MARQUETTE - The multi-denominational Upper Peninsula Bible Camp will look a little different to returning guests in the new year.
The camp, located in Little Lake, is undergoing a $1.2 million renovation that will provide a new 12,500-square-foot retreat center, which includes a new dining hall, kitchen and bunk wing, and will add 38 beds. All funding for the project came through donations.
Vice President of the UPBC Board of Trustees Phil Wielenga said the new building is meant to allow the camp to be open year-round - most of the camp is not currently winterized - and help it get back to its roots of providing a ministry to local residents.
The Upper Peninsula Bible Camp’s new retreat center is pictured. The $1.2 million project will include a new dining hall and a bunk wing with 38 more beds. (Photo courtesy of the UPBC)
Volunteers are seen working on the new center. The camp, with the addition of this new facility, will soon run year-round. (Photo courtesy of the UPBC)
"Over the years, the camp became less and less a ministry to the children of the U.P. and became more and more a place where kids from Grand Rapids and Detroit and Chicago would come to get a wilderness experience," said Wielenga, who is also the project manager. "It became a concern to some of us on the board that we had lost our way and we weren't ministering as much to the children and evangelical churches of the U.P."
The camp started out as an idea from downstate missionaries who made summer trips to the U.P. in the 1920s to minister to local children, Wielenga said. The missionaries saw a need for a ministry in the U.P. and decided to build a camp for children. In the 75 years since the UPBC first opened, it has grown into a ministry that works not only with children, but with families, adults and local church groups.
UPBC Director and trustee Graham Martin said he wants the camp to continue in that local tradition by working as a year-round facility.
While a large portion of the construction was done through volunteer work, Martin said the camp did its best to hire local contractors when needed.
The new retreat center is only one part of a four-phase process. Wielenga said the board hopes to complete the rest of the phases in the coming years, though it still needs funding.
Phase two would add another bunk wing with about 38 more beds. Phase three would add a chapel to the complex and phase four would add apartment-style housing to the facility.
Trustee Don Van Ryn and his wife, Susie, are both directors of the retreat center at the camp.
Van Ryn said the new center will be utilized in three ways: to run the camp's own retreats and conferences, to hold retreats or functions for churches throughout the U.P. and for community events.
"We see ourselves reaching out to the community in different ways, maybe a Thanksgiving dinner for local folks, possibly a meeting place, luncheons, some more civic type opportunities, quilters, scrap-bookers, that kind of thing," Van Ryn said. "It's exciting. There's a lot of potential. As always at the camp, we ask God to direct us in how He would best want the facility used."
The Page Center, originally owned by the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan, is also a new addition to the UPBC, though the board is still deciding on how best to integrate its use into the camp's regular schedule.
Currently, the UPBC runs solely on volunteer work, with no paid employees, as its regular season ran roughly from mid-June through mid-August. However, now that the camp will begin running year-round, that is something that may to change.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.