God has displayed His glory in the founding of this ministry and in
its daily care. The story of Camp Barakel will encourage the
reader to trust God with all the circumstances of life. Uncle
Johnnie, our founder, wrote BARAKEL—God's Miracle in 1989. Below
is the first chapter.
UNLOADING THE WAGONS
I was walking around the north end of Shear Lake one Sunday
afternoon, heading over toward where the beaver never seem to
give up on damming a little stream connecting two ponds behind
the tarpaper shack.
As I went along, I noticed a piece of notebook paper floating near
shore, and I thought, "Oh, man! Some kid has thrown that in!
Why'd he do that?"
So I got a stick, fished it out and read it. Scrawled in the
handwriting of a young "peanut," it said, "Dear God, don't
ever let me forget the things You've taught me here at camp
Now isn't that a terrific thing!
And what a tremendous responsibility that puts on us. Here the dear
Lord has given us this beautiful piece of property — and
everything we see here was sent by Him. It's not the work of
this man or anyone else that's made this camp what it is
today; it's truly the provision of the dear Lord.
There's just a wad of stuff to tell because there's scarcely a
thing in this place but what God provided wonderfully, and
there's a story behind it of His provision.
It doesn't make any difference whether the provision is some staff
member who works here, or whether it's some material thing
like the walls, the wood, or the cement. And the older I get,
the more I marvel at it.
You see, the only thing the dear Lord needed here was somebody who
could unload the wagons. He sent the wagons — and still is
sending them — and they've been full of what was needed. We've
unloaded them and stuck what He provided hither, thither and
yon. That's really all that's been necessary. He's sent some
wagonloads for certain needs and He's sent other wagons when
there were other needs.
And whether it's been people or materials, or whether it's been
cash — or the weather — whatever was needed, He has sent it.
Paul makes the statement in I Corinthians 4:7, "What do you have
that you didn't receive?" The understood answer is, "Nothing."
So he said, "Why do you act, then, like you're so great and
you're doing everything yourself?" That's a rough paraphrase,
but it's true.
That's really the way I look at this — the grace of God, the hand
of God, has somehow, some way, provided in ways that I don't
understand and don't see — and I don't think we ever could see
Some folks have the philosophy that you need special people to
unload the wagons. You need to hire somebody with special
qualifications who can be a cook, an electrician, a plumber or
We've said, "No, you can do it with volunteers."
They say, "No, you're going to have to hire people for these key
positions to build, to carry out the program, to meet state
licensing requirements. You're going to need to hire people
But the thing is, people with "credentials" have shown up at the
right time! I think that's part of the wonder of it all, that
God has so faithfully provided. And it's been the same way
with programs and other needs.
I think back to when my brother Hi and his wife, Joye, felt led to
leave Camp Barakel after eight years or so. Joye had been our
cook and they were concerned because they didn't want to leave
us without a cook.
We were washing the truck that a friend of camp had loaned to haul
their things back to Illinois, and I stopped at the office to
get my mail.
In it was a letter from a couple in Indianapolis who'd been running
a restaurant, and they wrote, "We wonder if you have need for
a cook." I took the letter over to where the guys were, and Hi
stood there and read it with tears on his cheeks.
Now it hasn't always happened that way, but God has always
provided. While we would wait for the materials for the job
down here, there were materials for the job up there, so we
went ahead and worked.
You see, it was always clearly the divine providence of the dear
Lord. It wasn't what I did or somebody else did.
The amazing thing to me is that God would talk to people and would
put in their hearts a desire to be a part of this ministry. I
don't know if I can really tell you why they have given so
generously of their time and money to camp. I just give the
dear Lord credit for that.
And some of those things we used in the early days of camp, we've
been able to go back and replace with things that are donated
now. What has been surplus to others, God has sent to us and
we have been able to use it.
I said to a man who was painting here one day, "Did anyone ever
tell you that this building was a contribution of a man I've
never seen, that we simply had a notice that this man had a
building for us in Elkhart, Ind.? All we had to do was go down
and haul it up."
"No, I never heard that," he said.
