by Valerie Morby Posted Mar 19, 2021
There are Pine Cove families, and then there are PINE COVE families. If you were born into the latter, you’ll undoubtedly relate to the Ummels: Shannon and her husband David met while working at Pine Cove in the 1980s. Their children have grown up attending summer camp at Pine Cove. Their oldest daughter, Lauren, just completed a fourth summer serving at camp. As soon as he’s old enough, their son Luke will apply to join the Pine Cove staff as well. (“You have to!” Shannon has told Luke. “You’re the only one in the family that doesn’t have a camp name!”)
It’s almost like a story someone else has been writing. Actually—it’s exactly that
After Shannon and David married, they wanted to start a family. When biological children didn’t seem possible, they turned to adoption. Unfortunately their first attempt at adopting a baby didn’t turn out like they’d planned.
“The birth mom had picked us and then after she had the baby, she changed her mind,” Shannon explains. “We were there when that baby was born, and then that fell through. And that was so devastating.”
Why would they make it that far through the adoption process only to come home without a baby? They couldn’t understand. Again, someone was hard at work writing the story of the Ummel family.
Five months later, Shannon and David were contacted by Amy, a woman interested in having them adopt her soon-to-be-born child. They got to know each other and even build a relationship during the final months of Amy’s pregnancy. This time when the baby was born, the Ummels got to bring her home. They named her Lauren.
Life carried on for several years for the Ummel family of three. That is, until the Lord decided to surprise them—Shannon was pregnant!
Lauren, now four, looked at her mom’s eyes (brown), her dad’s eyes (green), and then her own eyes (blue). “She was so upset that she was going to be the only one in the family with blue eyes,” recalls Shannon. “She thought, ‘Well, this baby isn’t going to have blue eyes. ‘Cause y’all don’t have blue eyes. And I’m not really in this family.’”
Seeing how troubled Lauren was about this, David began to pray: “Lord, please let this baby have blue eyes.”
Luke joined the family soon after. His eye color? Blue.
“I mean… I know [that] babies—when they’re born have blue eyes, but he’s 17 years old. He still has blue eyes and [he and Lauren] look, I mean, they look a lot alike,” Shannon says. “You wouldn’t know they weren’t biological siblings.”
Shared blue eyes. An intentional, beautiful detail woven into the story of Lauren and her family.
As soon as they were old enough, Lauren and Luke began attending camp at Pine Cove each and every summer. And you could definitely say that Lauren was a fan!
“I remember the first time we picked her up from the Towers, Lauren sobbed for days afterwards, because she missed it so much,” Shannon says. “She couldn’t get a hold of herself!”
After graduating, Lauren became known by many as “Teacher’s Pet” and worked on summer staff at the Shores and Bluffs camps. God used those summers to grow her faith and teach her big lessons about discipleship, mentoring, and walking alongside those who are experiencing darkness. Through it all, Shannon has been there for her daughter, praying for her and her ministry each day.
“It’s been cool to be the support person outside of it, praying,” Shannon expresses. “One of my favorite things each summer is just the time each day that I would pray for her and her ministry and Pine Cove’s ministry and camp.”
Pine Cove, Shannon assures, is Lauren’s favorite place in the world. How perfect that God placed her in this Pine Cove family!
This July after Luke’s final week as a camper, Shannon took to Facebook to say goodbye to life as a camper parent, marking the end of 14 years of dropping off and picking up her children from camp. Tucked into a series of comments on Shannon’s post was one from a very special connection: Amy, Lauren’s biological mom.
“She commented that one of the main reasons she chose us to be Lauren’s parents was because we had worked at Pine Cove,” Shannon explains. It’s a detail that the Ummels never knew before. It had all come full circle. The ministry Lauren feels called to, her favorite place in the world, is the very detail that compelled Amy to pick the Ummels to adopt Lauren.
“God placed Lauren in our family because of our connection to Pine Cove,” Shannon marvels. “God knew Lauren’s story even before we knew her. He has had a call on her life from even before she was born and it is to use her abilities and gifts to serve campers at Pine Cove.”
God writes the stories of each and every one of our lives before we’re born. How beautiful that He wrote the Ummels’ story with so many intentional, creative elements, all pointing back to Him!
“We couldn’t understand why that first baby didn’t work out, and that was devastating,” Shannon reflects. “But then, [Amy] chose us because of our connection to Pine Cove and then it is like, I mean, Lauren and Pine Cove—peanut butter and jelly. And I just thought, ‘That is so cool how God knows your story even before you’re born and He, you know, and He writes it for you.’”
A story Someone had been writing all along.