By Walt Wiltschek
The Church of the Brethren’s longest-running camps are becoming nonagenarians. Camp Mack (Milford, Ind.), the second-oldest camp in the denomination, is commemorating its 90th anniversary on the shores of Lake Waubee this year with a full slate of events. It follows Camp Harmony (Hooversville, Pa.), which turned 90 a year ago.
And the camping ministry of the church has much to celebrate. When Camp Mack asked on its Facebook page for people to share one word that captured their camp experience, words including “friendship,” “faith,” “fellowship,” “memories,” “beauty,” “quiet,” and even “cinnamon toast” quickly piled up in the comments section.
In a newsletter article, former camper Vonna Walter offered more details on her experience: “The most important thing that camp offered me, through the guidance of the amazing leaders and fellow campers, was the rich layering, year after year, of my faith in our awesome God!” Walter wrote, “I was raised by wonderful examples of Christ’s love, by my parents and my church family, but the week I spent at camp each summer was the most impactful way I experienced God.”
The highlight of Camp Mack’s anniversary observances will be a “Back to Mack” Homecoming Weekend Aug. 28-30, with a variety of opportunities to celebrate the camp’s history, share memories, and re-connect with members of the camp community along with worship, traditional camp activities, a campfire, and picnic.
The annual Camp Mack Festival on Oct. 3 also will have a 90th anniversary theme and special events--including a scarecrow contest in which the entries are to be dressed as a favorite Camp Mack staff member or Brethren historical figure.
Events already in the books include a 90th anniversary Sweetheart Banquet that took place in February and a fundraiser dinner in mid-March.
The camp has made an anniversary goal of having 90 more campers this year than in 2014.
The celebration comes at a good time for Camp Mack, which is making progress as it recovers from a fire that destroyed its centerpiece Becker Lodge in 2010. A new John Kline Welcome Center now serves the camp, and plans for a new Becker Lodge are under way. Mack is perhaps best known for its Quinter-Miller Auditorium, which features a series of Brethren history murals by Medford Neher. It’s also unique as a single camp that serves two districts (Northern Indiana and South/Central Indiana) in a densely populated Brethren area. More information is available at www.campmack.org .
-- Walt Wiltschek serves in campus ministry at Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind., and is a former editor of the Church of the Brethren “Messenger” magazine.