Rethinking Our Camps in the Midst of Change
By the Rev. Joyce O’Connor Magee
As we are being challenged to Rethink Church, those working in our camping ministries are also finding it’s time to Rethink Camp!
This summer we took our camps “on the road” and into our church communities through our Community-Based Day Camp Programs. All summer long our young adult leaders from Twinlow Camp worked in local churches to re-imagine their Vacation Bible Schools in new and exciting ways. It was a fantastic opportunity to bring the energy and expertise of trained camp staff to the churches of the Annual Conference.
We also launched an initiative to build a new dining hall at Lazy F camp outside Ellensburg. The current dining hall was over capacity 25% of the time – once the fund drive for the new dining hall is complete, we will be able to adequately serve everyone, plus have more bed capacity than ever before. Loyal alumni and camp friends have already been generous and provided over $230,000 in pledges toward our $1.5 million goal.
At the end of October we will say goodbye to Willis and Gale Williams, who have faithfully served Ocean Park for the last 9 years. Willis and Gale brought energy and focus – caring for the upkeep of the current buildings and expanding activities for campers and visitors, not to mention returning Ocean Park to financial health. The camping community has the deepest gratitude for all their work and wishes them the best as they return to the Longview community and their church.
As the search begins for a new director, the Ocean Park Site Committee and Camping Board of Stewards are simultaneously building a new vision for Ocean Park. Started in 1883 as a Methodist camp meeting facility, now is the perfect time for Ocean Park to Rethink its mission. A task force, led by the Rev. Chuck Hindman, has created a detailed plan that includes upgrades to the two main lodges on the dunes and vigorous promotion of the camp. They would like to take advantage of the resort atmosphere of the Long Beach Peninsula and provide a safe, Christian environment that is both adult and family friendly.
The end of October marks another milestone as long-term camp director Pete Simpson will be retiring as director of Camp Indianola after 23 years of service. Pete and Dee Ann Simpson began their ministry in United Methodist camping in 1984 when they arrived at Twinlow Camp, where Pete served as director for six years before moving to Camp Indianola. Pete was not only a leader around camping in our own conference, but also served on many boards and committees and networked nationwide as an advocate for Camping Ministry. Pete has helped us understand the ministry of radical hospitality – for individuals and the environment. Countless lives have been touched through participation in camps under Pete’s leadership over the years, not to mention the multitude of building projects, finance drives, and training events Pete has led. The spirit of radical hospitality is alive in Pete Simpson, as he is currently volunteering with an emergency response team in Alaska, helping out in the aftermath of the flooding of the Yukon River!
As a new director search begins for Indianola and Ocean Park Camps, the camping community sends a heartfelt THANK YOU to Willis and Pete – well done, good and faithful servants!
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