BLUEWATER COVENANT BIBLE CAMP
THE FIRST TWENTY-FIVE YEARS
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are His;
We are His people, the sheep of His pasture.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise;
Give thanks to Him and praise His name.
For the Lord is good and His love endures forever;
His faithfulness continues through all generations.
For the past twenty-five years, the people of the Red River Valley Covenant churches
have enjoyed the facilities of the Bluewater Covenant Bible Camp in Grand Rapids, MN
for their Bible camp activities.
This beautiful summer camp, located on the northern shores of Bluewater Lake, and
nestled in the Chippewa National Forest, is an idyllic location to enjoy God’s wonderful
outdoors and to learn of His love and desire for each person who will claim Him as Lord
and Savior. But, this has not always been home of the Bible camping in the Red River
Valley. We would be errant not to trace, however briefly, the roots of this important
work in the valley churches from its very beginning in 1912.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN…
On June 20, 1912, a delegation, consisting of members from the various Covenant
Churches in the northern part of the Red River Valley, met in Vega Township to form a
society, which they named the ―Swedish Mission Friends Christian Young Peoples
Covenant of the Red River Valley.‖ The purpose of this society was to ―unite the
Christian young people of the Red River Valley for their mutual spiritual edification; also
for united efforts for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God.‖ 1
For several years following that meeting, summer conferences (rather than a true Bible
camp) were held at different locations throughout the Red River Valley. These
conferences often began on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, and continued through
Sunday. Guest speakers of the caliber of Gust F. Johnson from the Swedish Tabernacle
in Minneapolis and Dr. T.W. Anderson from Minnehaha Academy (who later became the
President of the Covenant) were frequent visitors to these summer meetings.
It soon became evident that the churches could no longer hold the large crowds, which
were being drawn to these meetings, so a large tent (60’ by 90’) was purchased which
enabled the increased participants to meet in relative comfort. The tent was set up in
different places around the Valley each year for the summer conference.
In 1923, the Bible conference took up residence in the large pavilion in the Drayton
Memorial Park. This ―pavilion on stilts by the river‖ was an ideal setting for the
conference meetings. Between June 13 and17 of that year, the Word of God was
preached at three different sessions—morning, afternoon and evening. The annual
meeting of the ―Society‖ was held on Saturday morning. 2
In the ensuing years, camp meetings were held in Drayton, Viking or in Warren. Interest
in a permanent Bible camp began to take form and, as the old tent began to deteriorate to
the point of repair or replacement, the camp board, in 1935, voted in favor of establishing
a permanent camp in Warren. 3 Within three years, a large tabernacle (interestingly, the
same size as the old tent, 60’ by 90’), a combination- dining hall and girl’s dormitory was
erected along the Snake River in Warren. Four cabins were constructed in 1945 and the
final building, a recreation building, was constructed in the 1950’s. 4 This campsite,
named the Covenant Bible Camp, was used continually until 1967.
The vision of this faithful group of people which began the ―Christian Young People’s
Covenant…‖ nearly eighty years ago, developed a concern for the welfare of souls which
established a heritage of Christian camping that continues today. It was because of the
dedication of this society and its members, and the continued preservation of the notion
that young people and their families needed a place to go for in-depth Christian teaching
and activities during the summer time, that we are privileged to commemorate twenty-
five years of camping at Bluewater Bible Camp.
But if camping at the Warren campsite had been such a meaningful experience in the
lives of so many over the years, what brought about the change in 1967? Perhaps it was
the feeling of many of the valley people that the Warren camp no longer met the growing
needs of the Valley churches. Perhaps it was the prospect of a large levy against the
Warren camp for sewer rehabilitation, which the City of Warren was conducting.
