“At Camp Conquest we believe that the camp experience is the most effective tool for evangelism and discipleship available to the church today.”
This summer marks Mike Gehlert’s twentieth as executive director at Camp Conquest, a Charis Fellowship camp in Lancaster County, Pa. The camp serves the Northern Atlantic District of the Fellowship, and you can read about it in the Camp Roundup article here.
Mike grew up in a Christian home and came to know the Lord as his personal Savior at age five, and he began attending a summer camp at age seven. He grew from camper to counselor, participated in leadership training, and went on to study business administration in college and later received a master’s degree in organizational leadership. Mike and his wife, Yara, moved to Camp Conquest with their four children, the youngest being just six-weeks old, in the spring of 2002.
“I thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to live in community intergenerationally,” Mike said. Throughout his life he has benefitted from the discipleship of mixing young campers with older volunteers. “Camp is a place where not only can we succeed, but we are allowed to fail because we walk alongside each other in grace.”
Camp Conquest is a family affair for the Gehlerts. All of the children have grown up attending camp, and later served as lifeguard, activity leader, photographer, and leadership development coordinator. “There’s no other ministry that I know of where I can walk shoulder-to-shoulder with my kids in ministry everyday,” Mike said. Yara also serves at camp, preferring to stay behind-the-scenes and step in where needed. She also welcomes staff into their home for the rental season and creates opportunity for staff to share meals, study God’s word, and live life together. “It’s all possible because of Yara’s ministry of hospitality and willingness to jump in anywhere,” Mike said.
A big focus of camp, and a passion of Mike’s, is leadership development. “How do we encourage, engage, and equip teens to effectively serve others?” The camp seeks to answer this question through a program called Service Training At Camp Conquest (STACC), a three-week intensive leadership development track. The first week of the program is a bootcamp where participants engage in exercise, devotions, service projects, and leadership training that focuses “learning who we are and how God has equipped us to do ministry and life.” The next two weeks are spent as either a counselor in training working with campers or as a crew member facilitating camp activities. Mike said, “It’s a win for us when graduates go back to their churches and engage in service.”
This summer Camp Conquest hosted almost 600 campers through both week-long and day camp programs and more than 300 volunteers and staff.