Celebrating 50 Years

The whole world took note in 1969 when Neil Armstrong and Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin became the first to set foot on the moon.

That same summer, however, something of even greater significance took root in the farm fields of northern Minnesota, just south of Fosston — Sand Hill Lake Bible Camp.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of ministry at the camp, which since its start has served the area congregations of the Fellowship of Christian Assemblies.

Humble Beginnings

In the camp’s early days, facilities and amenities were scarce. It began as a simple vision of several from Bethel Assembly in Fosston. The new pastor, Jake Toews, along with about a dozen men from the church soon arranged to purchase a farm on the east shore of Sand Hill Lake. Eventually more than a dozen churches invested in the vision and formed a board to oversee finances and decision-making.

Glen Forsberg, currently “Fellowship Pastor” to Canadian FCA pastors was the speaker at this year’s anniversary celebration. He recalled his first visit to the newly purchased farm just after he became pastor of Full Gospel Chapel in Steinbach, Manitoba.

Many from his Canadian congregation partnered with Minnesotans to clean up the grounds. Volunteers moved in an old church (purchased for $1) to hold services, setting it on a basement that became the dining hall. Kitchen utensils were donated from the air base in Duluth, Minnesota. A canteen was added. The farm’s granary became a girl’s dorm; the barn became the boy’s dorm. Later a large tent was pitched to hold bigger crowds until eventually the current chapel was erected.

Early campers overcame many challenges. They had no showers. (“Use the lake,” they were told.) For toilets they had rustic outhouses. They fought “duck lice” in the lake. They walked dirt paths instead of concrete. For years volunteers donated time and equipment to harvest crops on the property to defray camp expenses.

Over the years dozens of camp managers, cabin counselors, and pastors contributed their time and energy for ministry and to maintain and improve the grounds. Others joined in to pour concrete, erect buildings, shingle roofs, paint walls, and clean.

With God’s help, they gradually transformed the land. Hay, corn, and wheat gave way to a spiritual harvest. Those visionaries believed they would reap what they sowed — and they did.

50 Years and Counting

Year by year the impact of SHLBC has grown. “My greatest recollection,” says Forsberg, “is youth and adults discovering their personal relationship  with Jesus — [along with] the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.” He remembers the camp as a healthy social time and, even more, “the place where you went to meet God!”

Stories of miracles live on. When Pastor Warren Heckman’s son, Garth, took an awkward dive into the lake and broke his neck, some tried to determine how serious his injuries were and asked if he could move his head — precisely the opposite of what should have been done. God spared Garth from further damage, however, and the doctors soon had him in a protective brace.

Another time, more than 200 campers survived a deadly, night-time tornado. After it ended, campers and leaders searched by flashlight through the debris, looking for the injured. Despite many broken and splintered ironwood trees, the searchers found no casualties. “Everyone was whole and alive!” says Forsberg. “There was not a broken bone among us.”

One tree had smashed a small camper — just moments after Pastor Virgil and Ruth Rasmussen from Cloquet, Minnesota, had exited it. In the tent next to the camper was their young son, Steve, now pastor of Bethel Christian Fellowship in St. Paul.

On the Move

Today Steve Rasmussen remembers the powerful influence various camp speakers had on him as he grew up. Through them his heart was stirred toward ministry — and he wasn’t alone in that. Others also trace their own encounters with God’s Spirit to SHLBC, where they sought God and answered his call.

Other memories linger from those early days, of course. laughter and fun, great friendships (some for a lifetime), and even meeting a future spouse.

The list of accomplishments at the camp over the years is long and impressive. But physical improvements pale in comparison to the spiritual changes. Many, now serving as ministers, missionaries, or church leaders, look back to SHLBC as a significant, formative time in their walk with the Lord.

In 50 years, Sand Hill Lake Bible Camp has truly impacted the world. And that’s worth celebrating!

Pastor Glen Forsberg who attended camp in the early years and who has ministered occasionally through the years since returned to challenge and inspire this year's Family Camp.

Fifty years ago an old rural church building was trucked to Sand Hill Lake Bible Camp to serve as the first site for powerful preaching and altar ministry.

Soon the camp needed more space for services and erected a large tent.

Those attending this year's Family Camp took time in the chapel to remember, looking at photographs from previous years.

Passing the Baton

All Nations Family of Churches Transitions to a New Era

Pastor Jim Olson, along with pastors and elders of the ANFC, pray for Pastor Sam Snyder and Pastor Justin Byakweli.

The All Nations Family of Churches, eight multicultural and multilingual congregations that formed out of Bethel Christian Fellowship in Saint Paul, Minnesota, witnessed a major shift in direction as they gathered for their annual combined outdoor service and picnic on June 2nd.  This group of FCA churches, which have been led for a number of years by Pastor Jim Olson, is transitioning leadership as they step into the next season of their ministry together.

Jim, who stepped away from pastoral ministry a couple of years ago to minister as President of the Pilgrim Center for Reconciliation, passed the baton of leadership to Sam Snyder and Justin Byakweli. Sam is Pastor of Cross Culture Community Church in Minneapolis and current president of the USA Fellowship of Christian Assemblies National Board. Justin is Pastor of the International Christian Fellowship in St. Paul. Both of the new leaders were selected by the All Nations Family of Churches joint pastoral and elder team.

