WISCONSIN—From July 14 through 16, a group of 41 Philadelphia Church of God members from seven states gathered together for a campout at the Stearns Scout Camp in rural South Haven, Minnesota.
While many of the Minnesotan brethren lived nearby and could stay at home, most of the out-of-state brethren stayed in the Tonkawa Lodge, furnished with a commercial kitchen, a large meeting hall and air-conditioned sleeping quarters downstairs. Preaching Elder David Weeks, who organized the weekend, said the facilities were “new, modern and very well-maintained.” Many people called the event the “Minnesota Family Glamp-out.”
Members arrived on Friday afternoon, having dinner on the back deck and sharing stories around the campfire. They were joined by Regional Director Brian Davis and his wife who had traveled to Minnesota straight from the Ministerial Conference in Oklahoma. Eight-year-old Jonathan said that eating every meal together as a group was his favorite part of the weekend.
After a Sabbath morning brunch, prepared by volunteers from the congregation, the members held services. Special music was provided by a congregational choir. Both Mr. Weeks and Mr. Davis gave live messages. Another group of volunteers prepared dinner, and later in the evening, the members gathered around the campfire once again for fellowship and a sing-along.
On Sunday morning, many members drove to a lake, where there were canoes, rowboats and fishing equipment for complimentary usage. Others stayed back for conversation around the breakfast table with Mr. and Mrs. Davis. After lunch, the members gathered together again for wacky games, dividing into three teams to compete in a series of challenges involving sponges, buckets, bottles, balloons, towels, pool noodles and lots of water. The finale was a huge game of “ultimate water balloon,” a version of ultimate Frisbee that involved waving pool noodles in the air as a distraction on defense and scoring touchdowns with an unbroken water balloon on offense. 80-year-old Wisconsin member Virginia Strong waved the pool noodle at her opponents and made a key pass to her teammates.
Strong, who still works 40 hours a week, said that she hoped to encourage others around her age that they could participate too, saying, “The more you do, the more you can do.”
Some went inside to watch the livestream of the final Celtic Throne performance, while others raced each other outside on peddle-propelled go-karts and participated in a craft activity set up by Minnesota member Candy Fiskewold. Many headed home that afternoon, but some stayed the night and continued the activities into Monday.
Mr. Weeks said these events are important because it is “a great way to build unity. We don’t get a lot of opportunities to spend a few days together as a group like that. We worked together, cooked together, played together, ate together, stayed together and fellowshipped together for nearly three days. These activities are helping build the Family of God.”