Happy to be at Echo Ranch

Posted: Friday, March 14, 2008

I have been working at Echo Ranch Bible Camp for almost seven years now. I first heard about the camp on the radio while living near Minneapolis, Minn., in 2002. Born in Anchorage, I was a little more familiar with Alaska, moreso than some Lower 48ers, but I never expected to be back serving at a Bible camp.

Being surrounded by the mountains and ocean felt good, like I was returning home after a long absence. There was no question in my mind that I would be back at Echo Ranch the following summer.

Since 1964, Echo Ranch has been the little camp just beyond Echo Cove. People from all over the United States and the world have come to share in the ministry that takes place there. The purpose of Echo Ranch Bible Camp is to provide a fun, safe, peaceful environment of camping excellence where people have the opportunity to meet God.

The staff members of Echo Ranch are individually supported by donations from churches, families and friends. The summer staff is unpaid and volunteer work teams help with maintenance projects.

Part of my job with the camp is to help recruit the staff needed for each summer. This means that after the camping season ends I make the trip south to begin my travels. Every time I leave, it becomes a little harder to say goodbye - not just to Echo Ranch, but to Juneau and Southeast.

I care about the people and the well-being of the town. I am beginning to understand the culture and the issues that affect everyone. But can you believe that after seven years I have yet to buy a pair of Xtra Tuffs? For shame.

Most of the full-time staff members spend their winters in Haines, Juneau, Sitka, Petersburg or Ketchikan. In the spring, they return to Echo Ranch, ready for another camping season. Their desire is serve the community of Juneau and Southeast. They work hard to prepare and maintain the facilities, getting them ready for retreat groups, school groups and the summer camping programs. The staff at Echo Ranch love being apart of your lives and aim to provide the best experience possible.

This section of the paper is titled Neighbors and that is exactly what Echo Ranch Bible Camp wants to be. We want to be the kind of neighbor that would shovel your driveway or fix a meal when someone is sick. Echo Ranch is the neighbor who will watch the kids for a week and make sure to get them home in one piece. Echo Ranch has a huge backyard with plenty of room for games and activities. We want to be the neighbor who says the door is always open if you ever need a break. And if you let us know you are coming in advance, we'll even try to prepare hot meal for you.

I believe that Echo Ranch Bible Camp is a special place. There are so many stories of lives that have been changed because of a visit to camp. It is amazing what can happen when a person takes time out from a busy schedule to just enjoy life and examine what really matters. God never intended for mankind to be moving 90 miles an hour all the time.

My first summer, I did a lot of reflecting on the kind of person God wanted me to be and where I was going in life. Like many other people, I spent hours sitting on the beach looking out toward Berner's Bay, searching the issues of my heart. This is the story of Echo Ranch and it has been going on now for more than 40 years.

My intent for this article was to help give you a better understanding of what Echo Ranch Bible Camp is all about. In the future, I hope to bring you more articles of insight into Echo Ranch and ways that you can get involved. On behalf of the Echo Ranch staff, I would like to say thank you for letting us be apart of your community. If you ever need a place to come and get away from it all, we'll be right here waiting for your arrival.

• Jon-Michael Gwinnell is a staff member at Echo Ranch Bible Camp. He can be reached at jonmichael@discoverechoranch.com.

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