You’ve probably heard that LOM is making available FOR FREE last year’s VBS packet of the “Jesus Way” Curriculum. If you’d like to help in the effort to promote that, just print off some of these handy, dandy flyers and hand them out to ELCA congregations that you know. Click here for the flyer:
Executive Director Don Johnson posts reflections as he travels to Lutheran Outdoor Ministry sites. He typically posts them on the LOM Facebook pages first and provides a recap each month on this blog.
On the road again on January 9! After a few weeks at home during the Christmas/New Year holidays, I headed to California and spent time at Mount Cross Lutheran Camp for a Board Development retreat as they prepare to begin their search for their next executive director. In spite of the torrential downpours and losing power for a while, we had an excellent retreat with the participation of some very dedicated Board members. It was also so good to have the participation of Andrea Scofield who was invited by the Board to join in on the retreat because of all the help she's been giving them as a neighboring camp (Lutherwood, OR) during this executive director transition time, especially collaborating with them on summer camp staff recruiting that will begin very soon.
From Mount Cross I headed east (way east) and arrived at Lutheran Camp Chrysalis (part of the Cross Trails Ministries organization) early Sunday evening. Talk about hospitality! - Executive Director Deanna Christensen and all the year-round staff took me to a great restaurant for dinner upon my arrival, so when I finally arrived at Chrysalis it was very dark - I slept very well in the guest room they gave me! That was after some enjoyable and relaxed conversation about life at Chrysalis (a very good life, I must add). And then, the next morning, what a treat to meet early with Adventure Director Fred Klinker for a hike all around this absolutely beautiful site that ended up on top of a ridge (in the middle of Texas!) with a magnificent view of the whole camp spread out in the valley below. It's no wonder that Cross Trails is busy and thriving summer, winter, spring and fall. This summer, alone, they are expecting over 2,400 campers in all of their programs at Chrysalis, Ebert Ranch, and off site in all their day camps (three to four day camps every week!). So to Kelly, Darcey (expecting her first child - due date July 7!), Deanna, Vestal, Jay, Jessica, Fred, Ron, and Courtney (most of whom are well known throughout LOM because of their participation in LOM activities) - thank you for hosting me for a memorable visit and thank you for your ministry at Cross Trails - a ministry that all of us involved with LOM can be proud of!!!
From Chrysalis I headed north to Ebert Ranch, another outdoor ministry site in the Cross Trails organization. I was met by camp director Steve Krupicka, who is very proud of the ministry of Ebert Ranch, and he has every right to feel very good about this wonderful camp/retreat center and all the programs that take place there. This place is a treasure! There’s close to 500 acres of beautiful land in the picturesque hill country of Texas. There’s great bunk rooms especially well-suited for youth groups and summer camp programs for kids, and there’s an absolutely delightful retreat house that’s excellently appointed for adults and families. They run the site as a true ranch, with horses doing free-roam grazing and to my sense of wonder – their own herd of longhorn cattle. The brand new chapel is absolutely beautiful and they are developing a play area with all the necessities for Lutheran outdoor ministries – including gaga ball and volleyball! I loved my visit here; Steve’s enthusiasm for the ministry is infectious; I wish I could’ve spent more time before heading on the epic ride across the state to get to the brand new Zion Lutheran Retreat Center on Galveston Island – more about that soon.
On Monday, January 9, I left Ebert Ranch in Harper, TX, at about noon, and headed east, past Austin, past Houston, and on to Galveston Island on the Gulf Coast. There, at around 6pm, I found my way to the newest outdoor ministry site of LOM – Zion Lutheran Retreat Center, part of the Lutherhill organization. I’m so happy I had the chance to stay at Zion because the LOM Education Committee met there, January 9-11. We had a great time at this brand new retreat center, made possible because Zion Lutheran Church donated their building upon closing the congregation and donating it to Lutherhill. They’ve done a super good job of renovating it to a first-class retreat center with hotel style guest rooms, a fully functioning kitchen and dining area, and a spectacular meeting area where the sanctuary used to be. They have all the bells and whistles for technology supported meetings. Plus, it’s hard to beat being just a few blocks from a beautiful and long seaside beach when the January temperatures were in the 70’s every day.
As for the Education Committee meetings – it went very well – evaluating the 2016 LTE and BTE, making plans for the 2017 LTE, and digging into the strategic plan goals of reviewing the full scope of educational needs of LOM and making recommendations to the LOM Board for how best to organize LOM for what will soon be an expanding menu of educational opportunities provided by LOM. Thank you so much to the Education Committee for staying on task in such a fun place (pictured, clockwise, from the bottom) Phil Geleske, executive director, Briarwood (TX), Randy Youngquist-Thurow, executive director, Agape/Kure Beach (NC) and LOM events coordinator, Mariane Brock, director, Camp Nawakwa (PA), Andrea Scofield, executive director, Lutherwood (OR), Don Johnson, LOM executive director, Jenny Frantz, director, Camp Luther (OH), Matt Kindsvatter, executive director, Lutherhill, and LOM Education Committee chair, Gretchen Bachman, director of operations, Voyageurs (MN).
