On Tuesday, September 28, 2021, nearly 30 Ontario Conference office workers gathered for a dedication ceremony at our new campground, the beautiful, 56.2-acre Rolling Hills, just outside of Barrie. They were joined by a virtual audience (817 to date), viewing the live stream at youtube.com/AdventistOntario. The day had a joyous, relaxed tone, as, after years of prayer, searching and negotiation, the Conference’s vision of acquiring an outdoor site for camp meeting and other events was finally realized.
God’s providence was the day’s underlying theme. In her welcome, Treasurer Virene Meikle shared this amazing story: “Twenty-five years ago, I visited this camp-site. My daughter was a Girl Guide, and her club was having a weekend retreat. I admired the property, not knowing that, 25 years later, it would be owned by the Ontario Conference,” she said, smiling. But, she later added, “God works in mysterious ways.”
Kevin Benta, property management director, then shared—with gusto—how the Conference came to own Rolling Hills. In October 2019, while visiting another property with the Conference’s administrators, Benta mentioned that the Girl Guides were liquidating their properties. Shortly after that, he reached the Girl Guides president, and several miracles ensued:
- #1 – Their president was moved by the Conference’s vision for the property and instructed the camp director and realtor to “take care of him,” smoothing his path
- #2 – Benta and administration looked at the property listings separately and independently settled on Rolling Hills; not only was the acreage impressive, so was the existing infrastructure
- #3 – An existing, conditional deal on Rolling Hills—conditions set to expire on the 23rd—was no obstacle for God. As Benta told Rob, the realtor, “Myself and our administrators, we’ve been praying about this. We believe God is leading. So when it falls through on the 23rd, please call me.” The afternoon of the 23rd, he received this message. “Kevin, I don’t know how. I don’t know why. But the deal has fallen through!”
- #4 – Rob was similarly shocked when Benta’s offer—less than the asking price and much less than the deal that had folded—was accepted with only a few thousand more requested
Benta concluded, “To God be the glory that we are here today!” In a later interview, Mansfield Edwards, Ontario Conference president, added, “Today, I am joyfully relieved. We ran into several obstacles, but the Lord was building our patience and trust in Him. And He led us through.”
Other speakers that day were James Rooney, Camp Frenda director, who has taken on Rolling Hills as part of his Conference portfolio; and Maria McClean, Health and Prayer Ministry director, who asked the Lord for His blessing on the ceremony. Rooney expressed his gratitude for being entrusted with this responsibility, admitting, “I was excited and almost vibrating in my truck the first time I drove around this site with my family on the way back from Frenda a couple of years ago.”
Leading the thanksgiving portion of the service, Edwards stated: “Today, we concur with James 1:17—every good and perfect gift is from above.” Next, he read the lyrics of Hymn 376, “All Things Are Thine,” which acknowledges God as the source of all good gifts and underlines our stewardship responsibility. Finally, he led workers in a litany praising God for the property and dedicating it to God’s work.
Executive Secretary Jakov Bibulovic then offered a prayer of dedication. He thanked God and “the faithful members who made this possible.” He concluded, “May all who come here learn more about you. May they commit their lives to Jesus Christ. May this property be a beacon in this community. May Your Spirit sanctify it. And may everything we do here bring glory to Your name.”
Throughout the service, the live stream chat was active with appreciative comments, like:
“Wow! This is breathtaking! Absolutely beautiful and tranquil.” Rosanna Bullock
“Praise God for His providence in guiding our Conference leaders to purchase this gorgeous property. We look forward to our next camp meeting on this new campground!” pjessmaj315
“May we live to have great memories here!” Ronald Francis
A Ministry Playground
The rest of the day, Conference office workers explored Rolling Hills’ many offerings, including:
- Seven pavilions and a comfort station with washrooms and showers
- Main house/lodge with a kitchen, laundry, three bathrooms and four accommodation rooms
- Half-dome open-air structure for rainy day programs
- Roads, hiking trails and pond/creek
- Utility corridors (hydro and water)
- Play structure
- Shelter and campfire circle
As they toured the site in small groups, some even indulged their inner child, sliding down slides or braving a wooden balance beam that was part of an obstacle course.
As the tour continued, Conference leaders were already dreaming of the possibilities, including departmental retreats, workshops, seminars, camporees and more. Edwards noted the facility’s relevance to “Connecting Like Jesus.” “As [we] come out here to spend time with God and with each other, we will become stronger [as God’s army] and be ready to go out and impact the community.”
Chatting with his fellow director, Edwin Martin (Adventurers, Master Guides and Pathfinders), Allan Chichester (Children’s Ministries and Sabbath School) said, “Maybe we can have a children’s fun day out here.” “Why not? There are so many things we can do!” Martin replied gleefully.