This summer of 2012 marked the 50th year of Big Lake Youth Camp’s ministry. Monte Torkelson, current director, along with several of his staff, put together a wonderful celebratory 50th anniversary weekend in August. What an amazing time was had by all. There were over 200 people there for the church service and lunch on Sabbath, including a few former directors, Jim Robertson, Rob Lang, and Ron Wisby. One attendee, Janice James, was a camper the very first summer Big Lake existed, and she was a counselor the second summer. There were some families who attended that have had three to four generations who have been staff members.
The current staff, many of which who are children of former staff, were absolutely amazing and organized several activities at the waterfront, horse corals, and a memorabilia room with loads of pictures, former staff uniforms, sweatshirts, and other BLYC attire. The chef and kitchen crew provided excellent meals, incredibly accommodating service and went above and beyond by baking a huge anniversary cake and other treats for the party Saturday night that followed campfire.
Among the highlights were the many blasts from the past that reappeared on the stage throughout the weekend. Those staff members that we all worked with are still gifted with those musical, speaking, storytelling, acting and preaching skills, along with the willingness to share life experiences about how Big Lake had such a profound impact on their lives. It was fun to see the progression in the programming throughout the years. While the delivery vastly varies in style and content, and we now realize after reliving pieces of the campfires from the 70s, that we would probably not want campers to experience in this day and age, the ministry and mission to make Jesus real in the lives of those young people is still very much the same today. I am quite certain that many of us have no idea of the level of influence that our ministry in working at Big Lake had on so many people. We heard story after story throughout the weekend from former staff, some who had also been campers, who didn’t know anything about Jesus until Big Lake.
Of course the biggest highlight for many of us was seeing dear friends that we have not been able to connect with for way too long. The friendships developed at camp are like none other. Several people were sharing that those relationships are the longest lasting and most meaningful friendships that they have to this day. They are also the types of relationships that are not affected by how much time has passed.
As with many reunions, we recognize those that are not here to share those experiences with us any longer. Many of us worked under the direction of Bj Christensen, and it is very difficult to be in a place he loved so much and devoted many years of his ministry to and not have him present. There are several others that have passed away, and returning to camp brings back the memory of them in a special way.
God has truly blessed Big Lake Youth Camp; it is like a little piece of Heaven on Earth. Please join me in praying for Monte and his staff as they continue this ministry. We would also like to have you all at the next reunion, because if you weren’t there, you were missed.
-Sue Conyers, Big Lake Staff Alumnus and BLYC Management Board Member