On a hot summer day, the pool at Pine Creek Camp near Lafayette provides cooling comfort to hundreds of young boys and girls from around Indiana. For some of those children, they are away from home for the first time and will experience their first connections of faith, taking their first steps toward living a full, Christ-following life.
“Pine Creek is a rustic camp, and the pool is an important way that community is built for the kids and youth who participate there,” said Rev. Lore Gibson, Conference Superintendent in the Northwest District. “The things they learn while playing in the water – sharing, joy, helping one another, boundaries – become teachable moments for students and counselors alike.”
But pool conditions are grim. The 50-year-old pool has been deemed inoperable by camp staff and was unavailable during this past camp season due to immense water leakage in the amount of nearly 10,000 gallons a day as well as several other parts that are no longer functioning properly due to wear and tear.
“Technically, there’s a lot wrong with the pool,” said Grant Cumbraugh, Pine Creek Camp Manager. “The liner has failed. There’s water where there shouldn’t be water and there’s no water where there should be. So very simply, it’s just not functioning right now. You can’t turn the pool on right now. We would have done that this summer if we could.”
Pine Creek needs $90,000 to get started as soon as possible. “If we don’t get the vendor contracted now, then we can’t break ground until spring” added Grant.
The Northwest District, a big supporter in this effort, launched a $50,000 capital campaign in July to renovate the antiquated swimming pool, hopeful that the community would respond generously, which they have.
Neighbors, including local United Methodist churches, have responded by making significant donations in support of the effort to cover repair costs. To date, $22,000 has been raised.
Surprisingly, some of the most generous gifts have come from smaller, rural congregations. Ambia UMC, a church not far from Pine Creek with an average Sunday attendance of 20, donated $5,000 to help the camp achieve its goal.
Like other donors, members of the church believe in not just repair the pool but in the positive and worthwhile changes the camp brings in the life of young persons. “Pine Creek needs a pool as part of their ministry so they can keep reaching kids with the message of Jesus Christ,” said Ambia Senior Pastor Noel Whiteman.
Noel shares a personal history with the camp. Over the years, she has served as a camp counselor, and she credits Pine Creek for the impact it has made in the lives of young people in the surrounding community, including her children.
“My kids have had their most important faith development moments at camp,” said Noel. “I am hoping a new pool allows Pine Creek to continue to minister to kids and families that seek Jesus in that place.”
Pine Creek Program Manager Janeé Lafuze sees the contributions of these small churches as an act of God. “When I heard that small, rural congregations alone raised a majority of the funds we have currently to restore our pool, I saw first-hand how the size of a church isn’t what makes an impact but rather having initiative and a willing heart.”
Grant agrees. “It has been interesting watching the donations coming in. A high percentage of our funding is coming from churches of 100 people or less. I see that as a testament to the faith and support of our congregants in the Indiana United Methodist Church.”
Many churches have given generously despite having few children—if any—in attendance. Lore shared, “Many older United Methodists no longer have children or grandchildren in the area, and some of the congregations no longer have children in attendance.”
But that has not stopped these congregations from supporting Camp & Outdoor Ministries in its mission to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” as well as its efforts to help young people build strong, lasting relationships with God.
“Those churches still love helping children connect to Jesus and give their resources generously,” added Lore.
Pine Creek Camp still hopes to raise the outstanding $28,000 in order to reach their goal. United Methodists and neighbors in the Northwest District have agreed to match funds raised up to $50,000.
If you wish to give to this cause, please send your donations to:
Jan Fager, Northwest District,
PO Box 25726, Ft. Wayne, IN 46825
If you have questions regarding Camp & Outdoor Ministries and the ways it seeks to help people build a relationship with God, please contact Grant Crumbaugh at 229 220-4563.