Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more… It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. -Melody Beattie

David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the LORD with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. 2 Samuel 6.5

When is the last time you danced before the Lord with all of your might? Check out 2 Samuel chapter 6 for an interesting story of King David who, in the midst of a serious responsibility to care for the ark of the Lord, danced before the Lord. He danced so much that Michal, his wife, “despised him in her heart” for his dancing. But David said, “It was before the Lord… that I have danced.” I did this for the Lord! And in a sign of God’s approval of David’s dancing and disapproval of Michal’s condemnation, Michal never has a child to the day of her death (culturally understood at that time to be a curse from God).

How are our lives made barren when we refuse to have some fun? How do our lives feel dry, dusty, and lifeless when we refuse to dance before the Lord? What a blessing camp can be as a place to learn to dance before the Lord so that we might dance before the Lord in our day to day lives. I read a quote recently from the Jewish Talmud that said that on the judgment day we will have to give account of every good thing which we might have enjoyed and did not. I hear this as a challenge to give thanks for all that God has given us. A challenge to a life of dancing gratitude. Dancing and gratitude and surprise at all God is up to. Dancing and gratitude which can turn what we have into enough and more! Dancing and gratitude which give glory to the LORD.

Pastor Tim Johnston

VLM Alumni and long-time Family Camper


Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father oflights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1-17

When I think about the VLM Camps, Hiawatha and Vermilion, I think about generosity – “the quality of being kind and generous”. When I think of the camps, I think of the people - the counselors, the campers, the leaders, and the donors.

When my 10 year-old son was at Hiawatha, he was extremely homesick. It was his first time away from home. It was a kind and generous counselor who noticed him, showed him he cared, and guided him through the week. This meant the world to our son.

It only takes one week at camp to create life-long friendships between campers. My (now 12 year-old) son’s bonds continue to grow with the boys he met at camp during his first week away from home. (the homesick week). 

Those counselor and camper moments, and the bonds that form in cabin groups are nurtured through the time that is devoted to ensuring solid programs and year-round ministry. VLM is blessed to have a strong leadership team built with kind and generous people who tirelessly work to create life-changing experiences for generations of kids.                

None of this happens without the support of our donors and volunteers. From joining the work day crews to exploring financial strategies to create camp legacies, the partnership of our kind and generous donors is vital. Educational, legacy lunches/dinners are starting to bring new ideas to the table as VLM continues to plan for now and the future. Watch for More of these events being planned for 2019.

VLM is blessed to have summer staff who give their time and show compassion to our kids; to have campers who how kindness and friendship with each other; to have year-round leadership who give of their time to this ministry; to have donors who give so much more than financial support. All of this keeps camp strong and ensures that this ministry will be here to touch the lives of future generations.

How can you show kindness and generosity this week?

Jeff Hakala

VLM volunteer, donor, and camper parent

Living Generously

by Jeffrey A Hakala CLTC®, FIC, RICP® 

As a Financial Consultant with Thrivent Financial, I am blessed to help guide members along their path as they strive to be wise with money and to live generously. To me, generosity is an expression of love.

As a part of my role, I’ve been presenting workshops focused on how the new Federal tax law changes present new opportunities for Estate/Legacy Planning. So far, the workshops have not been highly attended, but I’m starting to see some evidence that people are putting some strategies into action.

Here are two examples:

I received a call early last December from an excited, area non-profit leader. She shared that they just received a check from a community member who had not previously given to their organization – but had attended one of the legacy planning workshops the month prior. She asked me if there is a connection. “I hope so!” is the answer I could give. This is exciting!

During a recent client meeting with a retired couple, I learned that since our last discussion, they had been thinking about some things. They wanted me to understand how their passion has evolved as it pertains to their planning. They have been retired for many years and own a life insurance policy that they feel they no longer need. They have no debt. Children are grown. Their savings and income are strong. They could have decided to close the life insurance policy, but instead, they chose to change some of the details so they can leave the proceeds upon their death to the organization that has given to them in so many ways throughout their lives. It was a big decision that brought them joy. It will undoubtedly bring joy to others and impact the lives of future generations.