The LOM Education Committee meetings concluded after dinner on Tuesday evening, January 10. After a restful night in the very comfortable accommodations of the Zion Retreat Center, and a sunrise walk on Galveston Island’s beautiful beach, I headed back to the west to La Grange, TX, and Lutherhill Camp and Retreat Center, the flagship site of Lutherhill Ministries. There I met up again with executive director Matt Kindsvatter and I think just about every one of the Lutherhill year-round staff. Most of them I had already met about three months earlier when all the outdoor ministries of Texas met at Briarwood, and it was good to reconnect with all of them and meet a few who weren’t at the earlier gathering. They are such a fun-loving and enthusiastic group! Their energy is infectious! And what a great place the Lutherhill site is! The site is dominated by rolling hills, acres of fields, lots of shade trees, and an absolutely beautiful Chapel that overlooks the whole valley below the camp. Once again, I was totally impressed by the beauty of this campsite, the array of programs being offered by Lutherhill, and the friendliness of the staff. Another treasure for the whole church!
Friday January 20 – Saturday, January 21: I flew out of Portland, ME, and into Louisville KY by mid-morning. Went to the Galt House Hotel, site of the 2017 Youth Ministry Extravaganza to set up the display for LOM. Ten of our outdoor ministry organizations also had displays at the Extravaganza. Once I got everything set up (with the help of Korey Breutzmann, Krista Blair, and Jacqui Goering from Carol Joy Holling Camp, thank you!) I set out for Morgantown, in southern Indiana, to Lutheran Hills Camp (a camp of the LOMIK organization – Lutheran Outdoor Ministries of Indiana-Kentucky). This place is astoundingly beautiful. The camp is set on 750 acres of beautiful rolling hills, fields, forests and streams. They encompass their own 17 acre lake! The buildings and grounds are impeccably clean and well cared for. It’s the first camp I’ve seen with a full-blown wiffle ball stadium complete with bleachers and press box. Mark Radloff has announced his retirement as executive director at the end of 2018 – he will have served in that position for 27 years. The LOMIK Board of Directors invited me to lead a retreat to help them think through and plan for the transition. They invited the year-round staff and several young adults with summer camp staff experience to join them for the process. It was a very productive and worthwhile time of reflection on where their organization has been, the state of their affairs now, and how they want to continue to develop over the next several years, and the qualities they will be looking for in their next executive director. This is a group that also has lots of fun together and enjoys life to the fullest. The Friday night social time had great snacks – including venison sausage that originated from deer on their own property. And the steak lunch on Saturday, prepared by Mark Radlof, was a great send-off for me as I headed down the road back to Louisville. Thank you, one and all, for a great time at Lutheran Hills Camp.
Sunday, January 22: The Youth Ministry Extravaganza is an excellent opportunity to network with colleagues and collaborators throughout the ELCA. Today I had the good fortune to enjoy brunch high above the Ohio River with Tim Canniff-Kuhn, Lori Bode, and Kara Beck, all from NovusWay (Luther Ridge), NC. We had a great conversation with lots of good ideas for outdoor ministry shared.
Sunday January 22: The Youth Ministry Extravaganza presented an excellent opportunity for quite a few outdoor ministry folks to connect with each other. We had a great time. At the Extravaganza this week were these organizations: Lutheran Retreats, Camps, and Conferences (CA), Lutherans Outdoors in South Dakota, Nebraska Lutheran Outdoor Ministries, Lutherhill (TX), Luther Heights (ID), Lutheran Outdoor Ministries of Ohio, Flathead Lutheran Bible Camp (MT), NovusWay (NC), Sky Ranch (CO), Camp Frederick (OH), and Living Water (MI). Many of us had dinner together this evening. We were joined by new LOM Board member Jake Sorenson (of the Effective Camp Research Project) and Hans Wiersma, professor at Augsburg College and one of the keynote speakers at next year’s LOM Conference.
What an honor it has been to serve as the executive director of Lutheran Outdoor Ministries (LOM). The ministries of the organizations that comprise LOM continue to repeatedly touch people in ways that inspire growing faith in Jesus Christ and proclamation of the Gospel throughout the world. The passion for this ministry of those who provide professional and volunteer leadership in these organizations is evident in their dedicated service. Those who serve on the governing boards are ever mindful of their responsibility for the stewardship and mission of these treasured resources of the church. And everywhere I turn in this organization, I am finding a commitment to combine our skills, resources, and experiences in ways that make outdoor ministry, for the church and the world, a movement that transcends and multiplies our strength and vitality beyond what any of us can do on our own. For me and I know for everyone engaged in the life of LOM, this is gratifying work, indeed!