During the commissioning service and the messages by the two new appointees given in response, English was translated publicly into three other languages. The ANFC consists of congregations who worship in English, Haitian Creole, Hmong, Nepali, Oromo, Karen, French, and Swahili. Many of the members are refugees and immigrants who have settled in the Twin Cities’ area in recent years. The churches and leadership share relationships, resources, some facilities space, and a unified vision.

At their recent leadership retreat, the diverse group of leaders focused on a growing clarity of their calling for the future: To Manifest the Kingdom of God as they Mature, Mobilize, and Multiply life-giving and joy-filled churches that are houses of prayer for all nations.

Pastor Justin Byakweli sharing about the call to Mature together as individuals, as churches, and as a Family of Churches.

Pastor Sam Snyder sharing about the call to Mobilize and Multiply as individuals and as churches.

Water in His Name

Steven Mayanja, Foreign Mission Director of the World Outreach Ministry Foundation, reports on multiple projects currently underway in seven East African countries.

This photo essay gives a glimpse of just one project in Burundi, providing clean water for remote villages. In some cases before WOMF provided wells, people—even young children—were required to walk distances of several miles to fill canisters with water.

The efforts of WOMF not only bring the community together in a cooperative project to improve conditions in the village, they also provide a tangible expression of the love of God reaching to a people in need. The water projects (and other WOMF projects) are part of their overall mission to bring Jesus to meet the deeper, spiritual needs of people.

Mixing concrete for mortar to support the sides of the well being dug.

 

Woman carrying rocks for the walls of the well—just some of the many members of the community who get involved with the water project.

 

Organizing the volunteers is key to helping community members who are working to improve the conditions of their own village.

 

Shoring up the sides of the well with rocks from the area so people may safely access the water.

 

Clean water is finally piped to the community. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.” (Mark 9:41)

 

Church Goes to the Dogs

Riverside Christian Assembly in California has pulled off something few churches have ever done, building an evangelism team affectionately known as the “Dog Wakers.”

Not Dog “Walkers. Dog “Wakers.”

The neighborhood near the church, it turns out, has a large canine population—and most of the dogs bark incessantly when the team canvasses the area. “I bear a scare on my right index finger from a pit bull,” laughs Pastor Drew Brattrud. “He didn’t enjoy our wake up call and got his teeth through a gate.”

The evangelism team has contacted their neighbors in multiple ways. To date: 300 postcards, 324 emails, 1,057 app notices, and 100 door hangers—all of which have contributed to 1,000 website views. The theme of their effort is appropriately named “Bombard the Back Yard.”

Each member of the evangelism team has had a role. Carol Bennett has been a tremendous help with labeling mail and sending out invitations. The “Dog Wakers” also do their part, visiting homes in the area.

While they have kept boots on the ground, the church has also released daily short clips of preaching on Facebook and Instagram, spending a little extra to boost the posts and put them in front of more than a thousand viewers.

Brattrud has challenged members of the congregation to invite their friends and not just rely on “cold-call” neighborhood contacts. “Nine out of 10 people visit a church because a friend or family member invites them,” he reminds them, “so let’s invite more of our friends.”

Though the campaign is not yet finished, they have already seen results. Several have visited church services, and three families have continued to attend. An amazing baptism took place. “On average you must invite someone seven times before they will attend an event,” notes Brattrud. “With six contacts in the can, now we have to be ready meet them.”

Riverside Christian Assembly’s ongoing outreach will next include a local coupon mailer, reaching 5,000 area residents—1,100 of whom have already received postcards from the church. Their message will be on the middle front page once a month for four months. And they are improving their video message posts, even experimenting with some drone footage!

“We are proud of our church,” Brattrud says. “We no longer want to be the best kept secret in Riverside.” He notes that the 1,176 residents who live in their target area have, for five weeks in a row, received a postcard from the church.

And their dogs received a wake-up call.

 

Convention Hotel Filling Up

The convention hotel is filling up fast! 

The Quality Inn / Georgio’s Convention Center is already 75 percent full with reservations for Rev’D Up, the FCA convention this April 30 – May 3. If you haven’t already reserved your place, don’t delay. Especially if you want the convenience of staying right across the road from Christian Hills Church in Orland Park, Illinois — our convention hosts.

But it’s about much more than the convenience. It’s also the savings.

It’s only $89 per night for a room — and that includes a breakfast! Once the Quality Inn is full, we will need to connect you to a second hotel — most likely the Wyndham, three miles away and about $129 a night.

Check out the convention website.

You’ll find an overview of convention speakers and events — as well as the details you’ll need to register for the convention and the hotel. If the link above doesn’t work, copy and paste this into your browser: www.2019fcaconvention.com

Pastor Mike McCartney,
Christian Hills Church

Host pastor, Mike McCartney, says, “I’m looking forward to a great time of fellowship and encouragement this spring with our Fellowship pastors, missionaries, and a number of global ministers.”

With a great slate of speakers and workshops planned, convention goers can all expect to receive something to bless them in their ministries.