LIFE’S LESSONS Chapter 3

 

 

Larry started the process of calling pastors to make a appointments to visit them and share our vision for a good Christian camp in the Midwest.  He soon learned that most pastors weren’t receptive to a stranger with no “connections”  who just wanted to stop by to talk to them.  Many times we would drive to the city where we knew there were several good churches and call the pastor and ask him if we could drop by in 30 minutes since we just happened to be in town.  It reminded me of a door to door salesman who had to get his foot in the door before people would listen to him.  Now, being a pastor’s wife, I understand that these men only have so much time and most of these small, Midwestern churches have limited resources.  Therefore, a pastor has to pick and choose who he invites to present their ministry to the people of his church.  But it still made it hard for us nobodies with no finances to get our foot in the door.  However, we were led to some good men who had a vision for what God could do.

During this time we still had not found any land so there was not an existing camp that we could show pictures of.  All Larry could do was tell people what God had laid on his heart.  He would explain about our philosophy of camping and what we wanted to accomplish in people’s lives.  He would tell them that a good Biblical philosophy, and quality Christian staff were more important then the physical place.  Then someone would inevitably raise their hand and say, “This sounds great!  Where is it?”  To which my husband would answer. “We don’t know.  The Lord hasn’t shown us yet.”  You could almost see those careful Midwesterners lean back on their wallet while they thought, ” these two people are crazy!”  After 6 months of travelling all over Iowa, Missouri, & Western Illinois, presenting our ministry we were about ready to agree with some of these church members. 🙂

During this time, we had calls from people who had “camps” they wanted to sell us.  We hiked over many acres and checked out dozens of buildings to no avail.  One of the camp properties was so bad that we both agreed that a bomb would be the best solution. 🙂  Then God led Dave Phelps to call us.  He was a deacon at a small Baptist Church where Larry had presented the camp ministry.  Dave was wondering if we had found any land.  He had some acreage that he needed to sell.  It was the farm crisis of 1983 when many farmers were having to sell land and equipment to help them with their astronomical debt. 

We had been praying for 5 things: 1.  150 acres of land.  You can’t build a camp with lots of activities without space.  2.  Rolling hills and trees.  In Iowa most land is flat which is great for farming but not very picturesque.  3. Private but accessible.  We had looked at some camps that the drive to the facility would be a hindrance for some people.  We also had been offered some land that a railroad track ran right through the middle!  4. A pond for water activities or a place that one could be built.  5. Affordable.  Remember, we had no money and no steady income. 

The Phelps’ land had it all plus extra!  It was 160 acres of rolling hills and trees with a small farm pond on it plus two other low areas that eventually became bigger ponds/lakes.  It was only a mile from a paved highway and at the end of the road.  Dave only asked for the amount that he had invested in the property and he would give us from May to October to raise what money we could for the first payment.  We didn’t even have to go to a bank to secure a loan!  The best thing about this land was that Dave and his wife, Lonna, told us that they had bought the land years ago thinking that it would make a great place for a camp for young people.  They had seen the need from working with the youth in their church.  God had a plan years before He called us to move to Iowa. 

We signed the papers to buy the land and went to work.  God had given us everything we asked for.  Unfortunately, we had not put on that list minor things like electricity, running water & buildings.  There was one other minor detail that we needed–a place for us and our children to live.  We were still living in the upstairs of Mom & Dad’s house which was 45 miles north of the camp property.  Our Heavenly Savior had more surprises for us which I will tell you about later. 🙂

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