"So we really don't know who gave it to us, except that some man,
somewhere, was moved to send us word that he had a building. I
don't know how he learned about us. I've never met him; I
don't even know his name. Yet here's the building, and you're
painting the door frames."
Then there was the fellow in Illinois who brought a load of kids up
to camp. He saw we didn't have any hot air registers and he
got us a whole bunch of them.
And there are scads of other things. I could take you to the place
where I sat and said, "Dear Lord, it would have to rain
counselors from heaven for us to have what we need in camp
three or four hours from now. I need a couple of boy
counselors badly." Do you know that as I got up from that seat
and started to walk away, a car drove into the parking lot and
here came a couple of young guys. They said they'd been in a
nearby church the day before, heard of the need, and thought
maybe we could use them as counselors.
"Yeah, we sure could!" I said, and after talking with them, I gave
them a quick orientation.
It still happens today. I've said so many times, "God will make
away. He did it for Israel; we ought to trust Him, too."
People may think that when we set out to buy Shear Lake we had the
resources. Their idea of resources is money. But our only
reason to believe God wanted us to have a camp was that the
program we'd been operating was so fruitful. We just believed
it ought to be a part of the opportunity to serve the Lord in
reaching people. So we had a resource, but it wasn't money. We
had seen the faithfulness of God before.
And as the dear Lord showed His faithfulness to us, there was a
faithfulness we owed back to Him. I used to say to people, "I
really believe God watches to see what we do with pennies —
how faithful we are with them, what sense of responsibility we
have about His little gifts to us — before He trusts us with
big ones. The Lord isn't going to trust us with dollars until
we show we can be faithful with pennies."
So we went from pennies to nickels to dimes to quarters — on up the
ladder. God must take into account the attitude we have toward
the little provisions of life — health and strength and the
air we breathe. It just seemed the stewardship of the funds He
put into our hands was really important.
From the humblest beginnings of camping I've felt inside the dear
Lord would match His provisions to how faithful we were in
carrying out what He led us to do. As we endeavored to be
faithful with the small things, He entrusted us with larger
tthings — more and more camper — and Shear Lake.
I've often said, too, that anybody could have done what I've
done. There's nothing here that was my specialty. No big
talent was needed. I don't have any impressive leadership
ability or charisma. Anybody could have done it. All you
needed was just to trust God — believe God — have a heart for
the ministry and be willing to work.
And you need to be ready to unload those wagons — to be used of Him
in whatever way He directs. To know what God wants you to do —
and that He wants to lead you — is vital. I don't think God is
disinterested in any of us. Here I am, and I say, "Dear Lord,
what do you do with an old man of 76? What is there left? No
church would hire a preacher and no camp would hire a director
my age. They'd say, 'Buddy, you've had it.'"
Yet, in my heart I'm saying to God, "Dear Lord, I believe that
there is a possibility, and it's not remote, that my best days
lie ahead of me." I know it. I sense it. And I say to Him
almost every morning, "Here I am." It's not that I want Him to
help me; I'd rather have Him just use me. Do you see the
I want in my waning years for God to be able to use me and be in me
in such a way that I do not become a sour old man. I'd like to
be a man who's alive with hope. I don't want to die inside. I
want to be alive inside where God is concerned and I want my
life to be a bigger thing to God right now than it's ever been
in all of my life.
So we had best come in submission and say, "God, whatever you want
to do with me, that's what I want to be." That willingness —
and the degree of your willingness — will determine for you,
and for me, I think, whether or not we go and do as He leads.
This work is where it is today because the Lord sent so many who
were simply willing to be used, in whatever way He chose,
wherever He directed.
There are a multiplicity of stories here and I would just like to
have you know what God has done. You cannot comprehend what it
takes. You can't have all cooks. You've got to have some
plumbers and electricians. You can't have all novices; you've
got to have some people who know what they're doing. But the
way in which the dear Lord has taken care of the needs that
have arisen here is a marvel. How He has met them, in
successive steps — those are just terrific stories in
And I suppose, to tell the whole story, we need to start a long way
If you would like to read more of the story of Camp Barakel, please
request a copy of the book that Uncle Johnnie wrote in 1989,
You may purchase it at the Camp Barakel
Trading Post for $10, or through the mail (postage paid) for