Camp Tamarack Update

December 14, 2020

From: Wade Hobson, Camp Tamarack Onsite Manager

As everyone knows, 2020 was a difficult and challenging year for organized camps everywhere, with camping seasons cancelled due to the COVID19 pandemic. Camp Tamarack and our sister camp in Northern California, Camp Cazadero have faced and continue to face extraordinary challenges. 

The year was extra challenging for camps in the path of the devastating Creek Fire which burned in the Sierra National Forest from September 3 until the snows fell in late November. (Technically, it still isn’t contained and continues to smolder under the snow.) Camp Tamarack was not completely spared by the fire, but was saved by firefighters who wrapped the buildings in fire resistant foil and stayed to put out spot fires as they started in camp. The damage included some charring to a tent platform and equipment trailer, a gate post pushed over by a dozer, possible smoke damage to mattresses and extensive damage to the water line which runs about 4000’ from spring boxes in a meadow above the camp through the forest to our water storage tank. We will have to replace about 2000’ of plastic pipe before we can start setting up camp in the spring. 

A USFS forest restoration and fuel reduction program in the area around camp the past two summers thinned the forest in our area and kept the fire out of the crown and at lower intensity. In the future, the forest around Camp Tamarack will be more open and healthier. Other areas nearby were not so fortunate and were devastated. 

When the fire was active, I received many messages and offers to help restore the camp after the fire. At the time, we didn’t know the extent of damage or what help insurance might provide. I’m pleased to say that our insurance has responded in a very fair way and the Conference has received a substantial settlement check. However, we will need a lot of volunteer help in early June to get the water line repaired and the camp opened for the 2021 season. At this writing, the roll out of a vaccine raises optimism that we will be able to have a camping season (with appropriate protocols) at Camp Tamarack in 2021. 

That said, there is still is no end to needs at a church camp in the mountains! We will need a new water heater, tent repairs, wall repair in the shower, hazard tree removal, propane and all the usual expenses of establishing camp for the season. A donor has offered a $500 match to donations to the Conference for Camp Tamarack before December 31. The money can be used for camperships to support sending youth to camp or for camp maintenance needs. In addition, the Morris family is sponsoring an appeal through First Congregational Church Fresno (The Big Red Church) to honor their dad, Bruce L. Morris on the 100th anniversary of his birth. Bruce was an active layman and supporter of the camp and the mountains. Monies raised will be split between camperships and camp maintenance needs. 

If you would like to make a yearend (or any time) donation to the work of Camp Tamarack or Camp Cazadero, it can be made directly to the Conference on the Conference web page, or The Big Red Church. If you can set aside some time to come up in June and help get camp going for 2020, let me know and I’ll be in touch as we get closer. 

Our camping programs touch and change lives in amazing ways. Both Camp Tamarack and Camp Cazadero are worthy of your support in both time and treasure. The Conference web page has options for designating gifts for Camp Caz, Camp Tam and the camping program in general. 

Thank you for all the prayers, good thoughts and expressions of concern when Camp Tam was threatened and we didn’t know if it would survive. We were truly blessed, and will be eternally grateful for the efforts of the fire fighters who saved the camp! 

Seasons greetings and blessings to all. 

Wade Hobson, Camp Tamarack Onsite Manager 


In Print: ‘The COVID-19 Pandemic’

Dr. Helmut Kloos and 27 other scientists prepared an article published last week in the British Medical Journal, Global Health. The article is entitled “The COVID-19 pandemic: Diverse Contexts; Different Epidemics —How and Why?” The article may be accessed at The COVID-19 Pandemic.PDF

Dr. Helmut KloosBritish Medical Journal, Global Health is an open-access, online journal dedicated to publishing high-quality peer-reviewed content relevant to those involved in global health, including policy makers, funders, researchers, clinicians and frontline healthcare workers.

Helmut was invited by Professor Wim Van Damme, the first author of this article, with whom he had previously published several articles on HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia, to be a coauthor. As a medical geographer and social epidemiologist, Helmut contributed to the geographic, social and demographic information of the article and also arranged for the editing of the final version of the manuscript by a professional editor. The authors plan to update the article periodically to keep abreast with the rapidly increasing literature on COVID-19 and will provide notification when an update is published.

