By: Christa Meland
“Being at Northern Pines this summer was like coming home,” said Deaconess Leslie Hobson in reflecting on her summer.
After spending the past few months serving as interim director of Northern Pines Camp in Park Rapids, Hobson recently became its director on a permanent basis—and she’s thrilled to make the camp her home for years to come.
“Camp Minnesota and Northern Pines Camp were blessed to work alongside Leslie this summer,” said Keith Shew, Dakotas-Minnesota director of camp and retreat ministries. “Leslie did an outstanding job leading staff, guiding volunteers, and handling many difficult situations that would be challenging for even the most seasoned camp director. Leslie’s leadership is exactly what’s needed at Northern Pines, with Camp Minnesota, and with our area camping ministry. Your Northern Pines camping ministry is in the hands of one of your best and brightest leaders!”
Northern Pines began in 1922 and hosted nearly 3,500 campers and retreat guests in 2015. Hobson is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the camp, including programming, staff, hospitality, financial management, capital improvements, and faith-building opportunities.
Because she became interim director in May, the programming, schedules, hiring, and preparations for this summer were mostly completed.
“My task was to learn as much as I could while working with the team to give all of the campers the best experience possible,” she said. But in the months to come, she looks forward to turning her attention to long-term goals and strategic planning.
Hobson spent the past 19 years serving as youth and family ministries director at Park United Methodist Church in Brainerd. There, she especially loved helping young people find spiritual practices to deepen their relationship with God.
“I have a passion for sharing about spiritual practices and new ways to experience Christ,” she said.
And before this summer, Hobson was no stranger to camp: She has served the camping ministry in numerous ways over the past two decades. She’s been a member of the Camp and Retreat Board, helped lead a camping capital campaign, and took a leadership role with a wide variety of past conference youth events—including UMYs, JUMYs, Campfire, and Youth Outreach.
This past summer, Hobson particularly enjoyed getting to know and work with the Northern Pines staff, and interacting with campers.
She also learned a lot—the camp’s rich history, for one, but also that campers use a lot of toilet paper!
One evening worship still stands out to her. The theme for the day was, “What do you have the courage to stand up for?” Campers would share how they would stand up for the homeless, for those being bullied, and for family and friends, among others. Each camper was then asked to find a stick and hand it to Zach, the camp’s program director and a very strong man. Once Zach had all the sticks in a bundle in his arm, he’d try to break them—but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t break the sticks. An individual stick could easily be broken, but the bundle would stay intact.
“The message was that alone we may break, but when we stand together as a community, we are strong,” said Hobson. “Even if we crack, there are others around us to hold us up. It was a very powerful visual image of what it means to be in community and to serve together. This message is relevant to us as camp staff as well as we work together to provide experiences of Christ, creation, and community. We need to count on each other as we put all of our gifts, talents, and skills together to design each week of camp and each retreat experience.”
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church