Eleven Camping Kids and Counting
Maryann Siler is raising her family – all 11 children – to love each other and serve God. They minister together and play together. They are comfortable with each other and challenge one another. They even live where their dad works! Here is a glimpse into the life of a camp director’s wife and mother of a very large family!
JBU: How many children live at home now?
MARYANN: We have 4 at home that are homeschooled, 5 married children, 2 at Bible college, and 6 grandchildren. Recently, during bedtime prayer with my youngest (age 6), I told him I would pray he would grow up and love the Lord. He said, “Well, I am growing up, so you can cut that part out.”
JBU: How did you come to the Lord?
MARYANN: Our parents were God-fearing, but did not know Christ personally. Dennis and I met at college as engineering students. There, we married and had our first 2 children. When our 3rd child was born, we were only 22 years old and afraid of parenting, not knowing how to lead our children. One of Dennis’ co-workers befriended him. We were impressed with his family—the kids respected their parents, and the whole family went to the church.
Dennis’ friend invited us to a special meeting. That night, an evangelist spoke on Armageddon, of all things. My parents told me about Armageddon in a way that instilled great fear in me. Then, I rationalized that since no one else in the world talked about it, it must not be true. That night, I was amazed to learn the Bible spoke of Armageddon and that the gospel offered hope and forgiveness. Both Dennis and I accepted Christ at that meeting.
JBU: How did you become involved with camp ministry?
MARYANN: Because of our upbringing without Christ, we wanted youth to know Him. A businessman at church offered to send a few teens to Bible camp for a week. Neither Dennis nor I had ever been to camp, but we packed up and drove 10 hours with 4 rough teenage boys to Living Waters Bible Camp. All 4 boys professed salvation in Christ at camp.
Even though kids hung out at our house regularly, a week at camp had a much bigger personal impact on them. On the way home, we toyed with the idea of doing camp ministry after retirement. But God wanted to use us before then. Within three years we interviewed to be the full-time administrators at Living Waters Bible Camp. In May 1989, Dennis left his engineering job and we moved to Wisconsin.
JBU: What are the benefits and challenges of raising a family at camp?
MARYANN: As a year-round facility, we live here, but the camp is not “ours”. The children learn to respect the facility and the staff. When we go to the dining hall, we eat after the guests are served and we stay to clean up. Often, Dennis calls on the children to help with projects to teach skills. While Dennis is away promoting the camp, the children either travel with him or stay home and pray for him. Through everything, we teach the children that ministry is important and service for the Lord is sacrifice. My greatest challenge is when Dennis and I don’t communicate enough about the ministry and I lose sight of the vision. Then I’m not so supportive or content. That rubs off on the children. Yikes!
JBU: How do you help your children to not feel lost in the crowd of other siblings and campers?
MARYANN: We communicate the value of every task no matter how menial. What may start as “gophering” can teach responsibility for bigger jobs like dishwasher, secretary, videographer, or counselor. Because of homeschooling, the kids are flexible to travel with Dennis during the school year, which offers one-on-one bonding and training time with him.
JBU: What are some tips for developing a home characterized by respect and intimacy?
MARYANN: There are thousands of them! If we are different at home than in public, the children won’t respect us. Do we treat people outside our home kinder than our family? Do we yell at the kids, then answer the phone and talk nicely? That has been a challenge for all of us. If the kids treat friends better than they do siblings, we call them on it. God gave them a family to learn how to love others. They can’t really love others if they don’t love each other.
JBU: What is the uniqueness of Living Waters Bible Camp?
MARYANN: Living Waters is unique because of our emphasis on teaching—not just in the classroom, but outdoors in nature. We have a Creation Museum at camp, and we host Creation Weekends with speakers from various ministries. We want children to know Jesus as Creator as well as Savior. We want every camper to go home having felt genuine love from the staff and God.
· Favorite Scripture passage: Philippians 2:1-11
· Hobby: Gardening
To contact Maryann or Living Waters Bible Camp:
· Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Website: www.lwbcamp.com