What’s so special about WELS camps?

Each summer WELS youth gather in camps across the country. Many attendees describe their time at WELS camps as life changing. Here is camper Anne Ortmeier’s story and then photos and information from some of the WELS camps that took place this summer. To see a full listing of WELS camps, go to wels.net/events.

Since the age of five I have attended, volunteered, or worked at three WELS sleep-away camps, a YMCA sleep-away camp, two summer day camps (one WELS and one YMCA), and a YMCA outdoor environmental education program. That’s more than 142 weeks of my life spent at one camp or another. Why subject myself to bug bites, sunburn, and infrequent showers? Why go back year after year to share a cabin with nine young girls or walk through the woods at night to the bathrooms?

Because of the Holy Spirit. Because I have seen faith blossom over songs sung at campfire and during quiet nighttime conversations. I have seen children lend a helping hand or an encouraging word to a friend in need. I have seen Jesus Cares campers singing praises to God with their whole heart. And I have felt my own faith grow throughout the years as well. Each camp opportunity I had was placed before me by a God who knew exactly what I needed to develop into the person I am today.

Because of the things I have learned. Camp Phillip taught me about servant leadership and having to be available to my campers 23 hours a day for 6 days a week. (We got one hour off every day.) Camp Bird taught me that family is more than being related by blood. The staff I work with there has been my “camp family” for 30 years. And even in the secular camps that I have worked at, I have learned that when proclaiming my faith publicly is not an option, I can still witness through my actions and attitudes.

Because of the kids and the stories. Oh, the stories! To see the face of an inner-city student from Detroit go for her first horseback ride. To share in the elation of a camper who masters a high ropes course element. To be the lifeguard who encourages the boy taking his swim test that, “Yes! You can make it this year.” What an honor to serve my God as he works through me to touch the lives of these young people.

Camp Bird, Crivitz, Wis.

This past July more than 420 WELS youth attended Camp Bird. “Camp Bird for Lutherans is, and has been, my second home since I was 12 years old,” notes one camper turned counselor. “Camp Bird is an amazing place to come and empty ourselves of the burdens of daily life and let God fill us with his Holy Spirit.”

Camp 4 Star, Olympia, Wash.

The four stars in Camp 4 Star’s name represent the four Pacific Northwest churches that brought the camp to life in the summer of 1959. Camp 4 Star now serves WELS/ELS members from around the greater Seattle area.

Camp Lor-Ray, Muskegon, Mich.

Answer a question in Bible study, soak a counselor! Bible leaders at Camp Lor-Ray engage campers during daily Bible study sessions.

Urban Explorers, Wautoma, Wis.

Urban Explorers brings children from Milwaukee to experience Christian camping in a rural setting. Pictured are the 32 campers and some of the staff from the June 21–24 camp.

Training Camp, Ingleside, Ill.

“Just like football players go to their various training camps to prepare for the next football season, so we invite the children within our churches and schools to Training Camp to prepare for their lives as Christians,” says Michael Zarling, camp director and pastor at Epiphany, Racine, Wis.

Rocky Mountain Christian Camp, Leadville, Colo.

“Build something out of paper!” counselors challenged campers. Rocky Mountain Christian Camp began in 1969 to serve WELS congregations in the Colorado area.


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Volume 104, Number 9
Issue: September 2017

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