Chapter Six:
1970-1980-Working on Ministry Purpose and Facility Refining!

It was now 1970, just fifteen years after the decision was made to create a new Christian Camp Center. Director Winfred McMullen, still serving part-time while supporting his family as a full-time educational professional, continued to give excellent and creative leadership to Warm Beach Camp and Conference Center. For thirteen years, he directed the fledgling camp, working out of a bedroom office in his home - the family trekking to Warm Beach Camp nearly every weekend!

1970 brought temporary relief from the frenetic building process, and, once again, the Board carefully reviewed its purpose, embodied in the Ministry Statement formed several years before:

"The purpose of Warm Beach Camp is to exalt Jesus Christ through organizing, promoting, developing, and conducting Bible-centered conference and camping programs to win people to Christ, to nurture Christian character, to train for world-wide Christian service, and to strengthen the family life through recreation, instruction, and inspiration in a wholesome environment."

The Board reaffirmed its commitment to clear Christian evangelistic ministry in the camp programs, especially with children and youth. In a cooperative endeavor with the parent Free Methodist Conference, a new position was created that would include, as a major part of the duties, being Program Director for Warm Beach Camp. Promptly, a personnel search began. It was at this point that this writer, then serving as a local church pastor, was asked to consider the assignment. After prayerful thought, we accepted the invitation.

The new Program Director (and his wife) plunged into program themes, camp dates, staffing, and procedures for Warm Beach-sponsored Junior, Junior High and High School camps, as well as Family Camp - all of which must fit in the schedule with the scores of rental groups who by now had made Warm Beach their camping home.

Meanwhile, Director McMullen could not escape ongoing building needs. Board action authorized building the swimming pool bath house and the "trailer/camping area" restrooms.

There was another very important "recovery task." Like every camp ever built, especially in a time when occupancy rules were much more relaxed, there were dozens of projects that now needed to be completely finished. It was a never-ending job that was tackled by staff people, along with scores of volunteers.

Yet another big task was just ahead. The three-pole "circus tent" that had been serving as the Family Camp meeting space was getting old. It was time to think about a major auditorium, and the Board began to grapple with this project.

The 1971 camping season found the new Program Director very busy with a full summer slate of a variety of camping programs. Also in 1971, Board Chairman Forest Bush stepped down after a long and creative period of service, to be replaced by Bernard Hansen, whose leadership as Board Chair would extend for fifteen important years.

Director McMullen sensed that it would soon be time for a full-time Director for the growing Camp ministry, and actually offered to resign at least twice over the next two years to make that possible. Each time, the Board asked him to continue until the "time was right."

From 1972-74, Warm Beach was busy with another huge construction project: the new Program Center Auditorium, which would develop into an excellent complex with three fine supporting buildings. This was completed in 1974.

During this same time, ministry developments were most encouraging. The Women's Auxiliary, sponsors of the Warm Beach Women's Retreats, reported three weekends and a midweek retreat, with total attendance reaching 1,200. Light and Life Men's Advances grew to over 700 attendees in two weekends. These events changed lives!

Once again, Winfred McMullen told the Board it was time for them to elect a full-time Director, a responsibility which he felt should shift to the shoulders of another. A job description was drawn up and candidates were sought. In February, 1974, the Board named Robert McDowell, this writer, the new Director. It was a position I would be blessed to serve for 21 years.

While this record is not to be an auto-biographical narrative, I would be most remiss if I did not make a few specific personal observations:

  • Director Winfred McMullen extended to the new Director the highest quality of caring, wise help, and counsel in the transition time. He continued to give that kind of support through my entire career.
  • Rev. Forest Bush who served as the Board Chair and my Superintendent for many years was most helpful and gracious during my four years as Program Director.
  • Rev David Abbott, who became the Conference Superintendent, gave his full and continued support to the development and guidance of the new Director.
  • Mr. Bernard (Bud) Hansen was a steady and supporting Board Chair, always giving good guidance and sensitive support. He was thoroughly Christian and fully professional in all his dealings with me. He would serve as Board Chair for 15 years.

May 1, 1974, found the new Director and his wife Muriel (now deceased) feverishly working at the task of setting up offices in Cedar Lodge, getting startup information from the experience of the staff couples who were already on site, working on summer staffing, and trying to be ready for the "summer onslaught" of thousands of people of all ages who would come. It was a heady, challenging, exhausting, but exhilarating time!

A month later, Gary Kocher joined the staff as the first resident Youth Program Director.

1975 brought several new activities and programs which now could be initiated with more onsite staff.