Perhaps it was the fact that young people had to be bussed several miles to the Old Mill
State Park for swimming and water activities, since the old campsite did not have access
to a lake. Perhaps it was because the entire concept of Christian camping was changing
to include a wider program of activities than could be provided in the confinement of a
Bible camp located inside the limits of town. Whatever the reason, the camp board, in
1966, began earnestly to consider the need for relocation. 5
THE CHANGING OF THE GUARD…
On July 26, 1966, the board created a New Campsite Committee, chaired by Rev. Eric
Josephson, pastor of the Teien Covenant Church. Other members of the committee
included Rev. Walter Anderson, Stephen; Vernon Grand, Roseau; Nels Holmberg, Thief
River Falls; and Roy Johnson, Warren.6
This committee investigated several potential sites for the relocation of the Bible camp,
culminating in a report by Chairman Josephson to the board, at its meeting on November
14, 1966, regarding Camp Marmac, a camp for boys and girls located on Bluewater Lake,
seventeen miles north of Grand Rapids, Minnesota. After discussing the report, the board
drafted a resolution stating, ―… it is the unanimous consensus of the board members that
consideration should be made by the district churches that a new campsite should be
acquired… and that an urgent and early appeal be made for the consideration of the
recommendation of the campsite committee.‖7 Thus was the chain of events begun.
At a special meeting of the Red River Young Peoples Covenant (the name adopted in the
1950’s), held on January 31, 1967, at the Warren Covenant Church, the matter of
purchasing Camp Marmac was proposed. Prior to the meeting, the Valley churches had
been polled as to whether or not they supported making a change of campsite at this time.
After lengthy discussion, forty-six of the fifty-four delegates present voted to ―authorize
the board to proceed to purchase Camp Marmac for a sum not to exceed $50,000.‖8 At
this same meeting, the camp board was also authorized to check on the disposal of the
Warren Camp property. And so, the decision was made to leap out in faith and move the
Bible camping activities to a new location more than one hundred and fifty miles from
the twelve churches which supported them.
There was a flurry of activity over the next several months, as the offer to purchase was
accepted by the owners of Camp Marmac and the board set about planning for the
camping season, which was a short five months away. The members of the Koochiching
District Churches (Bemidji, International Falls, Big Falls, etc) had been invited to
participate in the purchase of Camp Marmac. However, they declined but indicated that
should we purchase the camp, they would be interested in renting it for the coming
summer.9 (They later declined for the summer of 1967). This potential arrangement
certainly provided some opportunities, which had not been available previously, and
opened up a new relationship with these churches, which was to continue throughout the
first twenty-five years.
Everyone in the Valley churches was excited at the prospect of going to a new Bible
camp in the summer of 1967. The information which had been circulated among the
churches and the reports of the board members who had visited the camp, indicated that
in addition to several cabins for sleeping, there was a large dining hall, a building where a
chapel could be developed, several shop and storage buildings, a stable and twelve
horses, and of course, the BEAUTIFUL lake.
There was, also, another campsite around the east side of the lake, which included more
cabins for sleeping, as well as a large lodge for eating, recreation, or whatever. The east
campsite was used for a few years, but in the early 1970’s it became evident that upkeep,
maintenance, and required renovation of both campsites was a financial strain and burden
for the people of the Valley. The camp board, therefore, reluctantly decided to dismantle
the buildings and return the campsite to its natural state. The lease was returned to the
United States Forest Service in 1977.
It was the prospect of the lake, however, which heightened the enthusiasm of many
Valley people, young and old alike, Bluewater Lake, a deep, crystal-clear body of water,
offered a dimension in Bible camping which had not previously been available to people
of the Red River Valley churches. Even though it was necessary to travel much farther to
attend camp, still the spirit of the people was not dampened; for they felt wonderfully
fulfilled by the generosity of a loving God to provide such a beautiful setting for study
and rest and relaxation.
AND SO, A NEW ERA BEGINS…
Although the first season of camping took place at Camp Marmac, it wasn’t long (March,
1968, to be exact) before the people of the Valley churches voted to adopt the name
Bluewater Covenant Bible Camp for the new facility in Itasca County. In 1975, the name
of the sponsoring organization, the Red River Valley Young Peoples’ Covenant was
officially changed to Bluewater Covenant Bible Camp, Inc.