When I began serving as executive director of LOM in August, 2015, I made the commitment to visit as many of our 129 sites as possible during my first two years. As of December 31, 2016, I have visited 70 of our sites. I am committed to visiting all the rest in the days ahead. This has been a great way for me to “get a pulse” on the state of affairs throughout our network and to enhance the LOM commitment of keeping our leaders connected with each other.
During the past decade, our organizations have been through challenging times. In the past year or so, however, there’s an emerging confidence in the future. For some, this is due to growing program participation; for others, it’s due to getting good feedback from all the time-consuming work of cultivating relationships with congregations, synods, and other institutions of the church; and for others, it’s due to good responses from reaching out to persons and communities that don’t have traditional connections with the Lutheran church.
Many challenges continue. I’ve summarized those that I’ve observed in the document, “Challenges and Opportunities for LOM and its Member Organizations.” (See document below) I invite your feedback.
LOM is all about changing challenges into opportunities by what we can do together. Some of the most significant LOM initiatives during the past year –
It seems like every time I turn around, somebody is making a comment about how excited they are by the progress we are making in our mission of encouraging, educating, equipping, and empowering bold and faithful outdoor ministry leaders. I share in that excitement, knowing that the excitement is being generated by so many for whom we are so grateful – all who provide volunteer service to LOM; our Board and committee members; our contract staff who go way beyond the requirements of job descriptions – Jon Skogen, Randy Youngquist-Thurow, Chad Hershberger, Aurice Worley, and Andrea Lee; our Business Partners and Ministry Partners; and a big thank you to all who have made financial contributions that have grown to the point of instilling confidence that yes, this indeed can be a financially sustainable LOM. Thank you one and all!
Dear Conference and Retreat Center Hosts,
As the LOM Board prepares to fulfill some exciting new aspects of the Strategic Plan they are seeking a host site for the LOM Interim Director Training. This letter is to invite an open bid process for all LOM sites to host this training event.
The process is a bid format. We invite any LOM site that can meet the attached hosting criteria to make a bid to host. The bid to host process has been adopted in order to be good stewards of LOM funds and provide members with the opportunity to host official LOM sponsored events. It is our expectation that each site put forward it’s best in hosting and caring for LOM groups.
In 2017, the dates will be May 8-12. These dates are non-negotiable.
Please review the criteria sheet to see if your site can fulfill the groups meeting needs. If your site would like to make a proposal (bid) to host please use the attached application page to do so.
Proposals will be reviewed by the Event Coordinator in conjunction with the LOM Executive Director. Proposals will be accepted until December 20, 2016 and sites will be notified by January 6, 2017.
One additional factor will play a role in the final host site choice. The Event Coordinator will average prices from 6-8 destinations to your airport and add that average cost to each proposal. As a result, your site proposal will be added to average airfare price to make up your final proposal (bid) price.
Please direct any questions to:
Executive Director, LOM
Cell: (603) 848-9904
Executive Director Don Johnson will occasionally post reflections as he travels to Lutheran Outdoor Ministry sites. Here is his latest entry from his travels recently:
I had an excellent visit to the headquarters of Lutherans Outdoors South Dakota (LOSD) in Sioux Falls on August 26.. What a beautiful office on the campus of Augustana University! In a building that includes the campus Chapel and the offices of the SD Synod. It was too bad Layne Nelson, executive director couldn't be there, but I'm so glad he got to celebrate his father's 80th birthday, In the picture, left to right: Paul Hanson, operations director (and LOM Auctioneer Extrodinaire!); Erica Julius, registrar; Karen Krause development director (Karen is retiring 4 days from now - thank you, Karen, for a wonderful career devoted to the worthiest of causes); Gayle Wisniewski, development coordinator; and Mara Stillson, marketing director (and loyal member of the LOM Terchnology Committee).
And then on August 27-28 I had the good fortune to be a presenter at the ELCA Synod Mission Interpreter Coordinators Conference. It was especially good fortune to have the Conference at Joy Ranch, part of the Lutherans Outdoors in South Dakota (LOSD) network of camps (along with Klein Ranch, Outlaw Ranch, and NeSoDak). Joy Ranch is one amazing and beautiful and unique outdoor ministry site. You feel like you are in an old-time western pioneer town (although I'm pretty sure the pioneers were nowhere near as comfortable. The prairie, the lake, the Norwegian Fjord horses, the 5-star comfort of the rooms, the great food, and the hospitality of the staff all add up to an excellent experience. The site director, Dusty Rodiek (on the right in this photo), and the guest services director, Sean McCall, are both new to Lutheran Outdoor Ministries so when you see them at the LOM Annual Conference, November 7-11, at Carol Joy Holling Camp in Nebraska (registration goes live this Thursday, September 1), make sure you give them a warm welcome to the LOM family - they are going to have tons to offer for our network!
