Founding a Camp
In the 1940s more and more churches in Minnesota were using camping as a way to do ministry. Different districts within Converge North Central would rent for weeks at a time for their own individual camping programs. Church leaders saw a clear need for a permanent facility.
Ed Nelson, pastor of the former Wheelock Parkway Chapel, represented a group of Twin Cities pastors who presented a resolution to the Trustee Board in 1944 calling for the conference to establish a camp. A month later the trustees presented the resolution at the annual meeting and Converge North Central accepted it. The search began immediately.
Finding a Location
The Brainerd area was identified as a prime location, being within a few hours drive of most churches in the state. Vincent Tellgren, pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Brainerd, along with J.G. Johnson, pastor of Elim Baptist Church in Minneapolis, conducted the search to find a suitable site. The two of them drove nearly 700 miles considering different locations. All of the traveling aggravated a leg injury J.G. Johnson had suffered before the trip and while visiting a doctor in Brainerd they were told about Trout Lake Lodge.
On May 21, 1945 the Trustee Board and approximately 62 pastors and laypeople from across the state met in the tiny store on the grounds of the Trout Lake Lodge to discuss purchasing the property. After prayerful consideration they decided to purchase the facility for $19,000.
Launching a Camp
But a summer lodge doesn't make a camp. Modifications would have to be made in addition to the purchase price, so a total of $35,000 would need to be raised in the next year. No one knew for sure where the money would come from. It equaled twice the total annual budget of Converge North Central.
The early founders had an unofficial motto: "Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God." It helps explain how obstacles were overcome at every level:
- The "300 Club" was established—a group of 300 people willing to give $100 each. At one point the group raised $10,000 in 30 days.
- Howard Skoglun, an architect for a Saint Paul firm and a member of Payne Avenue Church in Saint Paul, donated hours of his time to draw up plans for a new dining hall.
- A second plot of land was purchased for $625 for logging, and two "logging bees" with volunteers yielded over 100,000 feet of lumber—several thousand dollars worth—which would enable the construction of new buildings.
- The Veterans Housing Authority issued a permit to build, a rarity since home construction came to a halt during World War II and priority went to building homes in the post-war years.
- One year later a total of $36,959.36 of the needed $35,000 was raised.
Big Trout Lake Bible Camp officially opened on July 4, 1947 as 350 people attended the grand opening Bible Conference.
Over 350 people attend the first Bible Conference at Big Trout Lake Bible Camp on July 4, 1947, officially launching the camp. Later that year the 89th annual meeting of the Minnesota Baptist Conference is held at the camp.1949
A four-year dredging project ends, filling in a swampy area with approximately 20,000 cubic yards of sand from the lakebed and creating a 3.5-acre athletic field.
One week of camp costs $9.1956
Trout Lake Camps host a ground-breaking ceremony for the new chapel.1957
Trout celebrates 10 years and 1,754 young people committing their lives to Christ in the first decade.Late 1950s
The summer food service schedule is simplified by serving the same meal every week. Salmon loaf is never served again.
One week of camp costs $14.1964
A total of 55 campers—one out of every three—make a decision to follow Christ or rededicate their lives at Mink Lake Camp.1966
A specialty camp for ninth-graders called "Niners" begins its historic 25-year run with 123 in attendance the first year.1967
Trout holds its first single adult retreat.1968
The Lakeview and the Soda Fountain building are constructed and the famous mini golf course is completed.Late 1960s
Worship music becomes more contemporary as fast paced camp songs are introduced.
One week of camp costs $23.1971
Auto mechanics, muscle building and charm school are important elements of the teen camps.1975
Bethel University and Trout Lake Camps offer a college-level camping course with nine students participating.1976
An organizational chart is developed, introducing lead counselors and promoting better communication and accountability among the staff. A 35-page counselor-training correspondence course, "Help… I'm a Camp Counselor," is also introduced.1978
Trout Lake Camps' adult retreat center, Shalom House, opens.
One week of camp costs $58.1984
The women of the Minnesota Baptist Conference donate a Commodore 64 computer and printer to the camp.1985
As the charity song "We Are the World" is released, the theme at Mink Lake Camp focuses on a Christian response to world hunger.1989
The summer camping schedule shifts from kids coming on Saturday and leaving the next Saturday to kids coming on Sunday and leaving the next Saturday. The change gives summer staff a needed day off.Late 1980s
Trout goes coed as boys and girls begin attending camp at the same time.
One week of camp costs $118.1990-1992
Trout begins hiring full-time paid summer staff. Having the consistent, trained staff makes more financial sense with the introduction of coed camping.1995
Primary camp for first- and second-graders launches with over 200 in attendance—more than double the projections.1997
Trout Lake Camps purchases 40 acres of land from Hez and Loretta Miller, who served as caretakers from 1971 to 1997. This land is now used for the primary maintenance facility and is the future site of the rifle range.
One week of camp costs $200.2003
TroutLakeCamp.org goes live.2005
Karin Larson donates $1 million to launch Timber Ridge Camps—the largest single donation in the history of Trout Lake Camps.2005
Because Trout has multiple locations and camps, the name is officially changed to Trout Lake Camps (plural) to better communicate the various ministries.2007
Trout Lakes Camps celebrates 60 years of camping with the dedication of the Timber Ridge Camp and the launch of the Buddy Check campaign.Into the Future
Trout Lake Camps' future looks bright, thanks to the faithfulness of God working through campers, volunteers and supporters—all being impacted by this "meeting place with God."