We may still be several months away from the sun and warmth of summer, but one new Iowa Conference hire is already thinking about it. Derek Bergman was recently hired by the Conference as the site director for the Lake Okoboji. He is slated to begin at his new position on Feb. 27.
“I’m looking forward to meeting everyone and hearing their stories about Okoboji,” said Bergman. “I’ve got a lot of work to do to learn the history of the camp and what it means to everyone else.”
Bergman has been the program director at Camp Fontanelle in Nebraska for the past nine years. Prior to Camp Fontanelle, he was a manager at Mosaic in Omaha, Neb., a day service workshop for people with intellectual disabilities.
Bergman originally wasn’t looking for a change from his job at Camp Fontanelle, but he was acquainted with Bryan Johnson, Leadership Development Director for Camping and Christian Formation with the Iowa Conference. Johnson reached out to Bergman to let him know the position at Okoboji was opened if he was interested in it.
“I jumped on that and said, ‘Let’s see where God takes us,’” said Bergman. “If nothing else, I wanted to see Okoboji and learn a little bit through the interview process if they had me go that far.”
Johnson said the final three candidates for the position all brought unique experiences to the table, making them each extremely qualified. But, said Johnson, Bergman possessed a little extra.
“It was very obvious (Bergman) takes his faith and United Methodist allegiance very seriously,” he said. “It’s not just a part of who he is, but also who his family is.”
Bergman’s on the job experience at Camp Fontanelle and his certifications including Red Cross lifeguard certification and a ropes facilitator certification, fit perfectly with the activities Camp Okoboji has to offer.
Taste for camping
Bergman knew early on he wanted to work in a camp setting. While studying elementary education at Peru State College, Peru, Neb., Bergman worked at two different summer camps through his college years.
“I got a taste for camping early,” said Bergman. “I got it in my blood, and I can’t get it out.”
Bergman has another reason to like the camp setting so much. He met his wife Amy at Camp Fontanelle. They married at the camp and lived there for nine years. During those nine years, there, they had three children: a daughter Tava, 9, and two sons, Kaden, 6, and Kyler who turns 2 in February. Johnson said he is happy to have the whole family help with the camp experience at Okoboji.
“It’s pretty obvious it’s not just Derek’s ministry, but his family’s ministry, too,” said Johnson. “It’s part of who they are and who they want to me.”
Creating a welcoming environment
Bergman’s job, first and foremost, is to ensure the safety and well-being of the children and adults who visit Camp Okoboji, said Johnson. He also must be an exceptional leader for staff and participants at the camp.
“He has experience with the American Camp Association and is very deliberate in how he thinks and acts,” he said. “His experience will lend itself very well to those tasks.”
In addition to the safety of campers, Bergman wants to create a welcoming environment where campers can nurture their relationship with Jesus. Johnson’s observation of deliberateness is reflected in Bergman’s plans for the future.
“If I start something new, I want to learn as much as possible, so we don’t make the same mistakes or disrupt anything that’s happened before,” said Bergman.
Bergman’s work at Camp Fontanelle helped bring more in more campers. He helped start an annual Gaga Ball tournament at Camp Fontanelle. Gaga Ball is like dodgeball, only played in a pit and is a popular game in camps across the country.
The tournament brought youth groups from all over to play against each other. One youth group took the idea of the Gaga Ball tournaments to its home church and doubled the size of its youth group as a result.
Bergman also hopes to get college age and older adults more involved at Lake Okoboji. In Nebraska, traditionally adults volunteer as camp counselors.
“Adults bring a lot of knowledge and experience ministering with youth and kids,” said Bergman.
He hopes some of the successes and programs he oversaw at Camp Fontanelle can be transferred to Lake Okoboji. Johnson believes it will, and Bergman will be successful in his new role.
“The Iowa Conference is going to be very happy with his maturity and experience,” he said. “The Conference will be very proud.”
