History of Lincoln Lake Baptist Camp

 

Faith Comes by Hearing the Word of God

        Lincoln Lake Baptist Camp, located on the second largest lake in Kent County, Michigan has been in operation for seventy years. Hundreds of youth have come to know Christ and today many minister at home and in foreign places.

 

The Early Years

The camp was founded in 1938 by a group of believers from various churches who gathered at different sites for camping activities.  This led to the purchase of property on Lincoln Lake in 1943.  The first address of the camp was: Route 1, Gowen, MI 49326.  The first camp officers were Roy Botruff of Carson City, Charles Hart of Stanton, and Wayne Cook of Sparta.

In 1945, a large tent was used for the tabernacle. Built in 1946, men’s and women’s bathroom facilities were the first permanent buildings on the grounds. The quonset building was built in 1947 to serve as the tabernacle, and was used for that purpose until 1973.  During these years and before 1950 the hotel and dining hall (where the lodge now stands) was constructed. The “Houseman Hilton,” also built in the late 1940’s, was named for Pastor and Mrs. Russell Houseman for their faithful dedication to Lincoln Lake’s ministry.

In the early years, pastors of the supporting churches performed the tasks of business manager and hired all the staff.   Records from 1954 call the camp “Lincoln Lake Bible Conference, Inc.”  Later, in the late ‘50s or early ‘60s, the camp was named Lincoln Lake Baptist Youth Camp, Inc.  In the articles, fifteen member churches were named and the purpose stated was “to provide Christian fellowship, Bible teaching, preaching of the Gospel, and having Bible camps.”  

During the 1960’s, the eleven cabins were built as projects of several different member churches.  Albert Siegel served as the camp’s first superintendent, beginning in 1971.  Al and his wife Helen served as superintendent and secretary until 1982.  In 1973, the Lincoln Lake Chapel was built and was named the Siegel Chapel in 1986, in honor of Albert and Helen Siegel, who both recently passed away.  

 

Moving Forward

Rev. Walt and Shirley DeBoer became the new camp director and secretary in 1983 after serving as pastor for 25 years in three different churches. Bill Moss served summers alongside the De Boers as sports and music director until he graduated from college in 1986 and full time after that as the activities and maintenance director. During their thirteen years at the camp, they saw two major building projects completed: the Sweetland Building and the Roy Botruff Lodge. Many volunteers helped with construction.

Records from 1984 confirm that Lincoln Lake Baptist Youth Camp, Inc. was owned by 30 Michigan churches.  The camp was licensed to handle 100 campers at a time, and held six camp sessions during the summer.  Twenty-two summer staff served during the summer of 1984.  Weekend retreats for staff, junior high and high school were begun in January of 1984; soon after weekends for juniors and college age were added.

The wooden dock at the waterfront was built in 1986, and was used until 2006.  The Sweetland Resident Building was named for the late Rev. Albert and Carrie Sweetland, and this project was completed in 1987 to meet the needs of on-site housing.  The camp continued to grow and in the summer of 1991, 34 staff served with the De Boers and Bill Moss. 

Immediately after summer camp in 1994, the old dining hall-hotel was torn down and building of the new lodge began.  Thirteen trees in the bonfire area had to come down to build the lodge, so the lumber from those trees was cured and used for the woodwork in the lodge.  Prior to summer camp and due to licensing, staff meals were cooked in the De Boer kitchen and served in the quonset. The first meal in the Roy Botruff Lodge was Friday lunch for Mini-camp that summer of 1995.  Walt and Shirley DeBoer had plans to retire in the beginning of 1996 after their 13 years of faithful service at Lincoln Lake Baptist Youth Camp.  

Rev. Curt and Connie Gordon began as the camp director and secretary in 1996, along with their sons, Andrew and Daniel.  The Gordons served in this capacity for eight years and continued to see the camp grow into a year-round ministry facility.  Bill Moss continued to serve with the Gordons until he felt his calling to leave Lincoln Lake Baptist Youth Camp in 2002. 

As the camp grew, more staff was needed, including Dave and Janet Moody, who have worked in the capacities of Director of Plant Management and camp nurse since 2002.  CJ Nissen and his wife Becky worked at the camp from 2002 to 2004 in the areas of program and secretary.  Chris Howard began in the summer of 2003 by helping CJ with program, and took over that area when CJ left, until 2006. 

 

The Past 5 Years

After Curt and Connie Gordon were called to a church in Iowa in 2004, Rev. Alan Moody became the Executive Director, bringing in a new vision for growth and expansion to the camp.  This vision was for a decentralized way of having camp, which has changed the way camp is run in the past five years.   Camper numbers continue to grow and new buildings were and are being built. 

The Master Plan was written by Fleetmeyer & Lee Associates, Inc. in 2005, which details how the camp will be expanding.  Since Pastor Alan has come to Lincoln Lake, several challenge course elements have been built, including the 40 ft. climbing tower in 2006, the bath house has been renovated, three yurts built and heated, the snack shack brought back to life, a new floating dock system purchased and installed, and several other projects have seen completion.  In 2006, Geoff Saturley, Julie Nicholls, and Andy Brubaker all joined Pastor Alan and Dave Moody as full-time staff, and they serve in these same capacities today. 

 

 

Compiled by Kim Brubaker, with help from Shirley DeBoer

Spring 2008