Northland Bible Camp is situated on beautiful Butler Lake and has been offering Christian camping since since 1958, although the first camp was run at Gibson Lake in 1957! Northland offers a get-away for the entire family in God’s wonderful creation as seen in Northern Ontario.
Campers can enjoy this creation through activities such as canoeing, fishing, and hiking. Other waterfront activities include swimming, paddle-boating, tubing, and water polo. A volleyball court, large playing field, sports pad, and playground equipment are also found at Northland.
At Northland, not only is God’s creation enjoyed, but also God’s Word. Each camp session includes times in which the Word of God is taught. From the very basics for the 7 and 8 year olds to the difficult issues that are faced in the early adulthood each camper can leave with a better understanding of God’s will for their lives.
Shortly after the end of World War 2, while Marion Donaldson was attending Greenwood Gospel Hall in Toronto, she heard that a farm beside Mary Lake was being transformed into a children’s camp. It was to be called, ‘Camp Mini-yo-we’. There, a few years later, Chester (Marion’s husband) was invited to speak at the Youth Camp session. He was impressed with the benefits of camp work with its many opportunities for teaching the Word of God to children. He saw it as a valuable tool for the development and training of young people in the use of their God-given gifts and abilities. The complexity of the organization that was seen there, was, however, rather overwhelming.
In 1957, Chester counselled at Faith Bible Camp on Lake Winnipeg, where he saw that camp could be run on simpler lines and still be effective. On the long road home, he pondered the possibility of renting cottages from Jim Reed at Kenogami and having a small youth camp the following summer. En route, he stopped at the home of some young people who had been hoping to attend the youth session at Camp Mini-yo-we, but disappointed when they heard that camp session was full. For the rest of the trip home, the possibility of an earlier date was considered!
Chester saw that the garden needed hoeing but the neighbours across the street had borrowed the hoe. The man of the house asked about his trip. As well as describing his time at Faith Bible Camp, Chester mentioned his desire to have a camp in this area. Five minutes later, the man came to say that he belonged to a service club that had a campsite on Gibson Lake, and offered the loan of it.
Gibson Lake is a beautiful spot, and there was a building with a wood stove and room for a couple of tables. With bed springs and mattresses borrowed from Jim Reed, beds were put together with pole supports for the use of the girls. The boys were to sleep in a tent.
Eighteen people attended that week, three girls professed faith in the Lord Jesus, the name ‘Northland Bible Camp’ was chosen. The lyrics of the camp song, ‘Northlandia’, were written on a brown paper bag. At first Marion thought the tune she wrote was just a string of notes, but when the young people learned and sang it under the stars, it came alive.
As Gibson Lake is a ‘kettle’ lake, and the bottom sloped very sharply, it was felt that a better location should be sought. With the $3.00 left over from the week deposited in the bank in the name of Northland Bible Camp, the Donaldsons set out to explore the area for a suitable site. They found Butler Lake was crystal clear and fringed with birch and pine. It was not too far from a highway, had a safe sandy beach and a good play area. In the area, a few years previously, there had been a forest fire and there were many burned stumps, but they realized that the trees would grow and the location had all the desired features.
After arranging for a License of Occupation with the Ministry of Lands and Forests in the fall of 1957, the work of collecting materials and preparing for construction began. Window frames were constructed in the basement of the Donaldson home. Plans were made for a camp program that would impact young people physically, mentally, socially, emotionally, and spiritually. It was not planned as a modified army camp, but, as the Donaldson’s expressed it, the enlarging of the walls of our family to include many other children.
Early in 1958 brochures were sent out with a description of ‘wide windows with a panoramic view of a gleaming lake and distant wooded hills’, before any work was done at the site.
As soon as it was possible for the car to get near the camp, the work began. Lumber from Carr Timber was unloaded near the site of the present Eagle Nest, and Chester, with hand saw and hammer, and occasional help from others in the area, started construction of cabins. The Eagle Nest was built first, followed by the Otter Slide, Beaver Dam, Fox Warren and Bear Den at the rate of one a week. The Dining Lodge was built, complete with verandah facing the lake, with steps and railings. One week was left in which to get beds, stove and kitchen equipment, and move the family, now consisting of Terry, aged 10; Phil, 9; Andy, 7; Janice 5 and Stephen, 2, into the Eagle Nest. At the first of July, the boys whose names are listed on the Memory Wall, including Ralph Carr, arrived as the first Boys Camp group. Thus started the on-going story of Northland Bible Camp.