Midsouth Conference Camp Celebrating 20 Years of Ministry

Post a Comment » Written on August 14th, 2008     
Filed under: News
GRAPELAND, TX (August 14, 2008) – “Small is beautiful” is a sentiment not normally attached to anything related to Texas, but it is fitting for the camping ministry of the Midsouth Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church.

Unlike in other conferences that own their own camps and operate programs almost year round, the Midsouth ministry – which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this week – rents a camp for one week each summer. But the arrangement also has proved advantageous.

As a result, the conference is able to provide affordable, effective ministry. The week of camping also includes the most multi-ethnic mix of participants in the Covenant, adds Superintendent Garth Bolinder.

CampAnglo students make up no more than half the campers, Bolinder says. The rest are Hispanic, Asian American, and African American. “It reflects the makeup of the Midsouth,” he adds.

The camp provides all the activities such as horseback riding, archery, kayaking, skate park and woodworking. The Covenant ministry only needs to provide the counseling staff and programming. The accompanying photo shows some of the campers trying their skills at archery.

Bethel Bible Fellowship, an African American congregation in Carrollton, Texas, sends the largest delegation, Bolinder says. Thirteen children from Iglesia Evangelica Misionera in La Villa, Texas – the oldest church in the conference – were among the first to attend the camp.

“When we do worship you never know what you’re going to get,” says Nancy Dieckow, the current chair of the camping ministry. Each night may emphasize a different ethnic group’s way of worshiping.

Dieckow (accompanying photo), a former regional director of camping for a non-Covenant organization, spearheaded the ministry’s creation. To learn more of her role in the formation of the camping ministry – and the early days of the conference itself – see Nancy Dieckow.

DieckowThe campers are divided into three groups: grades 2-4, 5-6, and 7-9. They eat meals together, but the rest of their events are held separately.

Roughly 25 high school students and 115 younger campers are participating this week, Dieckow says. To see additional photos of campers enjoying a variety of activities, see Camp Photos.

Dieckow says camping may not benefit every child, but for many, the experience can be transformative. “I’ve heard it said you can do in a week of camp what it would take a year in Sunday school,” she adds.

The transformation takes place over years of returning as well. She notes that one person who is now a counselor was once a contrarian camper. “To see them grow and mature in their faith is really exciting,” Dieckow says.

Dieckow was the camp’s director for the first three years and has served on the ministry board for the 17 years since then. This is her last year.

Bolinder credits Dieckow with much of the ministry’s success and longevity. “Nancy was the vision-caster, developer and programmer,” he explains. “She’s just been remarkable. We wouldn’t have camp if it wasn’t for her. I can guarantee you that.”

Bolinder and Dieckow also praise the leadership of Dale Lusk, the current camp director, for its continued effectiveness. Lusk also is the executive director of Covenant Merge Ministries.

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