Church of the Brethren Newsline
July 12, 2010
Prayers also are requested for the people of Haiti on the six month anniversary of the Jan. 12 earthquake. The Brethren response–and Brethren support of ecumenical work by groups like Church World Service–has been swift and effective in comparison with the wider international response, but is community based and works with several specific churches and schools and only certain populations. On the broader scale in Haiti, the “New York Times” reports that “Six months after an earthquake, only 28,000 of 1.5 million displaced Haitians have new homes, and Port-au-Prince remains a tableau of life in the ruins.” The Brethren work in Haiti is carried out cooperatively by Brethren Disaster Ministries, Eglise des Freres Haitiens, and the church’s Global Mission Partnerships. “The Church of the Brethren would appreciate prayer as we begin to plan with the Haitian Brethren for a long-term rebuilding effort,” said Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission Partnerships. Prayer is requested for decisions being made about locations and types of permanent housing to be built, and the purchase of land. The Haitian Brethren are working hard toward registration as an official church in Haiti, and Wittmeyer added that the Haitian church also is preparing for its annual theological conference in August “and ask for prayer for that time.”
A fire yesterday at Camp Alexander Mack near Milford, Ind., has destroyed Becker Lodge, the camp’s main building that also housed a number of summer staff. The camp is a ministry of the Church of the Brethren’s districts of Northern Indiana and South Central Indiana.
The fire occurred early on Sunday morning, July 11. No one was injured, although one staff member had to be rescued from an upper story room by firefighters.
“I am saddened to report the early morning fire in Becker Lodge at Camp Mack,” wrote Michael Dilling, chair of the Indiana Camp Board, in a message from the board and the staff of Camp Mack. “The building is considered a total loss. I am however pleased to report that there were no casualties or injuries as a result of this fire.”
Despite the loss of its main building Camp Mack is continuing its summer camping program as scheduled, Dilling said. “It will be a challenge, but with hard work, understanding and God’s Grace the tasks will be accomplished,” he wrote in a report that credited camp executive director Rex Miller and the positive attitude and commitment of the summer staff.
Ten different fire departments responded, Dilling reported, adding that over one million gallons of water were used to extinguish the fire that started in a laundry area. Becker Lodge also housed the camp office, kitchen and dining halls, and program rooms, among other facilities.
Dilling said the camp board and staff are overwhelmed by the “outpouring of offers of assistance and support” from the community and local businesses. The Amish community has offered to bring in a complete mobile kitchen so that the camp can continue its summer season. “They are also providing a portable cooler to hold our refrigerated food,” Dilling wrote. “Troyer Foods of Goshen is providing a ‘reefer’ trailer to store our frozen foods. Lances, a local supermarket, provided food for 75 people to feed lunch to the staff and incoming camp leadership.” A local congregation has given a $500 gift card to the summer staff to allow them to replace clothing and personal items lost in the fire.
“The camp office is being moved to a nearby building on site and should be up and running on Monday morning,” Dilling reported. “Telephone and Internet communications will need to be reconstructed so it may be a few days before normal communications are established.”
The camp requests that people do not come to view the remains of the building, and that they wait to offer further assistance until the camp knows what kinds of help will be needed. “When we know, we will issue a call for volunteers,” Dilling said. “The task of dealing with what is left of Becker Lodge is best left to professionals.
“Currently, those wishing to be of immediate assistance are asked to pray for the ministry of the camp, pray for strength for the staff, and pray that the campers attending…will get to know God in a new and rewarding way. Those wishing to make monetary gifts are encouraged to follow their hearts.”
Go to www.wndu.com/home/headlines/98194969.html for a report of the fire and a link to a video from WNDU Channel 16 in South Bend titled, “Campers, staff devastated to see fire destroy main camp building.”
Go to www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-ap-in-churchcamp-fire,0,1145287.story for a report about the fire from the “Chicago Tribune” and Associated Press titled “Fire guts main building at N. Ind. church camp.”
Go to www.indianasnewscenter.com/news/local/1-Million-In-Damages-To-Christian-Camp-In-Milford-98201099.html for a report from IndianaNewsCenter.com titled “$1 Million In Fire Damage To Christian Camp In Milford.”