I am look forward to future generosity conversations!


I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” - Joshua 1:9

Every Sunday we welcome a new batch of campers to camp. Campers who are seasoned pros, waiting to to see their best buds, as well as brand new campers who are filled with awestruck wonder at what the week may hold. Whether it be the first time or the the umptieth time they have been at camp, leaving home for a week is an act of bravery.

A favorite responsibility of mine, is sitting at the registration table each week, and welcoming the campers. I love having the opportunity to welcome back campers from years previous, and to be there to provide positive reassurance to the new campers who may be apprehensive about their new environment.

One of the first things you learn while working at a camp, is how important it is to be welcoming and inclusive. The need to bring everyone together is so important, just as it is important to beware of any campers and staff on the peripheral who need to be brought in. This is a key factor that we focus on during staff training, and we try and live that out while welcoming summer staff, retreat guests, and of course our own campers weekly. We see this as our duty to the campers, and we try to ensure that at the weeks end, they feel as though they have a new home away from home. In the book of Joshua, the Lord commanded Joshua to be strong, and reminded him that wherever he goes the Lord is with him. While, campers going away for the week is not going into battle, it does require them to be strong and courageous. As a staff, it is our job to recognize that bravery does not always come with fearlessness, but instead it is courage in the face of fear! The most awesome thing of all, is that God is with us on all of our adventures. 

This mindset does not only apply to our campers, it also can apply to each and everyone of us every single day. In our daily life, how can we be strong and courageous? If we recognize that we are never truly alone and we do not have to fear rejection, how can we step outside our own comfort zone?Is there something that you have always wanted to do, but doubted your ability to do so? I challenge you to get out of your comfort zone and do something courageous for yourself or for others, with the Lord by your side, nothing is out of reach.

Kathryn Schaefer

VLM Alumni 2013 and 2014

A Camp Rally in Surprise, AZ!

While the weather is cold and blustery up north, we are thinking warm summer camp thoughts down south in Arizona!

You are invited to put on your favorite camp gear and gather for two events.

Monday, March 18 we will be gathering at Spirit of Grace Lutheran Church for pie and coffee. Camp Leaders from VLM and Luther Crest will be sharing camp news from around the country, and some fun ways that camps are changing lives.

The next day, March 19, you are invited to the Legends Deck at Surprise Stadium for an evening Spring Training game between the Cubs and Royals. This all inclusive package includes game admission, a full catered meal, one complimentary beverage, and additional tiered seating to watch the game.

Everyone is invited, no matter what camp you call home! So join us in Surprise, AZ this March as we gather all of the camp folk together for some homemade pie, baseball and fun in the sun!

RSVP by March 1. Details on the event and how to RSVP can be found here

Year Round Job Opportunities

We are looking for hospitable, team-oriented people hoping to make an impact on their community.

Year-round openings:

Head Cook for Camp Vermilion (Cook,MN) - to provide amazing and creative year-round meals to youth and families. Job description

Site Director for Camp Vermilion (Cook, MN) to manage safe property and efficient facilities. Job description

Director of Marketing and Communications (Duluth, MN) to spread the word about the wonderful opportunities in God’s great northwoods. Job description

 Resumes accepted until March 15th.

Please contact Gretchen@VLMcamps.org 218-780-4116

Summer and Seasonal positions also available. Please contact us now to start your new calling in God’s great northwoods!


“Do not be afraid. Do not be silent. Keep on speaking.” Acts 18:9

Some people are comfortable with public speaking. Some people are comfortable raising their beliefs in the face of injustice or topics with high stakes. Some people come by this naturally. Others must work through anxiety and fear to even think about doing these things. I fall into the this category. As a tried and true introvert, it is not unusual to believe that I tend to be reserved in most situations. I am not often a person who will offer up my own thoughts in discussions.

As a generally soft spoken person, I rarely raise my voice in everyday life. When I speak in front of a group of people, I have to be more intentional with the volume of my voice. This was no different, if not more apparent, the first summer I worked at camp. I constantly struggled with self-doubt that made it extremely difficult to think about leading in front of my peers, let alone campers.

