Malachi memorial event more than the average Bible camp

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Nate Parker and Mason Bell (along with Janelle Theel in the background) created personalized superhero capes during craft time at Bible camp.

Mason Bell, Kane Wetter, Aubree Kovars and Katie Aiken practice teamwork while moving balls without their hands during a pairs race activity on the Wetter farm.

After learning about Saint Paul’s travels spreading the word of Jesus, the youngsters at Bible camp created sailboats out of large cucumbers and craft materials. Pictured, Justice Wachter shares hers proudly.

These sweethearts made sailboats too.

Sisters Nora and Gospel Udelhoven enjoyed chasing bubbles together during game time.

Pastor Lance Wetter keeps the kids excited and interested about the Bible by relating certain scenarios in the Bible to superhero characteristics. (Photos by Correne Martin)

Iron Man made an appearance at Bible camp this year, along with his cohorts Captain America, Wonder Woman and Super Girl.

A superhero-themed directional sign post welcomes Bible campers, before they get a glimpse at the slip ‘n’ slide and general camping area of the three-day event.

By Correne Martin 

Several years ago, Lance and Emily Wetter experienced the heartache of having a stillborn son. They had already been planning a Bible camp for the Mt. Hope United Methodist Church, of which Lance is pastor. After losing their baby, the event fittingly was named Malachi Memorial Camp in his honor. 

This year, July 30-Aug. 1, was the fourth annual memorial camp, which is completely free, open to all ages and welcoming to any religious background. It’s made possible by all volunteers and one big fundraiser at the Mt. Hope church, a taco supper every May.

This camp is more than just a typical vacation bible school at the church. It’s held on a 100-plus acre, six-generation farm owned by the Wetters and Lance’s parents, Larry and Marlene, just outside of Boscobel. It’s grown from about 30 kids the first year to nearly 70 this year from about 10 different school districts. In total, there are about 115 at camp, including adults. Youth and their families camp on the grounds in tents or campers. There’s electricity, a semi trailer shower system, an enormous, handmade slip ‘n’ slide, UTVs, homemade meals and snacks thanks to Roland Kovars and Chris and Rochelle Dilley, campfires, lots of fun and, certainly, relatable lessons from the Bible. 

On the final morning of the camp, at Malachi’s memorial garden in the woods, Lance explains to the children—ages 18 months through high school—the true and very serious reason why he and Emily, and dozens of volunteers, provide the camp:

“We show them the cross and tell them that if Jesus Christ didn’t die on the cross, we wouldn’t be able to see our loved ones after they die. I tell them I don’t want them to be separated from their parents. I tell them, that as much as I want to see my son and hold him again, God wants to hold them too. If it wasn’t for Jesus Christ, we wouldn’t have the chance to see our son again.”

Lance said the intent of Malachi Memorial Camp is to “hook the kids with all the fun” and then teach them about the Bible. 

Each day, there are six rotations: a Bible lesson, a game, a craft, interactive learning, a help group for cleanup-type activities, and team building. Children up through sixth grade spend two days at camp while seventh graders and above stay a third day. There’s chapel every day, water games including the slip ‘n’ slide, and a campfire every night complete with s’mores, music and story time. On the final evening, there’s a grand finale parade of champions where the parents are invited to come and enjoy a meal with their kids.

The first year of Malachi Memorial Camp centered around the theme of Creation, the second on the Flood and “My Lifeguard Walls on Water,” and the third on the story of David and Goliath. 

“The lessons, crafts, and games are all thread around the same theme each day,” Lance said. 

This year followed the theme of Superheroes. One day, Captain America came, allowing the story of Job to be incorporated into the teachings. Then, Wonder Woman and Super Girl showed up, as the lessons of Naomi and Ruth were shared. Also, Iron Man arrived and symbolized God’s “armor.”

On July 30, the National Guard came and participated in a war-like Ironscenario where campers shot soft arrows across rows of hay bales. On July 31, there was a magician. On Aug. 1, local leadership, Kathy Quamme and Rick Peterson led team building activities.

Lance, who became pastor at the Wauzeka United Methodist Church July 1, was joined by many volunteers from the Mt. Hope and Wauzeka communities, along with some parents and grandparents who stepped in to teach at the camp. He said the Wetter family puts in a lot of maintenance work year-round to also ensure the camp continues successfully. They’ve put in culverts, tons of gravel and electricity. 

Now that the 2018 camp is complete, planning for 2019 will begin in September. Although, each year, ideas and plans for adjustments for the next year actually begin during the current days of camp. Plus, the kids fill out surveys, which help with making improvements. 

Aside from the fun and the outdoor setting of Malachi Memorial Camp, Lance said he feels the Bible school is set apart from others because “it’s entirely free.”

“We take a lot of kids from broken homes who bring a lot of emotional issues and stress with them. But we are willing to take them because we want them to have the opportunity to learn and participate.”

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