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Camp Kulaqua Founding Director Passes Away

posted on February 18, 2015, under Camp Ministry, Conference by

Founding Director Wayne Foster and Reba, his wife, are pictured with current Director Phil Younts at the September 2013 unveiling of Camp Kulaqua's future Welcome Center. (Photo: Lee Bennett)

Founding Director Wayne Foster and Reba, his wife, are pictured with current Director Phil Younts at the September 2013 unveiling of Camp Kulaqua’s future Welcome Center. (Photo: Lee Bennett)

Florida Conference is saddened to report the death of Camp Kulaqua’s founding director, Wayne Foster. He passed away Monday, February 16, at age 93.

“Wayne will be missed,” said Phil Younts, Florida Conference Camp Ministries Administrative Director, “but his vision and legacy will live on through Camp Kulaqua and the lives touched for God’s kingdom.”

Very shortly after joining Florida Conference as youth director, Foster became the driving force behind the acquisition of property known today as Camp Kulaqua in the small town of High Springs, Florida. The original, undeveloped 273 acres of land—purchased in 1953 for $18,000—has grown to 695 acres with housing for more than 1,000 people. An estimated 50,000+ people use the facilities each year.

A Celebration of Life service is scheduled March 22, 2:00 p.m., at Sarasota Seventh-day Adventist Church, 5764 Churchill Downs Road, 2½ miles east of Interstate 75 on Clark Road.

Almost all of Camp Kulaqua's past administrative and summer camp directors were present for the anniversary weekend. From left: Wayne Foster, Norm Middag, Phil Younts, Wally Welch, Bucky Weeks, Lewis Hendershot, Byron Voorheis, Rick Faber, and Ray Queen. (Photo: Lee Bennett)

In September 2013, Wayne Foster made one last trip to Camp Kulaqua to help celebrate the facility’s 60th anniversary. He joined almost all of the past administrative and summer camp directors at a special moment of recognition. From left: Wayne Foster, Norm Middag, Phil Younts, Wally Welch, Bucky Weeks, Lewis Hendershot, Byron Voorheis, Rick Faber, and Ray Queen. (Photo: Lee Bennett)

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Tithe Changes Lives Through Camp Ministries

posted on December 15, 2014, under Camp Ministry, Conference, Member by

Theresa Stride is an example of a life changed because of tithe. (Photo: Aric Turlington)

Theresa Stride is an example of a life changed because of tithe. (Photo: Aric Turlington)

A portion of every tithe dollar returned by faithful church members helps support Florida Conference’s Camp Ministries. One example of a life changed through this important ministry is that of Theresa Stride.

Growing up in a Baptist home, Theresa attended camp four years in a row. During her last summer, she accepted Christ and informed her mother that, someday, she was “going to work at Camp Kulaqua.”

As a senior in high school, Theresa was hired part time in the horse barn, a job she continued through four years of college at University of Florida in Gainesville.

After graduation, she worked at the River Ranch. At summer’s end, Phil Younts, Administrative Camp Director, invited her to a full-time staff position.

Theresa learned more about the Adventist faith through personal study and from several friends among the Camp staff who walked her through Adventist beliefs. Soon, she reached the decision to be baptized.

This is a condensed version of our feature article in the Spring 2014 issue of Florida Focus. The complete article and a video of Theresa Stride’s testimony is also available.

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Camp Kulaqua Opens Three Woodland Lodges

posted on November 20, 2014, under Camp Ministry by

The new Woodland Lodges (Live Oak, Dogwood, and Cypress) each have 20 rooms that comfortably accommodate six guests for a total capacity of 360. (Photo: Melissa Rivera)

The new Woodland Lodges (Live Oak, Dogwood, and Cypress) each have 20 rooms that comfortably accommodate six guests for a total capacity of 360. (Photo: Melissa Rivera)

by Phil Younts

The Camp Kulaqua Advisory Board is shown in front of one of the three Woodland Lodges recently completed under their direction. Pictured from left: Duane Rollins, Chairman and Florida Conference Treasurer; Pastor Brendan White; Eric Cantillo, Conference Executive Committee member; Phil Younts, Camp Administrative Director; Rose Beavers, Conference Executive Committee member; Mark Schiefer, Conference Executive Committee member; and Alex Vaz, pastor and Conference Executive Committee member. Not pictured: Pedro Perez, Florida Conference Youth Ministries Director and Pastor Keith Harding. (Photo: Marilyn Rollins)