They say comparison is the thief of joy; I would also offer that it is the thief of growth. As I watched others lead and put themselves out there, I never thought I’d be able to do that, not at camp, not ever. Yet, I did. The community I was surrounded with lifted me up and supported me through the doubts I had at the time and still have on occasion today. They were not silent in their support. They constantly encouraged me to speak up, to let myself be heard. When we stop comparing ourselves to others and act, we not only gain opportunities to grow through experiences outside of our comfort zone, but also find joy in the journey.

There are people in our lives, our state, our country, and our world who are facing struggles of varying degrees. There are people who cannot fight for what they believe in because of cultural norms and governing laws. We are called to keep on speaking, to fight the silence and fear that seems evermore present and natural in our society. We are to be a part of the community that fights for what we believe in, even when afraid. It is a scary time for many we know and many we don’t. In the face of the unknown and a generally dissonant society, we must not be silent. We must speak on fearlessly.

Amanda Randall, VLM Summer Staff 2016, 2017

VLM is NOW HIRING Summer Staff!

The privilege to change our world by investing ourselves in the lives of children is the best way to spend a summer.

We are seeking college-aged adults to be part of our summer community. Not only will you impact the life of our campers, but you'll also gain skills in leadership, problem solving, small group development, worship planning, and more. You'll also grow in your own faith as you dig into what it means to Weave JOY. And all of this as you enjoy the beauty of God's great northwoods!

In addition to counselors, we are also seeking kitchen staff (head cooks and assistants), waterfront directors, health care managers, canteen managers, maintenance assistants and leadership staff.

If you, or someone you know, is interested in learning more, go to our Summer Employment page. You can also find the application there.

Thrivent Action Team Trainings

A "spring training" for generous communities!

Join us for one of five events to learn how to sign up for and use Thrivent Action Team dollars. Action Teams are a great way to support camp, your congregation, or other event happening in your community. These trainings will give you the basics and you'll leave with a completed Action Team application for an event of your choice.

Journey Leaders Needed

Are you passionate about passing on a skill or sharing your knowledge with campers? We would love to have you join us as a Journey Leader this summer! Spend 2, 4, or 6 hours with a group of campers as you engage them in a new activity or skill. Past Journeys have included pottery, weaving, knitting, wilderness survival, canoeing, music/song writing, painting, photography, and baking.

Learn more by contacting Gretchen.


"As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your
hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3:12-17

At some point in middle school, I decided I wanted a cool Bible, not just the plain old black one they gave us when we moved up to the third grade Sunday School room. I found something that I considered the height of sophistication at the time - faux leather, bright teal blue, dark brown trim, magnetic flip clasp with asymmetrical flower detail. This Bible has followed me through all but my first two summers as a camper at VLM, and continued to be my trusty sidekick when I joined the summer staff in 2014. It is now full to bursting with little notes, scraps of birchbark, various worship outlines, activity sheets, and the other bits and pieces of life you collect during your time in God's Great Northwoods.

As I flip through the pages, trying to avoid spilling the contents all over my lap, I muse over folded notes I can no longer read (Messengers and Interceptors? Maybe?), wonder why exactly I decided to mark a particular page, and smile at kind words from old friends. And I always find myself back at the same place, words highlighted, page marked with a fun-size Butterfinger wrapper.

I was first introduced to this verse as a LOST camper, wrapping up a two-week session that I did not want to let go of. I was wrapped snugly in the joy and love that camp provides, and the prospect of going back out into the "real world" was decidedly unpleasant. This is a common and unfortunate side effect of coming to camp - it's just too good to leave! Being surrounded by an intentional community of faith, kindness, and joy is powerful, and it is something you don't find very often in day-to-day life. I have held campers as they wept on the last day of a session (and done a fair bit of weeping myself), because leaving that safe and happy bubble can be disheartening and, honestly, a little bit scary. It is upsetting to leave because we know that when we go back to our everyday lives, even though we may carry a bit of that camp sunshine around with us for a few weeks, we almost always fall back into our old routines, and that shine fades away.