  • The Bookstore was opened year round, with Ginger Fosket (now Kauffman) as manager.
  • Junior High and High School Fall Retreats were programmed.
  • Couples' Conference was introduced, with Dr. Mel Foreman, speaker.

In November, 1976, Paul Harvey was the speaker for a 20th Anniversary Celebration, held at Seattle Center. This event brought Warm Beach Camp into the view of a larger public, broadening the possibilities of extended ministry.

1977-78 brought new innovations and challenges for our growing ministry.

  • New facility goals included the building of a major adult/family lodge.
  • Rod and Kathy Brown came on staff to launch a full-fledged horsemanship program.
  • Olympic View Lodge construction started fall of 1978; completed in 1979.
  • Stan and Nancy Nelson joined the staff-Nancy as Food Service Manager.
  • The first mini-lodge was completed and put on line.
  • Rich Hay joined the staff as Program Director.

A new set of issues came on the scene in 1979-80. Though there had been escalating inflation over several previous years, this became much more acute. A relatively young and growing ministry like Warm Beach Camp experienced the pressures of double digit rises in food and supply costs, as well as very high interest rates. This put constant pressures on many businesses and ministries all over the region. There were times of agonizing struggle, lay-offs, budget cuts, and increases in rates. It was not easy to keep a balance between budget constrictions and ministry thrusts. We all had much learning to do, searching to know God's will in the whole scene.

But to give balance to our view of this heady, yet scary period, we need to freely acknowledge that God did accomplish His ministry through the whole time. Hundreds of people, young and old, have given testimony to finding Christ here, having lives and homes rebuilt and saved, plus witnessing youth being launched out into life with a spiritual compass and a sound faith to guide them.

In the next chapter we want some of these to tell their stories of how their time at Warm Beach Camp has made a difference in their lives ever since.

Chapter Five:
The Ministry Grows, Construction Struggles to Keep Up!

By 1965, just ten years after the decision was made to create a new Christian Camp Center, the young Warm Beach Camp was bursting at the seams. Under the creative and faithful leadership of Director Winfred McMullen, an increasing number of new groups and camping programs were calling Warm Beach Camp their home.

Among these early signers-on were the Lutheran Brethren Bible Camp, Cascade Family Camp, Young Life, Apostolic Christian Church Camp, Youth for Christ, Winning Women, and, of course, the Free Methodist and Warm Beach programmed events: Junior, Junior High, and High School Camps, Women's and Men's Retreats, and the annual Family Camp and Annual Conference. And there were many others.

But this wonderful growth produced "awesome challenges," too. There was a myriad of pressing infrastructure issues clamoring for care. It was a constant scramble to try to keep up, and the need for ongoing financial backing was always urgent. A short calendar of development issues paints the picture:

December, 1964: Firm of Beckwith and Spangler engaged as consulting architects. They would continue to serve the Camp into their retirement.

January, 1965: Prayer Chapel plans approved-to be built in memory of Seattle Pacific College (University) professor, Burton Beegle.

February, 1965: Chinook Village Longhouse plans approved-to be the activity center of Chinook Village Tepee Camp.

Spring, 1965: Actual Construction projects included:

  • Beegle Memorial Prayer Chapel
  • Chinook Village Longhouse
  • First section of the "trailer court"
  • Enlarging of the "caretaker's house"
  • Enlarging the water and waste water systems

All this flurry of work demanded that additional full-time on-site staff be added. Director Winfred McMullen continued his huge task as a part-time leader, while serving as a full-time educator!

Eldon and Gerry Gudgeon joined the staff the day after Easter, April 13, 1965. They "hit the ground running," Gerry recently said as I chatted with her. When I asked what they did when they first arrived, she responded, "Everything!" Eldon, capable at anything, worked the maintenance and construction...then came in to cook meals! Gerry helped in the kitchen, becoming the baker for many years, but other days of the week cleaned all the lodging rooms. I asked her if she knew how many cinnamon rolls she baked in her 20-plus years. "I have no idea!" she said, "but one summer we baked 10,000 cookies!"

Their commitment to Warm Beach Camp would continue until Eldon retired in 1984, with Gerry continuing on a few years more. "I was younger, remember," Gerry said. Eldon has since graduated to heaven, while Gerry still lives in the "retirement home" that Eldon built. When I asked Gerry for any other special note or memory, she answered, "I have no regrets. God led us all the way!"

