“I found a home at Dakota Adventist Camps,” shared one of the new summer staff members this year who had never before been to the Dakotas. That statement beautifully encapsulates what directors strive to provide each year at the Dakota Adventist Camps properties—an atmosphere where youth can feel safe, valued and accepted while learning all about their Savior and eternal home.

The Dakota Conference owns and operates two camps, providing double the reach and opportunities for ministry. Directors Ted and Lynnette Struntz manage and operate the two camps and run the summer camp program. “Our camps reflect the beauty and awesomeness of God,” Pastor Struntz says. “There is a special peace and connectedness to God that comes from spending time with Him in nature away from the busyness of our daily lives and coming together with others who love Him or are searching for Him. Our camps provide an idyllic setting, but it isn’t just a gathering place; it’s an evangelistic tool for reaching others.” DAC regularly hosts pastors’ retreats, prayer retreats, outdoor education, regional convocations, spiritual feasts, and Dakota Adventist Academy camp week. This year, DAC also hosted the NAD’s DiscipleTrek Collegiate training. Besides these important ministries, DAC provides two programs specifically designed to reach and prepare our youth for a lifetime with Christ—summer camp and Pathfinder camporees.

Summer Camp: Evangelism 24/7

This year’s DAC summer theme “I Am” centered on understanding how one’s true identity comes from God, the Creator. Campers were taught how they can see themselves and their purpose more clearly by understanding how God sees them and by discovering His plan for them. They learned that God sees them as loved, saved, chosen, victorious, not forsaken, a child of God, and an ambassador. Throughout the week, campers gained confidence in who they were, as they realized God has a specific purpose for their lives. With boldness, campers capitalized on opportunities to help lead out in worship songs, Bible memorization, and flag ceremonies.

This summer, newly added activities provided campers with even more action-packed fun. Tomahawk throwing, RC Crawlers, Gaga ball, Lego Design, and the “Tower of Faith” rock climbing wall were added to the already long list of daily activities. Campers at Flag Mountain Camp were excited to have the opportunity to take part in blacksmithing. And both camps relaunched a new ceramics program. While the campers were sleeping, staff saw the northern lights in full display right from the lake dock of the aptly named Northern Lights Camp. On Friday nights after worship, campers were given the opportunity to claim their identity in Christ, to which all of them responded to various degrees—from giving their life to Jesus for the first time to recommitting their lives to Him. Camp is a place where life-changing commitments are made.

Pathfinder Camporee: Building Relationships for Eternity

The Dakota Conference is comprised mainly of rural church communities; often there are only a handful of children in each church. DAC hosts conference camporees to provide a place for youth to realize they are a part of something larger than just their local active club. Held Aug. 9-13, on the heels of pastors’ retreat and spiritual feast, this year’s camporee them “Building 4 Eternity” centered around preparing Pathfinders for a lifetime together in heaven. Dedicated Pathfinder directors took off time from work and drove hundreds of miles, so their Pathfinders could build new friendships with other youth from around the conference. Each night Nathan James, the main speaker and pastor of the Hot Springs and Custer churches in South Dakota, shared captivating stories of how God answers prayers and wants His children to prepare daily to live for an eternity with Him. Summer camp staff, led by director Ted Struntz, provided the worship music for the four-day event, and Pathfinder leaders taught 12 different honors.

“It’s great to have our kids together to get a bigger sense of how big Pathfinders is,” states LuAnne Larson, Rapid City Mountaineers club director. “It’s not just a local thing, and they have so much fun learning together. I am so glad my Pathfinders were able to come!” From helping each other set up tents to playing Gaga Ball, Pathfinders built strong bonds of friendship with each other through shared experiences.

“The camporee is awesome! You feel a lot closer to God here, and you are friends with everyone here without it being weird,” shares Pathfinder Tori Ray, member of the Cleveland Prairie Trails club. Odin Bowen, member of the Rapid City Mountaineers club, also loved attending the camporee. “My favorite part of camporee was all of the activities I got to do,” he says. “Archery was the best because I got to learn the different parts of the bow and how to shoot. I want to come back and do all of the activities again and meet more friends!”

Always Time for Ministry

DAC could not operate without its yearly summer staff, host of committed volunteers, and dedicated donors. “Volunteers are an integral part of being able to do ministry at Dakota Adventist Camps,” Struntz says. “Our top-notch summer medical team, our year-round members who help with operations and hold work bees, and our donors who support our programs and activities are the lifeblood of our camps,”  he adds. “And our summer camp staff, who put their lives aside to do nearly 12 weeks of ministry, are truly amazing! We are fortunate to have so many people invested in our camps.”

DAC summer camp staff began this summer helping with Dakota camp meeting in Bismarck, North Dakota. Then they transitioned to Flag Mountain Camp in South Dakota for staff training, camp set up, and three weeks of summer camp. After FMC, they traveled nine hours to Northern Lights Camp, at the border of Canada, to prepare for another three weeks of camp. After the regular summer camp season, many of the staff continued to serve in ministry by helping out with pastors’ retreat and a spiritual feast weekend. After packing up at NLC, they drove back down to FMC to help with the Pathfinder camporee.

These teens and early twenty-somethings, this year from 13 different states, became like a family to each other after devoting nearly three months to non-stop ministry together. Some staff had grown up going to DAC and had experienced camp ministry as campers; now they give back and minister to the next generation to start a new cycle of ministry at their camp home.

Lynnette Struntz serves as associate youth director for the Dakota Conference. Along with other responsibilities, she and her husband, Ted, run Dakota Adventist Camps.