“I’m really bummed that camp was not able to happen, but I understand why. This is the first time in over 30 years that I have not spent my summer doing at least one camp, and it’s really changed how I’ve approached the summer. What I’ll miss most is the connection to the campers and the counselors.” These are the words of Rev. Peggy Hansen, who serves Trinity UMC in Lead, South Dakota, and has served as a camp dean for several years.
The summer operations at all of the camps, across the Dakotas-Minnesota Area, were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Keith Shew, director for the Dakotas-Minnesota Camp and Retreat Ministries, says, “The safety of our campers, guests, and staff is our top priority. The suspension of our 2020 camps and large retreats has been the right decision.”
The decision not to hold camp this summer creates financial struggles. Each campsite’s operation, including salaries and benefits, maintenance and upkeep of the property and facilities, program-related expenses, and fixed costs are funded nearly 100% by camper and guest group fees. The estimated financial loss of suspension of retreats and summer camping programs is $1.8M for the Dakotas-Ministry Area.
Camps are part of the fabric of our Dakotas and Minnesota Annual Conferences. “Our camps are the heart of our conferences,” says Shew. “These are sacred places where lives and hearts are changed forever. For generations of Dakotans and Minnesotans – time spent at your camps is part of their faith story.”
Camps are part of our Dakotas and Minnesota UMC family – and this part of our family is hurting right now. During times like these, now more than ever, our world needs camp. We desperately seek the sacred and safe spaces, set apart from the world, where we experience Christ, Creation, and Community in the meaningful and impactful ways that only camp can provide. We want to gather around the glowing campfire at the end of a fun day, to be still, and to know that God is here and that we are loved even in a hurting and broken world.
“Camp is a huge part of my life. It’s where the seeds were planted and how my faith got started,” says Pastor Charlie Moore, who serves at Sunnycrest UMC in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. "Right now, we have a part of our United Methodist family, our camps, that need our help. It’s time that we support those in need, and at this time it is our camps. Camp is where so many people meet Christ for the first time, where their foundations, like mine, are built. Our church decided to send the money we had budgeted for 2020 scholarships and even raise a little more for our camps during this time. I hope others step up and support a part of our family that is hurting, and that is such a vital part of building the Kingdom. Let’s all step up and support our camps!”
What will it take to keep the campfires glowing? The ongoing operational costs for Dakotas-Minnesota Area for 2020 are estimated at $938,000. The staff are working hard at controlling costs and reducing costs through staff reductions and furloughs.
Rev. Kris Mutzenberger, who has served as a dean at several camps and is the Northeast District Superintendent says, “I’ve been leading camps in the Dakotas and Minnesota since 1996, and it’s hard to think about camp being suspended this summer. Camp is a place where we enjoy our time together, where we laugh, have fun, and watch kids being formed in their faith. There is something holy and special about being together for a week and learning about God and God’s creation.”
Please consider a financial gift to your Dakotas and Minnesota United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministries. View more details for the Keep Our Campfires Glowing Campaign here.