Camp Arnes became reality out of a deep desire to provide training in Godliness for children and youth, and a firm conviction that the retreat setting was an effective tool to this end. The teachers at Winkler Bible School organized summer camps in the late 1930s and conducted these programs on grounds rented from the Canadian Sunday School Mission camp near Gimli.
In 1939, a group of ten men, led by Mr. A.A. Kroeker, investigated the present site and purchased it. The purchase price was $1000. Each one contributed $100 and the 160 acres were paid for. This act of personal sacrifice set the basis and pattern for further development. A well was drilled that year, but World War II disrupted further development plans.
However, God’s vision to these men was not daunted. Mr. Kroeker, Mr. D.E. Redekop and thirteen others met on March 29, 1949 to form the Lake Winnipeg Mission Camp Society, which then organized a “camp where Mennonite young people could, during the summer months, study God’s wonderful handiwork”. A road was immediately blazed, the property dedicated to the Lord and the endless construction of facilities begun. Voluntary building-bees were the order of the weekends. For example, Mr. H.W. Redekopp took his Sunday School class of teenage boys to camp and erected an entire cabin. A.A. DeFehr, Walter Voth, H.H. Voth, Abe Quiring, and others contributed much to the development and program of the camp.
Mr. A.H. Kroeker directed the camp for the first few years. The ten-day encampments were Bible-centered. Attendance kept increasing and more programs were added. The camp had a profound impact, particularly on the Winnipeg Mennonite Brethren churches. Outreach was a very important part of the camp’s ministry. Special programs were conducted for “mission children” and it was a real joy to share Christ with them.
One of the unique aspects of Camp Arnes was its board of directors – they were men of devotion, of vision, and of action. They saw the potential in Christian camping. As early as the late 1950s they experimented with a full-time director. The camping season was extended to June and September. The first winterized building (the Wigwam) was constructed in 1966. By the late 1960s Camp Arnes was a year-round operation. Programs were expanded to include families, senior citizens, church congregations and even public schools. Soon people from all walks of life were attending the camp and experiencing the joy of the Lord as they heard the Word and joined in Christian fellowship.
A follow-up program was begun in the early 1970s to help boys and girls grow in their faith throughout the year. Camp Arnes presents a great camping tradition of service, sacrifice and joy. As staff, our service is an honor to God, a ministry to others, and a personal blessing in the lives we touch.