As a Minnesotan working in outdoor ministry, I've learned quickly that a campfire without bug spray is basically sentencing yourself to torture starting the minute you step outside. (Okay, maybe not that bad, but you get the point). They're everywhere! Tiny, flying, buzzing annoyances that quickly get extremely irritating, and leave a lasting, itching mark for days, even weeks if you continue to scratch. They are distracting, and frankly, everybody deals with them.

Honestly, what is their purpose?

Although they are criticized for being super awful (which they are), those bug bites are related to a lot of things we deal with everyday. The gross stuff. The regretful stuff. The sad stuff. The frustrating and stressful stuff, too. When we let it sit in our minds and hearts for days, weeks, or longer, we sit and we itch. And itch. And itch. And the longer we itch, the worse it feels. It becomes redder, it itches more, and scabs over. Eventually, it can leave a scar. A constant reminder that we've been bit. 

Luckily, we have repellent. We have itch cream. (Thank you, modern medicine.) We have things we can use to prevent and help heal the scars that are left on our skin. What does this mean when it relates to our problems?

To start, we all have our own repellent. We all have our own ways we deal with situations. Same with itch cream; we all cope afterwards in our own ways. We all have something. The cool thing is, we also have a God that does both. Not only does God help us through our problems, but our Creator helps us heal, too. We'll all be bitten by the world, but we have an eternal God who walks through that suffering with us and strengthens us.

This is not to discredit that some issues are harder than others to overcome. Many people deal with things that are bigger and broader than imaginable for others. Some bites take longer to heal. Some will always leave a scar; yet God still remains present with us through them.

"Yet when they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, the Lord brought them out of their distress. He calmed the storm and its waves quieted down."
Psalm 107:28-29

I am completely undeserving to have a God who calms the storm in my heart and heals the bug bites on my skin. I'm a sinner. I don't learn from past bites, and continue to forget repellent and try to heal on my own. It's exhausting, and embarrassingly repetitive. I don't deserve the loving God I have, but I will continue to praise in thanksgiving for God's mercy. The bug bites have each taught me something important: about my life, myself, and my faith.

So. What's your repellent?

Jena Vander Broek - Summer Staff Alum 2017

VLM Work Days and Thrivent Action Teams!

Save the Date! Our Camp Hiawatha and Camp Vermilion Work Days are fast approaching! Rally your family, friends, and congregation! We are preparing both sites for our summer camp season, and we can't do that without YOUR help.


Camp Hiawatha Work Day | Saturday, April 28th

Camp Vermilion Work Day | Satuday, May 19th

Registration and rolls start at 8am. Lunch served at 12:30pm.

Join us at camp on Friday evening before Work Day and stay overnight! We'll serve dinner at 6:30pm and have games, campfire, and fellowship. Open to youth groups as well as families! This event is free if you help with Work Day, or $50 per family if you are unable to stay. Please RSVP to the VLM Office at (800) 331-5148. For more info about Work Days, click 

Are you a Thrivent Member? Forming a Thrivent Action Team  is a great way that you can spark action at camp. Each member can form two Thrivent Action Teams per year, and each Action Team is awarded a $250 debit card to purchase supplies, tools, and volunteer appreciation gifts to fund and complete a project.

VLM Work Days are a great reason to put an Action Team together! Not only can Action Team dollars be used to purchase supplies, but they can also help cover fuel costs for people from your community who drive to camp for the day. What a great way to introduce someone new to camp! Or use the funds to make curtains, purchase light bulbs, or replace screens on a cabin. Get creative!

Projects made possible by Thrivent Action Teams include:

  • Gaga Ball pits at Camp Hiawatha and Camp Vermilion
  • New and very sturdy ball boxes at Camp Vermilion, in partnership with confirmation students from Gethsemane and Our Savior's Lutheran churches in Virginia (See the picture above!)
  • Updating the Bakk House kitchen and replacing the Bakk House deck at Camp Vermilion
  • Supplies for the Reformation Fest at Camp Vermilion last October

Contact the VLM office for a list of potential Work Day projects or to share your ideas! More information on setting up an Action Team can be found here.

