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Fifty Years of a Developing Dream – Part 6

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.

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