The History of Koinonia
Koinonia is a Greek word meaning “community,” specifically, being in communion with God and other people. The first seeds of the vision that became Koinonia began as an idea in 1959 when the Bible Camp Committee (BCC) was established by the Lutheran Churches of New York City as a response to concern over youth ministry. Over the next several years through a combination of research, investigation of sites, the development of the Martin Luther Camp Corporation, and the hard physical labor of many dedicated and committed founders from New York and New Jersey, Koinonia, the place, was born.
In 1962, 1,063 acres which included the body of water then known as Mud Pond Lake was officially purchased, and efforts continued to work to obtain an additional 110 acres from local farms and businesses. One year later several more acres were purchased on the North corner and another was acquired for what became the main camp entrance.
Over the next ten years many of the buildings which still stand today were built. The very first group of campers who arrived in 1963 attended a season of work camp. These young people, many of whom still come to Koinonia with their children and grandchildren today, were instrumental in clearing the land for our fields, erecting the tack room on the farm and the original shower house, building a bridge to cross the lake, and developing our roads. The following year the site was dedicated, and Wilderness (sr. high) and Trailblazers (jr. high) youth programs were added to work camp. Additionally Family Camp was first established. Everywhere you look you see the results of the hard work of all of these campers. The Trail Building, Five-Sided, Lakeside, and Two Family retreat centers, as well as the Pathfinder cabins, are all the result of the hard work and dedication of those early Koinonia pioneers.
Throughout the following decades the youth camp continued to grow in acreage and in programming, and the people of Koinonia worked to develop the facilities and offerings for year-round multigenerational activity. Creation Learning Center (CLC) which provided an outdoor educational experience for Lutheran school students was first established in 1975.
In 1977 ground first broke on the Kairos Conference Center. In 1982 the Wilderness School began, giving young men who would benefit from a different life experience the chance to live and work at Koinonia throughout the year while attending to their academics at school in Eldred. In 1985 Koinonia’s Elderhostel program started, providing both indoor and outdoor learning experiences to seasoned adults. During this time, the words of first director Jerry Manlove remained prevalent; “Basic in our program must be that we offer program progression - that each year we present new experiences so that campers look forward to new challenges.” This has been true of Koinonia each and every year, not just in the summer, but year round.
Fifty-eight years later, Koinonia (the people) strive to ensure that Koinonia the place is, in the words of past director Bob Nervig, “… more than a camp. It’s a community of people reaching out, sharing, caring, touching the earth and touched by Christ: For all ages, for all seasons.” Today, Koinonia the people live our mission statement “Koinonia is where God transforms and prepares people in an outdoor environment to love and serve one another.” We look forward to another 50+ years of transforming all who choose to live in Koinonia.