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Paynesville Press - August 30, 2006

LKAG celebrates 85th anniversary of camp

By Michael Jacobson

The Lake Koronis Assembly Grounds celebrated its 85 anniversary with a weekend gala at the camp, including a free picnic, an anniversary program, and a banquet on Saturday.

Tabernacle The church camp, on the shores of Lake Koronis, was founded in 1921 by the Minnesota Evangelical Church, one of three main branches - along with the United Brethren and the Methodists - that became the modern United Methodist Church.

During the anniversary service on Saturday, Rev. Dave Schneider, a past chairperson of the Lake Koronis Assembly Grounds (LKAG) Board of Directors and a member of the 85th anniversary committee, traced the roots of the LKAG back to camp meetings held by the Evangelical Church in the 1800s.

Rev. Richard Harper leads a crowd of 150 people in the tabernacle in old-fashioned song favorites during the 85th anniversary of the Lake Koronis Assembly Grounds on Saturday afternoon.

He also recounted early church history in Paynesville. An Evangelical pastor started to visit Paynesville as part of a circuit - coming every three weeks to preach in the town - in 1861, and soon with five Evangelical churches - Eden Valley, Grove, Paynesville, Salem, and Zion - "Paynesville became a strong center," said Schneider.

That center culminated in 1921 when the Minnesota Evangelical Church chose Lake Koronis near Paynesville - over Clear Lake by Waseca and Roberts Lake near Faribault - for their permanent church camp, which became the Lake Koronis Assembly Grounds. The spirit of the camp meetings - prayer, songs, and fellowship - found a permanent home at the camp.

Within ten months, added Schneider, the first two buildings - the Tabernacle and Lakeview - were built. "Almost unbelievable progress," he said.

"Praise the Lord," interjected an anonymous audience member.

Rev. Ric Koehn, the pastor at Grace United Methodist Church in Paynesville and a former LKAG board member, thanked everyone, in a prayer, who had made the camp what it is: campers, directors, board members, employees, and pioneers. The pioneers, he said, "rolled up their sleeves" and went to work. "With hammers, saws, and faith, they built this place, which has become so special to so many."

The ministry of the Lake Koronis Assembly Grounds has reached "around the world" and "touched millions of lives," said Koehn.

Dr. Lowell Gess - who was born in Paynesville in 1921, was raised in Salem Church, and attended the Lake Koronis Assembly Grounds as a kid, before becoming a medical missionary in Africa - has worked as an opthamologist with his wife in Africa for five decades, currently living in Sierra Leone.

Dr. Lowell Gess He was brought to Lake Koronis as a baby in 1921 as his father and other church men stepped off the boundaries for the 14 acres originally purchased for the camp (for $1,400). "I was brought to this place every year for 21 years," he said.

Dr. Lowell Gess - who was born in Paynesville in 1921, raised at Salem Church, and attended the Lake Koronis Assembly Grounds before bdcoming a medical missionary in Africa - was the keynote speaker at the 85th anniversary program at the Assembly Grounds on Saturday.

Even during the Great Depression his parents made sure that he could attend summer Bible camp, he said. "Koronis means so much to many of us, where we committed ourselves to Jesus Christ," he said.

His Paynesville connections eventually led, in recent years, to large donations from the late Rueben Schneider, which supported the building of an eye clinic in Nigeria. "Because of that stewardship, today there are thousands of people being blessed halfway around the world in the name of Jesus Christ," he said.

The Lake Koronis Assembly Grounds is needed for future generations, said Gess, because it offers a cure of the ills of the world.

Koehn also prayed about the future of the camp, in addition to remembering the past. "The past means absolutely nothing unless we have a vision for the future," he said. The Lake Koronis Assembly Grounds now occupies nearly 200 acres on the shores of Koronis. Thousands of campers visit the camp each year, the majority during the main camping season in the summer but more and more throughout the year as well.

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