Sunday, August 21, was a glorious day at Camp Lutherlyn in Prospect, PA. The Lutherlyn community hosted a huge party to honor Randy Gullickson upon his retirement after 37 years in full-time outdoor ministry executive leadership (starting in 1979 at Luther Park, Danbury, WI, and since 1985 at Lutherlyn). More than 450 persons turned out for the event. LOM was well represented with Mark Burkhardt giving a great speech, Paul Howells, who was the director of outdoor ministries in the LCA was there with wife, Carol, and I was honored to have a part in the festivities. We are all very grateful for Randy's many contributions to LOM - Board member of LOM, president and vice-president of ALOMP, one of the crafters of how outdoor ministry would be organized at the beginning of the ELCA, and member of the outdoor ministry advisory committee to the ELCA. One of the greatest tributes to Randy was that all four of those who served with him as associate directors - Deb, Marnie, RJ, and Lee - were there to make moving testimonials of the effectiveness and inspiration of his leadership. One pf the pictures (clowning around) is of those four holding Randy horizontally - if they look familiar it's because Deb Deb Brut Roberts currently serves as associated director at Lutherlyn, Randy Youngquist-Thurow serves as executive director at Agape/Kure Beach, NC, and Lee Lindeman serves as executive director at Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Center, NY.
LOM colleagues - -
There are a few more interesting tidbits that I think you'll want to know about.
I was in Colorado the week before last. I had a brief visit to Rainbow Trail and enjoyed the hospitality of Dave and Nell Jarvis. It was a great visit to a great outdoor ministry organization. The ELCA, and as a result, LOM, is fortunate to have two great organizations in Colorado. I was invited to be part of a Ministry Review Team, May 11-14, organized in this case by the Rocky Mountain Synod and invited by Sky Ranch. This was a great opportunity for Sky Ranch to get some affirmations for their organization and programs (there are many affirmations to be had), and to get some recommendations for moving forward from a few people not totally embedded in their organization. It was, in my opinion, an excellent process and I think executive director Brad Abbott and the Sky Ranch Board members would all agree. LOM is now in a position and poised to organize similar Ministry Reviews, and I encourage you to contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you are interested in exploring such a possibility for your outdoor ministry organization.
Then, at the end of this past week, LOM once again was in a position to be of service to another of our member organizations. Hungry Mother Lutheran Retreat Center in SW Virginia (Chris Stevens, executive director) invited me to their Board retreat to have a consultation with the Board, sort of a mini Board development workshop. Once again, it was an excellent opportunity for LOM and I'm pretty sure an excellent experience for their Board. They've had some pretty serious struggles making ends meet during the last several years, but they nevertheless committed to a donation of $500 to the LOM Annual Fund at the conclusion of their retreat (and I didn't even twist anyone's arm!). One of the great things about where we are now as an organization is that LOM can serve camps and retreat centers in these kinds of ways. If you are interested in LOM providing a similar experience in your context, please contact me (email@example.com).
LOM is about to move into a new strategic planning process!. We've been on the current strategic plan since 2013, and given the promise and optimism sweeping over LOM because of the renewed confidence in what we can all do for each other by providing for each other through LOM what is difficult to provide on our own. So the LOM Board has decided that this is a strategically good time for the next phase of strategic planning. We'll be working with Evan Moilan of Gronlund, Sayther, Brunkow (GSB) as our consultant. The Planning Team consists of: Deanna Christensen, Board member and chair of the Planning Team; Russ Senti, recording secretary; Rev. Angel Marrero, Board member; Rev Tim Taylor; Heather Eggert; Joel Abenth; Rev. Nikki Fielder; Don Johnson, LOM executive director The first meeting will be on May 26 by video conference. We expect to have a draft strategic plan ready to review with everyone at the LOM Annual Conference from November 7-11, at Carol Joy Holling Camp in Nebraska (registration will go live on the LOM website by September 1). Please feel free to contact any of the Planning Team members with ideas you have for LOM during the next few years.
Another great idea keeps popping up in many of the conversations I have with LOM's individual members throughout the network - an LOM administered and organized interim executive director program. We're getting much closer to LOM being in a position to activate this idea. On June 28, at Churchwide Office in Chicago, a planning group will be meeting to make decisions regarding how we will be able to move forward with this initiative in the very near future. Included will be a plan for Interim Executive Director training so we can have a cohort of prospective interim executive directors, fully trained in a program tailored specifically for serving as interims in outdoor ministry organizations, ready to explore the possibility with organizations in transition. The planning group for this initiative will include: Rev. Meggan Manlove of the LOM Board, Jerry Olstad who has served as an interim executive director on a few occasions, Kathy Haueisen, a retired executive director who served in a few outdoor ministry organizations, Mark Burkhardt of the LOM Board, who needs no introduction in these circles, Rev. Gordon Straw, ELCA churchwide staff who relates to interim ministry, Bill Slocumb, my conterpart who serves the Episcopal Camps and Conferences, and John Czarnota, a seasoned veteran of interim ministry training.
