A Tale of Two Campgrounds
By Jaymie Dieterle
As life begins to return to normal, and pandemic restrictions begin to lift, it’s a perfect time to reflect on what the COVID-19 season meant and where God moved. Two Church of God campgrounds on opposite sides of the country saw God move in unexpected ways as normal operations were suspended.
Diamond Arrow Christian Conference Center in Nevada City, California, has 365 acres where they host Church of God camps and retreats, as well as outdoor education groups, school groups, and gatherings for various church groups. During a regular summer they host hundreds of guests on their grounds at their ropes course, mini golf course, pool, and paintball activities. But 2020, and even the early part of 2021, was anything but normal.
Diamond Arrow director, Orville Boger, and his wife heard about a local coffee shop that was struggling to survive in the early days of the pandemic. Since the camp had a working donut machine, the Bogers made donuts and took them to the coffee shop owners to sell, and a partnership was born. The coffee shop paid for the materials, and the camp started cooking not only donuts, but also cinnamon rolls and a variety of muffins. The partnership allowed Diamond Arrow to use their newly hired cook, as well as their facilities, and the shop made enough money to stay afloat during the hardest months of the pandemic. In fact, the partnership worked so well, the folks at Diamond Arrow started helping three other shops. Orville called it, “a little helping hand.” “It was one small way we could help our community,” he said. Now that the COVID restrictions are lifting, the staff at Diamond Arrow have shifted their focus to the campers headed their way for the summer.
Across the country, in Emlenton, Pennsylvania, Whitehall Camp and Conference Center had a similar experience. Whitehall has been serving the Church of God and their community for over 125 years. They host summer camps, retreats, day camps, and camp meetings on their 155 acres. In fact, they hosted a winter retreat in February 2020, right before everything came to a screeching halt.
Director Mark Pollock and his small full-time staff realized they had an opportunity to serve their community during this unprecedented time. Like Diamond Arrow, Whitehall put their kitchen to use, making full meals that members of the community could come pick up. “My program director suggested we do three times a week, but I was cautious,” says Mark. “I thought we’d start with two and see what the response was. We could always add a third day. Then God said, ‘Who are you kidding?’ So we did three days right from the start, trusting God would take care of everything.”
For seven weeks in the spring of 2020, Whitehall served over 2,300 meals, averaging over 100 per day. People would call in their orders and either came to the campgrounds to get their food or relied on local partners who did deliveries. The camp shared a different printed gospel message each week with their distribution. They also offered prayer and help with other practical needs.
The camp kept records of their expenses since they had no camps bringing in resources. The outreach cost them just over $5,000. And just as Mark and his staff had trusted God with the details of the program, God delivered regarding their financial needs. While Whitehall never solicited donations, money started coming in anyway, covering all but about $500 of their costs.
“This experience drew our staff closer,” Mark says. Everyone played a part—the program director did the cooking, Mark and his executive assistant packaged the meals, and the maintenance person came in to do the dishes.
Both camps took the lemons of lost business due to the pandemic and made lemonade, being the hands of feet of Jesus to their communities. Kitchens that would have sat idle and empty were put into service for people in need. As the staff of these two camps were obedient to the prompting to give, God’s faithfulness was shown again and again and again.
Learn more about Diamond Arrow Christian Conference Center at www.diamondarrow.org. Learn more about Whitehall Camp and Conference Center at www.whitehallcamp.org. Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.
Jaymie Dieterle is the administrative assistant for the School of Theology and Christian Ministry at Anderson University, as well as a freelance writer with a passion for books, reading, and life-long learning. Jaymie has written adult Sunday School curriculum, devotionals, and a Bible study for Warner Press/Warner Christian Resources. Jaymie and her family live in Anderson, Indiana, and they are actively involved at Madison Park Church of God.
Feature (top) photo: Diamond Arrow sunrise.