Hearing this verse in worship that LOST session, I was jolted out of my moping. THIS IS IT! Ages ago, someone had put into words all the things I loved about the camp community and was now telling me to GO OUT! KEEP DOING AND BEING THOSE THINGS! Love people! Be thankful! Sing! Praise God! You can do this ALWAYS, not just when you are outside and wearing three days' worth of sunscreen, sweat, dirt, and bug spray.

Even though I knew objectively that I could do all these things outside of camp, this was the first time I had really internalized that fact - felt it. I think we all know we can do these things - choose kindness, forgive freely, love wildly, etc. - every day, every situation, but sometimes we just need a little reminder. That's why I keep coming back to this passage. It helps me refresh, re-center, and re-focus my energies.

As a counselor, I started using this verse as a benediction if I was leading worship. I wanted to give my campers the same tool I had been given, the same recipe for life inside and outside those intentional, caring, safe communities like camp that we so crave. So now, before I sign off, I invite you, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, to choose to clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, patience, and above all, love. Choose to bear with one another; choose to forgive each other. Choose to let the peace of Christ rule in you; choose to let the word of Christ dwell in you. Choose to be thankful! Choose to sing psalms! And whatever you do, in word or deed, choose to do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Ellen Badger

VLM Summer Staff 2014

Summer Camp Makes a Great Gift!

Camp Hiawatha and Camp Vermilion offer summer programs for all ages! Giving the gift of camp this season will give that special person in your life not only something to look forward to, but also an experience that will create lasting memories!

Camp gift certificates can also be used for one of our year-round programs or even towards the cost of renting our facilities for a family, work, church, or friend gathering.

Consider the gift of camp this year!

Contact the main VLM office to set up your gift - VLM@VLMcamps.org or 218-666-5465.


"After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, "Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!"" (Revelation 7:9-10, NRSV)

The congregation I currently serve has a long history with Camp Vermilion. We've sent campers there for years upon years. We take care of the Priest House and spring and fall work days. Daughters and sons of our congregation have been on staff over the years. But we also send kids to Camp Hiawatha when it fits better for the families. Each summer VLM Staff run our Daycamp in Proctor, serving over 50 kids a day! Two daughters of our congregation each had their weddings at Camp Hiawatha recently. Voyageurs Lutheran Ministry is an important part of our ministry at United Lutheran Church of Proctor.

Personally, I have been to a lot of Bible Camps and Retreat Centers over the years. When I was growing up, my home congregation sent us to Luther Dell Bible Camp outside of Remer, MN. When I was in college, I spent four summers working on summer staff at Luther Dell. One of those summers, our camp was folded into the Lake Wapogasset Lutheran Bible Camp family, so I got to spend a few weeks as a counselor at Wapo. In college, I also visited a few other Bible camps in Wisconsin and Minnesota. 

Right after college I moved to Texas. Our church was a member of Cross Trails Ministry. I vividly remember a vulture circling above me at Camp Chrysalis one day when I had a nosebleed. For a while I lived in Idaho, working in the church. We sent our youth to Luther Heights Bible Camp, high up in the Sawtooth Mountains. Later in life, I lived in South Carolina. While there, I went to retreats and confirmation camps at Lutheridge, a camp just outside of Ashville NC. I also visited Camp Kinard in the Midlands of South Carolina for a seminary retreat. If I thought about it longer, I'm sure I could come up with a few more camps I've visited over the years. Every camp has its own strengths and traditions.

Revelation 7 reminds me that God's people come from all over the place - Northern Minnesota and the Hill Country of Texas and the Rocky Mountains and the ocean coastlands. Truly, God's people are so varied and numerous that no one could count them all. Revelation 7 also reminds me that God's people are not all the same - they speak different languages and have different traditions and some of them even don't do the hand motions to camp songs the same way I do! This variation is something to thank God for, even when we prefer our camp over another one.