Canoe Country - Adventure with us!

Escape. Explore. Discover. Challenge yourself. Work together. Grow in faith.

Plan a trip through our Canoe County program this summer and experience the Boundary Waters!

A VLM Canoe Country adventure provides the opportunity to unplug and dive into the wonders of creation while experiencing faith in community from an amazing new perspective. Our staff are trained not only to guide trips, but to lead deep discussions that take the lessons learned in the BWCAW and apply them to our faith and our life back home. No two trips are the same. Lifelong friendships are formed. A trip with Voyageurs Canoe Country does not end with the final portage!

We can't wait to go on an expedition with you! Get your group signed up today!

For more information about Voyageurs Canoe Country, click here. Questions? Contact Brett Amundson, Program Director, at (218-780-2696) or brett@vlmcamps.org.

Right now, these weeks still have available spots for Canoe Country trips: June 23-29, July 15-21, July 22-28, and August 5-10

Bring your retreat to Camp Hiawatha!

We invite you to get away to Camp Hiawatha! Camp is a great place to hold your next youth group retreat, crafting getaway, church council meeting, fishing weekend, or family reunion. We offer a variety of options for meeting space, overnight accommodations, and food service. Come to relax, to build relationships, and to be inspired.

For more information about our facilities, click here.

Call or contact us at retreats@vlmcamps.org with questions or to book your next retreat!

Welcome Brett, our Vermilion Program Director!

Brett Amundson is joining our VLM team as the Program Director at Camp Vermilion. Help us in welcoming Brett and his family!

The Amundson family has been fairly active with VLM for many years, from being delegates and volunteers from Gloria Dei Lutheran, Duluth to volunteering as resource staff for a week at summer camp. Brett and his wife Daphne met each other at different synod youth events at Camp Hiawatha years ago while both of them were working with youth and family ministry in NE MN. In addition to attending different weeks of summer camp at both sites, they have been attending family camp the past four years with their three children Journey, Raine and Per.

VLM has been a special place for the Amundson family over the years, and they are all excited to be more involved and a part of the deeply meaningful experiences that VLM provides. Brett is grateful for the opportunity to join the staff on site at Camp Vermilion as they gear up for 2018 summer programming, and looks forward to greeting canoe groups as they come to camp and back to camp.


This cartoon, "Jesus Eraser", is one of my favorite depictions of Jesus. Here's the reflection that the author, David Hayward, chose to post alongside the cartoon:

"The more violent the world becomes the more impossible unity seems, but the more necessary it is."

Lately, I've been reflecting a lot on these verses, from the writings of Paul:

"You have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being constantly renewed in knowledge in the image of your Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of Jesus, giving thanks to God your Creator through him."     Colossians 3:9-17

I love the idea of the "new self"; a transformation we can choose to claim as our own identity through faith, when we believe that Christ died on the cross for each and every one of us. There's nothing we have to do or could ever do to earn that grace, but it should transform us and everything that we do! The idea of being constantly renewed--don't you long for that feeling on the days when you feel run down, lonely, stuck in a rut, or just plain tired? I do.

Just take a second to pause--posé--and take this mantra in. Say it in your mind. Say it out loud. Say it to another person, if you dare.

"I am created in the image of God. You are created in the image of God. All people are created in the image of God."