“So thankful to hear a variety of new thoughts and ideas on how to preach.” “We all face similar challenges and can face them together with honesty and boldness.” “Don’t be scared of preaching without notes. The format Rhoda [Preston] gave was helpful.”
These are among the learnings reported by participants in the recent NE District Preaching Conference. The conference was the brainchild of Rev. Dr. Scott Meador, pastor at First UMC, Independence, and chair of the NE District Committee on Ordained Ministry. The one day conference brought together clergy and lay speakers eager for new ideas, techniques, and inspiration for proclaiming God’s message. The keynote presenter was Dr. Dawn Chesser, Director of Preaching Ministries at UMC Discipleship Ministries. Participants heard a variety of sermons followed up by Q & A with the speakers. Workshop sessions offered basic skills for beginning preachers and new ways to make the message fresh and relevant for experienced pastors. “What an amazing day to see the engagement and commitment to growing as preachers of the Gospel,” said NE District Superintendent Jackie Bradford. “The true sign of success--all participants stayed until the end.”
Reflecting on the day, host and organizer Scott Meador said, “I think many felt inspired to keep doing the good work they are doing, as well as a nudge to get out of their comfort zones as they share the gospel.”
Rev. Paul Evans reports that help is needed in Greene and to clean basements in a number of homes. The water has receded to the point that homeowners are ready for some assistance. Please contact Susan at 641-781-9501 to volunteer.
Evans has received word from Rev. Dan Fernandez that Shell Rock UMC needs assistance moving items from the basement now that it is accessible after the water has receded. Contact Pastor Dan at 319-885-4554
The Manchester United Methodist Church has completed a mission project called The House of David for a local community member with special needs.
Every year, as part of his call to ministry, Rev. Phil Rogers has participated in mission projects around Iowa and other parts of the world. This year, to share these wonderful experiences with his church, he searched for a Summer mission project where families could serve together but was not having much luck finding one.
Rev. Rogers says this mission project was a brought to his attention after several members of the church noticed a GoFundMe account had been set up by David’s friends and family because he had been collecting pop cans to assist in paying for his household repairs.
David has lived in the Manchester community his entire life. He is a kind and gentle soul who works part-time at the local Pizza Ranch, volunteers at Share the Harvest every week during the summer; shovels snow during the winter for the elderly in his neighborhood, and volunteers at Second Helpings, a community program at the Manchester United Methodist Church. He has struggled financially to keep up with the repairs needed on his home, so he has been collecting pop cans for months for extra income.
Manchester United Methodist Church offered to lead the team of volunteers to restore his home in just five days. Initially, they planned to fix several issues including replacing siding and roof and adding a small utility room.
Phillipson concrete generously donated the materials and labor needed to pour a new foundation. Then carpenters, electricians, plumbers, roofers and drywallers with a heart to served all donated and volunteered. Before they knew it, money was collected from the church, friends, family, the GoFundMe account and from David's collected cans.
"Every step of the way as new issues arose that would challenge the budget, then suddenly unexpected funds were donated to see the project through. As our five-day project stretched to eleven, volunteers kept showing up, and the work was completed," said Rev. Rogers
"As word got out, it has just been amazing," recalled Rev. Rogers. "Every time we run in to a new expense, and I am like, 'Uh-oh, I wonder where that's coming from?' before I bring it up—somebody comes over and hands me just about what I need!"
"The House of David is now safe, insulated, and beautiful. The work was completed with many caring hands that shared their gifts and talents with joy and fellowship," Rev. Rogers wrote in the Manchester United Methodist newsletter, The Chimes.
"I have heard many comments about how wonderful it is for this church to put the energy behind this blessing, to see it through. I had one person tell me he thought these kind of things only happened in the big cities. All of this does make you feel good, and perhaps even humble pride in what God has accomplished through you. But I think my favorite comment comes from David himself when he proclaimed 'I soooooo happy!'"