Gary and Laurie Pecuch might be familiar names for those in the Southern Ohio Synod of the ELCA. They are both active in youth ministry and avid supporters of camp. Laurie is a youth minister at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Grove City and Gary serves as the Youth Ministry Church Coach & Community Sandbox Manager for the Southern Ohio Synod.
For over 40 years, they have brought youth and families from St. John’s to Lutheran Memorial Camp (HopeWood Pines) — from weekend retreats to weeks of summer camp. They say that spending time as camp counselors led them to the call to work in youth ministry.
Gary says that bringing youth to camp is important because “their faith has been solidified at camp. We do a ton of good things in youth ministry at our place, but once you come to camp, it all comes together.”
“We do a ton of good things in youth ministry at our place, but once you come to camp, it all comes together.”
Over the years, Gary has witnessed the impact of camp on members of the congregation. Numerous youth who attended camp with St. John’s then went on to become counselors and then pastors (in the ELCA and other denominations). Still others are now working in youth ministry and education. Some even came to camp “who weren’t excited about kids or youth ministry and today they’re very good schoolteachers.” Camp allowed these youth to find their calling.
Gary’s work at the synod office helps to make these experiences possible. He says, “We just want people to experience camp in some way.” He is frequently at camp events connecting with the leaders and volunteers from the synod who are bringing their people to camp. “I’m trying to help build this network and family of camping people together, so that they’ll continue to do that long after I’m gone,” he says.