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Primitive Beginnings

by | Jan 2, 2024

On their 3rd or 4th date, Pastor Duane took Ruth to Bethel Horizons for the first time. It was 1971 and the very first summer that Bethel Horizons welcomed campers. “Camp was so primitive back then. The kids slept in teepees or on a tarp under the stars, and the staff consisted of 2-3 counselors, a cook, a bus driver, and a few in-camp staff.” Ruth shared.

Ruth recalls times when the water would dry up, and the staff would pile onto the bus on Saturdays for their weekly showers at the Governor Dodge State Park shower house. “We’d have enough water to eat and do the dishes for the week. The bathroom was a pit toilet.” Ruth said with a smile.

Through faith, vision, and determination, Horizons would grow in its mission of connecting those who visit, to the harmonies of God, self, others, and nature.

“Duane was the ultimate salesman and good at pulling things together,” Ruth said. “If he didn’t know something, he’d find the right person with particular talents to help Horizons grow and expand its programming. He brought in nurses and social workers to teach the counselors how to successfully and compassionately handle behavioral issues they may encounter with campers. He would find builders, masons, and woodworkers if a building needed to be built or repaired. He had a passion for experiential learning and recruited gardeners, naturalists, and musicians to expand the programming at camp. This led to the ropes course focusing on team building and corporate games.” Ruth said.

Ruth looks back at those early days and says she is most thankful that Horizons is “maintaining its mission to reach a diverse group of people young and old. The basic harmonies are still thought about, programmed, and experienced. Duane would be so excited about the diversity of programming.” Ruth continued, “It’s wonderful that so many more people are being drawn to Horizons. The trails are opening up the land while still protecting it. It’s not being hurt but enjoyed. The arts program at Adamah has gone in a direction that Duane and Don Hunt could have only dreamed of. Duane would be so proud of the work and growth at Horizons.”

“Horizons is what it is today because of so many people investing something of themselves,” Ruth said.

As we begin the 55th year at Bethel Horizons, we are so grateful to this incredible community of support who have given so much of their time, talent, and treasure to ensure that Horizons continues to inspire and impact the next generation of campers and visitors.