Pressure continued on into 1966 for new facility construction:

  • The Tepees in Chinook Village needed to be replaced by frame buildings. (It rains in western Washington!) An A-Frame design was approved.
  • The aging "circus tent" needed replacing by a new Auditorium building.
  • There had been a dream of a "Western Ranch Camp" down near where the horses would be kept, but until now there didn't seem any way to finance it. A call from the Seattle School District suddenly catapulted this project forward. A series of outdoor education camps would bring scores of kids to Warm Beach if we could house them. Once again the leadership rose to the challenge.

According to Eldon and Gerry, there were 27 buildings under various stages of construction during the winter, 1965, through spring, 1966! They included: 12 Chinook Village A-frame Cabins, 12 W-Bar-B Cabins, the W-Bar-B Restroom Building, and the Program Barn. The continuing work on the Program Center Auditorium rounded out the total construction count!

Thanks to scores of volunteers, along with a cadre of paid workers, the W-Bar-B Ranch Camp and Chinook Village cabins were ready for use in time for the summer season. Director McMullen reported to the Board in July, 1967, that both youth camp facilities were all paid for and "in the black"- funded by operational funds! The Auditorium would take two more years to complete.

1968 saw continued growth in ministry opportunities. Director McMullen reported in January that through May, eighteen groups were scheduled to bring 2500-3000 retreat attendees to the Camp. Some weekends saw up to 350 people pack the place.

Staff reinforcements arrived when Willard and Dale Trepus joined the staff June 1, 1968. Willard brought a wide range of skills to maintenance and construction, while Dale became the Dining Room Hostess. They teamed up with Eldon and Gerry excellently.

Jerry and Loree Bussard came on staff as Food Service Cooks in 1969. For several years Loree continued to serve before changing to other employment. While Jerry is nearing retirement, he is still onboard at this writing. With the exception of his training years in restaurants, and a few years served at The Firs Conference Center, Jerry has given his entire professional food service career to Warm Beach Camp.

1969 brought a difficult issue to the forefront. Warm Beach Camp's tax-exempt status was challenged. The case went to the Washington State Supreme Court, where, because of ambiguity in the law at that time, the decision went against the Camp. This immediately raised great concern among all non-profit camps in the state. Warm Beach Board Chairman Forest Bush gave excellent leadership to the concerned group in drafting and promoting a clarified law, which was enacted by the State Legislature. This new law gave clear exemption to qualifying non-profit camps. While costly in time, money, and energy, this action put Warm Beach Camp in a position of serving the larger camping community, and won for it a place of leadership.

1970 brought some relief from the frenetic building process, and once again, the Board carefully reviewed its purpose ... especially emphasizing the need for continued clear evangelistic thrust in the camp programs. In a cooperative endeavor with the parent Free Methodist Conference, it was decided that a Conference Director of Christian Education and Camping was needed. Duties would include serving Warm Beach Camp as Program Director, as well as giving Christian Education support to the local churches of the Conference. The Conference session, held at Warm Beach Camp in August, 1970, approved the new position and an immediate personnel search began.

It was at this point that this writer, then serving as a local church pastor, was asked to consider the assignment. After prayerful thought, we accepted the invitation. I could not have imagined the personal ministry course-change that was going to take place. Four short years later I would be thrust into the marvelous and huge task of directing Warm Beach Camp! And the trek would take me all the way to retirement!

But more about that in the next installment.

Chapter Four:
The Tough Years: To Stay the Course--Daring Faith, Struggle, and Strategy!

By 1962, seven years had passed since the historic decision in 1955 to launch into the unknown territory of creating a new Christian camping center. Seven tough, stretching years!

There were times of great jubilation ... like when the "Warm Beach property" became available and when the members of the parent Free Methodist Conference swung behind the venture.

There were also periods of faith-testing ... like the oftentimes when there wasn't enough money to keep the construction moving ahead to keep pace with the ministry demands.

A few times there were even moments of asking, "Did we go too far?" - But only moments - because the profound conviction was that this was God's time and God's leading.

So, the frequent committee meetings in 1962 and onward were devoted both to prayer and strategic planning. And the workers, paid and volunteer, "stayed the course."

Elmer McDowell had sold his grocery and meat business in Centralia, and came with his wife, Eva to serve as the Development Manager in 1957. That position evolved and grew as the new Camp's development progressed. Almost as soon as basic facilities were at some stage of completion, new groups were asking to bring their people to retreats and camps. Elmer and Eva began to host, and with other volunteers, cook for and serve these early guests. Living in the "farm house" on the lower property, their work became almost a seven-day-a week proposition. Elmer's reports to the Board would include progress on clearing land, installing utilities, purchasing both construction and grocery supplies, and the number of guest groups being served. The McDowell's continued until 1962.