The Camp Kulaqua Advisory Board is shown in front of one of the three Woodland Lodges recently completed under their direction. Pictured from left: Duane Rollins, Chairman and Florida Conference Treasurer; Pastor Brendan White; Eric Cantillo, Conference Executive Committee member; Phil Younts, Camp Administrative Director; Rose Beavers, Conference Executive Committee member; Mark Schiefer, Conference Executive Committee member; and Alex Vaz, pastor and Conference Executive Committee member. Not pictured: Pedro Perez, Florida Conference Youth Ministries Director and Pastor Keith Harding. (Photo: Marilyn Rollins)

With approval from the Conference Executive Committee and Association Board, and under the direction of the Camp Kulaqua Advisory Board, three Woodland Lodges with 360 additional guest accommodations are completed. These lodges are the first project of Phase I in Camp Kulaqua’s master campus plan. Phase I also includes an expansion to the cafeteria and building a new welcome center.

I cannot thank the Camp Advisory Board enough for the creation and completion of the new Woodland Lodges. They are already blessing church families and adults who are looking for lodge-style accommodations. We are excited that now more people can come and enjoy God’s creation!

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Realizing the Desires of My Heart

posted on March 25, 2014, under Camp Ministry, Member, Video Report by

by Theresa Stride

Theresa Stride and her horse, Lena. (Photo: Aric Turlington)

Theresa Stride and her horse, Lena. (Photo: Aric Turlington)

“Let’s go visit the tiger for a while,” I thought to myself when I heard the zoo at Camp Kulaqua in High Springs was hiring. Imagining the possibilities of this fun adventure, I applied. However, with horses in my background, the Camp hired me to work in the horse barn. So, at 17 years of age, I reconnected with the camp of my childhood.

I grew up in a Christian home about 20 minutes from Camp Kulaqua in the little town of La Crosse. Our family regularly attended a Baptist Church, and I had a good support system and a loving family. My mom, who heard about the Camp first, went on a tour of the grounds and felt it was a safe Christian environment. “Let’s send you there,” she told me.

I came to Camp Kulaqua as a camper when I was eight years old and attended for four years. Summer camp definitely had an impact on my life, and there are certain things I still remember:

  • Riding into camp with my sleeping bag in the back of the car.
  • My counselors’ names.
  • The horse I rode was Big Red.
  • A lion roaring in the morning.
  • The Friday night program when, at age 12, I accepted Christ.
Theresa Stride leads Camp Kulaqua’s Flag Parade, kicking off the summer camp rodeo. (Photo: Ryan Becker)

Theresa Stride leads Camp Kulaqua’s Flag Parade, kicking off the summer camp rodeo. (Photo: Ryan Becker)

As we passed the cafeteria on my way home that year, I told my mom, “I’m going to work at Camp Kulaqua, and I’m going to be a counselor.”

When I connected with the Camp again at age 17, I began working in the horse barn. I continued my employment at the Camp while attending University of Florida in Gainesville. I made a lot of friends such as Julie Selby and Ray and Jannette Queen who became role models. These people took the time to build a friendship with me through which I started to learn more about the Adventist Church.

When I told my friends I was working at Camp Kulaqua, they would say, “Oh, that’s an Adventist Camp, right? What do they believe?” I wanted to answer their questions, so I studied on my own to know what Adventists believe, as I felt I was representing them in my work. Through my studies and my personal time with God, He led me to the Adventist Church. My mentors walked me through the beliefs, and these beliefs became mine.

Theresa carries the flag for the national anthem with her horse and announces events as campers participate in the rodeo games. (Photo: Ryan Becker)

Theresa carries the flag for the national anthem with her horse and announces events as campers participate in the rodeo games. (Photo: Ryan Becker)

God started to open my heart. I remember when I’d hear certain things like the Sabbath, it would click, and I would say, “Yeah, that’s what you meant, God.” It was never an argument. It was never something that my heart turned away. It became my belief, and it was through this journey that I joined the Adventist Church.

