HOW WE GOT HERE
Fresh Air Children
In the fifties and sixties, Mennonite churches in Florida were sending urban youth to the north for some time on farms as “Fresh Air Children”. The idea was that they would not just get some fresh air, but also receive more extensive exposure to Christian principles than by attending Vacation Bible School or Sunday School. The program was not entirely successful because of the shock of cultural differences often outweighed the intended benefits. So, the idea arose to rent local Christian camps for summer programs. Several were rented and enjoyed until racial tension in the south caused these camps to be unwilling to host the racially integrated Mennonite programs.
It became obvious that a Mennonite camp was needed, so in 1965 five men were commissioned to find a property. Eighty-three acres at our current location were found available and were purchased in the summer of 1966. Many volunteer hours and much work with machetes turned the 83 acres of swampy wilderness into a viable living space for summer campers. The first summer camp program was held in 1969 with two cabins and 25 campers per week for five weeks of camp.
During the latter seventies, Jess and Vi Kaufman became co-directors. They were searching for a way to make Lakewood financially feasible. At a business meeting in 1978, Jess reported, “Lakewood’s image is changing from one of a summer camp for children to a year-round ministry…from a place for Mennonite activities, to an outreach to many others.” It was a significant conversion and later that year, Lakewood had also grown from 83 acres to about 120 acres.
Today, Lakewood serves hundreds of groups and thousands of individuals each year. From motels and lodges to bunk cabins and camping, Lakewood has over 220 beds and 55 campsites to suit most needs. In addition, there is a 180+ seat dining facility, seven meeting rooms of various sizes, an activities center, a pool, ball courts and fields, a human foosball court, sand volleyball, mini-golf, disc golf, playgrounds, hiking trails, a petting farm, a lakefront with boats and fishing and more. Other favorite activities include tractor-pulled hayrides, popcorn made in a big kettle over an open fire, a low ropes course, an ice cream social, and homemade cinnamon rolls on a Sunday morning.
All that Lakewood is today goes to the credit of those who had the vision, those who poured out their time, money and talents, and those who continue to pray and work to see God’s blessing touch the lives of so many people. Ultimately, all the glory goes to God who inspires and enables. Perhaps God will use you to affect the history of Lakewood for His glory.
Written by: Jean S Pfeiffer
Mennonite History begins during the early 1500s in Switzerland with a movement that became known as the Anabaptists. After careful study of the New Testament, three priests, Conrad Grabel, Felix Manz, and George Blaurock, came to the conclusion that baptism was not meant for babies but for believers who made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ. On January 21, 1525, these three men baptized one another, breaking from the state-church tradition of the time and began a small fellowship of Swiss Brethren.
When the movement reached the Netherlands, another priest became prominent in history. This priest’s name was Menno Simons, from which the names Mennoists and then Mennonites were derived.
Mennonites believed in part that:
-Church should not be ruled by the state
-Baptism is for those making a personal confession of faith
-Believers are to mimic the life of Christ and forsake worldly practices
-One should not resist but passively submit to aggression.
These beliefs brought a great amount of persecution on Mennonites from governments, the established church, and even reformers of that day. As a result, the Mennonites were forced from place to place, seeking peace from aggressors which eventually led to settlements being established in the United States. Mennonites still hold to these New Testament values today.
Over the next few centuries, Mennonites became known for hard work, helpfulness, and separation from the world which was visible by their plain dress. Today, some Mennonites retain traditional customs and styles such as the white prayer veiling, but many dress as everyone else does. The traits of hard work and helpfulness are still at the core of the Mennonite culture.
Mennonite Disaster Service is a name well known to the Red Cross for its energetic involvement with clean-up efforts after floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes. Likewise, the Mennonite Central Committee is an organization that aids the poor and the disadvantaged around the world. Young people from many countries become part of their “trainee” program each year.
People often confuse Mennonites with the Amish whose culture has been “frozen” for the last few centuries. The Amish branched off from the Mennonites in the late 1600s when a leader named Jakob Ammann, separated from the mainstream on the issue of church discipline. The most obvious difference with the Amish today is their belief in cultural separation as is evident by Amish dress and practice. Mennonites believe that ministering to the culture is best accomplished by being involved in rather than separating from the culture.
One writer of a prominent encyclopedia wrote that the Mennonites take the Sermon on the Mount very seriously. That is quite a commendation.
Written by: Jean S Pfeiffer
The Southern Mennonite Camp Association (SMCA) was incorporated in 1965 with the purpose of providing a place (in the southeast) for Christian education, fellowship, and recreation under the principles of the Statement of Faith which is in accord with the Mennonite faith. In 1966, the land on which Lakewood Retreat now stands was purchased and development began. Today, the SMCA consists of men and women who support the unchanged vision for a place of Christian retreat ministry. Click BROCHURE for more information or APPLICATION if you would like to join the SMCA.