By Chris Meehan
Pat Ficker, a 30-year veteran of Servant Camp, will direct the camp for the first time this summer. Pat follows Carmen Lee who served for 26 years as director, with his late wife, Gail, at his side for all but the last of those years.
In his role as camp director, “Mr. Lee” helped a generation of People of Praise children weather tornadoes, homesickness, broken bones and capsized canoes. He attended the camp for 32 years running.
“Servant Camp is an experience of the kingdom of God among us—friendship with one another and with the Lord,” says principal branch coordinator Joel Kibler. “The camp’s impact on so many individuals’ lives is practically immeasurable. It’s one of the best things we do as a branch. Carmen’s 32 years of generous, wonderful and heartfelt service have been integral to that experience, and for that we thank him.”
By Carmen’s estimation he shared responsibility for 7,500 campers, many of whom returned multiple times as campers or counselors. Children came from 12 other branches. The record for attendance was set in 1997, at 425.
“Camp has been such a work of God it is difficult to explain it,” says Carmen. “So many have seen God, and I think many may have touched him, smelled him, heard him and much more there. It has been a blessing and a rich experience for me and many.” Sam Mertz (Servant Branch) is one of many current community members with a story to tell about an experience of the Holy Spirit at Servant Camp. Sam was prayed with to be baptized in the Holy Spirit just before tenth grade around a Servant Camp campfire. “It was a powerful experience, and I knew life wouldn’t ever be the same.”
Andrea DeLee, a campus division member living in the Indianapolis Triangle, asked to be prayed with to be baptized in the Holy Spirit at Servant Camp just before eighth grade. Raised in the South Bend branch, she was amazed to meet so many other girls raised the same way she was. “It was the final prayer meeting, and the counselors were spread out in the field behind the campfire, and Mr. Lee encouraged us to go out and ask to be prayed with. I was hoping the opportunity would come, so I did, and I felt the embrace of the Lord and his words, ‘Come to me, my daughter.’ After that I slowly began to pray daily and eventually experienced spiritual gifts as I participated in Action and moved to the Triangle.”
Pat is already in the middle of planning this summer’s camp, and deciding on the theme. “Servant Camp has been part of my life for a long time, so it wasn’t hard to imagine what the job would be like,” he says. “I believe the Lord told me not to count the cost, and that he would take care of me in the process. So I agreed to do it.”
Seasoned camp leaders Mike and Jeanne Oberg and Ginny DeSanto will continue to help Pat keep things running smoothly.
Pat and his wife Patricia have five children, including community members Dan (Servant Branch), Laura (South Bend), Lisa (South Bend) and Catherine (living as a missionary in Evansville), all grown and all—like their father—camp veterans.
Servant Camp Trivia
Carmen’s miscellaneous memories and milestones for diehard Servant Campers:
• The first camp took place in the summer of 1978. It was in the back yard of Al and Deb Saunders, and about 15 campers attended.
• I starting working with camp in 1978. (I did not attend the first camp, but I did participate in the planning). I took over as the director in the spring of 1985.
• In 1992, the Holy Spirit came to camp in a new and powerful way, with a group of boys that included Mike Wacker, Hugh Springer, Jr. and Andy Grams (all Servant Branch).
• Our hardest year was 1994, when counselor George Simons died due to heart problems during camp.
• The camps from 2002 to 2009 were extraordinary. We all expected God to be there in power and he was each year.
• We put all of our forms on a website in 2007. Before that I was sending out as many as 20+ pages to some families.
• In 2000, a tornado changed direction and moved away from our closing ceremony—it happened right after we prayed. That year we also started a program for first- and second-grade campers.
• In 2008, for the first time ever, the other camp leaders and I had a building to work out of: a cabin, and that was a real blessing. Up to that time we used makeshift tents, camping trailers, etc. for our meetings.
• At our staff party in 2006, I realized that more than half of our staff that year had been campers at one time.
Ray Hickey says:
April 8th, 2011 at 5:36 PM
Congratulations Pat, you'll be a fine camp leader and goodbye Carman, I hope this doesn't mean the last of the root beer.
Pete Schunk says:
April 8th, 2011 at 5:58 PM
Thanks to Carmen there are a lot of "happy campers" out there in PoP-ville. I miss his thick rich Minnesota accent announcing at the GCM's how much time remained until camp started. For those of you who never lived in the Servant Branch, Carmen would give the total of each of the following: seconds, minutes, hours, days, and maybe more. I think the annual countdown began with the announcement of about 10 million seconds, hundreds of thousands of minutes, a few thousand hours, or a hundred or more days until the beginning of Servant Camp. (His numbers were exact, not approximate.) Although I've never worked at Servant camp, I was able to participate a little by listening to all the sharing's from the campers, counselors, and of course, Carmen's announcements. Thanks for the memories Carmen.
Beth Bulger says:
April 8th, 2011 at 6:49 PM
Carmen, how can we ever thank you for all you've done for our kids? You and Gail and the other directors and staff have changed life after life after life. So grateful for you. And welcome, Pat! God bless you as you take over the reins.
Glenn Hilton says:
April 10th, 2011 at 12:06 PM
Carmen Lee - your name and Servant Camp bring such wonderful memories to the folks in Saskatoon who made the trek so often. You will be greatly missed in your role as camp director - thnk we called it chief pubba at some point along the way. Your vision and inspiration to all who attended will be greatly missed? Does this mean that you won't be attending or will you be back in a role like leading the Bears?
Pat I don't know whether to congratulate you or not, but I will pray for youespecially as you take on the new role. But with Mike and Jeanne and Ginny to help you things will go well.
Praise God for Servant Camp.
Nancy Grams says:
April 10th, 2011 at 10:24 PM
Thanks for the life-changing effect Servant Camp has had on all our children and its role in preparing leaders for coming generations in the People of Praise! Louis and I will never forget our opportunity to be counselors in 1999 and the training we experienced to be better equiped for mission work. Welcome, Pat! May God continue to bless our young people through your leadership and the work of Servant Camp to build his Kingdom.
Fred Smith says:
June 21st, 2011 at 9:03 PM
A very special blessing(s)for me in Community (1977) was driving a Trinity vanload of SB teens to Servant Camp for eight years ! I miss it and all of you (Carman , Ernie , Ed , Others). A 'mighty memory' for me was the huge finale bonfire when so many young campers came forward to share their 'God-Experience'! For me , excited annointed sharings are synomous with Servant Camp (under Carman & Gail) !
RUTH JORGENSON says:
September 25th, 2011 at 12:04 PM
GOD BLESS YOU CARMEN,
MY GRANDDAUGHTER, SAMANTHA 13, HAS GONE TO CAMP FOR SEVERAL YEARS & NOW HER YOUNGER SISTER, ELIZABETH 8, STARTED THIS YEAR. THEY BOTH LOVE CAMP!
THEY BOTH HAVE GIVEN THEIR LIVES TO THE LORD AT CAMP!!
THANK YOU FOR YOUR INCREDIBLE LOVE FOR OUR CHILDREN AND
GRANDCHILDREN FOR ALL THESE YEARS.
LOVE IN CHRIST, RUTH JORGENSON
Gretchen Klein says:
January 19th, 2012 at 6:28 PM
Thanks so much for all your years of service Carmen! You have shaped a wonderful youth outreach that will continue to grow under the direction of Pat. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
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