Think about this verse, about the cartoon, and about other verses that talk about Jesus' life or the Body of Christ. I absolutely don't believe that as Christians we should cease to recognize or acknowledge the differences between different people. The image of God is present, living on earth, living in us, in all of its infinite, endless uniqueness! And that diversity should be ecstatically celebrated. But I do think that we need to flip over our pencils and start erasing. We need to do away with the lines drawn in the sand. We need to do away with thinking 'us or them'. During Jesus' ministry on earth, he crossed every line that there was to cross! This verse calls out some of the 'us or them' lines from his time: Gentile or Jew. Slave or free. But these lines are just as present, and this verse just as relevant, to us today. Those who agree with us, or those who don't. Those who have power, privilege, and platform, or those who don't. Those who have access to basic living needs and human rights, or those who don't. Those who are heard and seen, or those who aren't. Christ is all, and is in all.

Compassion. Kindness. Humility. Gentleness. Patience. Forgiveness. We would all say these are good things. But these values don't exactly rule our society, our world. They don't even come first in many of our day-to-day actions and interactions. Going to these things first, focusing on others rather than on ourselves, especially when we're challenged or outside of our comfort zone, isn't easy at all. We've got to get back to the very center, the very heart of what it means to follow in the footsteps of Jesus: this radical, out-of-the-box, boundless, selfless, unconditional love. For all people.

I want to leave you with this thought, which was inspired not only by Colossians 3:15-17, but also by the words of Archbishop Óscar Romero: Peace is not silent. It's not even quiet! Self-consciousness has nothing to do with peace. Peace is singing to God from the center of who you are, in thankfulness, in joy, and in the knowledge that you are made in the image of your Creator, to follow in the footsteps of your Savior. And at the same time, peace is recognizing that every person around you can also sing their own unique song--if they are free to do so--and listening. I think that oftentimes, we confuse peace with tranquility, but I see them as two distinct and different things. Teaching and even admonishing one another is a part of that peace. Calling one another out, not to be right or to build up our own ego, but calling one another out in love. What does it mean to let the peace, the message, of Christ dwell in us richly? I think it means engaging with an endless, diverse body of stories and perspectives. I think it means drawing on collective wisdom from a whole myriad of cultures and religions. I think it means seeking out new questions, new things to learn, and a willingness to change your mind. To be transformed by the renewing. I think it means there are no easy answers. I think it means radical, humble open-mindedness. I think it means listening to understand before we listen to respond. I think it means crossing lines, knocking down barriers and being erasers. I think it means turning the world we are so used to upside down. In the best way.

Seek that peace and love, camp fam. Do that internal work.

Michelle Hofeldt

VLM Communications Coordinator 2018

Summer Staff Alum 2011-12

Canoe Camp!

Calling all 5th-12th grade campers for a fantastic new adventure on the water! Join us for Canoe Camp this summer and explore Lake Vermilion or the BWCAW!

During the week, campers will learn to paddle, portage, and stern a canoe alongside their cabinmates, counselors, and friends. Paddle strokes, canoe and wilderness safety, and basic navigation are just some of the skills they will bring home. Overnight camping experiences will teach campers how to set up a campsite, prepare meals while "on trail", and to "leave no trace" as they discover and care for God's amazing creation.

Canoe Camp adventures also grow with your camper. Our 7th and 8th grade program includes an overnight, off-site canoe trip, and our 9th-12th graders get to go on a three-night trip to the Boundary Waters with one of our VLM Canoe Country guides!

We can't wait to go on an expedition with you! Register today!

For more information about Canoe Camp, click here.

Canoe Camp I:  July 22 - 27, 2018 - (Campers who have completed 5th & 6th grade)

Canoe Camp II:  June 24 - 29, 2018 - (Campers who have completed 7th & 8th grade)

Canoe Camp III:  August 5 - 10, 2018 - (Campers who have completed 9th - 12th grade)

Board Nominations and Budget - Important Annual Meeting Information

The VLM Annual Meeting is less than 2 weeks away! 

Please review the 2018 Proposed Budget.

Those interested and feeling called to serve on the VLM Board of Directors can complete and return a Board Nominee Bio before Jan 31st. 

The full annual report will be available soon. 

As a reminder....

