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Summer Church Camps 2016

Camp Spalding adds nature program to teach appreciation of God’s creation

Camp Spalding is building a year-round, 1,300-square-foot Nature Pavilion to house the summer craft and nature programs.

Water activities excite campers.  Photo courtesy of Andy Sonneland

The nature program guides campers as they explore the natural world.  The pavilion serves as a base.  For example, campers explore the woods and water, bringing back samples to look at through a microscope to see God’s finely tuned world and discover what that world says about the God who loves them,” said Andy Sonneland, executive director for 25 years.

They will do plant identification, find animal tracks and learn how the ecosystem works.

“We will connect campers to nature in an intentional way, so they can know God better by seeing creation as a gift,” he said.

In the summer, the pavilion’s four garage doors will be open.  The rest of the year, the doors will be closed and the building heated for meetings of up to 50 people.

Camp Spalding/Clearwater Lodge, a ministry of Presbyterian Churches of the Inland Northwest, is north of Newport on Davis Lake.

It has 42 paid summer staff, mostly college students or graduates.

During a daily activity time, campers can choose rock climbing, ropes, mountain boards, mountain bikes, horses, archery, boating, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, crafts or water toys.

From 120 to 180 campers come each week to age-group camps, about 1,600 a summer.

For Andy, the value of camp is taking young and old away from daily routines to have fun and to hear, consider and respond to Jesus’ call to follow him.

“Week after week, some make a first decision, and others are inspired to go deeper in faith,” said Andy.  “That is what’s important to me, and it’s our 1957 founding mission.”

Middle and high school campers also come to fall camps with their youth groups, rather than as individuals, as in the summer.

“Our mission is to complement the church youth and education programs as a place to reflect and regain spiritual focus outside of daily routines,” he said.

Over the last 20 years, campers have changed from two-thirds in Presbyterian churches to 30 percent, and many of the 70 percent have no church backgrounds, Andy said.

“That has happened as churches have decreased in size,” he said.  “So we advertise in the community and welcome people outside our historical constituency.”

For information, call 710-3440 or email

Copyright © June 2016 - The Fig Tree