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GREEN LAKE LUTHERAN BIBLE CAMP

Green Lake Lutheran Bible Camp was founded by the old Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1938. Local members of the church prominent in the organiza­tion of the Green Lake Lutheran Bible Camp were T. W. Tysdal, pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Spicer, A. Vaaler, pastor of Vinje Lutheran Church in Willmar, and Peter Bonde, a member of the Vinje congregation and owner of the property where the main lodge and chapel now stand.

The property included what originally was the elaborate summer home of D. N. Tallman, a wealthy Willmar businessman. Peter Bonde had purchased the property from Tallman in 1933. He immediately sold it on a contract for deed to H. B. Lidstone, a Willmar developer, who proceeded to convert the summer home into a luxury resort hotel called the Crescent Beach Inn. Lidstone put considerable time and money into the project and was able to open the Inn for business for a short period in 1934 and 1935.

The Reverend Tysdal was associated with a Bible camp sponsored by the American Lutheran Conference of West Central Minnesota that met at Crescent Beach Inn for a week in 1934. This camp was held the following year at Interlachen Hotel on the north side of Green Lake.

The era of the Great Depression proved to be a poor time to open a luxury hotel. Lidstone defaulted on the contract, the Crescent Beach Inn went out of business, and the property, now encumbered with mechanics' liens, reverted to Peter Bonde. The property lay idle during 1936 and 1937.

In an effort to dispose of the property, Peter Bonde, accompanied by Pastors Tysdal and Vaaler, met with the Bible Camp committee of the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church early in 1938. As a result, Green Lake Bible Camp Corporation was formed with the Reverend Tysdal elected president of the corporation's board of directors.

One of the first actions of the board was to purchase the Crescent Beach Inn from Peter Bonde on a contract for deed for $12,000 with Bonde contributing $ 1,000 (the down payment) to the camp at the end of the first year of operation and $ 1,000 upon fulfillment of the contract.. Green Lake Lutheran Bible Camp was dedicated on July 17, 1938.

The camp was hardly what one might call financially viable during its early years and depended largely upon member congregations and volunteer help. When it first opened, the only hired help were the local ladies hired as cooks. Pastor Tysdal from Spicer served as camp director. Each camping group brought its own counselors and programs. A large circus tent, pitched be­tween Bonde Lodge and the Lewis property, served as a chapel. Later it was set up on the hill where the chapel is now. Sections of

tree trunks and planks provided seating.

In 1939 the board voted to build a chapel patterned after the Borgund Stave Church built about 1150 A.D. near Bergen, Norway. P. 0. Nasvick of St. Paul, Minnesota, was the con­tractor. Bonde supervised construction at the site. The chapel itself, built at a cost of $3,000, was dedicated in July 1940.

Nasvick procured oak beams, it is said, from the destruction of an old train station in St. Paul and had them transported to the Spicer shop of Ole and Arnold Gronli, who did the oak altar and finish work. Under Nasvick's direction, the Gronli shop made the crosses and other decorative features. Nasvick procured and installed the slate floor. Final work was completed in 1950. Peter Nasvick contributed a considerable amount of time and money to the construction of the chapel.

 

From 1948 to 1966, in the need for camp expansion, the corporation, by stages, purchased property from adjacent landowners: Theodore and Nora Gandrud of Redwood Falls, Fenton and Ruth Spicer Kelsey of Florida and Green Lake, Maxfield C. and Frances Reeves Lewis of Willmar, and W. E. and Anna Marguerite Scott of Willmar, later of Decorah, Iowa.

Over the years the facilities were expanded and improved. The girls' dormitory was built in 1942. A winterized retreat facility, consisting of Hill Lodge and four cabins, was added to the upper camp in 1959. In 1963 Bonde Lodge, the girls' dormitory, dining hall, and kitchen were remodeled and winterized. Two years later the faculty house and the boys' dorm above the canteen were remodeled. Bonde Lodge recreation room, lounge, and dining room were remodeled in 1970. In 1979 the board decided to replace Bonde Lodge with Chrysalis House, begun in 1981, completed and dedicated in 1982.

In the early years of the camp, authority and direction for the activities came from the Board of Trustees, who hired resident managers for three or so months at a time, or a board member assumed managerial duties for a summer or two. Among these early managers were Pastors T. W. Tysdal, B. L. Opdahl, and M. S. Knutson; Irvin Christianson, Carol Satre, Mr. and Mrs. Erland Anderson, and Mr. and Mrs. Roald Johnson. Beginning in the late 1940s, the following managers served the camp: Roald Johnson through 1954; Roy Eliason, 1955‑61; Russell Hanson, 1961‑62; Dale Caylor, 1962‑75; and Pastor Dean Larsen, 1975‑present. During these years, the manager's position gradually became a full‑time, year‑round appointment, and with Pastor Larsen, the manager assumed full responsibility and authority for camp direction, with the board's consent.

Over the years the summer attendance has remained rela­tively stable with about 1,400 campers on an average. The big change occurred with expansion of the camp to a year‑round retreat facility, with a present annual use by about 8,000 people. The camp currently serves 157 congregations in the Southwestern Minnesota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and some congregations in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area as well as the Southeastern Minnesota Synod.

(Portions of the article above are abridged from Thomas J. H. Bonde, "Early History of Green Lake Lutheran Bible Camp," August 1990, and are used with permission of the author.)