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A week that changes lives

Kids at camp for a week

Benton Heisler invites participation in Michigan’s conference and affiliate camps. Go to camp for a week. Support a camper. Volunteer. You’ll change a  life or two, perhaps your own.

One week can create a lifetime of friendships and positive change. During that week you may meet friends with whom you will remain connected for decades. You may meet someone with whom you will one day spend the rest of your life. You will have an opportunity to experience God, the Creator, through worship, song, play, relaxation and encounters with creation.

Most importantly, you will have an opportunity to meet Jesus and begin to establish by the power of the Holy Spirit, not simply a life-long friendship, but a relationship of love that will carry you into eternity. All this has been true for me.

The opportunity is a week spent at one of our multiple Conference or Affiliate church camps. This summer you can choose from seven locations: Wesley Woods Camp & Retreat Center, Lake Michigan Camp & Retreat Center, Lake Huron Retreat Center, Lakeview Family Campground, Lake Louise Community, Camp Michigamme, and Bay Shore Camp. You can read more about each location by following the link to each website when you click on the name. Information about all the Michigan Conference camps can also be found at umcamping.org.

There are some specific ways you can help others experience the life changing opportunity of “Church Camp.”

  • Pray regularly for each camp’s ministry and the lives that will be touched by it.
  • Pay to send a child or youth to camp. Either your own or someone else’s.
  • Send scholarship, operation, or endowment contributions to the camp of your choice.
  • Volunteer to offer your time or talent to help with projects around a camp near you or near a region you would like to visit.
  • Volunteer to serve as a staff member/counselor for a week of camp.
  • Donate quality used or new equipment that would be of help to the campsites: chain saws, generators, tractors, outdoor play equipment, etc.
  • Attend camp yourself and/or with family at the RV sites at Lakeview and Lake Michigan.
  • Use one of the sites for a time of personal study, rest and renewal retreat.
  • Offer your time, talent and wisdom in service as a board member to one of these camps.

Ten years ago, every United Methodist Conference surrounding us in the mid-west reduced the number of camp locations operated by the conference. For a variety of reasons, the Michigan Area was not able to make that adjustment to current realities until the past few years. 

I realize that those choices were difficult and not without controversy. In 2012, leaders from the then Detroit and West Michigan conferences and the three affiliated camps (Michigamme, Lake Louise, and Bay Shore) met to look at the future of United Methodist camping in Michigan. Our five separate corporate entities were in possession of 12 locations; some highly underutilized, in various stages of disrepair or in need of substantial improvements to meet a variety of current building and childcare codes.

In each of our contexts, we committed to a season of prayer, professional studies, legal corporate governance adjustments, board management, and administration changes, fundraising, and difficult decisions. All that while, at the same time, operating camping ministries every summer.

Our collective journey is not over, but significant hurdles have been crossed and clearer paths continue to emerge. Thank you for your participation on this journey with us.

I once read a study that indicated something to the effect that more than 80% of persons who commit their lives to Christ do so before the age of 18. More than 80% of those commitments are made at a camp or retreat setting. The sobering fact I recall was that more than 80% of those who do not make a commitment to Christ by the age of 18, never choose to do so. The additional note the study reported was that a week at camp was more valuable in that child’s faith development than a year of Sunday School attendance for a child.

How will you help others experience a week that will change their lives … forever?

~“If you make my Word your home, you will indeed be my disciples.  You will know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:13 New Jerusalem Bible.)”  Each article I write for this column is based in the guidance of a Scripture passage. I pray that these reflections, stories and information will assist you in your own witness and service as a Disciple of Jesus Christ.

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