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Lake Michigan welcomes new director

Erik Bengston is new director of Lake Michigan, one of Michigan's three camps

Erik Bengston, new site director at Lake Michigan Camp & Retreat, is excited about the endless opportunities to nurture faith and grow community.

PENTWATER, Michigan — As Michigan campers begin to anticipate spring and warmer weather, Michigan Area United Methodist Camping is pleased to welcome Erik Bengston, new site director for Lake Michigan Camp & Retreat.

“With Erik’s strong leadership experience at YMCA camps, his outgoing personality, and love of God and nature, Lake Michigan Camp & Retreat is in good hands,” said Executive Director David Berkey. “We are excited to bring him on the team and for campers and groups to get to know him.”

Erik was an executive director for 16 years in the YMCA, including camping for eight years in Michigan. Before that, he led recreational programs for “preschool through seniors” for ten years throughout the suburbs of Chicago. A lifelong Christian, Erik grew up with a mom who worked in the camping world through the Y. Erik said he knew as early as his sophomore year in high school that he wanted to work at camp. He followed that calling by pursuing degrees in recreation and leisure studies at Winona State University and then a master’s of education in outdoor recreation management and education from Springfield College in Massachusetts.

“When you’re camping, you’re in a special place to enjoy each other, learn more about God and your walk with God,” Erik said. “I hope the experiences we build at camp will help youth and families grow with God. When we’re out in nature, God is the centerpiece showing us what He wants us to do.”

Coming to Lake Michigan Camp & Retreat and its strong history and tradition is exciting for Erik, whose most recent assignment was working as the manager of safety and security at Michigan’s Adventure. “I’m excited about family camp and the teen adventure camps based at Lake Michigan,” he said. “My gifts include hospitality. I want to welcome everyone and make their leisure time fun and enjoyable.

“I’m also excited about being in a Christian organization. When we bring together diverse groups, like from urban and rural settings, they get in a canoe together, learn how to work as a team, and move forward.”

Aside from its natural beauty, Erik recognized that one of the camp’s most striking features was the variety of ways people can camp — RVs, tents, platform tents, cabins, bunkhouse, and primitive sites. “Plus, with the challenge course, sports fields, craft cabin, pavilions,  and fire bowls, the opportunities to create community and grow are endless.”

Erik began his new post on March 1, and he is now living at the camp. His two young adult sons, Noah and Jared, will have occasions to enjoy time at the camp with him. When he’s not working, Erik said he’s looking forward to playing a lot of disc golf and sailing.

In addition to the Lake Michigan site, Michigan Area United Methodist Camping operates Lake Huron Retreat Center, Lakeview Family Campground, and Wesley Woods Camp & Retreat Center. Last year the nonprofit board approved a strategic plan to unify youth and family summer camp programming, grow multigenerational camp opportunities, partner with local churches for community-based day camps, and reinvest in facilities.

Group and individual reservations can be made through lakemichigancampdirector@umcamping.org. Connect with Erik at ebengston@umcamping.org.

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