When I graduated from University of Florida, I thought I’d just work in the water park that summer since I had no other job in sight. At the end of summer, Phil Younts, Administrative Camp Director, told me about a job I didn’t even know existed. God opened a door and provided for me.

Theresa, who serves as Junior Camp Director each summer, accepts the American flag from a camper during the evening flag-lowering ceremony. (Photo: Ryan Becker)

Theresa, who serves as Junior Camp Director each summer, accepts the American flag from a camper during the evening flag-lowering ceremony. (Photo: Ryan Becker)

Two years later, my dream came true to work with kids in the summer camp program. Once again, God created another opportunity for me to walk through.

When you are 12 years old, sometimes you don’t know why you say the things you say, but God does. He knew in my heart that I wanted to work at Camp Kulaqua even at an early age. I just didn’t know what that meant. I thought that it was as a counselor.

As it turned out, I’ve never been a counselor. Instead, I have worked in many other areas such as the horse barn and lifeguarding. Currently, I am the Summer Camp Registrar. God just opened doors, and I said, “Okay, God, I’m going to take this step of faith. This is Your truth, and I will stand on it.”

Yes, God opened doors, and He fulfilled my childhood desires.

“Young people come to camp and many things happen. Theresa is a product of what summer camp can do—not just joining the Church, but accepting what she believes as truth and doing what God called her to do. By listening to His calling, God has given Theresa the desires of her heart.”
—Ray Queen, Summer Camp Director

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Camp Kulaqua Celebrates 60 Years of Memories

posted on December 05, 2013, under Camp Ministry by

Hundreds of former employees gathered at Camp Kulaqua for the 60th anniversary celebration in September. (Photo: Lee Bennett)

Hundreds of former employees gathered at Camp Kulaqua for the 60th anniversary celebration in September. (Photo: Lee Bennett)

This 1955 photo shows campers enjoying a swim in Hornsby Spring on the 250 acres purchased for $18,000 soon after Wayne Foster joined Florida Conference as youth director.

This 1955 photo shows campers enjoying a swim in Hornsby Spring on the 273 acres purchased for $18,000 soon after Wayne Foster joined Florida Conference as youth director.

by Phil Younts

More than 500 previous Camp Kulaqua staff members returned to the banks of Hornsby Spring located near High Springs in North Florida, September 22, to celebrate and to reminisce. “We are thankful for all the staff who dedicated their lives to camp ministry, and for 60 years of God’s blessings on Camp Kulaqua,” said Phil Younts, Administrative Camp Director since 1987.

From the original 273 acres purchased in 1953, the Camp has grown until it now encompasses more than 680 acres with housing for 1,000 people. More than 50,000 people use the facilities each year.

Almost all of Camp Kulaqua's past administrative and summer camp directors were present for the anniversary weekend. From left: Wayne Foster, Norm Middag, Phil Younts, Wally Welch, Bucky Weeks, Lewis Hendershot, Byron Voorheis, Rick Faber, and Ray Queen. (Photo: Lee Bennett)

Almost all of Camp Kulaqua’s past administrative and summer camp directors were present for the anniversary weekend. From left: Wayne Foster, Norm Middag, Phil Younts, Wally Welch, Bucky Weeks, Lewis Hendershot, Byron Voorheis, Rick Faber, and Ray Queen. (Photo: Lee Bennett)

While developing into a year-round camp, the original purpose of bringing young people to the Lord in an outdoor setting has not diminished. During 2013, 75 young people were baptized, and hundreds more made commitments to Jesus.

Camp Kulaqua continues to improve its facilities to accommodate an increasing conference membership with the construction of three Woodland Lodges. Each lodge can house up to 120 guests in hotel-style rooms. A Visitor Center is also in the building process.

“We provide the opportunities. You provide the memories,” says Younts.

