IMPACTING LIVES SINCE 1921
Since 1921, The Firs has offered unique camp and conference programs in an effort to impact lives with the good news of Jesus Christ. Over the years, these programs have capitalized on the breathtaking natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest for their setting.
The Firs sites now include a 30-acre Retreat Center and Day Camp on the outskirts of Bellingham, WA; a four story A-frame Chalet at Mt. Baker; and a resident youth camp, Camp Firwood, on almost a mile’s worth of Lake Whatcom waterfront.
Facilities, activities, high-energy programs, great food and tremendous service, have all contributed to make a stay at any of our sites an unforgettable experience. The greatest asset of The Firs, however, generation after generation, has always been the people. Staff, employees, volunteers, interns, camp counselors and dedicated workers, make the difference and count the most in the lives of our guests.
With a desire to use what God had given them for His purposes, Otis and Julia Whipple gathered a group of 35 people at their property overlooking Lake Whatcom in Bellingham, Washington, for a five-day retreat. Their purpose during that July week in 1921 was to “meet the Lord and strengthen the ties of an extended spiritual family”. They probably couldn’t have imagined what was to follow: an unbroken string of camp and conference activity that has spanned many decades and grown into a multi-site, multi-program organization now called The Firs.
Held together by the faithful efforts of 18 core individuals, The Firs became an official, incorporated non-profit entity in June 1927. It was called, initially, the Lake Whatcom Bible & Missionary Conference and for almost 35 years, flourished at its original Retreat Center site. In the summer of 1954, a group of 30 junior high campers paddled along the shores of Lake Whatcom to a beautiful camp site they called “White Sands”. With permission from the owner, the first week of resident youth camp took place on this 80-acre site that soon became known as Camp Firwood. In 1955, with its 4,500 feet of pristine shoreline, Camp Firwood was purchased for $35,000. What a tremendous act of God, as this expansion of The Firs ministry would soon become a fully developed summer youth program.
Just weeks after the purchase of Camp Firwood, The Firs was contacted by the Mt. Baker committee of the Bellingham Chamber of Commerce and asked if it would like to build a private ski lodge on Forest Service land at Mt. Baker. As a testament to God’s blessing and the faith of godly leadership, The Firs went ahead. Within three years, the four-story A-frame Chalet was completed and The Firs now existed on three distinct and unique camp sites.
Thus began a period of growth and expansion at all three locations of The Firs. In 1960, the Fircreek Day Camp program kicked off at the Retreat Center site. Churches and other organizations began renting The Firs’ facilities for camps and retreats, and ministry partnerships were soon established.
In response to a growing suburban community and a need for child care, in 2001 The Firs began the After School Adventure program at the Retreat Center. The Firs ministries to school age children now operate 12 months out of the year.
The Firs serves the local church and community by drawing groups and individuals to a camp and retreat setting. The Firs exists for people to encounter Jesus and experience the love of God – this is our core mission.
From its beginning, The Firs has focused on developing and maintaining a ministry to God’s glory. The Firs’ emphasis has been to help people believe. This is done through instruction, creative activities and significant relationships.
The Firs’ three facilities serve to support these efforts and provide a place for organizations and other ministries of similar purpose to offer programs of their own.
The Vision of The Firs is to see our world changed through Christ-centered children and family ministries, conferences and camping initiatives.
A STORY OF FAITH
Throughout our history, we have had a sincere desire to see people of all ages come away to experience the biblical message of Jesus in a camp and retreat setting. It is a story of faithful people acting in obedience to God and committed to God’s Word.
At The Firs, THE IMPACT IS FOR LIFE!
We believe that the Bible is the Word of God, divinely inspired, infallible, entirely trustworthy and the supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct. (2 Tim. 3:16-7; 2 Pet. 1:20-21; 1 Cor. 2:13)
We believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14)
We believe in the deity of Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death, in His bodily resurrection and His ascension to the right hand of the Father. We believe in His personal, visible return to earth in righteousness and glory to consummate His salvation and His judgment. (Jn. 1:1-2; Rom. 3:21-26; 1 Thess. 4:13-18)
We believe that, because of the fall of humanity with the resulting sinful state and subsequent separation from God, there is the necessity of new birth, in salvation by faith in Jesus Christ alone. (Rom. 3:23; 6:23; Eph. 2:8-10; John 1:12)
We believe that God has called Christians to a life of sanctification through the Holy Spirit and to a life fully committed to the will of God in Christ. (1 Pet. 1:14-16; Titus 2:11-14)
We believe in the Christian church as the one universal body of Christ. Christ is the head of His church and calls God’s redeemed people to be set apart for His purposes in the world. (Eph. 1:22-23; 5:25-30; I Peter 1:9-10)
We believe in the institution of marriage defined in Scripture as the covenantal union between one man and one woman. We believe that the Christian standard is faithfulness within that marriage covenant and abstinence outside of it. (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:5-6; Eph. 5:31-33)
We believe that every person is created in the image of God, that human sexuality reflects that image in terms of intimate love, communication and fellowship. We believe that God created humankind as two distinct sexes, male and female. (Gen. 1:27; Matt. 19:4-6; Mk. 10:6-8)
WHAT WE BELIEVE
A Brief Account of
the Faith We Hold
It all starts with God and the realization that He does, in fact, exist and that He is infinite, accessible, all-powerful, holy, and the Creator of all things. Now, while these things are essential to His nature, the most significant thing about Him is that He loves us and desires to be in relationship with us.