Following is the full message from Michael Dilling, representing the Indiana Camp Board and the staff of Camp Mack:
“I am saddened to report the early morning fire in Becker Lodge at Camp Mack. The building is considered a total loss. I am however pleased to report that there were no casualties or injuries as a result of this fire. As part of the training of the summer staff, we require instruction on how to react in the event of a fire. Some of that presentation shows how flames and smoke form and spread so quickly. Unfortunately, they now have first hand knowledge of just how true the presentation is.
“Ten different fire departments responded to the fire. It was amazing to see how closely they all worked in harmony to bring the fire under control. Despite their best efforts, the building construction made this extremely difficult. The fire re-kindled many different times as “hot spots” would flare up and require additional attention. Over 1 million gallons of water was used to extinguish the fire.
“It is believed the fire started in a laundry area at the rear of the building, quickly engulfing that room, burning through adjoining walls and ceilings into the upper levels of the building. Once the flames reached the attic of the upper dining room the flames quickly engulfed the rest of the building. The offices are a total loss, however the computer servers and a couple desktop computers were removed before the fire reached the offices. Therefore the records of the Camp are safe. Additionally, all the archived “Waubee Waves” were in a separate building and are intact.
“The Camp office is being moved to a nearby building on site and should be up and running on Monday morning. Telephone and Internet communications will need to be reconstructed so it may be a few days before “normal communications are established. Those systems were housed in Becker Lodge and lost in the fire.
“An unusual occurrence is that most of what was in the lowest levels may be salvageable. The kitchen equipment while currently unusable may be salvaged. The tables and chairs in the lower dining hall and program rooms seem to be salvageable. However this will not be confirmed until the building is secured structurally and can be safely entered. Several of the major beams that support the second and third floors may have been severely weakened. Currently the remaining structure is deemed unsafe and no one is allowed inside.
“The outpouring of offers of assistance and support from the local businesses and community is overwhelming. The Amish Community has offered to bring in a complete mobile kitchen and set it up so we can serve meals to the campers attending camp programs this week and through the remainder of the summer camping season. They are also providing a portable “cooler” to hold our refrigerated food. Troyer Foods of Goshen is providing a “reefer” trailer to store our frozen foods. Lances, a local Supermarket provided food for 75 people to feed lunch to the staff and incoming camp leadership today.
“The Indiana Camp Board and the Staff are committed to continuing the Summer Camping program as scheduled. It will be a challenge, but with hard work, understanding and God’s Grace the tasks will be accomplished. Rex Miller, Executive Director, is very impressed with the attitude and commitment of the Summer Staff. They are the ones whose lives were in peril and who lost everything, yet as the fire was brought under control and the fire fighters were recovering many personal items, a couple guitars and drums appeared. While covered with soot and smoke, the Staff rejoiced and lifted up a song of praise. It was emotional to hear this beautiful song among feelings of loss and despair. A local congregation provided a $500 gift card to the summer staff to allow them to replace some of the clothing and personal items lost in the fire.
“It is yet too early to discuss any plans for rebuilding. The Executive Director will meet with the insurance company and begin that process. Becker Lodge as we know it was an old structure. Replacing it will mean building to current codes which will require some changes. The Indiana Camp Board will be addressing this issue in the months ahead. The parts of the structure still standing will need to be removed for safety.
“There have been many people asking how they can help. While these offers are deeply appreciated, the current situation around Becker Lodge is dangerous. Also, the rest of the Camp Grounds are busy with summer programming activities. Until we know what kinds of help we need, we ask that people refrain from coming to the Camp to view the burned building but respond when we know what help we need. With the change in food service, we may need more hands to prepare the meals for our campers in the coming weeks. When we know, we will issue a call for volunteers.
“The task of dealing with what is left of Becker Lodge is best left to professionals. Currently, those wishing to be of immediate assistance are asked to pray for the ministry of the Camp, pray for strength for the Staff and pray that the campers attending that they will get to know God in a new and rewarding way. Those wishing to make monetary gifts are encouraged to follow their hearts.
“On behalf of the entire Indiana Camp Board, I gratefully acknowledge and appreciate your prayers, your encouragement and support of our entire staff and ministry.”
— Michael Dilling, chair, Indiana Camp Board