It was the worst and best camp I ever attended at Delanco Camp and it was only for a weekend. It was the worst because the dorm was full of guys twice the size of me who made me afraid to fall asleep. It was the best because when I wasn’t worried about being punked by the guys twice my size, I met several people who would later become some of my closest camp friends.
Tricia VandeVaarst was one of those people I met at that Memorial Weekend Camp in the mid-’90s.
We reconnected recently after about a decade of losing touch and I was excited to hear all of the wonderful things she is doing in ministry with her husband in Arizona. I thought readers might be interested in hearing too the many ways God has moved in her life since this now married mother of three was a Delanco Camp camper.
You’re in Arizona now, a place all of us back on the East coast certainly wouldn’t mind being of late with the winter we’ve been having. How did you end up in Arizona?
My husband and I met in Dallas, Texas, at a camp I was working for and he attended as a youth pastor. He was from Arizona. he moved to Texas for us to get married and we lived there for about a year after our wedding. We felt God’s tugging that there was more for us than what we were doing in Texas. We began praying and only told a few close friends. His family was here and his brother contacted us about a job for Paul without knowing that we were praying about moving. We saw that as confirmation and moved here in July of 2003.
You and your husband are active in ministry. Tell me a little bit about how you got involved in the ministry you are doing now and the work you’re seeing God do through it.
When we moved here, we found The Vineyard Church and began attending. We began working with the youth and young adults almost immediately. In 2005, our senior pastor chose to ordain both of us through The Vineyard. We became the Youth and Young Adult Pastors. We began preaching on a rotation and helping serve the church with the pastoral team. At a Vineyard Pastor’s Conference we thought we heard the Lord tell us to plant a church. We began this process and didn’t succeed real well. Paul attended a conference with some youth and young adults in California called Jesus Culture with a sister church in Phoenix. During this conference, both churches’ youth and young adults had the opportunity to minister at a church there. This planted a vision in both Paul and the other youth pastor to start our own ministry that would reach the North, South, East, and west of Arizona. Meanwhile, I was back in Tucson and talking with a friend about doing the same thing (not knowing they had received the vision). We then launched Unseen Ministries in August of 2008 and have completed the tour all throughout the state of Arizona and on our second tour.
The conference is designed to stir revival in the hearts of young people so that they can impact their community for Christ. We visit a church that will “host” us and present this message through services, workshops, and ministry. I personally oversee much of the administrative side and have taught in the sessions and workshops. We realized God never called us to plant a church but rather a ministry.
How and when did you end up going to Delanco Camp for the first time?
I went to Delanco Camp for the first time for Memorial Camp. I think I was in eighth grade or something like that so it would have been ’89 or ’90. I was invited by my best friend at the time (Jim McAteer) and his youth from Audubon United Methodist Church.
Looking back on the years that have passed since you were last at camp, what stands out in your memory about your time there? What’s a funny story that comes to mind? What’s something serious that happened?
SO much stands out. From bringing our own cereal, to bruises from so much volleyball, to the amazing worship and altar times, to the budding camp romances, to the great, long-lasting friendships I developed. Some of the major highlights for me were the practical joke wars (Icy Hot on the guys deodorant or stealing all their clean underwear). I think I cherish most of the ministry times though! I have vivid memories of running to the altar and falling on my knees weeping and surrendering all to Jesus. He worked so much healing in my life there. So many of the GREAT counselors were there praying for us and ministering Jesus in such a powerful way. I have a fond memory of one of the youth pastors encouraging a group of us to worship the Lord unabandoned during the service and as we did, one by one, others who were so hard toward the Lord began to follow.
A funny story…..there are so many….but I think the funniest was every afternoon my sister and I played volleyball with a group of people. We would play up until the dinner bell rang and then RUN to get cleaned up and end up in the end of the dinner line with others who did this. We decided to put Icy Hot in the guys deodorant knowing they would be doing this as well. We all RAN to dinner as clean as possible and all of a sudden, a few of the guys started screaming in pain! They were grabbing their pits and fanning them! It took them a while to figure out it was my sister and I because we always seemed so innocent!
How would you say your time at Delanco Camp shaped you in your walk with Christ and has impacted your life since?
I believe that had I not had Delanco Camp for all those years, I would not have the foundation I have now. Camp always came at that crucial time for me. My parents separated my senior year of high school and before that it was difficult at home. I remember vividly getting ministry and love from others regarding this. That altar there has plenty of my tears where I surrendered the pain and hardness I had built up as a result of a broken home life.
What do you miss most about South Jersey? What’s the first thing people in Arizona usually say when they find out you’re a Jersey girl?
I miss so much!! I miss the seasons, the green, THE FOOD….Panzarottis especially, the people, the culture, the holiday celebrations (holidays are not a big deal out here), and believe it or not, the snow! We will get snow in Arizona in the mountains and I have to take a trip at least once a year to see it or I go nuts!
I remember spending a lot of time listening and talking about music with during our days at camp. What are you listening to these days?
I really enjoy Jason Upton, John Mark McMillan, and Rita Springer. My husband and I like to find obscure worship people and introduce others to them. We listen a lot to the worship out of Bethel Church in California which is Kim Walker-Smith and Brian and Jenn Johnson. I still enjoy the quiet of the Lord though.
What advice would you give young people who are interested in getting involved in ministry but not necessarily as a pastor or missionary?
I would say define what you want to do and make it specific. Then, find someone doing that and learn from them. Find ways to honor them. Take the example of Elisha and how he honored Elijah until the end! Don’t be afraid to dream too big! NO dream is too big for God!! If you think your desire is crazy or too hard then it is likely God calling you to do it!! He LOVES the crazy dreams!!
Do you have scripture you’ve been chewing on lately you can share or anything else to add?
Ephesians 1:3-6 has been wrecking me pretty good lately! In The Message it says:
“How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.”
He loves us so much and He WANTS to lavish us with good things like a good father! He has SETTLED ON US AS THE FOCUS OF HIS LOVE! That just messed me up! TO know that the creator of the universe is settled on me! AND…..He is settled on YOU as the focus of His love!!
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