The structure of Bible camping for most of its first twenty-five years was set in the camp
schedule established for that fist summer of camping in 1967. The schedule included a
Covenant Women’s Retreat, a men’s retreat, teen camp, junior camp, trailblazer’s camp,
and family camp.10 The rates, as established by the board11, were:
All youth camps $15 first child, $12.50 for the second child, and $10.00 for
each additional child, high school age and down. (Weekly
C.W. and Men’s Retreats $3.00/ day
Family Camp $15.00 first adult, $12.50 second, and $10.00 for each;
additional family member. (Weekly rate)
Meal rates Breakfast: $0.75; Dinner: $1.25; Supper: $1.00
The first summer was both a joyous experience and a time of realization that, physically,
the campground was in desperate need of renovation and repair. Between September,
1967 and May of 1970, an extensive and well-organized plan for building construction
and maintenance was undertaken by the Buildings and Grounds Committee under the
watchful eye and with the approval of the Camp Board.
Archie Lundell, Sr. of Kennedy was the primary mover and shaker of this flurry of
activities designed to improve the quality of camp life for all who attended and worked at
camp. Archie served on the committee for fifteen years, many of them as chairman.
Archie had a vision of what everyone wanted to happen so that the Lord would be
glorified in the camp plant, and so that the investment of this relatively small group of
people who had underwritten this step forward in faith would be enhanced and preserved.
Archie was also effective in working with the Buildings and Ground Committee and the
Camp Board, and persuasive enough to make sure that the vision became reality, for
during that period of just under three years:
The old lean-to kitchen was replaced
The dining hall roof was reshingled
A new20’ by 36’ laundry and shower facility was built
Cabin#3 (dorm/ lounge) was paneled and extended (a 24’ by 36’ addition was
completed in 1970) to serve as a temporary chapel
The cook’s cabin was remodeled and shingled
Cabin #11 (dorm) was paneled/ partitioned and a heater installed
Cabin #7 (nurse’s cabin) was paneled
Floors were varnished in the manager’s cabin and in the dining hall
The sewer system was improved
This was not the end of building activity at Bluewater, however. During the past twenty-
one years (1970- present), in addition to normal maintenance, many buildings and
renovation projects have been completed, including:
A sewage lift station installed
Cabin #12 (dorm) completely renovated—enlarged, new roof, heat, and wiring
New cabin #13 (dorm on the hill), built (using lumber from the dismantled East
New heat in cabin #3 (porch later renovated and new bedrooms constructed)
Updated wiring in #3 and in the kitchen
Cabin #1 (manager’s cabin) remodeled
A new area cleared for camper and trailer parking
Cook’s cabin remodeled—new insulation, plumbing, floor and paneling
New walls and windows installed in the dining hall
Purchase of a mobile home in 1979 for use as staff housing
Old craft cabin remodeled for use as staff housing
New potato storage bin built
Shop building enlarged and remodeled
Stables razed and area restored to natural state
Cabin #11 dismantled and four small cabins built as replacement housing (16’ by
24’ with bathroom; sleeps nine)
The nurse’s cabin shingled and remodeled
The Memorial Chapel constructed and dedicated on July 10, 1977 (all weather
building with reinforced concrete basement which serves as a storm shelter)
A 16’ by 24’ cabin constructed by the International Falls Covenant Church in
1985 (identical to other sleeping cabins)
New manager’s home/ office constructed with enormous contributions of labor
and materials coming from Roving Volunteers in Christ’s Service (RVICS), the
people of the Koochiching district and the people of the Red River Valley
churches. The cabin was completed in 1991 at a total cost of under $35,000
A retaining wall constructed on the waterfront in 1991 to retard erosion.
There are other people who should be acknowledged for their contributions to the change
and improvement of Bluewater Covenant Bible Camp, as well. Rev. Walter Anderson
and Rev. Eric Josepheson were dedicated to the notion that a new campground be
established, and worked tirelessly to insure that the best possible place be located.
Rev. Walt spent much of his summer n 1967 at Bluewater, working morning, noon and
night to help with camp management, maintenance and general supervision. His
missionary zeal was evident in all he did. We owe him much for his determination that
Bluewater Covenant Bible Camp would be a place where young people and their families
could establish or re-establish a relationship with the Lord he loves so much and served
All of the individuals who have been willing to take leadership positions on the board, the
grounds committee, camp management, program direction, and all of the other leadership
responsibilities which are such important ingredients in an enterprise of this magnitude
played an enormous role in guiding the camp through the first twenty-five years must
also be remembered for their diligence.