Join us on Saturday, February 3 for the Annual Meeting of the VLM corporation.  For all member congregations, this is your time to hear what is happening at your camps, approve the 2018 operating budget, and help us celebrate the completion of the "Tend and Nourish" Capital Campaign.  Your voice is needed!

The meeting will be held at United Lutheran in Proctor, 701 Third Avenue
Proctor, MN 55810.

Registration, coffee, and fellowship at 10:30 and the meeting begins at 11:00.  Lunch will follow the meeting.

Please RSVP to 218-666-5465 or VLM@VLMcamps.org.

We look forward to seeing you!


"The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest". So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things." - Mark 6: 30-34

Hurricanes. Earthquakes. Fires. Social Inequality. Nuclear War. Watching the news it seems that catastrophes are simply the norm. With so much hurt and injustice in the world it is often easier to ignore what is happening and continue with my day rather than find the time and energy to empathize with people affected by difficult situations. Ignoring other peoples' pain is always going to be easier, but having true compassion for our neighbors is what gives us as the human race the strength and courage to keep living and have hope for the future. Compassion is what makes us human.

This fall my faith community, Jacobs Well, in Minneapolis is asking a lot of questions about compassion and our humanity. A realization we have come upon is this idea that if we numb the negative things in life we end up numbing the joyous things in life. Part of being human is cracking yourself open and being vulnerable so that you can experience both the highs and the lows around you to the fullest. When you are brave enough to witness the ugly parts of the world the beautiful parts seem that much more awe-inspiring. This is HARD and is never something that we can "achieve". Living this way is a choice that we have to fight for in this often negative and superficial society.

In the beginning of the "Jesus feeds the five thousand" story Jesus and the disciples are beat and are trying to find a spot to rest. They are at their breaking point, and Jesus breaks. He needs to rest, but when he sees the people "like sheep without a shepherd" his heart cracks and he chooses compassion. Crack yourself open, be vulnerable, let yourself give love so you are ready to receive it.  

Maia Dalager - VLM Alumni 12, 13, 14, 15

Book your next get away!

To live as people of God in this world, we need to get away and grow together, united as we learn and play in God's creation.  Voyageurs Lutheran Ministry invites you to get away to camp this spring!  Camp Hiawatha and Camp Vermilion offer meeting space, overnight accommodations, and food service, making camp a great place to hold your next youth group retreat, crafting getaway, church council meeting, book club conversation, fishing weekend, or family reunion. 

Click here to learn more about the facilities and rates available at Camp Hiawatha and Camp Vermilion. There are still open weeks and weekends in the calendar at both Camp Hiawatha and Camp Vermilion this year! Email the VLM office or call (218)-666-5465 to book your event or to receive more information.

VLM Annual Meeting February 3

Join us on Saturday, February 3 for the Annual Meeting of the VLM corporation.  For all member congregations, this is your time to hear what is happening at your camps, approve the 2018 operating budget, and help us celebrate the completion of the "Tend and Nourish" Capital Campaign.  Your voice is needed!

The meeting will be held at United Lutheran in Proctor, 701 Third Avenue
Proctor, MN 55810.

Registration, coffee, and fellowship at 10:30 and the meeting begins at 11:00.  Lunch will follow the meeting.

Please RSVP to 218-666-5465 or VLM@VLMcamps.org.

We look forward to seeing you!


Posé: A pause or rest stop along the Voyageurs' portage trail. Usually about ½ mile apart. We invite you to take a pause in your day to reflect, ponder, and pray with us.  


"Walkin' by my side, I'm satisfied. King Jesus is all, my all in all." One of my favorite camp songs from this past summer, "King Jesus," offers this verse of hope to its singers, promising that with Jesus by our side, we need not worry about anything. Honestly, I find this verse hard to accept. As a student, athlete, and musician, I have always given my best efforts at all times - if asked, I would state this as one of my life mottos. Yet internally, I often get my best effort confused with an effort to be the best. Although my intentions initially appear harmless, a desire to do well eventually overshadows the meaning behind my actions; I turn into a competitor rather than simply a hard worker. And while this mindset sometimes contributes to an excitable and joyful accomplishment, the disappointment can be overwhelming when I fall short of a desired outcome. "The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat" do not seem to "satisfy" me into the future.