Mar-Lu-Ridge Lutheran Camp and Retreat Center in Jefferson, MD, will be inviting their campers and staff this summer into an opportunity to support the work of LOM as we provide support to outdoor ministries experiencing times of difficulty or crisis. The description of this program, provided by Sarah Lefler, executive director of Mar-Lu-Ridge, is attached here. Thank you, Sarah and everyone at Mar-Lu-Ridge, for this great way of supporting future ministry opportunities for LOM!
And finally, for this email anyway, one possibility for those of you still looking to fill summer camp staff positions. I have recently been contacted by a student at Morgan State University and serving there in the office of the Chaplain. Her name is Lori Ann Christian and I met her when we were having an LOM summer staff recruiting event at Morgan State. She just now has arrived at a point where she would be able to serve in leadership at one of our LOM camps or retreat centers. Her resume and cover letter are attached.
Here's wishing you all the best in these very full days of great expectation.
I know that for many of you, summer camp is now right around the corner. You will be in my prayers every day, as you always are, but especially this summer, as you have so many children in your care. May your summer camp days be filled with excitement, happiness, good health & safety, and faith-full experience for you, your staff, and all your campers of all ages.
Now...not to muddy the waters of all your summer camp plans, let me share with you a few of items that I know will be of interest to many.
First - Paul Campbell, recently retired as executive director of Spirit in the Desert in AZ, is offering to bring to other LOM camps and retreat centers a splendid program that he has developed over the years. The information for this program, "Third Chapter of Life", is attached here. It looks like the kind of program that will work well at many of our LOM sites around the ELCA. Paul will be at our Conference in November so we'll all have an opportunity to get more information at that time.
Second - there is a growing spirit of collaboration of LOM with many other ministry groups inside and beyond the wall so the church. This is something we can especially celebrate in the collaborative relationship that is building with the ELCA Youth Gathering. LOM was invited to be part of the group that met recently to determine the theme for the 2018 Youth Gathering. We are very pleased that Jesse Weiss, a member of our LOM Education Committee, represented us at that time. Jesse has provided us with a reflection of his time representing LOM at that meeting, and that document is also attached here.
Third - I'm attaching a flier for the Annual LOM Conference, November 7-11, 2016, at Carol Joy Holling Camp and Retreat Center in Nebraska. This is going to be an outstandingly great event. You don't want to miss it! So please put it on your calendar now. Registration will go live on the LOM website - www.lomnetwork.org - starting on or around September 1.
Here's wishing you a great homestretch toward summer. There's no ministry more important than the way you impact on kids and people of all ages. Don't hesitate to let me know if anything comes up that LOM can help with.
I write to share news of a change in your LOM Board leadership. Lindsey Scheid was elected as our Board president at the end of 2015, but has decided to step down from this position. Lindsey is in a new position at Holden Village. Because of the remoteness of Holden, she has been feeling isolated and it's been difficult for her to feel that she's in good communication with other Board members. Lindsey will maintain her seat on the board.
At our April LOM Board meeting, the board voted Casey Fuerst into this role. Casey serves as the Director/Marketing & Communications for Nebraska Lutheran Outdoor Ministries. She shares, “I am grateful for this opportunity to serve LOM in this way. As I’ve worked in Outdoor Ministries over the last 16 years, I’ve learned so much from this network of support and I’m honored to be able to give a little back through this role.”
I am grateful that Lindsey will continue to serve on the LOM Board because she has given much valuable service to LOM in her prior experience as a Board member. And I want Casey to know how grateful I am that she has “stepped up to the plate” in the way she has. I know that I speak not only for myself but for the whole LOM network in expressing this gratitude.
On another note, the 2016 Conference planning committee would like to invite you to check out conference information on the website at http://www.lomnetwork.org/upcoming_events/annual_conferences_titlepage/.
Early interest is affirming the belief that there will be record-setting attendance at this conference. We are working with our site, Carol Joy Holling Camp, to determine capacities, but may need to limit the number of attendees. So make sure you register early to assure your spot and your housing preference!
And I can also assure you that it’s going to be the best Conference we’ve ever had! And that’s after last year’s Conference which was the best one we ever had until this year!
And on another note…We all know how important it is for us to tell the success stories that make the value of our ministry come alive. During the last few months, this has become increasingly evident to me as I’ve been networking throughout the whole church to proclaim the treasure we all know as outdoor ministry. So I’m now on a mission to collect from all of you throughout the outdoor ministry network some of your most memorable outdoor ministry success stories. I’m especially interested in (but not limited to) hearing/reading your stories of how outdoor ministry has had impact on people and groups – people of any and all ages – stories of leadership formation and the deepening of faith and discerning God’s call to proclaim the Good News in what we say and do. Please send your stories to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tell me on the phone at 603-848-9904. Thank you.
