By Michael Unruh, Camp Mennoscah, Executive Director
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” – Heb. 11:1
About 92 years ago a group of people from central Kansas saw an importance for youth to gather together. In 1925, they began hosting a youth retreat at one of the local colleges. The retreat moved in 1937 to a camp about an hour away. Despite a healthy number of 200 attendees, the group had a larger vision. Because they saw camping as a key part of Christian formation, a yearly one-week retreat was simply not enough! But, renting facilities for more than one week was not financially feasible. What would be done?
In 1947 the retreat committee began looking for locations to start its own camp. One location looked promising but the soil would not hold water for a pond or lake, which was seen as “essential” for youth retreats. Another provided existing facilities. However, the committee wasn’t convinced that a man-made facility would provide the proper opportunities to experience God as Creator. So, they kept looking. Would a suitable place be found?
Then, because of one man’s persuasiveness, the committee revisited a piece of land. There wasn’t a lake on this property, but a river. One committee member said, ”It’s only a river embedded in weeds!” “This doesn’t look like God’s country to me,” remarked another. Nonetheless, in 1948 the land was purchased. But what would it become?
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” Hebrews 11:1 reads. In 1949 the first retreat was held on the newly purchased ground. Farm trucks and tents were used for lodging, and canvas was strung up between trees as a roof over the eating area. Playing in the river was central to the camping experience.
On May 14, 1950, the place was given a name: Camp Mennoscah. A vision that began in 1925 was taking form. A “conviction of things not seen” led to starting a one-week retreat, then buying land, and bringing tents. Today at Camp Mennoscah we host eight sessions of summer youth camps. We have cabins, a dining hall, a pool, a retreat center, and electricity in most buildings.
Though camp has undergone changes in the last half-century-plus, one aspect has remained constant: Camp Mennoscah has been a place to experience God in nature and Christian community. In the early years the goal was for youth to grow in Christian faith and values in an unpressured, loving environment, where campers could meet God on their own faith journeys. Today this same goal holds true! Campers and staff meet God through creation and through loving relationships with one another. Camp is a place where Christian faith and values are lived out in an authentic community.
Camp staff (Deborah, Gardell, Olivia, and I) is excited about our small roles in continuing this vision. Yet we know that we have never been alone in this effort. Camp Mennoscah is blessed to have a rich history and encouraging future because of volunteers, retreat attendees, churches, board members, and donors. And you!