My counseling experience last summer with VLM put this struggle into a Christian perspective. I realized that it was my hard work that made a difference, not the accomplishments that resulted from it. It no longer mattered how many good races, musical performances, or school successes that I accumulated; instead, it was the skills learned from these experiences that counted. I simply had to work my hardest to positively impact my campers each week. I learned that this feeling became worth more to me than any medal or prize, even if I did not see the impact of my efforts beyond a particular week of camp.

As we approach the end of the semester, I try to think about being filled with Jesus' light shining through me. In turn, I also work to see His light shining through others. I often fall short of achieving this goal, yet I am hopeful to become increasingly satisfied by Jesus' works - and not my own. In this way, Jesus will "walk by my side" to make me "satisfied." King Jesus truly is my all in all.

Jackson Churchill 

Luther College

VLM Summer Staff 2017


Welcome, Steve!

Steve Hallie is joining our VLM team as the Site Director at Camp Hiawatha. Help us in welcoming Steve and his family! 

My wife Lisa and I are originally from Roseau, MN.  We have been married 18 years, and have been blessed with 3 beautiful kids: Genesis, Gabriel (Gabe), & Greyson.  After college, we lived and worked in the Twin Cities area for 10 years. 

We answered God’s calling for our family and moved up to the Grand Rapids area in 2009.  We now live in Coleraine and we’re thrilled to be deeply-rooted in this welcoming and beautiful community.  I love working on projects with my hands and getting to know others who share my love for Jesus and my love for these northern woods and waters.  I am excited to be working with the Camp Hiawatha team by providing ongoing care and by continuing to make this site operate soundly so it may be used to bless and enrich the lives of all of the guests that stay here in God’s great northwoods!

Camper Rejuves!

Jr. High Rejuve (grades 7-9) - February 23-24, 2018 at Camp Vermilion
Elementary Rejuve (grades 3-6)- March 2-3, 2018 - Camp Hiawatha
Elementary Rejuve (grades 3-6)- March 16-17, 2018 - Camp Vermilion


Camper Rejuves are a great way to get back to camp during the school year, or to check out camp for the upcoming summer!  You'll get your camp fix on this 23 hour overnight - games, campfire, songs, friends, learning, and of course, great camp food.

Cost: $50 per camper.  A $15 non-refundable deposit is due with your registration. Churches are welcome to register as a group, with a deposit to hold your spots. One adult leader is free with every 8 campers when coming with a church group.

When: Registration begins at 7:00 p.m. on Friday and the program ends following supper on Saturday (about 6:00 p.m.).  More information will be sent to all registered campers.

Space for these retreats is limited so we encourage you to register early.  

To register, please call the camp office at (218) 666-5465

or fill out and send a retreat registration form.


Paddle Building

Friday, January 26 to Sunday, January 28

at Camp Vermilion

Contact us if you would like to schedule a Paddle Building retreat for your group!

Come to Camp Vermilion and learn how to build your own canoe paddle! You'll select your pieces of wood, then glue and clamp your paddle together. Then you'll sand, sand, and sand some more until it's just the way you want it.

day 15 - 1.jpg

All are welcome! Bring your spouse, friends, or family and spend a weekend in the northwoods, with a beautiful piece to take home at the end. Parent/child orgrandparent/grandchild participants can build a family heirloom together!

Depending on when participants are able to start on Friday, much of the work will be completed on Friday evening and Saturday.

Cost: $200/paddle ($250 if there are two participants working on a single paddle). A $50 non-refundable deposit is due with your registration.

Includes: All wood and tools needed, lodging, and Friday dinner through Sunday brunch.

