The Gift to All the Methodists of Michigan
Lake Louise Continues to Transform Lives
For: The Michigan Area Reporter
From: David G. Gladstone and Hillary Thurston-Cox
When it comes to fulfilling our stated mission of, "making disciples of Jesus the Christ for the transformation of the world" few other ministries match the disciple making power of camping and retreat ministries taking place at our United Methodist camps around the State of Michigan. Lake Louise Camp and Retreat Center within the Lake Louise Christian Community stands unique among all of our camping locations as the only camp given as a gift to all the Methodists of Michigan and the only camp and retreat center serving both the West Michigan and the Detroit conferences of the Michigan Area of the United Methodist Church.
Lake Louise came into being through the generosity of the Horner family of Eaton Rapids. The Horner's had acquired a large tract of cut over timber land after the logging era of Michigan was over. As the Great Depression descended upon the country, the Horner's approached their pastor, Rev. Stanley Niles, with the idea of giving 5,500 acres away. The idea of a church youth camp began to take shape. Through the action of a group of visionary people the plan culminated in the creation of the Lake Louise Christian Community encompassing a youth camp and creating cottage sites around the lake upon which clergy families could build a place of their own. The Lake Louise Christian Community would hold the land in trust for the two Michigan conferences. Christian camping began at Lake Louise in 1935 and has continued without interruption ever since.
For most of its history Lake Louise was maintained as a site for the use of the camping programs of the West Michigan and Detroit annual conferences. Over time both conferences developed other camps owned by each conference. Direct financial support to Lake Louise from the two conferences ceased in 1997. The last conference designed and supported summer camp was in 2006. Lake Louise is now financially self reliant and independent of the annual conferences. Likewise, all camp programming is developed and promoted by Lake Louise. Although independent and self sustaining, Lake Louise remains deeply committed to camping and retreat ministries in the United Methodist Church. Its history and heritage is woven into the fabric of the West Michigan and Detroit annual conferences. Lake Louise embraces its history as a gift to all the Methodists of Michigan and remains a primary camping and retreat asset for children, youth, adults, churches, agencies and groups within the denomination and beyond.
Since 2006 the Lake Louise Christian Community board of trustees has worked diligently to clarify and strengthen its vision, mission, and core values. Additional staff has been hired to care for facilities and to develop new and creative programming. Summer camp participation has grown 18.6% since 2009. 2012 brought a 6.7% increase in the number of summer campers compared to 2011. Halsted and McKay lodges are now complete and open. They are four season individual lodges complete with bath and showers. They sleep twenty people each and represent the first new construction since the retreat center was built in 1981. A half acre children's playground opened this summer in memory of Maryanna Baldwin.
Lake Louise Christian Community still holds title to 2,400 acres of the original gift of 5,500 acres. Roughly half of the property was sold back to the State of Michigan in 1935 to provide development money and pay other obligations. The remaining property provides income to the Lake Louise Christian Community and the camping and retreat ministries through the sustainable harvesting of timber. This makes Lake Louise unique among all the United Methodist camps in Michigan. The Lake Louise Christian Community is committed to preserving the undeveloped character of this land. LLCC is working with the Little Traverse Conservancy and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to have 750 acres of undeveloped property set aside through the federal Forest Legacy Program. The tract is called the Gitcha-ninj Nebish Forest using the Native American name for the lake. The proposal is ranked 16th nationally out of a field of 69. Completion of this project depends upon the level of federal funding for the Forest Legacy Program in fiscal year 2013.
The United Methodist Church faces many challenges. Many believe that we no longer have the resources to meet the difficulties we face. Christian camping faces challenges as well, but the truth is that we still have excellent camps and dedicated leaders who know what it takes to move young hearts toward God. Lake Louise is experiencing a renewed mission and vitality of purpose. New facilities are supporting new and creative programs. Young Christians are finding their place at the table of God’s grace and discerning their call to Christian service. Clergy families are discovering Lake Louise as a place of renewal for the entire family. You and your church should know Lake Louise. It remains a resource and an asset to your ministry. What began with a gift given to all the Methodists of Michigan, continues with new focus and energy moving from generation to generation.
WE NEED YOUR HELP
Lake Louise’s acceptance in the federal Forest Legacy Program depends upon the program being funded at a minimum of $51 million. This would be a level equal to the same level of funding in recent years. You can help by writing to Senator Debbie Stabenow and asking her to champion this issue.
Senator Debbie Stabenow
133 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Click here To send Senator Debbie Stabenow an E-mail.
LOOKING TOWARD THE FUTURE
As the future unfolds for Lake Louise, the focus remains to enrich the United Methodist Church throughout Michigan. One way to do this is to nurture youth leadership. Lake Louise is working with the Youth Assembly in both conferences to focus on developing servant leaders. This will culminate in a camp called the "Lake Louise Youth Leadership Academy". Youth will learn skills like conflict resolution, teamwork, spiritual practices, and community service. These experiences at Lake Louise will build up the local church by providing trained, competent youth-leadership. Confirmation Kick off is another way to invest in youth. Each fall we offer an exciting start for confirmation classes answering the key questions covered in confirmation, but in a fun, thought-provoking discussion setting. The questions: What is confirmation? Who is God? are explored and lead to a deepening of faith.
We also want to invest in local church leaders. To accomplish this goal, there will be two training opportunities offered this fall for Christian education workers and youth ministers. Both conferences are providing input and sending their leadership.
Clergy family camp is another key piece in this local church investment. We are the only camp in the state offering a place of respite, care, and learning for clergy families. Clergy, spouses, and their children are renewed by gathering together with those who share their calling. There is a community of support and understanding that develops at Clergy Camp that continues throughout the year.
Michigan has been hard hit in the economic downturn, particularly in our part of the state. We are stepping up to help families in need through the resources of Lake Louise. A partnership with local community service agencies is being cultivated to develop a week long community service work camp by the summer of 2013. Our site will become a point of outreach to northern Michigan by developing "Boyne Country Service Project".
Finally, as the seasons shift and traditional summer offerings are completed, Lake Louise is open to local churches for retreats. Many groups take advantage of our location near Boyne Mountain and Avalanche Bay for swimming and ski adventures. Our calendar is filling with youth ski weekends. Churches utilize space for renewal retreats in the winter while enjoying snowshoe trails and the beauty of winter in the north woods. We can plan a retreat for your group or we can simply offer hospitality through meals and space so that any group can have a personalized retreat experience.
Lake Louise stands in the midst of years of camping tradition in Michigan. We provide opportunities for the Methodists throughout the state to experience the beauty of nature and the hospitality of Christian community. Join with us to invest in the future of the church.