It became apparent that the Board must hire Warm Beach Camp's first Director. It found a very committed and capable person from within its own ranks. Rev. Winfred McMullen was a Free Methodist pastor, also serving on the Christian Education and Camping committees of the Conference.

Winfred accepted the challenge and was named Director in 1961. This was a major shift for Winfred, his wife Eleanor, and their family. He shifted his work from being a pastor to teaching school to support his family, and spending evenings at his desk at home scheduling camps and retreat groups.

The job description was part-time, mind you...but the work was "full-time," on very slim part-time pay! In reminiscing about those days, Eleanor remembered the Friday afternoon routine: pack their family into the car, stop on the way north to pick up last-minute supplies, and hurry to Warm Beach to face the challenges of the weekend ministry of service. Summers became full-time as the camp schedule grew. The McMullen's would continue this grueling routine for thirteen amazing years! Theirs was a ministry of love and determination that set the course of Warm Beach Camp!

A Warm Beach Camp Women's Auxiliary was formed, under the leadership of Ivanelle Kirkpatrick (now Foreman), along with a core group of ladies. They proposed to the Board that the Auxiliary would tackle such projects as bedding and curtains for the lodging rooms, sewing aprons for the food service staff, and would even take on painting projects. Their work would soon expand to funding an annual project and sponsoring annual Women's Retreats ... an effective ministry that continues to the present.

Finances for the ongoing Camp development always seemed in short supply! A Warm Beach Camping Association had been inaugurated in 1962, with people committing to support the Camp with $10 per month. The Board minutes show the continuing concern and work in communicating with donors to keep this flow of support coming, especially as the years of facility development continued. Meanwhile, the Board had several other items on the agenda.

1962 ushered in the construction of Cascadian Lodge, the swimming pools, sewer lines to the new treatment lagoon (that replaced temporary septic tanks), and the ever-present need to complete the work on projects begun earlier.

Because the finances were always so tight, and yet the demand to provide more space for the growing numbers of campers was constant, the process of camp development became a struggle. Often, a project was completed just enough to be barely functional, when the work would jump to the next much-needed project. In retrospect, one wonders why campers accepted the unfinished buildings. But the answer seems to be that the fledgling camp was new enough and the dream grand enough that they wanted to be a part of it. In fact, about this time, Director Winfred McMullen reported to the Board that the 1963 summer schedule was completely filled.

That summer, a new vision for an "Indian Village" children's camp site was presented. The idea came from Forest Home Christian Conference Center in southern California, where their Indian Village Camp was constructed of real tepees at a very low cost and had a waiting list of several hundred kids.

The concept was approved, planning got underway, tepees were ordered, and construction was scheduled for the next spring, with first use planned for the summer of 1964. Enthusiasm was high, the children signed up and the new Indian Camp, now named Chinook Village, was a reality. The first season was very successful, but there was just one problem ... in Western Washington it often rains! In southern California, it almost never rains. The plan imported from California needed some modification for our Washington weather. But that's a story for the next chapter.

1964 addressed another crucial need. Because of the large groups coming each summer, a huge "circus tent" was erected for the season to serve as a "general assembly" meeting facility. There was considerable rain that summer, which resulted in several "water pockets" forming in the aging tent. I remember serving as pianist for one service when one of these sagging sections suddenly split, dumping a cascade of gallons of water on the sawdust floor, just feet from the piano. For an instant I thought I was going to have a shower right there!

It may have been the weather that summer that urged the decision, or maybe it was just the right time ... but the minutes of a July, 1964, meeting record that a new "Christian Education Center/Multipurpose Auditorium" be named as a two-year project. This would become a very significant decision!

Stay tuned. In the next installment we will learn about a fantastic feat: twenty-seven buildings under construction at the Camp at the same time!

Chapter Three:
Construction Years - Facility Development & Program Deadlines!

The years 1955 to 1958 were the years of search, site selection, and shaping of the new Camp/Conference Center by the Free Methodist Conference. There was a powerful surge of energy and enthusiasm generated.

If the activity of those years seemed frenetic and intense, the construction period - 1958-1962 - became even more so. Reading through the records of dozens of meetings almost takes one's breath away! There were several reasons:

• The denomination's two former campgrounds were no longer available.
• Constituency support for this project had to be maintained-even strengthened.
• The parent denomination's Youth Camps were already advertised.
• Other ministries had discovered the new project before it was even ready!
• The first large Family Camp was scheduled to be held the summer of 1960!