From the article’s abstract:

“It is very exceptional that a new disease becomes a true pandemic. Since its emergence in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19, has spread to nearly all countries of the world in only a few months. However, in different countries, the COVID-19 epidemic takes variable shapes and forms in how it affects communities.

“Until now, the insights gained on COVID-19 have been largely dominated by the COVID-19 epidemics and the lockdowns in China, Europe and the USA. But this variety of global trajectories is little described, analysed or understood.

“In only a few months, an enormous amount of scientific evidence on SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 has been uncovered (knowns). But important knowledge gaps remain (unknowns). Learning from the variety of ways the COVID-19 epidemic is unfolding across the globe can potentially contribute to solving the COVID-19 puzzle.

“This paper tries to make sense of this variability — by exploring the important role that context plays in these different COVID-19 epidemics; by comparing COVID-19 epidemics with other respiratory diseases, including other coronaviruses that circulate continuously; and by highlighting the critical unknowns and uncertainties that remain. These unknowns and uncertainties require a deeper understanding of the variable trajectories of COVID-19. Unravelling them will be important for discerning potential future scenarios, such as the first wave in virgin territories still untouched by COVID-19 and for future waves elsewhere.”

Finding Community: By Armando Madrid

Armando Madrid

It’s been approximately three years to the day since my husband Alex and I found ourselves entering the doors of this very sanctuary, spiritually lost.  This was a time when we had a new president, and if we’re being honest, we were all very visibly scared. Racism and homophobia were blatantly accepted, hate overpowered love, and across the country, it seemed like we were all scared to leave our homes, a sentiment that hasn’t changed in the past three years.

This hit true especially to me.  As someone who was an immigrant to this country, I led myself to believe that the people around me, the very people I interacted with on a daily basis, didn’t care for who I was. I felt disposable.

That’s when Alex and I knew we needed to find some sort of community. Now, of course, we were skeptical about the possibility of finding this community in a church.  We were both raised Catholic, so we were raised to feel guilt. Add that with growing up in a Mexican household and let me tell you, that guilt felt doubled.

Being gay wasn’t accepted, and I was reminded by my Sunday school teacher every Sunday that it was considered a sin. My coming out caused my relationship with God to be tested for many years until it eventually faded away. I had lost trust that a church can truly be welcoming to someone like me. But with Alex now by my side, we both felt ready to find a church that was welcoming of us.  

I remember being at work one morning.  Alex sent me a text with a link to a church website.  I browsed the site and immediately came across Pastor Chris’ welcome message.  It was very heartfelt. I felt this was a place I could attend. I felt welcomed.  Not as a sinner, but as a human.

We made a plan to visit our first Sunday and immediately found ourselves being welcomed and greeted by a number of church members.  You all genuinely seemed happy to see us and invited us to worship together. It was honestly a surreal experience to be able to feel this in a church. I felt acknowledged, but most importantly, I felt accepted. 

So, while it’s obvious to say that the hate out there still exists, knowing I’m not alone in the fight against it truly means the world. And now I ask you to consider giving what you can for this church. The work this church has done for me can only be sustained by your contribution. Alex and I give on a monthly basis and also volunteer to serve on occasion; these are some of the many ways you can be encouraged to serve as well, and today I invite you to join me.

Finding Community: By Rod Zook

Rod Zook

When we [Julia and I] came back to Fresno three years ago, one of the big questions was where and if we would find a church home. We had lived here before, but that was more than 25 years ago and in the meantime Fresno had changed, and we certainly had as well.

I mean at that time the 41 Freeway was just getting started, to say nothing of 180 and 168. And by the time we got back, we were also driving in very different lanes than before.

I had some major adjustments to make after 25 years in Munich. For example, I usually wore suits or sportcoats and sometimes even a tie as I cycled from client to client. I soon realized that men in Fresno wore T-shirts much of the time. That was going to go take some getting used to.