And, finally, on a note that has everything to do with all of the above notes and all you do in your camping and retreat ministry to build community; to provide the framework for so many people to deepen their faith in God and to experience God’s grace and love through Jesus Christ; to show their gratitude by the way they interact with the world around them – THANK YOU. Your work is a treasure for the church and a gift to the world!
Executive Director Don Johnson will occasionally post reflections as he travels to Lutheran Outdoor Ministry sites. Here is his latest entry from his travels in February 2016:
Wednesday, January 27: Flight from Boston to Phoenix. Drove from the airport to stay with friends in Scottsdale.
Thursday, January 28: Spent the day with good friends in Scottsdale – Al and Carol Anderson. Great reunion in their beautiful home. Al and I were camp counselors together and remain best of friends. When Al was in seminary, he and Carol, to whom he was now married, returned to Calumet to serve as wilderness trip leaders. For that matter, they were the founders of Calumet’s wilderness tripping programs (week-long backpacking, canoe camping, and bike hiking).
Friday, January 29: Took the beautiful drive from Scottsdale to Payson. Visited longtime friends from Freedom, NH – Dick and Sally Low. Then visited the site of Lutheran Outdoor Ministries of Northern Arizona (LOMONA). LOMONA is a small retreat center located adjacent to Mount Cross Lutheran Church in downtown Payson. They have a building that is used as a meeting place with a small kitchen, and a bunk cabin with several rooms equipped with bunk beds and bathrooms down the hall. The current executive director, Jo Wright, was not available at that time, but I did have an opportunity to find out a great deal of the history of LOMONA from the former camp director, Maryann Rowe. It was, to say the least, a very interesting visit. From there I made the drive to Prescott, AZ – another very beautiful trip through the mountains of Arizona.
Saturday, January 30: I visited Camp Aloma in the morning. The road from downtown Prescott to Camp Aloma is an absolutely dramatic pass through incredibly majestic mountain views. Camp Aloma is at elevation 6,200’, so there was plenty of snow on the ground and pretty chilly air just to make me feel right at home – quite a contrast from being in shirtsleeves in Phoenix. Camp Aloma is on a very small plot of land surrounded by millions of acres of national forest. Their facilities are simple and rustic, but they are equipped for retreats during all four seasons and the confirmation group that was meeting there at the time seemed to all be having a good time. Leah McKean is the executive director and I had delightful conversation with her in between her dealing with questions for the retreat group, supervising the preparation for the noontime meal, and a variety of other things that were being called to her attention. Yes, Leah pretty much takes care of everything that needs to be taken care of at Aloma – brought me back to my early days as a camp director. This was a very enjoyable visit.
In the afternoon I drove back to Scottsdale. I met with Hank Rausch, a retired LCMS school principal who has a passion for outdoor ministry and is looking for ways to contribute to a more vibrant outdoor ministry program for more Lutherans in Arizona. Then went back to Al and Carol’s for a delicious dinner and one last evening as a guest of theirs.
Sunday, January 31: Visited in late morning with friends CC and Brian Childree, who live in southwestern Phoenix. CC grew up in Freedom and was a camper and counselor at Calumet. It was great to see her and her husband and to see how happy they both are. I then made my way to Mesa and had the great opportunity to visit with Jerry and Linde Manlove at their winter home. Jerry served for many years in a variety of outdoor ministry positions (and also with the YMCA before that). He also served as the director for outdoor ministries in the ALC so I was very excited to have the opportunity to pick his brain about my position with LOM. Linde also has a vast amount of churchwide experience from the many years she had doing youth ministry work in the ALC. Our conversations covered a whole range of subjects, mostly dealing with outdoor ministry. I came away from this valuable time of sharing with a renewed awareness of the importance for outdoor ministry organizations to have competent, skilled leaders who are constantly provided with opportunities to learn the most currently acknowledged best practices, and a renewed enthusiasm for outdoor ministry opportunities to be made available to all people regardless of background or social status. Thank you, Jerry and Linde, for a great afternoon. I then checked into the Carefree Conference Center for the next few days of participation in the CEO Academy of Lutheran Services in America (LSA).
Monday – Wednesday, February 1-3: The CEO Academy is a pretty intense experience of being confronted with some pretty sophisticated theories of management and leadership. I’m glad I took part in this experience and would recommend it to others, especially outdoor ministry CEO’s who have already had the opportunity to participate in both the program track and administrative track of the LOM Leadership Training Event (LTE). In addition to the educational aspects of the CEO Academy, it also provided opportunities to network with CEO’s of LSA who are in charge of organizations that have the potential for collaborative partnerships with LOM organizations. It also provided me the opportunity to have some in depth conversation with the LOM executive directors who were also participating – Keith Johnson of Novus Way (NC); Jeff Bluhm, Lutherdale (WI); Brent Seaks, Badlands Ministries (SD); Janis Sloka, Camp of the Cross (ND); and Dave Coker, Nebraska Lutheran Outdoor Ministries.
