Camp Mokulē‘ia

I was invited to return to Hawai‘i for the celebration of the seventy-fifth anniversary (September 3) of the Episcopal Church’s Camp Mokulē‘ia, where I was the director from 1969 to 1975. At first, I wasn’t interested. Travel involved too much hassle, but when the present director pressed us to attend, I said yes.

Then an idea popped into my head. Maybe I could preach at the parish where Annie and I met and were married sixty-two years ago. Perhaps, I could bring positive closure to a negative incident I had there in 1969, when I was fired for allegedly being against the war in Vietnam.

I wrote the new rector and asked if she would allow me to preach on the Sunday before Labor Day. She was most welcoming.

In 1969, I had also started a small runaway shelter called Hale Kipa, which is now a multimillion-dollar organization that helps at-risk youth. I wanted to visit its new facility. When I called, they, too, were most welcoming.

While planning this trip, I remembered that Annie and I had our first date in Hawai‘i on Labor Day in 1960. Maybe we could celebrate that event in the same spot.

Next, we made plans with friends to get together.

These were all good signs, so off we went on September 1.

How did I become camp director? Two hours after I was fired, I called my bishop and shared my situation, and immediately he hired me to be the diocesan youth and camp director.

The camp had fallen into disrepair, and hardly anyone was using it. The bishop wanted me to “resurrect” it. However, my only camping experience was boot camp in the Marine Corps. Not helpful for a church camp. But I’m always up for a challenge. I started by following the guidelines established by the American Camp Association to be accredited, which were also the guidelines about how to run a successful camp. I followed its lead and had the camp accredited.

We wanted to design enticing summer camps, so we bought twelve horses, built a stable, and hired a wrangler. We also installed a swimming pool for lousy ocean days and added a dozen small sailboats to teach sailing in our inlet. We developed an outdoor camping site in the hills behind Mokulē‘ia to give our campers a taste of the real thing. Within two years we had seven one-week summer camps, all filled.

Our next move was to hire Elaine, a wonderful camp cook, who stayed for over twenty years. To keep her busy, started an outdoor education program, which kept the camp busy during the week. It was a huge success.

We then set up a weekend camping program for local churches as well as retreats.

The directors after me continued to build on this foundation so that today Mokulē‘ia is one of the top camping sites in the islands.

I am still a huge fan of camps. I see them as instruments that bring people closer to themselves, others, and Creation as well as reminders that we are the stewards for preserving Creation.

Do you have a camping experience to share?

Peace Love Joy Hope


Photo by Anderson Schmig on Unsplash

4 thoughts on “Camp Mokulē‘ia”

  1. Well done Bil & Annie.
    My experience was as a camper. 9 glorious summers of 1 month 1st 3 years and 2 months for the remainder @ The Athens Y Camp in Tallulah Falls, GA. (Founded 1898).
    Motto ‘The Valley of Youth Where God & a Good Time are Friends’.
    Campers from practically every State, Asia, Africa, Europe, Cuba (pre Castro), South America.

    Sounds like similar experience … no wonder I like you two so much.

  2. So happy you were able to find closure at that parish! Wish you had come to Good Shepherd Episcopal Church on Maui…if it wasn’t for your inclusiveness, my family wouldn’t have started worshipping at Good Shepherd. Mahalo and Mabuhay!

  3. Bil, I bet you don’t know that this is something we have in common! I was the director of a biology field station in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in the 80s, when I had just finished my PhD. It wasn’t camping, but still pretty basic living. It was a really formative time in my life. 🙂 Before that, I was at many different biology research camps– some in tents, some in buildings, in NE, IA, Maine, and CA. Nothing beats that outdoor living, outdoor working…

    • Many thanks, Jane for reading my blogs and responding, We’re back from a great trip to Paris Amsterdamanmd 7 days down the Rhine to Bale. Annie did very well.
      I* agree: it’s basic living, especially in nature, that makes us appreciative life that much more. But I do have to admit, that living a water-filled foxhole all night (Marine Corps) didn’t exactly have that attraction.
      We hope to see you at the Holiday Theta gathering. PeaceLoveJoyHope Bil


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