But then I thought, maybe I could combine “going local” with finding a church home. I toyed with the idea of creating a T-shirt like this. [SLIDE showing names of several authors and theologians.] These writers and theologians had been and have been instrumental in my life, and I thought that perhaps wearing a T-shirt like this at River Park or Fashion Fair or downtown would clue people in to what was important to me and either ask what it meant, or recognize a name and strike up a conversation with me.

Thankfully, I didn’t need to go that far, because no T-shirt looks like that on me. But more importantly, it wasn’t necessary because we ended up here. How we got here is another story, but I don’t want to steal Giulia‘s thunder and she can perhaps tell you sometime.

Suffice it to say, we ended up here and all of a sudden I heard some of these writers and theologians mentioned in conversations and sermons and smaller groups. You all seemed to be asking some of the same questions I had been asking in trying to live faithfully at this time in history both in Europe and now back in California.

That felt good, plus you welcomed us so warmly and it became clear that we could ease into things, get our bearings and then when we were able to give back there would be opportunities.

I hope you frequently take time to read the banners on either side of the Sanctuary. The “confession of faith” expressed there is part of the reason I kept coming back.

Thank you.

Finding Community: By Chad Hayden

In 2011, a book was published that would change my life. It was called “Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.”

Written by former evangelical pastor Rob Bell, the book questioned the traditional foundations about who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. The book created quite the buzz.

On April 14, 2011, Time magazine put the issue front and center for national discussion when its front cover asked the question: “What if there is no hell?”

This was no discussion for the faint of heart – battle lines were drawn.  Within the Christian community, it was a scene out of Exodus when Moses saw the golden calf and said, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me!”

Indeed, as an evangelical you had a choice, believe the word of God, or believe a heretic who authored a blasphemous diatribe that would most certainly lead naïve believers down a path to perdition.

As a member of a conservative, evangelical home church, I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. I didn’t want to be led astray. After all, I knew what 2 Timothy said, “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine… but will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”

But that didn’t give me any peace. Once you have seen, you can’t unsee. Once you have heard, you can’t unhear.

Once you have seen, you can’t unsee. Once you have heard, you can’t unhear. For six years, I continued to attend my little home church, but wrestled with the big questions of life and yearned to hear answers that resonated with my soul.

For six years, I continued to attend my little home church, but wrestled with the big questions of life and yearned to hear answers that resonated with my soul.

On Easter of 2017, the thought of attending my parents’ church or my in-laws’ church sounded nauseating. After a little online research, the Community UCC website offered an alternative that intrigued me.

The first thing that I heard that Easter Sunday was that, “No matter who you are or where you are on your spiritual journey, you are welcome here.”  THAT was I needed to hear.

I needed the freedom to explore the questions that I had without feeling like I was some naïve heathen susceptible to the evil schemes of the devil. I needed a church that still believes in Jesus but is comfortable wrestling with just who he is and how my faith tradition fits into a larger global community.

Here at Community UCC, I have found that church.  A church that believes that Love Wins. That’s why I attend Community UCC and that’s why I give to Community UCC.

Vacation Bible School: Fruits of the Spirit

9 a.m. to noon July 8-12

Join us for Vacation Bible School at Community UCC, for children ages 4 through sixth grade. This year we will use Fruits of the Spirit curriculum created by Global Ministries. We will explore God’s presence in the Caribbean.

Each day the children will be learning about a fruit of the spirit, a Biblical character who exemplifies that value, a different country, and what life is like there in the words of children who live there today. We will also have snacks, have some play time, sing, and make crafts.

Contact the church office to register — 559.435.2690.

Zion beerock recipe

100_4150~ Recipe of Helen and Mollie Lust, provided by Eileen White


  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 ½ packages dry yeast
  • ¼ cup of sugar
  • ½ tablespoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • Approximately 5 ½ cups of flour

Scald milk; add sugar, salt and oil. Cool. Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water. Add to the milk, then add beaten egg. Add 3 cups of flour and beat until smooth. Add remaining flour and knead well.