Wednesday, February 3: Checked out of Carefree Conference Center at noon. Made my way across town to Spirit in the Desert Lutheran Retreat Center. What a beautiful place. The setting is right there in the desert and the whole place feels like a lush oasis. The lodging rooms, meeting rooms, dining facilities, chapel, swimming pool, lounges, porches – everything is first-class. If you are looking for a great place for a very nice retreat experience for a group of adults in a unique setting – this is the place. The new executive director, Richard Andersen, started in that position at the first of this year. He is eager to get plugged into the activities and opportunities of LOM, and I know he will be an excellent addition to our membership.
In late afternoon I got on a plane bound for Los Angeles. Arrived early evening, Got a car, and drove up to El Camino Pines, elevation 5,200’ and temperature 27 F upon arrival at around 10:00pm. I was greeted by a couple of the year-round staff who were very busy with a school group from LA, there for a few days of environmental education. I had the good fortune of having an A-Frame cabin all to myself.
Thursday, February 4: The day dawned bright and sunny over the beautiful mountainside on which El Camino Pines is located. This place is beautiful! The ponderosa pine forest is beautiful, the bright sunshine on the new white snow is beautiful, and the bacon and eggs in the dining hall for breakfast were beautiful. The place was bubbling with activity with all the school kids excited about another day of environmental education. And Glen and Lauri Egertson, co-executive directors, were bubbling with enthusiasm about the ministry of El Camino Pines and Luther Glen, the camps that are part of the Lutheran Retreats, Camps, and Conferences organization (LRCC).
Because of a mix-up with the UPS delivery of materials for the LOM display table at the YM Extravaganza, Glen and I had to drive to Bakersfield to recover the delivery. We then drove to the other site in their organization, Luther Glen Retreat Center in Yucaipa (formerly known as Yolijwa). We spent about 5 hours in the car that afternoon, but the conversation flowed freely and I’m grateful for the opportunity to get to know Glen and get to know about the great ministry that he and Lauri are heading up there in southern California. The retreat center complex at Luther Glen is totally comfortable, so my evening there was very enjoyable.
Friday, February 5: Oh my goodness! We had arrived at Luther Glen at night in the dark, so I really didn’t see how beautiful this place is. On this morning, the sun was shining and it was a picture perfect clear day. Another mountain landscape! Glen and I had breakfast with Hick Finn, the intern, and Melanie Cornejo, the farm director. And then a tour of the site! The farm they are developing there is amazing. They’re growing lots of vegetables using raised beds. And they have a whole barnyard of goats, sheep, chickens, and sentry dogs! They are doing some interesting work with composting. The whole thing is very fascinating. To say nothing of the election they are going to have at this year’s synod assembly for the farm animal that will be elected bishop of the farm! Luther Glen and El Camino Pines are both beautiful places with beautiful facilities in beautiful settings, but what was most impressive to me was some of the innovative work they are doing with environmental education and the ongoing farm.
I left Luther Glen mid-morning and arrived in Anaheim by noon. Got myself registered and set up the LOM display for the Youth Ministry Extravaganza. The Extravaganza or E, as they call it, is an amazing event. It’s to the network of youth ministry professionals what the Annual Conference of LOM is to outdoor ministry professionals. But much bigger. There were more than 700 persons on hand for the E.
Saturday, February 6: The E presents a terrific opportunity for networking with many of the ministry partners of LOM who are very important to our outdoor ministry network. I’m sure glad I had the opportunity to be there. Some of the folks with whom I got to spend some quality time: Chandler Carriker and Shelly Talcott from Lutheran World Relief; Rebecca Lewis from Camp Noah; Seth Bridger from Trinity Seminary; Josh Graber from ALT Year; Sue Madigan from Thrivent; Mike Ward from GSB; Sam Collins from Lutheran Volunteer Corps; Holly Johnson from Pacific Seminary; and a good long conversation over breakfast with Todd Buegler, executive director of the ELCA Youth Ministry Network. I met, for the first time, Jake Sorenson, who gave a thoroughly compelling presentation at a workshop on the research he is doing. Mark Burkhardt and I had the opportunity to have dinner together and that’s always a good experience. There was a sizable contingent of LOM leaders who were there as exhibitors and participants, and a high point of the E for me was co-sponsoring with the LRCC folks a reception for all the outdoor ministry leaders and friends on Saturday evening. I’m estimating that around 50 persons showed up and we all had a great time.
