Stillwood Camp and Conference Centre, one of five Mennonite Brethren camps in the Canadian province of British Columbia (BC), is located near the shores of Cultus Lake, about 20 kilometers southwest of Chilliwack, BC.
The Mennonite Brethren (MB) vision for Christian camping in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia began with Bible School instructor Abe H. Wieler, educator and preacher P. D. Loewen, and high school teachers Jack Block and Bill A. Wiebe in the mid-1950s. Following the rejection of several proposals and much disagreement over whether a Christian camp should be established, the BC Mennonite Brethren Conference Executive Committee granted Wieler, chair of an interim joint camp committee, permission to establish a fund for the purchase of camp property provided that the property would not have swimming facilities.
The onus soon shifted to the BC MB Youth Committee. This committee, chaired by Henry J. Unger, organized the first BC MB camp, a one-week endeavor, for young people, 13 to 16, on the grounds of the Pentecostal Camp Ground at Clayburn, BC, a few kilometers north of Abbotsford. Jack Block served as director, Abe Wieler as camp dean, Rosella Schmidt as director of crafts, and John H. Redekop as camp treasurer for the 166 teenagers. The total revenue, including the offering of $4,364 at the Sunday afternoon rally attended by about 950 people, was $9,405. With expenses of $2,729, a sum of $8,675 was allocated to various missions.
On 2 October 1958, a meeting was called, at the Fraserview MB Church in Vancouver, "of persons interested in forming a camp society." Since Conference support was weak, the Youth Committee, together with other supporters took the initiative. Thus the Camp Society was established. Membership was $100 with monthly payments of $10. By 20 October 1958, 74 charter members had joined.
Even as the organizational initiatives were progressing, Jack Block, in faith that authorization and funds would be forthcoming, signed an interim agreement to buy 40 acres near Cultus Lake for $5,500. Shortly thereafter another 20 acres, the location of the present main camp site, was purchased for $7,500. The society now owned "60 acres of wilderness." Following major clean-up days by youth groups, a tipped lumber truck on a steep and narrow logging trail, and hurried construction of 11 spartan cabins and a 40 by 100 foot Quonset Hut-style dining room, the first three weeks of camp at the permanent site were held. Camp fees were $7.50 for one week. On 13 February 1960 this new Christian camp venture was named Columbia Bible Camp.
Because of financial constraints limiting construction of facilities, the summer camp ministry developed slowly. Gradually facilities were added: a modest pool in 1961, a gymnasium in 1963, a kitchen complex in 1967, a dormitory/motel complex in 1973, and a crafts/mini-lodge building in 1981. In 1971 the first full-time summer camp manager, Willie Matties, was hired. By 1968 the Camp Society had 327 members. By 1971 the annual membership fee had become $30. In 1980, 622 children attended the camps.
Support for the camp ministry gradually increased. In 1981 BC MB Conference accepted the ownership of Columbia Bible Camp although the legal transfer was delayed some years.
In the mid-to-late 1990s a renewed vision and increased enthusiasm ignited renewal at Columbia. Major fund-raising was begun. The results were impressive. Between 1997 and 2008, 30 new buildings were constructed including two large gymnasiums, a dining hall seating 500, a new pool, a bath house, ten cottage duplexes, three lodges, two lodges with bunks, four tree houses, a store, an amphitheater, a craft building, a health center and more. Camp registration soared; by 2009 the number of summer campers was approaching 2,900. At the same time, off-season usage also soared. By 2009 Stillwood sponsored many of its own activities and hosted about 300 rental groups a year. In 2009 the annual budget was close to $3 million.
In 2001, because of the generous financial donation by a strong camp supporter, Stillwood was able to buy two adjacent properties, totaling 40 acres. In 2009 Stillwood’s Board of Directors, which by this time included a few representatives from other evangelical conferences, planned a major expansion on those acres. As of spring 2010, Harry Edwards served as Executive Director and John H. Redekop as Board chair.
From the camp’s earliest beginnings in the late 1950s, volunteers have played a crucial role. Men, women, young people and even children have given unsparingly of themselves to see vision become reality. In the decade of major expansion, 1997 to 2007, Stillwood received more than 43,000 person-days of volunteer labor. Workers came from across Canada, several American states, and also from overseas. Significantly, most of these volunteers have been retirees.
Stillwood’s mission statement is “To serve others and to help people know God”. Its purpose is to minister to its guests, be they young or older, in a Christian environment, to the praise and glory of God. This includes initiation into the Christian faith, nurture of the total person, structured and unstructured Christian fellowship, specialized and thematic instruction, numerous recreational options, and renewal for the weary in body, mind and soul.
While the summer camps remain the primary focus of Stillwood’s ministry, year-round ministries for Christian as well as non-Christian groups is also central. Stillwood is committed to serve all groups that accept the camp’s operating principles. In its beautiful, quiet, wooded mountain setting, Stillwood provides an atmosphere of love and joy in which staff and guests can experience genuine friendship and ultimately the peace of God.
In 2008 Stillwood produced a 186-page 50-page anniversary book, Stillwood; the First 50 Years, 1958 -2008. This anniversary compilation includes more than 700 pictures, factual data, and stories.
Address: 44005 Watt Road, Lindell Beach, BC V2R 4X9
Website: Stillwood Camp
|Author(s)||John H Redekop|
|Date Published||March 2010|
Cite This Article
Redekop, John H. "Stillwood Camp and Conference Centre (Lindell Beach, British Columbia, Canada)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. March 2010. Web. 9 Oct 2015. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Stillwood_Camp_and_Conference_Centre_(Lindell_Beach,_British_Columbia,_Canada)&oldid=85359.
Redekop, John H. (March 2010). Stillwood Camp and Conference Centre (Lindell Beach, British Columbia, Canada). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 9 October 2015, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Stillwood_Camp_and_Conference_Centre_(Lindell_Beach,_British_Columbia,_Canada)&oldid=85359.
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