The one thing that is the same at every camp is this: we worship God Almighty and Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Often times when I'm singing at a campfire or lakeside worship, I imagine what worship is like at other camps. I think about how youth and leaders around the country (and around the world) are praising God with loud voices. They might not be dressed in white robes like it says in Revelation, and they don't wave palm branches. But they are waving their hands, and they are dressed in camp clothes that are adorned with crosses and Bible verses. Our camps help us practice for that great, unending worship around God's throne. One day, you and I and all our campers and all of God's people will join together to sing our praises. That's a campfire not to be missed!

Peter R. Kowitz
Pastor of United Lutheran Church of Proctor

2019 Summer Camp Registration is Now Open!

You don't have to wait any longer to sign up for summer camp at Camp Hiawatha or Camp Vermilion...or both! 

We have been busy putting together some initial plans for the summer of 2019, and we can't wait to have you join us.

The summer brochures are in the mail, but you can also find everything you need to know on our summer camp webpage.  

We are excited for our 38th year of Hockey Camp, to see our Canoe Camp program continue to grow, to see Discoverer and Venturer campers become Seekers, and to bring back a Family Camp program to Camp Vermilion. It's going to be the best summer yet, and we hope you will join us!  

Already know when you want to come to camp? Go straight to our online registration page and get ready to be part of a community that laughs, sings, worships, explores faith, plays, and prays together!

Make A Difference

We are seeking young adults who are looking to be part of something different, who want to

challenge themselves to step out of their comfort zone, and who want to invest their time, energy, and love into a community that offers what our world needs!

Did you know that working as a summer staff member at camp can help to hone your leadership, public speaking, critical thinking, and communication skills? And you just might learn to play the guitar, cook over a fire, or paddle board in the process! 
Interested in learning more? Check out our summer employment page! Here you can read about being a summer staff member and download an application. Still have questions? Contact Aaron or Brett to talk about what a summer at camp could look like for you!

PS Did we mention that we can turn your summer at camp into an internship? Brett and Aaron would welcome the chance to talk with you about this!

Weaving JOY

Summer Theme 2019

Jesus calls us to follow him. Our lives are made more complete when we respond to this call and strive to follow the example Jesus set. But living out this call takes more than simply a relationship with Jesus; it requires a relationship with others, too. To live a faith-filled life, we need Jesus, Others, and ourselves (You). Woven together these three are stronger and supportive, like braided rope. When one of these strands is off, life can fray and faith can be weaker. But by Weaving JOY, we can see how each strand impacts the other and enables us to move from "going to church" to "being the church" in our communities and world. We look forward to exploring Jesus, Others, and You this summer, and sending campers home with a new sense of how to weave together these key strands of our faith journey.


"Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much" Luke 16:10

There are many definitions of trust; it can be a reliance on the integrity, strength, or ability of a person, or a confident expectation of something or someone.
Trust can be hard at times, whether it is trusting that you are doing something right, or trusting that someone will be there to catch you when you fall. And building trust with each other is a whole other topic - everyone tends to have a different time scale of when they rely on or have enough confidence in you to share something with you.

Every week at  in the summer, you can witness this as you see campers come and go and watch how relationships build trust. Some campers don't need a lot of time to trust someone, while other campers take until almost the last day to open up and rely on their cabin mates or counselor.

One example that I saw this past summer was when a group of seekers were learning to paddle board on the lake. Most of them had never paddle boarded before, but they trusted the staff and the PFD's that they had on, if they fell in they would be saved. One camper in particular could not find his balance and would keep falling in and then would need help getting back on the board. Instead of screaming for help he would simply say "I'm in a pickle". A staff member would help him back on the board,  and when he would fall back in would again say "I'm in a pickle". He didn't give up and continued to be confident in the fact that there was someone there to help him.

God's trust is an absolute trust that can't be broken. I think you could associate the saying "I'm in a pickle" as a call out to God to show that you have trust in God. Think about who you trust, the trust you have in God, and perhaps think about a saying you can use when you are calling out to God, or that trusted person when you are "in a pickle".

Jamie Szamatula

Camp Hiawatha Hospitality Coordinator