Outdoor Ministries Association holds its annual retreat at Camp Eder

By Gene Hollenberg

From Nov. 12-16, Camp Eder in Fairfield, Pa., hosted members of the Outdoor Ministries Association of the Church of the Brethren for a retreat/conference. Leadership from 14 camps and Brethren Volunteer Service joined together in exploring the theme of “Discipleship.” Pieter Tramper, from Brethren Woods in Virginia, was the coordinator.

Mike Kovacs, from the Camp Eder staff, welcomed everyone with an interactive activity designed to break the ice. But since these are all camp people, it didn’t take long for a lively community to develop.

Throughout the four-day event, time was set aside for worship, conversation, learning, business, and rest. Meals were outstanding and prepared by volunteers under the leadership of kitchen manager Thad Smith.

Photo by Pieter Tramper

The official day always began with a crisp morning watch and ended with vespers by the campfire. Each of these was led by a different camp and reflected a wide variety of worship styles. But informal worship could also spring up throughout the day with time for prayer, singing, and praise.

A keynote address was shared on Monday and Tuesday mornings by former Camp Eder staff member Davis Swift. Several breakout sessions were held based on the specific responsibilities of the attendees. Betsy Kuecker, from Camp Pine Lake in Iowa, led a discussion about discipleship of staff and how to empower and equip staff for their jobs.

Everyone brought a snack to share that was particular to their location. Also at each mealtime, two or three camps shared a few minutes of reflection on the latest developments at their locations.

Outdoor Ministries Association board chair Garry Pearson, from Camp Peaceful Pines in northern California, led the annual business meeting. The membership passed a budget, approved a slate of board members, and recognized Shannon Kahler who retires at the end of this year as executive director of Camp Inspiration Hills in Northern Ohio.

The Camp Eder staff including Denny Turner took the group on field trips throughout the week. A camp tour included a bus ride to the summit of the camp overlooking the camp apple orchard and a walking tour through the main living area. Most attendees visited a restored meetinghouse nearby. There was a special trip to the packing plant that ships the apples collected from the camp orchard. On Thursday afternoon, one group took a four-mile hike around Long Pine Reservoir while others toured historical sites or shopped in Gettysburg.

There also was a lot of time available for conversation, reading, jam sessions, writing, ministering to one another, and rest. As Jessie Kreider, from Camp Mack in Indiana, shared, “These are my people. This is what I need.”

Without question, God’s spirit was moving in Fairfield, Pa. The power of Christian camping in the Church of the Brethren is alive and well.

— Gene Hollenberg is executive director of Camp Alexander Mack in Milford, Ind. Learn more about the Outdoor Ministries Association at https://omacob.org.

Photos by Pieter Tramper


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