It was 60 years ago that a seed of an idea grew into an American Camping Association accredited camp and retreat center. It began with a dream that turned into a reality thanks to the foresight, vision and dedication of the members of the Kansas City Presbytery, now Heartland Presbytery.  A plot of 180 acres near Parkville, Missouri was purchased in 1956 for $26,250. A basement house, a pump house, a garage and a pig shed came with the property. By 1958, a camp opened on the little plot of woodland.

The seed had been planted, and soon it began to grow.

I am reminded of the words of Christ in Matthew 13:

‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up.  Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen’
— Matthew 13

The seed planted in 1956 fell on fertile ground indeed.

When the little 180-acre plot was purchased in 1956, it was located out in the country. Now the camp has 320 acres of wooded, gentle rolling hills, with a stream running through the middle of it. It has become a natural haven surrounded by suburbia. From the three small buildings that came in the original purchase, the camp has grown to include 34 structures, including the original pig shed, which is the craft lodge today, horse corral, Grace Hall, Genesis Hall, House of Faith, Pete’s Cabin, Oak Place Lodge, Nunemaker Center, Cray Lodge. Two new swimming pools were installed in the summer of 2014 replacing the original pool that heard the splashing and laughter of the first campers. The first camping season in 1958 helped 300 campers grow closer to the Lord.  In 2017, over 2,600 campers came closer to Christ through this special place. 

Yes, the camp has grown in size and number in 60 years, and in that time so many more seeds have been planted in the hearts and minds and spirits of the thousands of people that have been impacted by Christ in and through this place. They have gone on from here to become ministers, elders, deacons, lay leaders, good humans, followers of Christ. The Lord has produced bountifully from this land. 

One such seed is little Ava. Ava was a very shy child, afraid to speak her own words.  One year she got up her courage and went to a traveling day camp. She had such a good time there that she began to go to overnight camp where she found herself at home. At the end of each summer, she found herself already wanting to return to Heartland the following year. Ava learned about Jesus and grew in confidence until she is today a delightful young lady who will soon be confirmed at her home church.  

Or consider another seed, the story of Cameron. After starting his walk with Jesus Christ in 2016, Cameron decided he wanted his 2017 summer to be different. His love for kids and God fueled his aspiration to work at a Christian summer camp, and the next thing he knew he was pulling up to the Heartland drive “nervous and not knowing what to expect.” We will share the rest of his story in next months “60 Years of Heart” blog series.

We hope you will join us and follow these blogs each month as we celebrate 60 years of sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with hospitality, joy and fun in the midst of God’s beautiful natural environment. 

Come along, and grow with us towards God. Let anyone with eyes read!

Photos from the early years of Heartland.