If a God exists who is all-powerful, loves us and truly wants to be in relationship with us, then it stands to reason that He is able and willing to let us know who He is and that this revelation won’t be confusing or elusive. In other words, God doesn’t leave us alone to define Him as we want – as convenient as that may be. He communicates in a way that doesn’t answer all of our questions, but does reveal what we need to know.
We believe that He does this primarily through the Scriptures (aka the Bible), which are essentially a collection of historical narratives; written by multiple authors, unified, preserved and inspired by God Himself. By reading the collection, we see the ‘whole’ of who God is and what He is about, as He determined that we should know. We also find in these Scriptures a lot of information about ourselves – ‘humans’, if you will. We discover that while we are objects of His love, we are also beings created with the ability to choose. Apparently, in God’s perfect plan, He felt it was and is better for us to choose Him than to be forced to follow Him. Sounds like a good idea.
However, ‘choice’ means we can choose contrary to God’s plan and that shows up early on in the narrative. Adam and Eve had the opportunity to obey their Creator or do what they wanted. (They chose poorly.) Since that time, our choices have reflected our desire to do our own thing in our own way, as well. This departure from God’s plan was and is, essentially, a rejection of God Himself. This rejection has a name and it is called sin. When sin happens, we move from relationship with God to separation from God (not a good thing). Another way to put it is that we move from all that is ‘life’, as God intended, to a state of ‘death’, with no human means to change the situation.
Fortunately, the story doesn’t end there because this is where Jesus enters the scene. Jesus is the historical and supernatural appearance of God on earth. Though existing eternally as the Son of God, Jesus took on human form, for a time, so that He could relate to us humans in every way and become the solution for the relationship that was broken. It’s hard to grasp, but in God’s perfect plan the only way for the separation to be ‘fixed’ was by someone receiving the consequence of our sin and the curse of human death. And the only one able to effectively make that sacrifice was the one perfect human – Jesus. And so it happened. Jesus willingly died on our behalf and the penalty was satisfied. He rose from the dead and re-introduced life. The separation is now gone, the gap is closed, and we are able to recapture the relationship with God that He intended from the start.
Now, the proverbial ball is in our court. The offer of reconciliation is on the table with no strings attached and once again, God blesses us with a choice – take it or leave it. And while the choice doesn’t seem hard, here is where we tend to mess it up. We figure our response to this incredible plan of God and amazing offer of relationship is to try and earn the right to receive it. So, we put on our best behavior, try and follow all the right rules, and hope it will be enough to please God. All the while, God just wants us to believe. He wants our faith in Him, not in our abilities. He wants us as we are, with all our blemishes, not as we hope we will be someday. He’s handing us a gift and He wants us to take it. It’s called grace and it’s offered because he loves us.
Though Jesus is no longer humanly in our midst, he has left us with His Spirit. It’s this Spirit that resides within us, prompts us towards the things of God, leads us in the right path, and is the very essence of God with whom we can now have relationship. He promises to never leave us until the day comes when Jesus returns for us in all His glory.
This is a love story intended for us to personally enter, in faith. It is a story rooted in the past, but engaged in the present. It is the story about Jesus and about us choosing to respond to His claim that He is, in fact, the way, the truth and the life.
What You Can Expect
From The Firs
Our goal is to love well and to serve well. This applies to all who come to our programs and facilities, as well as to our staff, who lead them and the parents, or families who send them.
As we have from the beginning, we welcome children and youth from all walks of life to our camp programs regardless of church affiliation, beliefs or practice of faith.
We will make every effort to keep our programs a safe place for children and youth. We will not indoctrinate or coerce anyone into believing the way that we believe or might want others to believe.
Those who come to The Firs, however, will hear that God exists, that he loves us and desires to be in relationship with us (according to His Word, the Bible). They will hear that Jesus is the Son of God and the reason for the hope that is in us.
We will always respect the wishes of parents for their children. We will make every effort possible to accommodate their desire for them while at one of our camp programs as long as it is reasonable and not a detriment to the experience of others.