Camp Lewtana: a hidden Central Montana Treasure

Sarah Keeney, left, and Suzie Spear ring the bell to welcome campers to “family camp” earlier this month. Camp Lewtana runs camps from June 20 to August 13 and now offers some winter activities.

Photo by Charlie Denison

By: 
Charlie Denison
Reporter

Six miles south of Lewistown lies an evangelical paradise, a place where children have been going since 1941 to enjoy the outdoors and, according to its mission, live a Christ-centered life.

Led by Justin and Rose Antonich, Camp Lewtana has a little something for everyone, as there are camps for men, women, families, junior teens, senior teens and children. There are also archery, basketball, day camps and winter activities.

With all this excitement during the summer, camp director and registrar Jerri Sain  said it’s still a mystery to many.

“There are a lot of people in Lewistown who have no idea this is here,” she said. “And we are just a 12-minute drive to town. We’d love to see more people come out.”

Camp Lewtana has it all, Antonich said, no matter what your age.

“Family camp, for example, is for newborns all the way up to 104 or 105,” Antonich said. “Most cakes focus on ages 7-19, but that is still a wide variety.”

Lewtana also hosts vacation bible schools for churches in and around Lewistown.

“We are non-denominational,” Antonich said. “We work with all kinds of different churches around Central Montana.”

Sponsored by InFaith Ministry, Camp Lewtana has offered their services to the area for the past 76 years, and Justin said he doesn’t see this changing anytime soon. There are too many people invested and too many stepping up to keep it going.

“We have a great team,” Sain said, “and we are all volunteers. We do this because we love it.”

Of course, none of what they do would be possible without the support of the faith community. The support, Antonich said, is overwhelming.

“Lewistown and the surrounding communities have been amazing,” Justin said. “Denton, Winnett, Musselshell and others have really been getting involved and bringing kids. They are really committed to this place.”

And the place is really committed to Christ.

“The reason we do this is to see everyone who comes through the gate trust in the Lord Jesus and grow in their walk with God,” Antonich said. “We spend a lot of time with scripture, whether it is children, junior or senior teen, they are working with the bible at least three times a day. They also read scripture during cabin time.”

Camp Lewtana is structured to enhance the campers relationship with Jesus.

“We focus on the Word,” Sain said. “We offer the same thing as other camps around here that are fun, affordable and give the opportunity to learn valuable skills. The difference is our focus is on the Bible.”

This works in all kinds of fashions, Justin said. It’s especially been neat, Justin said, to see the impact family camp can have.

“Family camp isn’t just a good time, but it’s a way to get closer to each other and closer to God,” Justin said.

Sain, whose husband, Dean, is also an assistant camp director, said it’s remarkable to see their children grow through their camp experiences.

“They are learning with us,” she said. “They see God’s Word in action. That’s been my favorite part of Camp Lewtana.”

Through the years, Camp Lewtana has seen a lot of children, teenagers, men and women come and go, but it’s also seen many of them return, whether it be as a camper or as a counselor. Whether moved by a speaker or the fellowship, campers come back often, and most counselors are former campers.

“A lot of kids get a vision for reaching out and serving God,” Antonich said. “It’s remarkable.”

Two of these campers are Suzie Spear and Sarah Keeney.

Both grew up going to camp and have fond memories from the early years.

“I’ve been coming to camp since I was born,” Keeney said. “My mom used to work in the kitchen. She’d bring me up and I’d run around with the directors.”

“I started going when I was seven,” Spear said. “I wanted to go earlier but seven is the youngest age you could go back then. I couldn’t wait.”

Raised in Christian homes, both Spear and Keeney very much enjoyed having the opportunity to share the gospel with others and be leaders in the Word.

“This camp has had a major impact on my life,” Spear said. “I’ve got to know so many people.”

“First of all, it’s beautiful here,” Keeney said, “but, really, for me, teaching what the Word is all about, praying for the kids and sharing with them, it’s amazing. Plus, when you are staff, you are family, and so many of them have become my best friends. It’s really cool.”

Camp Lewtana is an unforgettable experience, Spear said, and she looks forward to meeting more children and teens next summer, as the opportunity is one-of-a-kind.

Keeney agrees.

“If you go to camp and decide it’s not for you, that’s one thing, but definitely give it a try,” she said. “Camp can be a really great experience. You can really learn and grow in the Lord. Give it a shot. The counselors and staff are there for you. You won’t be left on your own. Don’t be afraid to try something new.”

“I’ve never met anyone who regretted coming out here,” Spear added. “Usually, by the last day, campers are like, ‘do we have to leave?’”

 

 

 

 

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