Family Matters

The drive from Norman, Okla., to Buena Vista, Colo., was coming to an end as the Burget family approached the gates of Trail West. The five boys in the back excitedly bounced around, anticipating the adventure of the week ahead.

As the family pulled into camp, they saw pictures of Waldo from the children’s book series Where’s Waldo? and a sign that read, “1-800-I AM LOST.” The next sign encouraged the Burgets to find Waldo as quickly as possible. As they continued along the dirt road, Mark and Elaine’s young sons celebrated loudly as they spotted Waldo (or rather Trail West’s version of him) hiding in the trees.

The boys couldn’t imagine anything more fun when, as if right out of a Wild West show, cowboys greeted the Burget family car on real horses asking if anyone had seen Waldo. The boys proudly announced they had and the cowboys deputized them, right there, on the spot. It was the start of an incredible week and a life-changing ministry through Trail West and the Burget family.

Deep roots

Mark and Elaine Burget were no strangers to Young Life when they made their first trip to Trail West for Family Camp in 1991. And Mark isn’t exaggerating when he says, “We have a long, rich history with Young Life.”

In 1970, Mark met the Lord through Young Life as a junior in high school and attended Star Ranch and Castaway. He served as a leader throughout college at the University of Oklahoma and drove jeeps while on summer staff at Frontier Ranch.

As volunteers in the mid-’80s, Mark and Elaine started Young Life in Norman and have trained college leaders at OU for more than two decades. “For more than 20 years, we had college leaders in our home every Sunday night; it’s been wonderful,” Mark beamed.

A new passion

But Trail West offered something different. It was there that the Burget boys had their faith solidified and where Mark and Elaine could bring entire families to experience the best week of their lives. “It gave us a new and deeper appreciation for Young Life. They were doing for families what they had been doing for teenagers for so long — loving them where they are, bringing world-class humor and sharing Jesus,” Mark said.

Elaine lit up, “We thought the boys would get tired of it at some point, but for 10 summers in a row, that’s where they chose to go. We had so much fun, and the spiritual input was so incredible, we committed to bring families with us every year we went back.”

That’s just what the Burgets have done. Over the years, they’ve brought more than 50 families to Trail West — seeing countless lives changed, marriages saved, relationships restored and the community of Norman impacted.

Mark described, “Nowhere else have I seen a room full of people where fathers will stand and turn to their kids saying, ‘I’m sorry I’ve failed you,’ and where teens turn to their parents saying, ‘I met Jesus this week.’ It’s transformational.”

Elaine shared, “Trail West has impacted our community back home; we see entire families’ lives changed, the renewing of vows and more.”

Deputized

Over the last 19 years, the Burgets have reached beyond families in Norman as they have come alongside the property and invested their own lives in the very ministry of Trail West — supporting the property financially since 1991 and giving greatly of their time.

Mark served on Trail West’s committee for eight years and has felt privileged to serve in the role of camp speaker at work week. In addition, when asked by Camp Manager Skeet Tingle to write a set of devotions for families staying at Trail West, Mark humbly agreed. Tingle explained, “He wrote two sets of amazing devotions we slip under families’ doors every morning so they have something to start their day with before they ever leave their room.”

Last summer Mark and Elaine offered themselves, serving as adult guest hosts for a week. Tingle shared, “Every day, Mark came by my office saying, ‘Thanks for letting us be here this week.’ They’re some of the most gracious, other-centered, godly people I’ve met.” He went on, “We never have enough ‘leaders’ at Family Camp. Mark and Elaine are always stepping in to serve. It’s comforting and reassuring to have them around; you feel bolstered with them there.”

But the Burgets’ investment in the camp’s ministry doesn’t stop with Mark and Elaine; the entire family has come alongside in some capacity. Three of their boys have served on work crew, summer staff and as camp interns — helping as horse wranglers, kid wranglers and filling in wherever needed.

Deep impact

There is no question Trail West has played a large role in all of the Burgets’ lives. Mark reflected, “Taking family vacations at Trail West is one of the best things we ever could have done in raising our boys ... we would do anything for Trail West if asked.”

Jane Lumbard, who works in the camp office, commented, “One of the aims of Trail West’s Family Camp is for people to experience a Christ-centered marriage and family life — the Burgets are an example of that, responding to what the Holy Spirit has done in their lives. They’ve used Family Camp as an opportunity to serve the Lord through ministry and to enhance their own family’s spiritual life. It’s the apex of Trail West’s purposes.”

The Lord continues to use the partnership in ministry between the Burgets and Trail West to impact the lives of countless families. To think, it all started with a simple game of “Where’s Waldo?” and a couple of cowboys.