Sunday, February 7: In the late morning I packed up the LOM display and headed for LAX Airport. Very grateful for the opportunity to be at the E and very grateful for the circumstances that motivated it. The YM Network gave LOM a gold level membership for our auction in November. It included an exhibit table and registration at the E, along with a one year membership in the YM Network. Anthony Briggs, executive director of Cross Roads (NJ) was the high bidder. But he couldn’t go to the E so he donated it back to LOM. The rest is, as they say, history.
My plane took off from LAX at exactly the same time as the kickoff for the Super Bowl. American Airlines had promised that all flights of more than 2 hours would have the Super Bowl on their TV screens for free. On my flight to Boston, technical difficulties meant they couldn’t deliver on their promise. My plane landed at Logan Airport in Boston at 11:15 pm. Waited for my bus to Dover, NH, which left Logan at 12:10 a.m.
Monday, February 8: Bus arrived in Dover 1:30 a.m. Found my car, drove back home to Freedom, arriving 2:30am. Pretty tired. All well worth it!!!
Executive Director Don Johnson will occasionally post reflections as he travels to Lutheran Outdoor Ministry sites. Here is his latest entry from his travels in January 2016:
My travels on behalf of LOM have continued into the first month of 2016. During the first full week of January, all of the committees and the Board of Directors met face to face at one of our LOM member camps – Camp Briarwood in Argyle, Texas. Briarwood is a great place and very comfortable for an event such as this. It’s one of a few of our camps where the synod office is located right there at camp. The executive director of Briarwood, Phil Geleske, serves on the Education Committee of LOM, so we saw a lot of Phil during our time there. Phil and the staff of Briarwood were excellent hosts. There’s nothing like staying at a camp or retreat center for several days to give you a sense of what the ministry is all about. We sure did have a good feeling about Briarwood after our time there. One of the assets for Briarwood is that it’s less than one hour from the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, so together with their excellent and adult-friendly facilities, they are well set up for hosting retreat and conference groups from near and far.
The meetings at Briarwood were productive and constructive. It was a good opportunity for me to experience first-hand how fortunate all of us in LOM are to have so many people dedicated to the LOM mission of strengthening the leadership we can provide for all outdoor ministries. One of the key results of the meetings in January was a statement of the membership philosophy for LOM that I’m confident will stay with us for a long, long time. It was a time that everyone involved put in long hours, worked hard, and yes, in the process, we did have fun!
Quote of the month, from Phil Geleske, executive director of Briarwood, as we were chatting one evening after the work was done – “Every time I have conversation with LOM colleagues, I come away learning something good”. Amen, Phil.
I returned home from the meetings in Texas on January 9, and then on January 19 it was back on the road again. This time out to Wisconsin.
My first visit was to Luther Point in Grantsburg, WI. Luther Point occupies a whole peninsula on Wood Lake. It’s a beautiful setting. Not only is it a beautiful setting, but the accommodations are very comfortable. The retreat center was a great place to spend the overnight. Most important, it was a great opportunity for me to have some extended time for conversation about all things outdoor ministry with executive director Mark Peters.
From Luther Point I made my way to the Lake Wapogasset Lutheran Bible Camp in Amery, WI. WOW! We Lutherans sure have some impressive camps and retreat centers! Wapo is no exception. This was the original visit on this itinerary, because the Planning Committee for the LOM 2016 Annual Conference was scheduled to meet here. Heather Eggert is a member of the Conference Committee and serves as associate director of the Lake Wapogasett organization that includes Wapo, Ox Lake, Luther Dell, and Wilderness Canoe Base. Heather was a very welcoming and gracious host for our group. It was a very successful meeting and a great way to experience the excellent overnight accommodations and meals at Wapo. I also had the good fortune to be able to connect with Paul Hill, the executive director of the Lake Wapogasett organization, for some good conversation – always a good experience. Paul has been a prime mover and shaker behind the research project the Jake Sorenson has been doing and this kind of serious research is very important for all of us in LOM.
This particular trip concluded with a visit to Luther Park in Chetek, WI, on January 21 that extended overnight at Luther Park and into January 22. Luther Park is another beautiful place with all of its buildings and grounds in excellent condition. They are also in the enviable position of serving as the site for the offices of their synod. Keith Newman is the executive director of Luther Park. He is relatively new at Luther Park and relatively new to Lutheran circles, but not at all new to outdoor ministry leadership. His wealth of outdoor ministry experience has been definitely shining through at Luther Park as he has led the way for them to eliminate a huge debt that they were burdened with in just a couple of years. I’m encouraging Keith to “bottle” his “secrets” and make them available to all of LOM! I think he’s willing to do that anytime you share a meal with him at the next conference or other LOM event.
I made it back home on January 22. This was a great round of visits to outdoor ministry sites – camps, retreat centers, conference centers, and to the people who serve in leadership. As in all my other visits, I’m finding people who are passionate and creative and enthusiastic about the ministry in which they are involved, committed to overcoming the challenges that confront them, and dedicated to the mutual support that we find so prominently in LOM, and collaborating with others who share our commitments.