Matt and Katrina Eberly and their four children volunteered with SOOP at Camp Deerpark this past summer. Photo provided.

By Laurie Oswald Robinson
Wednesday, October 28, 2020

This past summer, SOOP staff members received two heart-warming letters from participants. Their words say it best why SOOP volunteer experiences, even in the uncertain times of a pandemic, provide joy, unforgettable memories, and meaning.

Letter from Katrina and Matt Eberly

This email note is from the Katrina and Matt Eberly family who served at Camp Deerpark in upstate New York. Their SOOP adventure was part of their transition as a family, as Matt, after completing a 10-year pastorate, is in a season of "seeking what is next."

Good morning, ladies, I am writing this while Camp Deerpark is fresh in our mind; although after the past two weeks, Camp Deerpark will always be on our mind. We shed many tears as we said goodbye yesterday and drove home. Part of our hearts stayed there.

Yes, we worked hard and sweated through many t-shirts, but it was so good to work as a family and share laughs together. As we raked mulch on the Children's Forest trail, we prayed for the many kids who would freely run through it. And as Matt cut up firewood, he prayed over the wood and the many conversations that would happen around the campfires.

The staff was so inviting and hospitable. We felt almost from day one as a part of their camp family. So many good relationships were built. Our children meshed so well with several staff families' children. They played endless games of extreme tag and hiked the woods and fished for minnows in the creeks.

Our souls truly are overflowing with the goodness of God that we experienced at Camp Deerpark. Thank you for this opportunity! I am certain that we will want to do another SOOP trip in the coming years.

Letter from John Goshow

Here is a letter from John Goshow, a widower for the past two years, served with SOOP at Rocky Mountain Mennonite Camp near Divide, Colorado, from late June through He mainly worked maintenance alongside Tom Unruh, the camp's special project's director, to paint, hang curtains, and pick up trash from lodges.

I found Tom to be a good person to work with and a very competent person committed to the mission of RMMC. It was a pleasure and an honor to be part of Tom's team. It was also interesting and good to work with the 15 other staff members who ranged in age from 23 to 18 — all of them young enough to be my grandchildren. I was impressed with the quality of these young people who are committed to the church and to making the world a better place.

The director, Corbin Graber was very supportive … made sure that I had good sleeping facilities and good food prepared by Mary Yoder, the head cook. Corbin ensured that I had two days off each week. I took good advantage of this by doing a substantial amount of hiking up the various mountains in the area and exploring other beautiful places — Cripple Creek, Buena Vista, Garden of the Gods located in Colorado Springs, and other places.

I found this to be a very good experience and want to thank you and the SOOP program for providing me with this opportunity.


​Laurie Oswald Robinson is editor for Mennonite Mission Network. 



SOOP Volunteers VolunteersSOOP VolunteersThank you
Reflecting on Mandela Day evokes a sense of grace unto justice on Mandela Day evokes a sense of grace unto justiceMandela Day reflection
Elkhart MVS unit celebrates a 13-year history MVS unit celebrates a 13-year historyMVS Unit Celebration
Living out commitment to peace out commitment to peaceMennoCon21 Impressions
Mission worker/administrator planted seeds of good news on four continents worker/administrator planted seeds of good news on four continentsObituary
A house of peace house of peaceMissional Meditations