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Camp expands facilities, programs contrary to national decline in camps

 

Ross Point Camp Building
Lodge construction continues through winter.

While nearly 40 percent of church camps across the United States have closed in the last 20 years, Ross Point Camp and Conference Center in Post Falls, Idaho, is expanding.  Over the years, they developed a facility that accommodates 200 people.  Now they find those limits are being stretched.

About 10 years ago, the board of directors of this camp of the American Baptist Church of the Northwest drafted a three-phase plan to expand and improve the camp property.  The camp’s board is working closely with the executive director, John Batchelder, to bring the vision into reality.

Phase one will be completed when the 2014 summer camping season begins. 

John Batchelder
John Batchelder

John said this phase involves an addition and renovation to the central camp building and office, expanding it into a 9,400-square-foot lodge, called Ponderosa Lodge. The building will include three offices, open-space gathering areas on the main and upper levels, four meeting rooms, a game room and the camp store.

The current store will be remodeled to house six individual shower and bathroom facilities.

“The vision of this phase, which will cost nearly $1 million, is to round out the services we offer for all our groups,” John said.

In addition to Ponderosa Lodge, the site includes an RV and tent area, 12-bed cabins and motel-like rooms in Riverside Lodge.

John said the second phase of their expansion will add a second Riverside Lodge motel-style unit, increasing the adult facilities by 54 beds.

The third phase will expand the dining hall, increasing the seating from 200 to 300.

Groups using Ross Point Camp at 820 Ross Point Rd. include not only churches and gatherings of the American Baptist Church, but also many other nonprofit organizations.

John said use of the camp and conference center evolved over the years.  Originally the camp, created on land purchased in 1948, was set up as a place American Baptists could come to grow their faith surrounded by natural beauty.  Now about 70 percent of the people who use the facilities come from outside groups.  The center has shifted from emphasizing programming to offering inviting space and experiences away from the pressures of everyday life.

The camp will offer their regular youth camps in June and July for campers from the first grade through high school, plus a family camp from July 27 through August 2.  During the year, they offer two youth retreats, plus a men’s retreat and a women’s retreat in the early spring.  Camp alumni are invited to a reunion in early July.

Ross Point seeks to provide an opportunity for initial Christian commitment and Christian growth in an outdoor setting apart from the daily routine of home, school, work or other activities.

They want those who come to develop a personal relationship with Christ; to learn to love God, self and others; to learn how to live in Christian community as Christ intended; to discover and develop personal gifts, talents and abilities, and to practice stewardship of Creation.

John referred to a study done nearly 20 years ago by the Presbyterian Church USA.  It reported that about 70 percent of missionaries and ministers accepted a call to their ministry in a camp setting. 

“That translates to other denominations as well,” he said.

Faith, personal and group development happen in the midst of such camp activities as softball, swimming, outdoor games, beach volleyball, canoeing, miniature golf, campfires and more.

A team-building challenge course includes a climbing tower with three sides and six avenues to the top, a bouldering wall, a high ropes course, a zip line, a giant swing and other team-building activities to develop self-confidence and trust and build group cooperation, problem-solving and unity.

Different churches and groups bring different experiences to the setting.

 Immaculate Conception plans to use the camp for a silent retreat. 

When St. Mary’s of Egypt Greek Orthodox Church does programs at the camp, John interacts with the priest, who wears his flowing robes.

In addition to church camping activities, Ross Point hosts school groups and small businesses.   The camp offers team-building programs on communication, servant leadership, relational leadership and emotional intelligence to build self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management.

Ross Point staff members offer an emotional, experiential component for students at the Veterinary School at Washington State University (WSU).  The annual Veterinary Leadership Experience draws people from around the world in June.

In August, first-year veterinary students come to the annual three-day Cougar Orientation and Leadership Experience, which WSU offers in partnership with Utah State University. 

“They can know all the medicine they want, but if they can’t relate to their clients, they will not be able to help them,” John said.

Other business, government and university groups also use the facilities, including the Post Falls SWAT Team.

For nine years, the American Cancer Society (ACS) has used Ross Point for a weeklong program for children with cancer. This year, it moved the program to the YMCA in Spokane.

Parents requested that Ross Point also continue the program there, as Camp Journey.  It will provide a community of hope for children and families dealing with childhood cancer, John said.

Camp Journey in early August will allow young cancer survivors to leave worries behind for “a magical week,” immersing themselves in a fun outdoor camp experience tailored to their needs.  The camp will have trained pediatric oncology staff on site.

There is no cost for the resident and day camp children because of funds Ross Point raises through such events as its Sweetheart’s Ball on Friday, March 21, at the Coeur d’Alene Resort.

John, who came to Ross Point in 2001, when the former director Paul Ledbetter retired, began camp ministry in 1983 at Camp Utaba in Utah.  He served as director for several other camps, coming to Post Falls from Albany, Ore.

Before entering camp ministry, he spent six years traveling with a Christian drama company throughout the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

John manages seven year-round staff and nearly 40 seasonal staff.

The camp ministry, to which he feels called by God, involves a variety of activities that use his gift of administration, his faith, his enthusiasm and energy, and his ability to maintain the physical site.

For information, call 208-773-1655, email rp@rosspoint.org or visit www.rosspoint.org





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