By Chris Meehan
Campers and counselors from the South Bend branch will head north to Canon Falls, Minnesota, in August to join Servant Branch brothers and sisters for a week at Servant Camp. John Zwerneman made the announcement at a meeting of the South Bend branch on January 8, following a series of discussions in the branch about the future of its summer camp.
“This year, we're going to be joining forces with another very successful camp that began the same year our camp did, in 1978,” John said.
Servant Camp director Pat Ficker is enthusiastic about a unified camp. “I am extremely happy at the prospect of combining camps,” he says, “and my fellow camp directors are delighted as well. I think it’s the Lord at work–making us all one.”
John explained that the South Bend branch will not hold their camp locally in the next few years due to rising costs, scheduling conflicts and a forecasted decline in the number of branch youth. “We decided to take action now, before a decline in numbers became a big problem,” he said. Servant Camp has also seen a decline in the number of campers in recent years, making the move advantageous for both branches, Pat says.
John and Mary Behrens (South Bend), directors of the South Bend branch's camp, will join Pat’s administrative staff and take special concern for the campers from South Bend. Pat says he hopes to place a counselor or two from South Bend with each group of campers.
“We’re looking forward to the relationships that will blossom for our children when they experience the joys of summer camp with the children from Servant Branch,” John Behrens says.
South Bend parent Ann Marie Pingel admits to feeling a touch of sadness that South Bend branch members won’t be returning to Michigan’s Camp Tanadoonah in 2012, but she also sees a sunny side: “I'm excited about the opportunities our children will have to build relationships between branches–something that usually has to wait until they join Action.”
South Bend camper Leo Kane (10), is excited that the new camp will give him the opportunity to fire a gun at their rifle range. His friend Xavier Olsen, 11, agreed, but added that using the camp’s climbing wall is a primary goal for him.
Calla Couch (20) is a veteran of both camps and has been encouraging her South Bend friends to join her at Servant Camp for years. “I really like it that the camp property is so large, offering plenty of beautiful hiking space.” This year’s camp will be a family affair for Calla: not only are her two sisters, Katherine (17) and Colleen (15) serving as counselors, and her youngest siblings Daniel (13), Aidan (10) and Bonnie (7) going as campers, but her mother, Beth, has also volunteered to be a counselor.
Long-time camp director Larry Grauvogel (South Bend) says the move fits in well with the history of camp in South Bend. “We’ve always been kind of flexible, switching locations from time to time. Though the commute time will obviously take longer this way, there’s a plus: Servant Camp is open to 8th-10th graders, for whom South Bend camp hasn’t been.”
Servant Camp has has been the week-long home for thousands of campers since its start in 1978. Carmen Lee (Servant Branch) led the camp for 26 of those years until his retirement in 2010.
“Every year we hear stories of how God blessed camp with healings, surprises, interventions in the weather, and great relationships,” says John Zwerneman. “We know that camp is a wonderful part of our life and we are thrilled to be doing it in this new way.
“This will be an exciting new adventure for us in South Bend. Please pray for both branches as we prepare to join together for camp in 2012.”