Dear Living Water Ministries Community,
Our facilities at Stony Lake are seasonal, which means that each fall we do the work of winterizing the camp. Affectionately, we refer to this process as “putting camp to bed.” We drain the pipes, board up some buildings, carefully store equipment and vehicles, and then inevitably winter wraps the facility up in a blanket of snow. It’s a lot like hibernation. The exciting rhythm of life during the summer months slows considerably, patiently awaiting the next opportunity to wake and be a place where kids laugh and play while they come to know the fullness of God’s love for them in the communities that gather.
In April of 2020, the LWM Board of Directors made the tough choice alongside many other camps to not wake up our facilities for our 2020 summer season, cancelling our summer programs as a result of concerns related to COVID-19. This was the right decision.
As we’ve seen in the last 10 months, this virus has not yet been contained. Even now, case counts and fatalities continue to climb to record levels.
Recently the LWM Board of Directors met to carefully examine the realities related to COVID-19 and their impact on the possibility of our 2021 summer season. The fact is, many of the factors that led to the decision to cancel our 2020 summer season are still present.
Summer camp is an environment that naturally invites some risk. Swimming and zip-lines, for example, present risks we accept as part of our normal operations. But what is a camp to do when sleeping (an activity that involves people sharing the same space, and breathing the same air for extended periods of time) becomes a notable area of risk? What is a camp to do when gathering people together in community can have life-threatening implications for the communities to which those people return at the end of the week?
After prayerful discernment and careful review of the realities related to COVID-19, the timeline and logistics surrounding vaccines, and a survey sent to camp families, congregations, and partner organizations the LWM Board of Directors has made the decision for summer programs to remain cancelled for the 2021 summer season. Camp will not wake in 2021. While this decision is heart-wrenching, it is 100% the right choice for Living Water Ministries. In fact, it’s a decision that was made with a profound commitment to our faith and God, and to our mission.
The mission of LWM holds us accountable to “bringing together all of God’s children” for the programs we provide. This mission inspires us to reach far and wide to gather participants from diverse backgrounds in order to experience the power of the gospel alongside one another.
In our discernment about whether or not we could offer summer programs in 2021, we looked at protocols and procedures necessary to mitigate risks related to COVID-19 at camp. Quickly, we realized that requiring things like temperature charts, COVID testing, or vaccines prior to arrival were not equitable solutions because a notable percentage of our participants lack adequate access to healthcare, financial resources, and home-based support systems. While families with the resources and access could comply with new protocols and procedures, it would be inconsistent for our mission to exclude those families that could not. The work God is doing at Living Water Ministries is not only for participants that have resources and access…it is for all of God’s children.
And so we will pause in-person programs at Stony Lake and Day Camp yet again in 2021. We pause out of a concern for the safety and well-being of our campers and their communities back home, we pause out of a deep faithfulness to a life-giving God, and we pause because our mission demands we do so.
Now, you might be wondering if Living Water Ministries can survive after two summers of cancelled programs. It’s a fair question. The short answer is yes. In 2020 our donors rallied to restore momentum and supported Living Water Ministries like never before, making it possible for us to end our fiscal year without experiencing financial losses. We’ve been humbled by the generous support we’ve received, and while we aren’t sure what to expect from our donors over the next 12 months, we are confident that through careful management of our resources and with generous support from people like you, we will make it through these challenging times.
COVID-19 has been brutal, and we know that another cancellation announcement is hard to receive. It feels as though this pandemic is never going to end…but it will. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. There is reason for hope.
Resuming programs in 2022 feels solid as it will allow ample time for vaccine distribution to take place, herd immunity to be established, and for us all to begin the work of re-acclimating to a world where we can be together again.
In 2020 the work of Living Water Ministries centered around “restoring momentum.” In 2021 the focus of our work shifts to “restoring hope.”
As we step boldly into 2021, we’re reminded of Paul’s words from Romans that will accompany our restoring hope efforts this year. May they be a reminder to all of us of the love and grace we receive in Jesus Christ, and may it be a reminder of God’s commitment to each of us and all of us through the trials we endure.
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
May we all lean into this hope together.