Leaving a Legacy
The Covenant Mountain Mission Bible Camp was started the summer of 1950 with one week for girls and one week for boys. Army surplus tents and cots were purchased. The original building was used as the dining hall, kitchen, clinic and office. The children who attended were from our mining camp schools, other rural schools and Sunday Schools. Most of the campers were saved and many are now in Christian work and church leadership in their own communities as well as the Covenant at large.
That summer some ladies from Mulberry Gap, Tennessee, just across the Virginia line, came to ask us to start a work in their community. In October 1950, Gertrude and Arnold started preaching services in the Mulberry Gap schoolhouse Saturday nights. In March 1951 a tent was erected and used for Sunday School and preaching services. The Mulberry Gap Covenant Church was erected and organized in 1951-1952 and financed by the people themselves. Later they built a parsonage and clothing center which they also financed themselves.
The Wallens Creek Covenant Church was also built in 1951. The first service was held in the basement on Thanksgiving Day, and the sanctuary was used for the Christmas services although the flooring was not complete. The church was dedicated on May 18, 1952 and the church was organized in 1955.
Ruth Kasper and Mildred Westberg left late in 1951 because of illness. Ethel Iverson stayed until January 1953. Phyllis and Richard Lindstorm arrived in June 1953 to pastor the Wallens Creek Covenant Church on his internship. A small house was rented for them 4 miles from the church, and the furniture moved there from the cabin the girls had occupied.
In 1954 the Arnold Johnson’s resigned from the staff and moved to Jonesville. However, they still pastored the Mulberry Gap Covenant Church. Martha and Norman Dwight served the Mount Washing Church a few months before going to Formosa. Then in September 1954 Helge and Joyce Hamilton and their four children arrived to take up the work at Mount Washington. This month also the Lindstrom’s returned to North Park College to finish seminary, and Geraine and Sila Johnson and two children took their place at Wallens Creek. When Richard Lindstrom finished seminary in June 1955, he returned to the pastorate of Wallens Creek Church. The Silas Johnson’s moved to Jonesville where they operated a restaurant for a while and later became principal of the Jonesville Elementary School. When the Lindstrom’s left in January 1959 because of the need for special schooling for their daughter, LaDonna, Silas Johnson helped out with services at Wallens Creek Covenant Church.
Delmar and Darlene Anderson and their two children came in the summer of 1962 to serve the Wallens Creek Covenant Church. That summer, the congregation purchased two acres of land in Stickleyville for a future parsonage site. Besides donations, they raised cane and molasses on the property to help pay for the land. That was also the summer Miss Naomi and Miss Winnie built their home, and they moved in October 1962. The Wallens Creek parsonage, financed by National Covenant Women, was built on the Stickleyville property and the Anderson’s moved into it August 1963.
The Delmar Anderson’s moved to Seattle, Washington in November 1964. During many of these interim periods, Miss Naomi and Miss Winnie took over the pastoral duties in the Wallens Creek community. Florence and Vernon Luiten and children came in June 1965 to take up the work in Mount Washington. In November Rev. Luiten had a stroke and heart attack. In June of 1966 they moved to Stickleyville to pastor the Wallens Creek Church, as he wasn’t able to do all the maintenance work at the Bible Camp grounds. Dorothea and Willard Berggren and children joined the staff as pastor of Mount Washington that same summer. Mrs. Luiten started a Bible class for the Stickleyville area ladies, and later they had family night services in the parsonage basement each week, which were very well attended.
After Gertrude’s death, Arnold continued holding services at Mulberry Gap. When he left for Chicago and the Berggren’s left Mount Washington, Walter and Naomi Anderson pastored both churches living in the Mulberry Gap parsonage. Esther and Leyden Thorpe and daughter Joyce moved into the parsonage on the campgrounds as caretakers, and Esther took Naomi’s place as treasurer since Naomi was now officially retired. When the Luiten’s left, the Thorpe’s moved to Wallens Creek to serve the church there. May and Vic Mastberg, a retired couple, replaced the Thorpe’s as caretakers and host and hostess at the campgrounds for a short time.
In 1976 Donna and Jerry Kroeker and their six children came to be caretakers, camp managers and treasurer of the Mission. They are still here at the time of this writing, and still very active in the many duties of the Bible camp.
The Thorpe’s left the Wallens Creek Church in 1976 and from that time until 1984 interns served the church. The are listed as follows: Hope and Paul Hedberg, Jerry and Marge MacDicken, Jim and Lori Fisher, John Collins, Georgia and Don Harrison, and Jeff and Teena Stewart.
When Naomi and Walter Anderson left Mulberry Gap in 1978 to go to Bethel, Alaska, June and William Dugger came to take their place at the two churches. In the last years he has served only the Mulberry church and taught in the Mulberry Gap elementary school. Some of the interns served both Mount Washington and Wallens Creek churches. The three churches are no longer receiving support or aid from the Covenant as of 1985. The Wallens Creek Covenant Church called Georgia and Don Harrison as full-time permanent pastors. The Mount Washington Covenant Church has a student pastor come from Johnson Bible College in Knoxville for Sunday morning services.
Through the years we have had the privilege of having short-termers and summer work camps who have aided the teaching, counseling and manual labor. Some have come more than one summer. Miss Frances Anderson, now serving as Professor at North Park Seminary, spent many summers helping with Bible schools and camps and also directing work camps. She has been a great inspiration and help to our young people. Some have gone into full-time Christian service and other areas of service because of her influence. Because there have been so any individuals and groups who have helped serve Covenant Mountain Mission Bible Camp throughout the years, we cannot begin to mention names lest we omit someone.
At the time of this writing, January 1985, the churches have become a part of the Great Lakes Conference, and there are plans being made for the Bible Camp to become a part of the Great Lakes Conference camping program. At this time, Rev. and Mrs. Dugger are still at Mulberry Gap, but are nearing retirement age. Naomi F. Sundberg and Winifred V. Swenson are officially retired but continue to volunteer in the work of the churches, Bible Camp, used clothing distribution and chapel services. There are no rural schools in Lee County, but they are still privileged to visit the large consolidated schools. Seven schools and four nursing homes are visited each month for chapel services. Winifred is still secretary of the mission at this time. Besides our regular staff, there is a local camp board composed of representatives from each of the churches.
Those of us who have been on the Covenant Mountain Mission staff almost from the beginning have seen great changes in the area brought about by electricity in rural communities, better roads, telephones, new schools, television and other modern conveniences. We feel that there has been much growth and progress in the work of the Covenant Mountain Mission and its outreach and the Word of the Lord has borne much fruit. To God be the Glory!
Miss Naomi F. Sundberg and Miss Winifred V. Swenson