of Jesus. I have many treasured memories… capture the shovel (flag), getting green foamy slobber flung at me by my horse, battleball and basketball in the barn loft, early morning running in the fields, deep conversations with friends, and awesome times in God’s Word (packing 30 or more people in a small living area!). Taking a week or two each summer to go to Box-T has been one of the best decisions of my 20 years of life; I have been forever impacted. I praise God for all those who made camp possible year after year. Florence and Lewellyn, you have my most sincere “thank you” for your relentless commitment to shaping young people’s lives for Christ!
– Nate Nordstrom
Box T holds many memories in my heart. My 12 summers at Box T began at the cut-off of the 12-year age range. Summers as a camper continued till I reached the cut-off on the upper end and provided fun times – like soaking the Bible teacher with a five-gallon pail after water-balloon volleyball (all because no one would expect it of me J); good friends with lasting relationships; memorable experiences – nearly bucked off of Catfish and then him just getting to the barn before falling over with a concussion (okay so maybe not such a good memory!); and most of all, challenging thinking to my own Christian walk.
The Lord used Bible teachers throughout Younger and Older Girls’ camps and speakers at Discipleship camp to encourage spiritual growth in my life. The examples of teachers, their wives, and cooks from various camps demonstrated how to live out the Christian walk. Florence had a great influence in my life during the five years of cooking at camps as she encouraged us to “come away from the kitchen and spend time in prayer” with her about the needs of the camp. It was during these times she taught me the value of the Word in a personal way as she’d share the gems she discovered while spending time with the Savior. I heard the prayer life of an older woman devoted to her Master and I saw submission lived out each day – not only to her Lord but to her husband as well.
Lewellyn is a strong man (with a twinkle in his eye every now and then for a good prank) yet gentle and full of wisdom in the things of the Lord. During my year of counseling and four years of coming back as Bible teacher’s wife I have appreciated his heart shown during staff prayer time in the mornings and in his sharing in my joy as I relate stories of my own children’s understanding in the things of the Lord.
Looking back on the spiritual journey of my life, I am grateful to the Lord for the 47 weeks which He allowed me to spend on the Box T grounds under the influence of godly men and women – Lewellyn and Florence in particular. May the Lord richly reward His servants for their lives given in service to Him!!!
– Elisha (Reeves) Bulow
Thanks Lewellyn and Florence the summer of 2007 it was fun.. I have many memories there meeting all those girls and riding horses was a blast. I wish u the best.
– Kristi Wyandt
So this summer (2008) at older boys we had a surprise. There were almost no unsaved kids at camp. Probably only two or three. One of them was Johnny Mason. He was a cool kid who was in the process of getting adopted. He was the only kid with a profession during the camp. He got saved during the middle of the second week. I am pretty sure he got saved because of the way he smiled when he talked about it and acted just a little differently afterwards. Then at younger boys camp his little brother Ray was at camp and he got saved too! it was really cool to hear Travis Carpenter talk about it. Anyways, that is my memory. I have many others but too many to write.
– Lucas Jensen
I was at Box T for New Years. It was the second to last night of the retreat, and everybody was having a blast with the people that had been over the years their campers, fellow campers, fellow staffers, and a general mixture of all of the above. There was also a pervading, underlying sense of melancholy, especially as the end of the week drew near, that this was to be the last meeting of Box-T-ers, and that the place we all loved so much, the place that had influenced us all so much, was now ending for good.
As I mentioned, it was the second to last night of the retreat. Lewellyn had four girls staying in the spare room upstairs, and I was one of those four. It was my first time in all the years I’d been to Box T that I got to stay in the spare room upstairs. Rachel, Ashley, Nicole and I could hear the rest of the Box-T-ers singing back and forth to each other from the basement as the sound drifted up through the spare bedroom vent. I wanted an extra blanket, and I knew there was a couple of them on the stairs, so I went down to get one. I stopped though, when I got there, to listen. The guys were singing a beloved Box T classic to the girls through the partition: “Immanuel’s Land.” They were on the first verse. They were doing a beautiful job, complete with strong harmony.
“The sands of time are sinking, the dawn of heaven breaks,
The summer morn I’ve sighed for, the fair sweet morn awakes.
Dark, dark hath been the midnight, but dayspring is at hand,
And glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.
O Christ, He is the fountain, the deep sweet well of love!
The streams on earth I’ve tasted, more deep I’ll drink above.
There to an ocean fullness, His mercy doth expand,
And glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land
O I am my Beloved’s, and my Beloved’s mine,
He takes a poor vile sinner, into His house of wine.
I stand upon His merit, I know no other stand,
Not e’en where glory dwelleth, in Immanuel’s land.
The Bride eyes not her garment, but her dear Bridegroom’s face
I will not gaze at glory, but on my King of grace.
Not at the crown He giveth, but on His pierced hand
The Lamb is all the glory of Immanuel’s land!”
The words of that song swelled in my heart as I leaned back against the dark stairway hugging the blanket and gazing into the darkened study room. Chairs where strewn about in disarray, Bibles laying open on them, sweatshirts and notebooks and cameras decorated the floor and chairs alike. It was an incredibly familiar and precious sight. It was a lived-in room. As the song continued, I listened closely to the words and tears came to my eyes. My thoughts drifted to all the years I’d spent at camp and the richness of Box T’s heritage. The overwhelming beauty of it’s theme was Jesus Christ. It was all about Him. I’d been a camper at Box T. The Bible teachers and Lewellyn, and my counselors, they’d had no message for me except Jesus Christ. I realized it so overwhelmingly in that moment. I’d been a counselor. And I realized how much a Box T counselor was focused on sharing Jesus Christ with the campers. Trail rides were just an excuse to share Him. Evening devotions were our connection with the campers to show them the way to Him. Work time was overcast with the weight of His worth, and our desire and prodding to give Him to the kids. Even mealtimes were a chance to hear and see the beauty of Him and to discuss His glory and His fame. Sure, there were fun times and “secular” moments, practical jokes, tragedies and difficulty, but through all of that, there was Jesus Christ. It all happened because of Him.
