HISTORY OF MOOSE RIVER BAPTIST YOUTH CAMP,
JANUARY 2000 by Pastor A. Hartwig
William Carey said, "Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God."
For an attempt to become a reality, it takes a vision, ambition and lots of work. We are the kids camp in the corner of New York where the trees are thickest, the people are scarcest and the poorest, where the woods are widest, the laborers are few and the winters the wildest and the summers the fullest.
Pastor Jim Switzer had begun Fellowship Baptist of Watertown. A couple of brothers, Arnold and Sydney Weber had begun Faith Baptist of Lydonsdale and called Pastor Irwin Williams. Fellowship Baptist in Watertown grew to maturity, but Faith Baptist in Lyonsdale died in childhood after Pastor Williams left. Another church, Bible Baptist of Lowville was born in its place and gradually grew to maturity. Out of these two and several related churches came a desire and burden for a youth camp. Tom Kingston was the pastor of Bible Baptist in Lowville, James Switzer was the pastor of Fellowship Baptist of Watertown, and the two Weber brothers held the property and mortgage for an old school property and its two room schoolhouse in Lyons Falls. As needs were made known, the brothers chose to offer the 1927 schoolhouse and property for the purpose of forming a youth camp for these associated churches. On January 19, 1971, at 4:45 P.M. the property was deeded over to a new baby, Moose River Baptist Youth camp, and with it came a $950 mortgage.
Plans began in earnest to get a camp together for the following summer of 1971. Soon other churches became involved: Bible Baptist in New Hartford with Pastor Tom Manley and Unadilla Forks Baptist in West Winfield with Pastor Charles Fitch. The valley from Utica to Watertown had a church. Then the Seaway Valley was included with First Baptist in Hermon, Calvary Baptist in Massena, a mission church with Pastor Robert Taylor, First Baptist in Canton, and Pastor Herman Underwood. Calvary Baptist in Cornwall also entered the association.
Our old schoolhouse has served us well since the inception of MRBYC, as the camp has fondly been called. Gradually, three cabins were added. The first was built from remnants of Mr. Weber's barn; a second was moved there in pieces from Liverpool where it had been part of Pastor Merle Bunk's study attached to his trailer. It became known as the white house. A third, the long house, was built later.
Set in tall pines planted two generations earlier by the grandfather of Arnold Weber, the camp is less than a quarter mile from the Moose River, and about four miles from its confluence with the Black River at the Pulp Mill in Lyons Falls and just outside the Adirondack Park boundary. Close by is the Tug Hill Plateau on the northwest, and the hills of the western Adirondacks. Surrounding the camp are a couple hundred old farms planted with pines and returned to Lewis County. The escarpment to the Adirondacks and the access to the Black River valley give a wonderful backdrop and location to the camp as well as access to travel to and from churches.
The early days were a struggle for survival, as seems to be the order for most churches and church works -buying and paying for property, obtaining furnishings and equipment, getting personnel, along with defining the doctrinal and philosophical basis of the ministry. It was a good thing that the state of New York did not license camps then yet, for the added effort to fill bureaucratic needed requirements may well have been the straw to break the camel's back.
Like any fragile beginning, though, with the fresh air in the lungs, the nourishment and tender care of parents (churches) and the compassion of people the baby begins to grow. The seventies was a decade of growth for MRBYC. In 1979 Pastor Al Hartwig was sent off to Wheaton College’s wilderness training camp to gather and glean information and methods that might assist us in our outreach. We had gone ahead with a wilderness camp that year prior to this staff training. Sometimes the baby is on the way before the book on parenting is read. That's what makes for motivation!
In 1980, we had 75 registrations for camp! Not bad for a camp that today NY State says can only hold 35 campers! There were three summer camps that year: Junior, Junior High and senior High, much like the Sunday school curriculum of RBP (Regular Baptist Press). Campers were registered for the following winter snow camp in February 1973. Those were pack-a-pew days! Summer camps of 1981 included a Bicycle and wilderness camp, a two week backpacking and canoeing experience.
Each camp has always had a Bible Theme, such as the second coming of Christ, Prayer, Relationships, Service and Rewards, The Transformed Life, Foundations, etc. It has been the desire of all volunteer staff to bring our youth to Christ as savior and then encourage their life to become a walk with God in Christ where they are trained and serve Him in their local churches.
Because we are set up as an association board made up directly from the representatives of our associated churches, we reflect the needs of the churches, the struggles of the churches, and the triumphs of our churches. We have struggled with doctrinal issues, as churches do; we have dealt with moral issues as churches and people do; we have grown and shrunk as church families do; we are as small as four member churches, and larger than a dozen. Our finances were highest exactly two decades ago, when the annual budget was $7,100.
Our ministries have been varied in the three decades of our existence to include: a bicycle camp, wilderness leadership camp; canoeing and backpacking camps, junior, junior high and senior high camps, church retreats and a mini Bible conference. Presently, we run two weeks of summer camp, a junior and a senior and a three-day winter snow camp in February, with occasional church group use of our facility. Our senior week has a mix of outdoor activities that include an off-camp overnight trip with canoeing and hiking in some of the finest Adirondack wilderness (places like the Stillwater Reservoir or Indian Lake).
Like any ministry, there are limits to what we would like to do - need for more outdoor equipment, finding enough water/wilderness staff, a small camp property - but anyone wanting to can give us $100 bucks or a couple days' labor to meet those needs. We will graciously accept any gift given to the Lord! We see beyond the problems that exist with any ministry to what can be done by faith in the work of the Lord.
Over the years, we have maintained and renovated much of our buildings. Water systems, heating systems, kitchen, worship, housing facilities have all been upgraded and changed. We have re-roofed, painted and carried out a lot of maintenance, all with helping hands from our churches to keep MRBYC alive and used for the Lord.
The last decade of our life has seen the responsibilities of our camp's leadership shift from pastors alone to laymen and pastors - a wonderful mix of involvement! It continues to be the "North Country" churches that form the backbone of our camp work.
What has been our impact for the Lord's work? Missionaries, Pastors and pastor's wives, marriage partners and many young people serving the Lord have come through our ranks (a list of names could be another point of research).
What have several long range goals: to continue to keep on evangelizing and training as part of the great commission; to expressly use the great world the Lord has given us to expand our comprehension and provision of God and use the great out-doors to teach us to develop our skills for God's glory; to enlist the participation of churches in our camp ministry; to train people in our churches and give them opportunities for service with our youth so they can have a part in training the next generation of church leaders; to expand our camp facility and obtain more equipment for use in ministry. These are a few of the things happening in some of our churches and a little corner of the woods at a place known as MRBYC - Moose River Baptist Youth camp.
Come and solve the mystery of the Moose Antlers. Where did they come from?