 

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Camp Kulaqua Breaks Ground For New Lodges

posted on June 05, 2013, under Camp Ministry, Conference by

by Phil Younts

Breaking ground for the new Woodland Lodges, from left: Billy Brame, architect; Alex Vaz, Camp Advisory Board member; Carmen Rodriguez, Florida Conference Executive Secretary; Rose Beavers, Camp Advisory Board member; Mike Cauley, Florida Conference President; Phil Younts, Camp Ministries Director; Duane Rollins, Florida Conference Treasurer; Brendan White, Camp Advisory Board member. (Photo: Lee Bennett)

Camp Kulaqua in High Springs, Fla., broke ground April 14 for three hotel-style lodges with completion anticipated by January 2014. The lodges are designed to accommodate an ever-growing Florida Conference membership and its retreat and conference needs.

Camp Kulaqua started in 1953 as a small youth camp for approximately 6,000 Florida Conference members. Through the years, Florida Conference has grown to more than 61,000 members, and so have the needs for camp and retreat facilities.

These housing units, which will be named Woodland Lodges, are specifically designed to meet the needs of those who prefer accommodations that are more comfortable than the existing chalets, mini-lodges, and cabins. Each hotel-style room will include a private bathroom, queen beds, a sitting area, and a writing desk. They will accommodate up to six people—perfect for families or men’s and women’s retreats. They will also have a refrigerator and microwave for those wishing to have a meal or snack in their room.

Each lodge will have 20 rooms to accommodate up to six guests and a meeting facility for more than 100 people.

Each lodge will have 20 rooms, accommodating up to 120 people per lodge. For those who wish to hold meetings without leaving the facility, the lodges also feature a conference room for more than 100 people, a kitchen for catering or local food service, and the latest audio/visual and wireless internet capabilities. The lodges are the first step in a new master plan that will expand Camp Kulaqua to accommodate up to 1,000 guests.

The design and location of the lodges will give the guests an opportunity to enjoy the woodlands of north Florida with all its wildlife and outdoor ambiance. Each room includes a balcony or patio and access to natural walkways, gazebos, and an outdoor amphitheater that will accommodate the guests in all three Woodland Lodges.

An artist concept for one of the three new Woodland Lodges.

As church groups, youth groups, Conference event planners, or individual families desire to escape the confines of a hectic life, Camp Kulaqua provides a natural habitat where visitors can listen to God’s voice as they marvel at His creation and focus on accomplishing the mission of discipling others for Christ.

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Finding the Right Path At Camp

posted on October 13, 2012, under Camp Ministry by

The following video report and article was originally published by WCJB TV-20, the ABC affiliate in Gainesville, Florida.

HIGH SPRINGS – Rodeo, go carts, and rock climbing are some of the activities planned for this five-day camp. But beyond the fun and games, the camp hopes to show kids and young teenagers the importance of fellowship and the community.

Eleven-year-old camper Sean Monroe said pin trading is what he is looking forward to most at the Southern Union Pathfinder Camporee.

It’s a camping event created by the Pathfinder Club, a worldwide program that targets the development of youth. Pathfinders is sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventist Church and their goal is to mentor young people in the Christian faith.

Wednesday afternoon, RVs with families made their way to this 200-acre camp from all over the southeast. There are 12,000 Pathfinders in the south eastern region and about 5,500 of them are here in High Springs at Camp Kulaqua.

Yeseny Morales is one of those campers. She and her family took a road trip from North Carolina for their very first camping event.

“I am excited about the experience, especially spending time with my family,” Morales said.

Others, like Monroe, say it’s also a way to deepen friendships.

Camp director Allan Williamson says the activities the camp has created teaches kids new things without them even noticing it, like the Tower of Faith which he calls a trust exercise in disguise.

“You get in a harness and then all of the sudden it lets loose but then it catches you,” Williamson said.

He says the activities at the camp are not only fun but they teach skills that are relevant to everyday living.

“When they go back, we hope that they will make a difference in their home, their community, their church and also their school,” he said.

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Your Input Is Needed For A New Master Plan

posted on April 26, 2011, under Camp Ministry by

by Phil Younts

In 1953, Florida Conference Executive Committee members sat on the bank of Hornsby Spring northwest of Gainesville and prayed, “Father, should we buy this property for a summer camp and year-round retreat facility?”

