Table of Contents
1952 – 1964
Bethel Park Camp has it roots among German speaking Pentecostal Christians who came to Canada after the second World War. Many of these Christians started a number of German Pentecostal churches throughout Ontario. Among these immigrants were also ordained ministers. One of them was the Rev. Mathias Baumgartner who arrived in Canada in 1949 and initially settled in Rodney, Ontario with his family. In 1951 the family moved to Windsor pastoring the Philadelphia Church. As he became aware of German-speaking Pentecostal believers in other communities he organized services for them. Several other Pentecostal Ministers who had initially settled in Western Canada, including Arthur Schulz, Christian Green and Reinhold Hildebrandt, came to Ontario and organized these believers into Pentecostal congregations.
Thus, in the fall of 1952 the first German Pentecostal Conference of Ontario was convened. At that time there were congregations in Port Colborne, Hamilton, Kitchener, Harrow and Windsor. At the conference Rev. Baumgartner was elected District Director, a position he held for the next twelve years.
The next summer Pastor Baumgartner organized German Camp meetings, renting the facilities of Braeside Pentecostal Camp from the PAOC Western Ontario District. For three consecutive summers German camp meetings were held there. Camp participants experienced the Lord’s presence and power through his Word, salvation of souls, baptism of the Holy Spirit and healings.
Encouraged and inspired by God’s blessings, the Pastors and churches decided to buy property for their own camp facilities. Fifty acres of wooded land along Highway 3 near Rodney, Ontario was purchased for $5000, a significant sum at that time. The camp was named Bethel Park. Under the leadership of Pastor Baumgartner construction began in 1956. A Tabernacle with a seating capacity of 400 and several cabins were to be ready by July of that year. Many hours of hard labour by many willing hands made it possible to achieve this goal. Newspapers in surrounding communities even took note; the Rodney Mercury carried an article entitled. “Ontario German Pentecostal Camp now being built in New Glasgow.”
From the beginning the purpose of Bethel Park Camp has been to have a place of prayer and worship; a place where God, by His grace, would meet the needs of His people. The Camp was dedicated for that purpose with Rev. N. Lesch as the first camp speaker! By then, in addition to the churches already mentioned, there were congregations in St. Catharines, Leamington, Toronto, London and Montreal, Quebec who became part of the growing camp family. In later years churches were also established in Ottawa, Sarnia and Oakville. During those years attendance at Bethel Park Camp increased from year to year, necessitating more facilities and an addition to the Tabernacle.
1964 – 1984
After twelve years of dedicated leadership to the Ontario-Quebec District of the German Branch of the PAOC and Bethel Park Camp, Rev. Baumgartner was succeeded in 1964 by Pastor Jakob Heidt. Pastor Heidt at that time was Pastor in the Toronto assembly then known as Christus Kirche or Christ Church. A gifted and energetic leader, Pastor Heidt brought a new enthusiasm and commitment to grow the Camp. Many private and rental cabins were built, other facilities, including recreational facilities were constructed and in 1970 the present Tabernacle with a seating capacity of approximately 800 was erected. Commitment to Bethel Park Camp was evident throughout those years by the willingness of the churches and their Pastors to labour at and to financially support the camp. Anointed speakers from Canada, U.S.A and Europe as well as many PAOC – German Branch missionaries have ministered at Bethel Park Camp during those years.
Not only the facilities but also the ministry expanded during Pastor Heidt’s leadership. During the late 1960
1984 – 1990
After twenty years as Camp Director and District Director, Pastor Heidt due to health reasons declined to let his name stand for reelection. In 1984, Pastor Philip Kniesel, who at the time was the Pastor at Immanuel Pentecostal Church in Kitchener, was elected to the position of District Director and also Camp Director. Under his able leadership other expansions in ministry took place. By now an increasing number of participants did not understand the German language and thus the decision was made to begin to offer English ministries during the weekends of Family Camp. Under his leadership, the ground work for the future incorporation of Bethel Park Camp was laid.
1990 – 1996
In 1990 Pastor Kurt Mittelstaedt was elected District and Camp Director. He also was pastor at the time of the Immanuel Pentecostal Church in Kitchener. Under his leadership, the English services expanded to the point where Retreat Weekends were all English and Family Camp offered German as well as English Services. As of 1991 there has also been a Senior’s Camp conducted in the German language. Constitutional changes were made to allow cottage ownership for those attending all PAOC churches. The camp was registered as a charitable organization with it’s own constitution and its name formally changed to Ontario Bethel Park Bible Camp Society in 1991. The first meeting of this society was held in the spring of 1992. To distribute the burden of leadership responsibility for the camp, two committees were created. The Board of Directors which consisted of the members of the District Committee provided overall leadership for the Camp, while the Administrative Committee provided coordination for all non-spiritual concerns.
1996 – 2014
In 1996 due to the retirement of Kurt Mittelstaedt, the Camp Society elected Jurgen Rausch, at the time Pastor of Full Gospel Church in St. Catharines, as its fifth Camp Director. Under his leadership, ministries were expanded to include a full array of services and programs during the busy summer season. Current programs include two retreat weekends, four weeks of Kid’s Camps, Young Adult Retreat, 40s & 50s Retreat, Youth Camp, German Heritage Camp (formally, the German Senior’s Camp) and the flagship Family Camp. Hundreds of people come to Bethel Park Camp every year for the fellowship, inspiring services, relevant programs and great facilities. During Jurgen Rausch’s leadership further constitutional revision was made to allow for the creation of one governing board elected from the cottage owners with Jurgen Rausch currently serving as President. Recent structural improvements include the construction of a Sportsplex, a new Dining Hall & Kitchen, Chapel, Kids Craft Centre and the construction of our Kids Village consisting of new dorms for our kids & youth camps including a counselor dorm and gateway entrance.
At the 2014 annual meeting, Doris Bilitz was elected as the new president at Bethel Park. While she and her family have been involved at Bethel Park for years, she will be the first President to come from the general membership of the camp rather than an ordained minister. The first major project under her leadership is a major upgrade of the camp bathrooms. Join us in supporting Doris in her leadership of the camp.
Bethel Park Camp continues to be a recognized charitable organization enjoying a warm fraternal relationship with the PAOC – Western Ontario District.
Though much has changed at Bethel Park Camp since those early days, the purpose remains the same. In 2013 we celebrated 60 wonderful years at Bethel Park, with Jesus Christ, our King, leading and guiding us through the good times, and the bad times. Throughout the years, we have experienced miracles, seen loved ones come to know the Lord, laughed and cried with our sisters and brothers in Christ.
Bethel Park Camp is committed to its guiding mission statement: To provide a place of physical and spiritual refreshing and renewal, uninterrupted by the cares and concerns of daily life. We thank God for the refreshing move of His Spirit, the renewal of His people and for His glorious presence at the many years of camp meetings.