Tending the Fire - July 2023 - From Camp and Retreat Ministries

July 24, 2023

Tending the Fire - From Camp and Retreat Ministries

July 2023

Tending the Fire is a monthly series sharing a deeper look at the people who make up Camp and Retreat Ministries.  Each month we will share a story from our campers, donors, staff and volunteers and what impact Camp and Retreat Ministries has had on them, and them on us.  We hope these stories will educate you, uplift you and inspire you to get involved in whatever ways you can.

God Surrounded Me

If you, your child, or grandchild has attended camp at Suttle Lake Camp near Sisters, Oregon, there’s a good chance that Jane “Ladybug” McEldowney was your nurse. Jane was introduced to Suttle Lake Camp through her husband, Art McEldowney, who had attended events there when he was growing up in Salem.  Art camped there when cabins were just tents on platforms.

After graduating from nursing school and getting married, Jane and Art started on a “world tour,” spending two or three years at a time in different locations (Bangkok, Singapore, England and more) while Art worked for the United States’ Department of State.  As Jane said, “We went with a sense of adventure, and we had adventures!”

While living overseas, Jane worked as a volunteer nurse in many of the countries, then was hired as a school nurse and health teacher at the American Air Force high school in England, a job she enjoyed immensely, stating, “We lived on base, and some days I would literally run to work!”

Returning home in 1989, Jane and Art moved to Bend, and they started volunteering at Suttle Lake Camp right away. Jane has volunteered at Suttle Lake a week or more most summers as the camp nurse. Suttle Lake meant so much to Jane and Art that they held their 50th Anniversary celebration there. Jane’s faith and relationship with God has grown while coming to camp. Thinking on the outdoors, Jane remembered a saying, “Everything I have seen leads me to believe in the unseen.”

Supporters, mentors and colleagues such as Tim Stover, Jim Parr Philipson and Suttle Lake Camp co-directors, Jane and Daniel Petke, have been a large part of her life. Jane has enjoyed watching Jane and Daniel grow in their role as camp directors. “We owe them so much.”

When Art died suddenly in 2017, “faith, family and friends” from work, church and camp helped get Jane through it. “God surrounded me during that time.” Community, an essential value of camp and retreat ministry, is what still sustains Jane. She attends women’s retreats with her church, watches younger members take steps in their faith, watching for those moments when they experience God’s deep love. Jane also felt the support of community and the blessing it is when her second husband, Dr. Robert Seeger, died last year.

When asked why she continues to volunteer year after year, Jane laughed, saying, “partially it’s selfish; I enjoy it!” the “it” being the fact that she might make a difference to kids or young adults. “I will hate when I have to give it up.”

(photo by Holly Dolan, Suttle Lake Camp)

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A partnership between The Oregon-Idaho Conference of The United Methodist Church
and The Episcopal Diocese of Oregon