Space is limited to 6 participants, so register today! To register, please call the camp office at (218) 666-5465 or fill out and send a retreat registration form.

YourStory Retreat

February 2-4

Camp Vermilion

"Changing My Story"


YourStory is an innovative four part retreat series. "Changing My Story" is session two of this series, however, it is okay if you did not attend session one. Please join us for this next session!

This session will explore when some familiar biblical characters faced challenges and adversity. How do I respond to tough situations? Who are the people that give me support in challenging times? How can I discern between symptoms and problems in challenges to recognize recurring patterns?

Lodging and programming located in Camp Vermilion's Voyageur Lodge. 

Housing is multiple occupancy.

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Registration fee: $150/person/weekend

Includes meals, lodging, and programming.


Contact VLM office at (218)-666-5465 with questions or to register over the phone.

Click here  to register online.



Posé: A pause or rest stop along the Voyageurs' portage trail. Usually about ½ mile apart. We invite you to take a pause in your day to reflect, ponder, and pray with us.  

This summer I spent a week at Camp Vermilion teaching pottery as one of the offered Journeys for campers.  As I prepared for the week, I thought about how I could wholeheartedly share my passion for this craft.  I worried about how to create a meaningful experience that would inspire children to learn.  While planning, I discovered that clay and pottery are brought up in the bible 34 times, most profoundly in our creation story: Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Gen 2:7)  

It is here we learn that it was from the soil that we were first made, the earth itself our oldest ancestor. "For even at its beginning the humble clay received God's art." - St. Irenaeus  

As adults, we often think of learning in terms of intellect, but forget knowledge acquired through engaging in activities that nurture our creative imagination.  As a child, I had learned how to be a servant in God's kingdom by planting a garden with my mom.  Patience was taught on a fishing boat, and gratitude for the meal that followed, from weekends on the lake with my dad.  When I brought out the wheel and muddied my hands to throw my first pot, campers immediately wanted to engage in the process.  While I had never found the perfect words or lessons to convey what pottery stirs up in my heart, the clay itself became the teacher. These campers, and their curiosity and eager spirits, reminded me that wisdom often comes from simply participating in the work.  

That physical act of work is mirrored in the verse from Genesis.   Here God is not some far away being directing our creation.  Instead God is the sculptor, active and up close, partaking in the creative process.  


Working with clay connects us to a practice that dates as far back as 20,000 BC.  As a vessel is formed from a lump of mud, it brings us into mindfulness that everything (from the food we eat, to the bowl that holds it) is of the earth.  As Robin Kimmerer writes, "It's not just land that is broken, but more importantly, our relationship to land."  For me, pottery helps restore our relationship to God's creation.  It reminds us of our kinship to the earth, and the abundance of God's gifts that flow from it.  

Jessica Holleque

VLM Alumni 09, 10

Come share your "Journey" with us this summer!

What is a Journey?

weaving journey.jpg

We are inviting campers to "journey" with us this summer.  During our weeklong programs, we'll be setting aside time in which campers will have a chance to learn a new skill, spend time on a new activity, or express their creative side. We are calling these learning times Journeys, and they might include canoeing, drama, campfire cooking, music, theater, sports, or arts.  It is, in its simplest form, an extended time to spend on those activities (Grovers) that camper wanted more time to do.

A Journey is a 2 hour block of time for focused learning offered to our weeklong campers.  The age of the camper will determine how much time is spent participating in a Journey - 2 hours for Seekers, 4 hours for Trekkers, and 6 hours for Explorers.  

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The age of the campers in camp will determine how many blocks of time you, as a specialist/guest artist, will need to prepare.  You are welcome to spend the entire week with us as your schedule allows, but can also be at camp only on the days you will be teaching and sharing. 

If you are able to join us this summer, please contact Gretchen to schedule your week(s). Call 218-780-4116 or email gretchen@VLMcamps.org.