Let rise until double in bulk, approximately one hour. Punch down and divide dough into 1-lb. Balls. Let rise again until doubled. Roll out and cut into 6 portions.


  • 8 cups of ground chuck roast, roasted and prepared with bay leaves, onion, salt, pepper and garlic
  • 2 onions (1 cup sauteed)
  • 1 ½ to 2 heads of cabbage (8-10 cups sauteed) or more if preferred
  • Salt and pepper

Ground beef may be used or added if desired. With a little oil in Dutch oven, saute shredded cabbage and chopped onions. Do not brown or overcook.

Mix ground chuck roast and cabbage-onion mixture. Season with salt and pepper and cool. Place ½ cup filling on each section of dough. Bring 4 corners together and pinch seams well. Turn upside down on a greased flat pan.

Set in a warm place to rise from 15-20 minutes. May brush with egg wash to make a nice golden brown top. Bake at 350-400 degress for 20-25 minutes. Makes about 20 beerocks.


What shall we bring? — An interview with Marge Kelly

Marge Kelly is a hands-on person – the kind who dives into whatever job comes her way. Community UCC is better for her generous and can-do spirit. As stewardship season winds up, Marge talks about her commitment to the church and her determination to offer what she can to the congregation.

Marge.jpgWhat does stewardship mean to you?
To me, stewardship is a fellowship type thing – reach out to people, try to do things for the church, get funds to keep it going.

How do you support the church?
Financially, I can’t really give much. But when I first starting coming, Susan Liberty [a former member] gave a talk and said an important thing to give is your time. So I thought about that, and I had all the time in the world. So why not give it to the church? I just feel blessed to be here. I’m on the fellowship team, and my enjoyment is seeing people smile and seeing the kids laugh. It’s just a joy to see people come to church.

What do you do on the fellowship team?
We set up for coffee every Sunday. I come way earlier than other people – sometimes at 6 o’clock. But that’s my choice. We set out snacks and sometimes we make our own dishes for the fellowship time after the Sunday service. I love helping people. So no matter which way I can, I’ll do it.

Could you talk about the relationships you have with others on the fellowship team?
Patty [Parks] and I just became really good friends. We’re both caring. She has brought food to my partner, who is terminally ill. That’s a blessing to me. Bonita [Earl] is another blessing. We’ve been asked to help with memorial services and we’ve done that. Amy [Richardson] and I have a special bond because I took care of Amy’s mom for a couple of years before she passed. Her mom was just a total blessing to me, and Amy and I still talk about her mom.

When did you come to the church?
In October, it will be 20 years. I’d just moved to Fresno and went to a few other churches. But when I came here for the first time, I knew this was my place. The people were so friendly and caring right off the bat. People would come all the way down to where I lived and pick me up.

Why did you stay?
I stayed because for many years I had a hole in my heart and tried all kinds of things to fill it – drinking, drugs, other things. When I started coming here, that hole filled up, and it had to do with the atmosphere. I felt like I finally belonged somewhere. This is where my heart was complete.

You got baptized here, right?
About eight years ago, I was going back and forth to New York because one of my sisters had cancer. I’d just come back to Fresno on one of my trips, and that’s when I got baptized. When that happened, I knew I really belonged.

What does God want this church to do?
Keep doing what it’s doing, and do more, if possible. I feel it’s very important for this church to keep going. If it were to fall, I think I’d fall with it.

You’ve seen a lot of changes here in the last 20 years.
A lot of people aren’t here anymore. Some have passed and some left for their own private reasons, and they’re all missed very dearly. Many years ago I read something in Ann Landers that said, “There are gold ships and silver ships, but there’s no ship like friendship.” I find it very true. It can be a friendship that goes back many years or a friendship just beginning.

Anything else you’d like to say?
I just love Pastor Ara, and I wish he didn’t have to leave [when a settled pastor is chosen and arrives]. He gets out there and works and does things that no other pastor has done that I’ve seen. He just shows so much caring toward people. He’s got God in him all the time, and that just excites me. He truly speaks about the love of God and the love of people.

~ Interview by Doug Hoagland