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Ministry holds Bible camp

Thirty-five campers from Badlands Ministries waded, splashed and got covered in mud during a swimming trip to the Little Missouri River on last week.

"Yesterday, one group built a fort," said incoming program director Nathan Clements of the July 28 trip.

"Another group went on a wildernesss hike looking for toads," added Chris Moe, who is leaving as program director on Aug. 21.

Badlands Ministries is a Bible camp and retreat center located on 188 acres bordering the Little Missouri south of Medora. Lutherans in southwestern North Dakota started the camp -- then known as the Badlands Bible Camp -- in June 1933 at the first site 20 miles north of Belfield, according to its website.

Last week, the camp focused on activities for grades 4-6 and the final week of camp starts today before the retreat season gets under way.

"This is my eighth summer here, but as full-time director since 2005," said Moe. "I'm moving to Houston to teach science."

She started as a camp counselor and believes it was the campers who pulled her back.

"The job was fun and you got paid for teaching kids about God," she said. "And the atmosphere was gorgeous and that's why I'm still here."

She started working when the camp was located closer to Medora.

"I've seen the camper numbers grow, the staff grow," she said. "Just a lot of amazing things have happened -- we built a new camp."

Clements, who hails from Profitstown, Ill., has a connection to western North Dakota -- his great-grandparents homesteaded near Wildrose.

He just graduated from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., and is approved for ordained ministry.

"Right now, I feel such a strong sense of calling to return to outdoor ministry," he said. He referenced a backdrop of buttes as unlike anything in a church sanctuary.

"You're much closer to nature," he said. "I think you really gain a deeper appreciation for what it means to be created yourself and what it means to care for the rest of God's creation."

In the weeks of transition, Moe is teaching Clements about the responsibilities of the year-around position such as planning curriculum and hiring staff.

The Badlands Ministries staff includes 15 counselors and five or six support staff.

Camp Director Brent Seaks was witness a ten-fold growth of participation since he started 10 years ago. He is responsible for finances, site development, supervision of staff, reports to the board of directors, marketing and outreach.

With the old site, he estimates Badlands Ministries hosted between 400 and 500 campers and retreat-goers.

"This year, including campers, weddings, family reunions and retreats, between 4,000 and 5,000 people will be at camp," he said.

He anticipates the numbers will continue to increase because funding has been secured for a retreat house.

The "Moving in Faith" capital campaign initiated in 2005, has reached $4.6 million, with the donations of $400,00 coming just within the last three weeks, he said.

For more information regarding Badlands Ministries, visit the website or call 701-623-4332.

Linda Sailer is a reporter for the Dickinson Press in Dickinson, N.D., which is owned by Forum Communications Co.