I cried there on the steps because it was the end of Box T. But even in the mourning that I felt in that knowledge, I was aware of a great thankfulness to God for His work at Box T. I would not be who I am today without Him. And He used the faithfulness of two dear saints to touch my life, but also the lives of people who I have never met, will never see again, and those who were there with me at the last retreat. We all were different people because of Box T. And that, I knew, was only true because Box T was about Jesus Christ. There was no other conclusion. I had to smile too, because, listening to the song, I thought how funny it was, how appropriate. Yes, they were singing about heaven, but in another sense, were were standing on land that had been dedicated to the One we sang to. It was saturated with Immanuel. And none of us were the same after being touched by Him.
– Kimberly Treadway
To write about one favorite Box T memory this is an impossible task. Alone, hearing the name “Box T” brings to me a flood of memories which I consider to be some of the most precious and profound. I reminiscently float back in time to my first camp and the time I really truly understood the Lord’s love for me. On a sillier note, I remember a camp where “Safety First” was the motto and we convinced everyone, including Lewellyn, to wear a helmet for a day. And, in between those two spectrums, I can count hundreds of other treasured memories. Not only do I have all these memories treasured up, but in a way Box T lives on for me. Through the times spent at this camp, I was able to establish wonderful relationships with peers, counselors, and mentors which continue into today. I count these relationships as key in my spiritual walk as they have encouraged me, challenged me, and just comforted me along the path of daily knowing and serving my savior, Jesus. What a blessing Box T Bible and Saddle Camp has been!
– Carla Widman
Just Learned A Friend Died–Three Nights Ago He Was Telling Me What Mattered In Life
[My apologies for the lack of artful brevity in this post. I’m just typing this one out on the fly.]
I met Rollan at Pub Night–a weekly hang-out of twenty-something Christians in the Palo Alto area. Rollan was a gregarious Asian, forty-six years old, divorced, with three kids. Despite his age, he occasionally dropped by, and I enjoyed chatting with him about the tech industry.
Last Friday, I hung out at Matt Jeffryes‘ house along with Rollan and another friend.
My main memories from the evening:
Asking Rollan his story.
Hearing him recount growing up as one of the first Asian kids in his area, attending Harvard, working as a trader on Wall Street, adventures traveling the world, getting married, coming out west, his life falling apart after the divorce, and the lifestyle changes he made.
“God took my idols–me wanting to make tons of money, because even when I made half-a-million-a-year that wasn’t enough–I wanted to make millions–that was my idol, and God ripped it down.”
Hearing him talk about wanting to always be there for his kids–and trying not to let them see how much he was hurting after the divorce–but knowing they “occasionally found me weeping in the closet.”
Hearing him talk about God providing the job at Yahoo: “I was running out of money, praying desperately for a job–when this came along. Sometimes a real snore, but it was what I needed–paid the bills and let me spend time with my kids.” Hearing his worries after being laid off, and his new job with The Conversation Group.
I remember reflecting on my own desperate desires to live a meaningful life, and how often I aligned accomplishments, or respect of thought leaders with a successful life.
I remember asking Rollan about his kids–after complaining that I never get to hang out with kids in the Valley. “Careful Jeff, or I might be asking you to come by and hang out with them sometime.” I responded “I just might be doin’ that Rollan.”
(In Bellingham, the Miksovsky family blessed me time and again with their open door policy–I could walk in the door, bellow “who wants to play basketball?” and immediately three or four of their kids [I think they’ve got eight–I lost count] would come running out.)
I remember telling Rollan, “Thanks for sharing this stuff–it’s a blessing to hear you call out the warnings from your life.”
Walking away from the evening impressed by how much smarter and more accomplished Rollan was then he normally let on, and by how honest and humble and broken he was. I remember telling Matt at the end of the night, “I want to learn those life-lessons, without making his mistakes.”
It was a fun night–just the four of us–sitting around talking about theology, our lives, stories, software, etc.
Rollan’s lessons are particularly poignant because I’m in a time of transition.
After my TechCrunch internship ended, I feel my year-long foray into the tech industry is accomplished–plenty of open doors there–so I’m enjoying two weeks of planned reflection time. I’ve been asking folks, “During your times of transition, what questions guided your reflection?”
Five of the better answers:
- “Always ask yourself, is this a) the right opportunity, and b) the right time?” – Eric Mack
- Don’t ask “What challenge to go after?” instead ask “Who do I want to be?” – Andrew Nelson
- “When you die, how do you want each group of people–friends, family, co-workers–to remember you?” – Chuck W
- “Reflect on the past year–and all your varied experiences. What part of each one made you happy? Have the courage to pursue those types of things.” – Karl Klaesius
- “Jeff, you’re a connector and a leader. Change your question from ‘How do I create lasting value?’ to ‘how do I set others free to create lasting value?’ ” – Prefers Anonymity
This morning I awoke to a text message, “did you hear about rollan?”
Right afterward, I opened a friend’s e-mail with news of Rollan’s death.
(Currently, it seems we were the last to see him alive.)
Didn’t take long for the tears to start flowing.