Pat Murphy, a non-Covenant, long-time lake resident, has been a friend of the camp since
1967. Through the years he has been the epitome of the ―good neighbor,‖ watching over
the property during the winter months, doing favors of hauling, providing wood,
maintaining our interests with the lake neighborhood, and being a friend to camp
managers and campers alike. He continues, even to this day, to be concerned about the
ongoing work and life of Bluewater Covenant Bible Camp.
The Valley pastors have, through the years, played a large role in the development and
life of Bluewater Covenant Bible Camp. Most, if not all, of the pastors have served at
one time or another as counselors, directors, speakers, or members of the Camp Board.
They have taken the life and work of the camp as a part of their ministry to the church(s),
which they have served, and have provided guidance, counsel and direction in the
ongoing work of the camp. They have worked hard to assure that camp has been Christ-
filled and spirit-directed, and that young lives have been touched for Jesus Christ during
the brief periods they may have spent at Bluewater.
The Covenant Women of the Red River Valley have, through the years, contributed in
various ways to the camp. For three days each June, the women come together for their
retreat, (they also invite the Koochiching district ladies to participate) as they share in
topnotch speakers and music, as well as a time of wonderful fellowship. The RRVCW
has made Bluewater Covenant Bible Camp their district project for the past 25 years and
money has been raised each year to help purchase items of need, as well as helping with
In 1986, the women began having craft auctions at retreat in order to purchase additional
items. Some of the many, many things given the camp through the RRVCW support
include the fans in the dining room and chapel, the pontoon, and the canteen/ storage
addition to the kitchen.
Many women have cooked for each of our camps over the 25 years; others have been a
part of the committee to find cooks. Women have helped with the program and
counseled our young girls. Bluewater is a major part of the life of our valley women as
they support our camp by giving of their time, talents, money, and prayers.
And we must not forget all of the volunteers who have made it possible to make camp
what it is today because they were willing to clean, to build, to repair, to paint, to cook, to
counsel, to bring people back and forth, and to give of their time and of their financial
Adequate and well-maintained facilities make camping more enjoyable for all who
participate, however, the real heart and soul of a Bible camping program must be
programmatic. It is clear that the importance of religious training carried on by speakers,
missionaries, and the influence of counselors on small groups of campers was carried
over from the old Warren camping program. But, in this new, expanded setting it took on
new meaning and new dimensions. In 1970, Family Camp was extended to two weeks
for the first time. In 1976, increased numbers of campers forced the expansion of junior
high camp to two, one-week camps. And in 1982, the Koochiching and Red River Valley
senior high camps were combined for the first time. This past camping year, 1991, each
camp – Trailblazer, Junior, Senior, and Family – had two, one-week camps to
accommodate the increased enrollment. The Lord has surely used this facility to
furtherance of His Kingdom by bringing campers, youth and adults, to camp in
In 1989, Board Chairman’s Report, Galen Nordin wrote:
“…I feel Bluewater has had one of the most productive years for quite some time… As a
newcomer to Bluewater, I’m encouraged to listen to the stories of the people that
have grown up with Bluewater. I see families that come to camp and are now
three to four generations deep into Bluewater. To me that is what makes family
camp at Bluewater so special, it sort of gets in your blood.”12
Indeed, this has become the heritage of this Bible Camp. Not only do we see several
generations of families continuing the Bluewater tradition, but we also see young people
that met or shared camp at Bluewater, who have married and started their own families
and have created new traditions of spending time at camp with family and friends.
Bluewater has also offered a splendid setting for family reunions and even a wedding
To Be Continued….
Centennial Book, Evangelical Covenant Church, Warren, MN.
Roseau Times- Region. Roseau, MN: Friday, June 8, 1923.
See #1 and #2.
Minutes of the Annual Meeting of the Red River Valley Young Peoples Covenant, June
Minutes of the Red River Valley Young Peoples Covenant, Board meeting, November
Minutes of the Red River Valley Young Peoples Covenant. Special meeting, January
Minutes of the Red River Valley Young Peoples Covenant. Board meeting, February
See #8 & #9.
Annual report of Bluewater Covenant Bible Camp. November 14, 1989.