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Hugs and bugs at summer camps

Michigan Camps included Pictured Rocks

Michigan’s United Methodist camps — Wesley Woods, Lake Michigan, and Lake Huron — welcomed nearly 400 campers this summer. Good times of fun, healing, and support.

Executive Director, Michigan Area UM Camping

It was a wonderful blessing to have summer camp return in 2021 at Wesley Woods, Lake Michigan, and Lake Huron! The general theme expressed at all camp events was, “You are loved by God in Jesus Christ, and that love is yours to share with the world.”

Nearly 400 campers were involved in 11 events from June through August. Thanks be to God! These campers represent participation from 92 United Methodist Churches, 37 indicated no church affiliation, and 51 from other denominations. We could not have done it without the 106 volunteers who helped lead these events from 13 United Methodist congregations. Over $4,000 was given out in scholarships and $6,414 in incentive discounts (primarily to volunteers).

Apart from the statistics, it was evident how great the need is for the summer camp experience after not having camp since the summer of 2019 due to COVID-19. Most activities were held outdoors. Campers and staff built meaningful communities in smaller cohorts. 

Wesley Woods Camp fire bowl
After two summers, campers could once again gather at the fire bowl at Wesley Woods Camp & Retreat. “High School campers came ALIVE for God and have used this beautiful week to discuss how they are made in love, by love, and for love.” ~ Facebook/Wesley Woods Camp & Retreat

As you may know from your own summer camp experiences, campers learn and grow from good times as well as challenges like meeting new people, trying new foods, being away from home, and bugs! 

A middle school camper shared, “I didn’t want to come to camp, and my friend encouraged me to come, and I am so glad I did!”

The parent of an elementary school camper said, “Our son really enjoyed kayaking for the first time ever. He made a few good friends and told me next year he wanted to stay longer than three days! He was excited about new experiences.”

Many young people shared that the past 18 months brought about faith and mental health crises. They welcomed the opportunity to share and receive healing and support at camp. We are communicating with churches that sent campers this summer to keep the healing process going into the fall. If your church needs help making these connections, please consider including camp in your faith formation programming. Let me know how we can help!

When asked about when they experienced God’s presence personally, a camper wrote, “at fire bowl [evening campfire worship]- it felt like someone just gave me a big, big hug.”

Off-site trip events led campers and volunteers on exciting adventures with canoes, kayaks, and hiking out of Lake Michigan Camp and Retreat and Wesley Woods. These programs were life-changing for the participants and will be expanded in 2022.

God’s Treasures Camp (a program for adults with special needs) resumed this summer at Lake Huron Retreat Center with 40 campers and 25 volunteer leaders at each of two sessions. Campers were so happy to be back at camp and enjoyed crafts, singing, dress-up dinners, and many activities that renewed their spirits.

Camps included God's Treasures
God’s Treasures campers enjoy a round of mini-golf at Lake Huron Retreat Center. ~ Facebook/Lake Huron Retreat Center

COVID-19 protocols were developed by our nursing staff and followed in all of our summer programs, including a pre-camp two-week screening by parents, daily temperature checks, masks indoors, and moving most activities outside. No COVID-19 cases stemming from participation at camp have been reported.

Beyond camps at our three sites, Michigan Area United Methodist Camping partnered with the Greater Detroit District to bring back Urban Camp for middle school and high school youth. Many lives were impacted by this week-long event led by an experienced team of United Methodist volunteer leaders and held at Camp Michindoh in Hillsdale.

A special event will be held at Crystal Springs Camp and Retreat Center on Sunday, September 12, from 2-4 p.m. to decommission the site as one of the oldest United Methodist camps in the U.S. The camp was sold to the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi. All are welcome to attend, especially those with stories and memories of Crystal Springs. Learn more.

All three camp and retreat centers are open for group and individual events this fall, and now is a great time to plan your church or group’s retreat for the fall or winter months. For more about fall opportunities at our United Methodist Camps, click here.

The Camping Board will be meeting on retreat to continue strategic planning, and the master plan for site development is already producing needed changes at the sites. We look forward to sharing more about these plans in the months ahead, and the 2022 summer camp schedule will be announced later this fall.

Last Updated on December 8, 2023

The Michigan Conference