The Rev. Stanley Buck led an impactful ministry during his time in the Indiana Conference and it was quite apparent during the opening celebration of the newly-constructed Buck Lodge at Epworth Forest Conference Center, on November 11, 2018.
United Methodists from across Indiana, joined personnel from Camping and Outdoor Ministries, as well as members of the Buck Family, to celebrate the impact Rev. Buck’s legacy has had on a ministry committed to creating unique spaces for people to be in community, as well as being one with God in the beauty and wonder of the outdoors. The ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the end of a two-year long campaign, headed by Michael Coyner, former resident bishop of the Indiana Area, which launched in 2015.
Nick Yarde, Executive Director of Camping and Outdoor Ministries, MC’d the ceremony and kicked it off by honoring the many donors, volunteers, and families that have put time and energy into ensuring the successful construction of the Lodge and worked hard to provide this opportunity to honor Rev. Buck with the start of a new chapter in camping ministry.
Nick acknowledged Bishop Coyner’s leadership and vision in merging the Discipleship Centers Campaign with a previous campaign designated to the fruition of the Buck Lodge. That merger allowed for a wider net to be cast in order to encourage contributions. It also allowed for easier management and the opportunity to build a location with a larger capacity.
“I really hope we can get in a spirit of celebration and a spirit of thankfulness that this season allows because there is so much to be thankful for,” Nick said, as he gave thanks to the many hands that were a part of making this new ministry opportunity come to life.
“These are people who had plenty of other things to do, and for them to step up and devote the amount of time it takes for a project like this makes a huge impact.”
The Building Discipleship Centers campaign peaked at $8.8 million raised in time to break ground at the Bishop Mike and Marsha Coyner Discipleship Center in August of 2016. The campaign launched the previous year when campaign committee members met for the first time to discuss strategies for a multi-segmented plan to build centers that will serve as havens in our disciple-making mission. During the spring and summer season, these centers host retreats and events for ministries of all focuses. And during the summer months, young people call the campgrounds home as they explore their faith, strengthen their bond with God, and learn what it means to be disciples of Jesus Christ.
Rev. Buck lost his battle to brain cancer six years ago, at age 52. Friends and cohorts from a lifetime of service and ministry joined with Buck’s wife, Kathleen, and daughters, Stephanie and Ashley, to celebrate his life, November 24, 2012. Rev. Buck founded Sonrise Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1987 and would lead the church for more than 20 years.
As Buck’s daughters made their way up to the podium to share memories of their father, Nick Yarde reflected on his first time meeting Rev. Buck during his time as a director at Camp Lakewood. He stated, “He could take a crowd of kids and turn them into a mass of worshipping students like nobody else could.”
Ashley Waterson, Buck’s youngest daughter, presented a plaque designed by the Sonrise Church congregation in partnership with friends of the Buck family. The plaque will be visible as campers and retreaters enter the Buck Lodge when the facility is opened for public use. Ashley read part of the plaque, stating;
One of his favorite parts of camp was leading worship with a guitar and singing camp songs. His passion was to see the Gospel of Jesus Christ transform the lives of campers. During the last years of his life, he devoted himself to ensuring that the legacy of the ministry at the Epworth Forest Conference Center would continue to reach future generations with the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Rev. Buck passed on his love of the outdoors to his daughters, who both spent significant time at camp during their youth and even worked as camp counselors alongside their dad. “Camp changed my life,” said Stephanie Thompson while toting her young son on her hips. “I really loved camp. Camp changed my life and it had a forever impact on me.” She struggled to hold back tears and went on to talk about impactful moments in her life and faith journey, each taking place at camp with her father nearby. She warmly reflected on accepting Christ into her heart as her father preached and being baptized by her father at Camp Lakewood. She refers to that side of her father as “Camp Stan” and shared that some of her favorite highlights of being with Camp Stan were sharing in his love for worship music and the ways he would graciously coach her during her time as camp leader.
Stephanie encouraged close friends to share their thoughts on the legacy of Camp Stan and the ways it affected their lives.
“One friend said, ‘He was always so kind and affirming of that tireless work each summer. He knew what God did in those places, in those hearts.”