This week Missions Committee member Terri Rottink writes about Lakeshore Center on Okoboji, a church camp that First Presbyterian Church in Marshalltown helps support through our mission giving. Terri provides some facts about the camp, but more importantly she shares what the camp has meant to her family over the last 35 years or so.
Much of the information on Lakeshore Center on Okoboji comes from their website:
WHO WE ARE: Lakeshore Center on Okoboji is a ministry of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the presbyteries of Prospect Hill and North Central Iowa. It is a retreat center and camp that offers a variety of activities and space for everyone to gather or retreat. Located in a secluded setting on 55 acres on West Okoboji, the center has 600 feet of sand beach, a canopy of large oak trees, and variety of spaces and buildings perfect for individuals or ideal for groups to gather.
OUR MISSION: To provide a sacred place and invite all to experience the life-changing love of Christ in the beauty of God’s creation.
HISTORY: The property was purchased in 1954 for $65,000 and the first summer camp was held in 1956. Throughout the years many improvements and buildings were added, the most recent a beautiful retreat center/lodge added in 2009. This is an adult friendly facility with private hotel-style rooms with private baths. There are also two bunk rooms that can house 15 visitors each, as well as a number of meeting rooms and a rec room. At this time the ministry was moved to year-round to serve children, youth and adults. It is available for weddings and rentals.
Lakeshore Center is very much a ministry of this church. It is a place where God’s children, of all ages, can learn about living in relationship with Him.
The Rottink family has loved and cherished this sacred place since the late 1980’s. It is more than a camp, a retreat center, or a place to have fun, although there has been plenty of that. It is our spiritual sanctuary, a place that changed us, all of us. In a previous blog several years ago, I spoke of a shy teenager who as an adult toured with a Christian drama group, another teenager who grew into a youth director and aspiring Christian singer, and an adult who learned he had the gift of teaching children. This was just the beginning for us and I have no doubt that life would be different without the influence of this place.
After a hiatus of several years, including a pandemic that not only changed “camp”, but changed the world, Garry and I, as well as our grandchildren and our dogs, returned to Lakeshore Center (still “the Presbyterian Camp” in our hearts). The spirit, the nearness to God, the feeling of family is still there. We worshipped, fellowshipped, played, danced. We ate camp food and buried each other in the sand. And we remembered who we are, God’s beloved children. Can this happen at other places? Absolutely, but this is OUR PLACE, and it is yours also.
I was honored this year to be the camp nurse for children of campers I had cared for in the past. In writing this, I found a quote from one of the “old” campers whose daughter was a camper this year. He told us “I have found my faith in Christ. Thank you for helping me on this journey, you may have saved my soul.” He is now a Presbyterian pastor.
HOW CAN YOU GET INVOLVED?
FIRST: Pray for the camp. The camp board and staff is full of hopes and dreams for this ministry. They value your prayers for staff, for the finances and for the leading of the spirit to guide the board in making decisions.
SECOND: Support the campers. Encourage kids, adults and families to go to camp. Pray for them when they are there. Send them a note. Ask them about their experience when they get back. Our church has a fantastic scholarship program. Encourage them to use it!
THIRD: Share your time. Lakeshore is always looking for volunteers to help in hundreds of ways. Although the camping season is nearing an end this year, there is an endless number of projects needing to be completed, large and small. The camp has suffered greatly from the pandemic and the loss of an additional camping season due to the inability to find staff. You are needed. Do you have gift? Off season work groups are welcome – choose a project! You will get to spend your time in a beautiful, peaceful setting with deer and turkeys. Consider your talents. Next summer there may be some changes in structure that will include the need for more volunteers to help the staff. Think about what you can do. Could you cook for a couple of days or a week? Teach a craft or skill? Be a camp grandparent to support the kids and the staff? The list is endless.
A popular option is the Adopt-A-Cabin project. A church (or group of churches) can adopt a cabin, an outdoor space or building. It provides monetary help and volunteers for small projects such as deep cleaning and minor repairs and helps raise funds for larger repairs such as roofing, siding, carpeting.
There will also be opportunities for fall, winter and spring retreats, classes, and conferences. Invite a friend and attend one! You can follow their website at lakeshorecenteratokoboji.org. I guarantee you will love your time at the lake.