God answered their prayers in the affirmative, and Camp Kulaqua was born. Soon, a name contest was held, and a church member in South Florida suggested “Kulaqua” or “cool aqua” since the fresh flowing water of Hornsby Spring is 72 degrees year round.

Located near the town of High Springs, Camp Kulaqua’s early beginnings were very basic, with the first groups staying in tents amidst the natural surroundings of a beautiful spring and the great outdoors on 250 acres. In those early years, Conference membership was 6,519, and the Camp could accommodate up to 200 people.

In 1984, a new master plan was designed for Camp Kulaqua to accommodate up to 600 people so it could meet the needs of a growing Conference with 23,904 members. The master plan was completed in the late 1990s.

Today, Florida Conference membership is more than 60,000. Meanwhile, Camp Kulaqua, with more than 600 acres, can still only accommodate up to 600 people in cabins, mini-lodges, and chalets. It also offers multiple meeting facilities and a variety of activities for people to enjoy.

As a rule, 1-2% of a constituency base attends Conference functions such as youth events, women’s retreats, and men’s conventions. Clearly, the need for larger and more accommodating facilities has grown as membership has increased. This is especially true now that Camp Kulaqua is the host location for both English- and Spanish-language Camp Meetings.

Thus, Conference and Camp administrators have initiated a new master plan study and are soliciting input for ministry and facility needs. Your feedback is very important! Please take a few moments to go to CampKulaqua.com and click on the master plan survey link to give us your feedback. A hard copy of the survey can be obtained by calling (386) 454-1351.

Florida Conference anticipates continued growth through discipleship and evangelism. With expanded and improved retreat facilities, this quiet place will continue to provide a beautiful setting where constituents can escape the rigors of this world and commune with God.

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Vernon Lynn Nielsen Equestrian Welcome Center Opens At Camp Kulaqua

posted on April 13, 2011, under Camp Ministry by

Ribbon-cutton participants pictured from left. Florida Conference personnel: Phil Younts, Camp Ministries director; Mike Cauley, president; Carmen Rodriguez, executive secretary; Duane Rollins, treasurer; Norm Middag, former youth director. Members of Lynn Nielsen's family: Megan Nielsen-Hegstad, daughter; Joree Nielsen, mother; Verbelee Nielsen-Swanson, sister; Alex Hegstad, grandson; Trevor Lynn Swanson, nephew; Mary Nielsen, widow; and Robert Swanson, brother-in-law. Family members unable to attend: Brian Hegstad, son-in-law; Penny Nielsen, sister; and Julia Swanson, niece. (Photo: Leonard Fernandez)

by Theresa Sroka

For more than 50 years, families and campers have come to ride the horses at Camp Kulaqua in High Springs, Florida. Now, they are becoming familiar with the latest addition to the horse barn, the Vernon Lynn Nielsen Equestrian Welcome Center. This pavilion features benches, an educational hands-on display, a life-size demonstration horse, and a television that gives instructional information about the trail ride.

The Nielsen Equestrian Welcome Center was donated by Joree Nielsen in memory of her son, Vernon, fondly called Lynn by his family. At the age of 17, he came to Camp Kulaqua and began working in the horse barn.

Starting out as a wrangler, Lynn’s hard work and love for horses led him to become the Equestrian Director of the Camp’s stables. His passion for horses and his love for God was shared with each camper on trail rides and riding lessons as he worked his way through college and law school.

Camp Kulaqua took the opportunity to thank Mrs. Nielsen, Lynn’s mother, for her generous donation to Camp Kulaqua’s stables at a special ribbon-cutting ceremony where Norm Middag, former Florida Conference youth director, spoke of the Camp’s history. Mrs. Nielsen shared the significance of the Center and what a difference she hopes it will make on the lives of young people in the years to come. In addition, she thanked Phil Younts, Florida Conference Camp Ministries director, for his vision and overseeing the design of the new Equestrian Center. Then, Mrs. Nielsen proudly introduced members of Lynn’s family who were present.

As Lynn’s memory rides on, it is the hope of his family that all who come to the stables will find the same joy that Lynn experienced in his relationship with the horses of Camp Kulaqua.

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