In the name of Christ our Risen Lord — greetings! My name is Brian Bowes and I would like to introduce you to one of the best kept secrets in North Central Washington and a tremendous place for young people to learn of the love of Jesus Christ — ORTOHA Youth Camp.
I am the camp director and have been associated with this camp and its ministry for 40 of its 70 years (celebrating our 70th this year). I first visited as an 11-year-old camper in 1974, eventually becoming a counselor and then director in 1984. It’s a position I held for 28 years before taking a two year “sabbatical” and returning to the helm.
I am the minister at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Okanogan. I am also an umpire for youth softball and baseball for 39 years, a substitute teacher in the Okanogan, Omak and Pateros school districts and I broadcast high school sports for the radio station in Omak.
But as much enjoyment as I get from those activities, there is nothing that I am more passionate about then my relationship with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and spreading His message of love and salvation to all people, especially youth! And that’s what the Ortoha Youth Camp is all about!
Ortoha Youth Camp has made a positive, lasting impact on the lives of so many young people in the Pacific Northwest. Our planning board, volunteers and supporters strive to provide an exciting, fun-filled experience that is welcoming and Christ-centered. Our campers enjoy nature, recreation and fellowship near Lost Lake.
1. Our Mission: Ortoha youth camp provides youth with Christ-centered opportunities for fun, fellowship and spiritual growth in an outdoor setting.
Camp Ortoha is a Christian outreach camp serving youth in grades 4 through 12. Founded in 1945, the camp is situated on eight acres in the Okanogan National Forest near Lost Lake, about 30 miles northeast of Tonasket. Camp Ortoha is operated by members of local parishes of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Its focus, however, is not denominational but simply spreading the message of the Gospel, that Christ died for all and desires that all come into a faith-saving relationship with him.
2. What Should You Expect: If you come, you’ll be joined by campers from all over the Pacific Northwest for a week of fun, learning and recreation. We have a daily program of activities that includes three full meals a day, time with our camp speakers, recreation, morning chapel, rest time, crafts, evening program, swimming, hiking and free time. The building facilities themselves are basic — rustic, bunkhouse-style cabins, a shower house, modern restroom facilities and a huge gazebo so campers have the chance to enjoy the great outdoors and spend the majority of their time outside. Plan on seeing lots of nature, including squirrels, owls and loons.
3. Our Program: We offer a program of activities that has been tested over decades by happy campers and staffers. It is constantly being perfected to ensure that our mission and goals are fulfilled. Campers have to chance to create lasting friendships with fellow campers, staff and, most importantly, with Jesus Christ.
4. Our 70th anniversary: Originally organized and operated by volunteers from the three Lutheran churches in nearby Oroville, Tonasket and Havillah, Ortoha Youth Camp is excited to celebrate 70 years as they continue to assist campers in strengthening their faith and enjoying the friendships of other campers. The camp is now supported not only by area Lutheran churches, but those of other denominations. Please come to our Mission Festival, Sunday, July 26 at 11 a.m., followed by a potluck lunch (feel free to bring an item for the potluck). Guest speaker will be Rev. Ted Kriefall — emeritus, a former camper and speaker. The focus of the service will be, “Past, Present, Future” — giving thanks to God for all His blessings these 70 years and looking at what the future holds.
5. Our theme and other things: This year’s theme, “Extraordinary to Ordinary,” highlights God’s work with ordinary people to perform extraordinary task ... and how that applies in and to the lives of the campers. We have staff from all over the region. For grade school week, speakers are Amy (Visser) Schretlin, a third-generation Ortoha “kid” from B.C. and Rev. Mark Hein of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Wenatchee. Counselors are Shelby Clinkenbeard, a fourth-generation Ortoha “kid” from Spokane, Rebekah and Michelle VanSlyke and Jordan Gatenby-Hendrix from Republic, Kerstin Ericksen, Connor Rosentrater and Dylan Roy, all from East Wenatchee, and Brenden Warren from Okanogan.
High school camp will have as speakers, Nate Nolting and Rev. Shawn Neider of Zion Lutheran Church in Grand Coulee. Middle school speakers are Rev. Alan Visser, Ret. from Prince George, B.C., a 2nd generation Ortoha “kid,” and Heather Melcher from Odessa. Counselors are Kahlil and Zion Butler, Caleb and Zach Lofthus from Tonasket and Shelby Clinkenbeard along with Grace Clark, Carmen Fonseca and Jenna Bucsko from Okanogan/Omak.