The history of ALOMA really starts over one hundred years ago when a family by the name of Dearing homesteaded a valley high in the Bradshaw Mountains, outside Prescott, Arizona.
[About the Photo: While this cabin is not on camp property, the Dearings did own the camp property. Mary Grace Kelly, who donated the land to American Lutheran, was the daughter of Margaret Dearing. The original Cabin still stands today in the orchard field just north of the Camp.]
Mary Grace Kelly
The Dearings had a daughter named Mary Grace Kelly. Mary grew up not only to love the valley and mountains around her but also to love her Lord, their Creator. Later in her life, she decided to set aside part of that valley for the work of the Lord. Her dream was to have a Bible Camp in the valley she loved.
Pastor Charles E. Schmidt
Mary Grace Kelly’s dream started to become a reality when she met Pastor Charles Schmitz of American Ev. Lutheran Church in Phoenix. Shortly after that first meeting, American Lutheran decided to purchase twenty-five acres from Mary Grace Kelley with the commitment that it would be used for a Bible camp.
After purchasing the property, however, there were no funds to start any development. The land stayed unused for many years until the Pine Cross Bible Camp Association of which American Lutheran Church was a member decided to run a primitive tent camp for a few weeks one summer and use American Lutheran’s land in Prescott. Large military tents were purchased to provide meetings, sleeping, and cooking space, and a Bible Camp was held in Mary Grace Kelly’s valley for the first time.
American Evangelical Lutheran Church
Even though American Lutheran Church was a member of the Pine Cross Bible Camp Association, an agreement could not be reached with the member churches of the Association to develop a permanent Bible Camp on the property. A few years later a group from The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, who were looking for a site to build a Bible Camp, heard about American Lutheran’s property. After a meeting of the two church groups, a joint project was begun. They were able to enlist 9 additional Lutheran congregations to join them in developing the property into a place for all Arizona Lutheran Churches to use and enjoy.
And ALOMA was born!
On May 10, 1973, Arizona Lutheran Outdoor Ministry Association, better known as ALOMA, was born!
Camp ALOMA and Whataburger?!
ALOMA’s assets included 25 acres, three large military tents, and ten Lutheran congregations. But that’s not all. Back in a corner of the parking lot of the American Lutheran Church in Phoenix was stored what appeared to be a large stack of lumber carefully covered and protected from the weather.
Some five years earlier a member of the American Lutheran Church arrived at church one Sunday morning and announced that there was an A-frame building in Tempe that was going to be torn down. It was an old Whataburger restaurant that could be purchased for a mere $1000.00 if it was removed in two weeks, making room for new construction. Before that Sunday morning was over they had raised the money to buy the building which would be erected as the chapel for the property in Prescott. That very Sunday afternoon a crew from the church arrived at the site and began dismantling the building. Down it came, board by board, and was stored in a back corner of their parking lot. But there is one part of the story left to tell. Some fifteen years later a board member drove by that very site that had to be cleared right away and it was just as they left it with the footings of the old building still there.
So now back to ALOMA’s assets: 25 acres, three large military tents, ten Lutheran congregations, and a large stack of lumber. There was something missing: money. You can’t build a camp without it. Pine Cross Bible Camp Association was being discontinued and at their last meeting, they had about $14,000.00 in assets which had to be dispersed. They decided to split the money between a group that was building a camp near Crown King and the group building ALOMA. ALOMA decided after a lot of discussion and prayer to use those funds to develop a master plan for the property. They hired a local engineering company to do the job. The company was told it was to be a Bible camp to be used year-round and that the chapel was to be in a prominent place. The engineering company did their job and ALOMA had its plan. It included summer and winter lodging, primitive tent and RV camping areas, as well as recreational areas. The Chapel would be cut into a small hill overlooking the entrance.
Aid Association for Lutherans and Lutheran Brotherhood
One of the congregations that were involved with ALOMA was also involved with a mission project in the town of El Mirage west of Phoenix. They got the idea of approaching Aid Association for Lutherans (AAL) for a financial grant to start a summer camping program at Camp ALOMA for children from El Mirage. The program was to be called Project Care and not only did AAL agree to fund the project but they also approved a grant of over fifty thousand dollars toward building Camp ALOMA. This started a long, close relationship between ALOMA, (AAL) and also Lutheran Brotherhood (LB), which has continued now for thirty years (now as Thrivent), helping to make Camp ALOMA a reality.
Volunteers have shaped us
Over the years the camp facility has taken shape. First kitchen and restroom buildings were built and moved to camp to give ALOMA it’s first permanent buildings to be used with the tents for our first year. Next Grace Chapel and what later would be called Faith Lodge were erected. Faith Lodge had eight dorm rooms, restrooms, showers, and kitchen. It could house ninety-six people. ALOMA hired its first caretaker and he and his wife made a home in two of the dorm-rooms in Faith Lodge. They later were able to move into their new home built across Willow Creek. Next, the campfire and barbecue area and an A-frame lodge are now known as Hope Lodge was built. Hope Lodge originally slept about twenty people and had its own kitchen. Two member churches built two small rustic cabins. One of the cabins was later expanded into a second residence on the property and is the home of our new program director. The camp also included a softball diamond, volleyball court, basketball court, playground, and hiking trails. In recent years Peace Lodge and four wilderness cabins and adjoining ramada have been built. Peace Lodge has a meeting room and two dorm rooms with adjoining restrooms; all fully handicap accessible. The wilderness cabins will be used mostly in our summer programs but can also be used for family camps. Over the years the facility continues to be changed and upgraded as the ministry needs change and grow. Nearly all of this has been accomplished with volunteer labor. Without these dedicated volunteers, it could not have been possible.