Cedar Lodge, then called the "dining hall" was well under construction. But along with this, the infrastructure was being developed. This included clearing and selling timber, building roads, developing the water system, installing water lines, making electrical plans, and preparing for waste water treatment.

In addition, there was the development of a subdivision just north of the Camp proper, now known as Warm Beach Heights, where people could purchase permanent lots and build homes. Sales of these lots helped finance part of the Camp's development.

The committee minutes are liberally sprinkled with the issues of constant demand upon the planning members who, to a large extent, were "exploring new territory" for the Church in developing this great ministry dream.

One gets at least some feeling of the intensity by just reading through the list of planning and construction projects tackled during this period:

  • 1957: Master Plan developed; land clearing and site development began.
  • 1958-60: Cedar Lodge built.
  • 1959: Twelve Olympic View Cabins, plus two restrooms built, and 440 Junior and Junior High campers attended the first camps in them.
  • 1959-60: Water system designed and lines extended to new facilities.
  • 1960: First section of RV campsites constructed.
  • 1960: Basic recreational facilities constructed.
  • 1960: Mount Baker Family 4-plex Cabins constructed.
  • 1961-62: Sewage Treatment Lagoon constructed.
  • 1962: Cascadian Lodge constructed.
  • 1962: Swimming Pools built.
  • 1964: Chinook Village Camp built, using tepees.

Is it any wonder that reading through the records about this period nearly makes one dizzy? And all this time, many other Christian groups were asking when Warm Beach Camp would be ready for them to rent for their programs.

Behind the development of the facilities was another strategic infrastructure that made the development possible: the people - ministers and lay - who worked tirelessly to guide the process. The record shows that committees and study groups met almost weekly, sometimes more often, to stay on top of the myriad of details involved in the journey.

A simple list of names of those involved does not do justice to the actual history, but many names kept appearing on the committee roll calls: C. D. Kirkpatrick, Forest C Bush, Robert Fine, Dr. C. Dorr Demaray, Burton T. Root, C. W. Burbank, S. E. Fosket, Glen Hallman, Elmer McDowell, George Johnson, John McIntosh, Winfred McMullen, plus dozens of others.

In 1961, Rev. Winfred McMullen was chosen as the first Director of Warm Beach Camp. A pastoral leader in the Free Methodist Conference, McMullen moved into public education to support his family so he could serve the fledgling Camp weekends and summers. Winfred and his wife, Eleanor, began what would become thirteen years of tireless service, packing up their family nearly every weekend during the school year, and then living at the Camp for the summer months. Their lives of service proved again that it is the dedicated people behind any organization or ministry that make the difference.

Another fact comes into focus all through the records: This project was and is a ministry of faith. Never was there a time of surplus of funds. Most often, it was just the opposite ... the planners having their faith tested as they sought to move forward while knowing they did not have the funds available, only to find that, in God's Providence, the need was met by another miracle provision. This stood out repeatedly in the records!

Through all this the work continued, getting this facility ready for ministry. And this happened as soon as any of the buildings were even part-way completed. Guest groups gladly came to the new facility, using the very basic new buildings and equipment.

Take for instance the first full summer schedule-1960: Five weeks of Junior and Junior High Camps were held in the Olympic View Cabins, and one week of High School Camp. The week of Free Methodist Family Camp stretched all the capacities of the fledging Conference Center. Hundreds of campers occupied all the Camp's lodging, while hundreds more camped in trailers and tents all over the spacious grounds.

Since there was no general "tabernacle" or auditorium facility, a huge three-pole circus tent was erected, complete with sawdust floor. That tent would be used for several years more before the funds were raised for the Program Center Auditorium.

The 1960 summer season was rounded out with five weeks of use by guest groups - all this in a facility dedicated to ministry, but still far, far from completed.

As construction proceeded, more groups sought to use Warm Beach Camp. The year 1962 saw Young Life bringing 250 campers, sleeping them everywhere, as did Pilchuck Council of Camp Fire with 265 youngsters. Several denominations seized the opportunity to make Warm Beach Camp their home. Among the first were Christian Reformed Church's Cascade Bible Camp and the Lutheran Brethren Bible Camp, both of which have continued coming to Warm Beach Camp annually, to the present.

But this story is about more than the development of a great facility. It is really about a place where people of all ages can come aside and experience the Grace of God working in their lives. To the fulfillment of this purpose, scores of people bear testimony.

And the story is not over yet. We'll explore another segment of the trek of faith of Warm Beach Camp and its people ... next time.