It’s summer, and for many of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s younger members, that means spending time exploring the great outdoors: biking, boating, camping, fishing, hiking, swimming and horseback riding at more than 30 Lutheran camps in 20 states.
From California to New York, Minnesota to Texas — and a lot of places in between — the Lutheran camps operated primarily by LCMS congregations and districts or as LCMS Recognized Service Organizations offer children, teens and whole families opportunities to learn about God and His creation.
In fact, God is an important part of their mission statements, which include descriptions like these:
- “In partnership with Western Washington Lutheran congregations, Camp Lutherwood [Bellingham, Wash.] is a year-round outdoor ministry, renewing all in the Holy Spirit through education, adventure, service and prayer.”
- “The mission of Camp Lutherhoma [Tahlequah, Okla.] is to nurture discipleship in Jesus Christ, in outdoor settings, which excite believers to share the love of Christ to the world.”
- “The mission of Lutheran Island Camp [Henning, Minn.] is to nourish the whole person for joyful, Christ-centered life and service.”
Next month, the LCMS Minnesota North District’s Lutheran Island Camp is taking its mission a step further by dedicating what it’s touting as “the only science and environmental learning center in the country that is based on a Lutheran, Christian, biblical worldview.”
As part of its 275-acre Christ Serve Ranch (some 2.5 miles from Lutheran Island Camp), situated on Mason Lake in West-Central Minnesota, the new Creation-Science Environmental Learning Center (C-SELC) seeks to “equip learners of all ages with the ability to understand, proclaim and defend the scriptural teaching of God the Father as Creator of all things by offering biblical and scientific educational opportunities, so the true Christian Gospel may be preserved and spread.”
Established as a way to strengthen Christian faith through the hands-on teaching of creation science — “that faith and science really walk hand in hand,” according to Christ Serve Ranch Director Stacy Lung — the ranch and C-SELC offer horseback riding, mountain bikes, wagons and hiking to get campers to a number of outdoor exhibits, demonstrations and activities that touch on astronomy, chemistry, physics, botany, biology, earth sciences and zoology.
This summer’s camp experiences focus on interests such as drawing and photography, science experiments, outdoor exploration, ecology and ecosystems, 19th century living and much more.
At “STEAM Camp,” for example, students ages 7 to 11 and 12 to 14 explore science, technology, engineering, arts and math in activities that also include horseback riding, fishing and hiking.
During the “Teen Trek Science Skills Boot Camp,” offered to teens ages 14 to 18, students collect and interpret data, display data in graphs, write lab reports and develop projects of their own, along with taking part in a number of outdoor activities.
In a May 11 interview on KFUO Radio, Lung said it’s important that all Christ Serve Ranch campers “understand that there is no division between science and faith. I think too often they’re being told that great science is not related to great faith. And I want them to understand that that’s simply not the case, that science can teach us so much about the Creator, and being out in creation can teach us so much about the character of God.”
When those students walk outdoors, Lung added, her hope is that “they see God’s fingerprints on everything” in nature.
The scenic acreage at Christ Serve Ranch includes eight different ecosystems — lake, lakeshore, stream, ponds, cultivated forest, native forest, glen and native prairie — as well as more than eight miles of trails, 10 exhibit areas, an orchard and a garden. There are three observation towers — allowing campers to view wildlife such as deer, beavers and birds — and a 21-element outdoor challenge course.
Future plans call for the addition of Christ Serve Academy, which will provide online resources for parochial and homeschool students; published resources such as field guides and books that are based on the biblical six-day creation and catastrophic flood; a lending library of science kits; a program of bringing Christ Serve Ranch to classrooms; an interpretive center; a multipurpose arena; and an RV park.
The Aug. 29 dedication of Christ Serve Ranch and its Creation-Science Environmental Learning Center is part of a three-day celebration that kicks off at 2 p.m. Aug. 28 with tours of the property.
Also on the agenda:
- Friday, Aug. 28: a 5 p.m. reception and 6 p.m. banquet featuring radio host and pro-life activist Steve Deace as keynote speaker. A campfire and devotion are scheduled for 9 p.m.
- Saturday, Aug. 29: tours, exhibits, demonstrations and youth-and-family activities from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; a second presentation by Deace from 1:15 to 2:15 p.m.; the dedication worship service from 2:30 to 4 p.m. featuring Concordia University System President Rev. Dr. Dean O. Wenthe as preacher; a concert from 7:30 to 9 p.m.; and a “Star Gazing” activity at 9:30 p.m.
- Sunday, Aug. 30: a 10 a.m. “Mission Festival,” also with Wenthe preaching, followed by tours and activities.
All activities and meals are free, and organizers say they expect about 1,000 guests.
The dedication “is the culmination of nearly 10 years of planning and development that started when Lutheran Island Camp brought together a group of scientists, teachers, pastors and youth leaders who identified a need of the church — retaining our children,” according to Bill Schultz, director of Planning and Resource Development for both Lutheran Island Camp and Christ Serve Ranch. “As parents, pastors and educators, we struggle with [children’s] questions” about such things as dinosaurs, man’s evolution from apes and earth’s age.
“The evolutionary scientific worldview is an insidious challenge” for Christians, Schultz says, because “school districts, the courts, the media and legislators are determining what our children are being taught.
“Christ Serve Ranch and Christ Serve Academy provide a 275-acre classroom,” he added, “where science and the environment are taught to Christian children who will someday be Christian parents, scientists and business leaders.”
For more information about the dedication weekend — including a free, downloadable bulletin insert and where to find lodging — visit christserveranch.org or call 218-583-2905.
Registration is still open for August camps; for information visit islandcamp.org/index.php.
Posted July 23, 2015