God’s Presence at the Kicking Bear West Salem Camp

By Karen and Ray Howell

The KB camp held on the first weekend of August opened with a bang…literally! Jared headed up the team from Flashing Fireworks, Inc. and lit up the skies Friday night with an amazing fireworks display as the group of about 700 people sat around a gigantic bonfire after being worn out from a full day of KB games, helicopters, police vehicles, tug-of-war matches and a non-stop marshmallow fight! These experienced pyrotechnics made sure that everything was safe. We are so grateful to all our volunteers, without whom we would not be able to put on events such as this. It was wonderful to see so many volunteers turn out to help set up. When planning an event for hundreds of people, there are countless details to be worked out before the camp can even begin.

This camp took place at the Maple Grove Venues just outside of West Salem, Wisconsin. We had overnight campers who came and set up early Friday so they could be close to all the action (and there was plenty of that)! There was a dunk tank, an inflatable bounce house (that the little kids enjoyed), a giant water slide, rock wall (run by volunteers from the National Guard), a wood carver (who carved a magnificent, giant eagle), the DNR (displaying a variety of objects for the kids to touch and ask questions about), and the Humane Society where many kids were hanging out just to pet the dogs and watch them do tricks.

One of the wonderful things that happened after the fireworks was when Kevin Bonner, the youth minister from First Free Church in Onalaska, WI, spoke to the crowd.  He captured their attention by sharing his testimony in front of the fire of how he grew up without a father and how it impacted his life. He also shared the love of Jesus and why it is so important to be a follower of Christ. He let everyone know that they, too, could have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and then he invited them to join him in praying a salvation prayer. It was overwhelming to listen to this crowd of people openly repeating Kevin’s prayer, word for word. When we asked how many had made a decision for Christ, hands went up everywhere and the crowd reacted by hooting and hollering with great joy for Jesus. All the campers retreated to their tents, but there wasn’t much sleep; the laughter continued throughout the night.

The next morning came early with lots of pancakes, sausages, juice and coffee. Afterward, the crowd was broken into three giant groups and they rotated between 3-D archery, the KB “Tough Course” and arts and crafts. All the volunteers were having an absolute blast, especially those on the KB Tough Course. Kids were hooting and hollering as their arrows hit the mark; other kids were “high-fiving” and yelling at the top of their lungs after they completed the obstacles on the KB touch course. There were lots of “lions, tigers, and bears” roaming around because of the great face painting.

There was a special spirit of unity that had developed during the camp between, parents, mentors, public servants, and volunteers. Is was as though all barriers were broken down and the only reason they all were there was to be part of something bigger…part of the Kicking Bear “community,” if we can call it that. Nine or ten Christian churches and ministries from around the surrounding area were represented at this event which would be a blessing for the follow-up after the camp. The Gospel was shared once more when Dan Simons from Centershot gave a powerful message about the “Wordless Bow.” This took place before the baptisms on Saturday and there were many people surrounding the baptismal tank who have never stepped inside a church to witness this. Out of the numerous decisions from the night before, twenty-one youth came forward and asked to be baptized. The Spirit of the Lord was so powerful, and I was so emotional, I could hardly get the words out of my mouth. These kids came to camp and received the greatest “gift” of them all!

After lunch many prizes were given to the kids including two bows donated to KB through Mathews Archery. Many of these kids at camp will have an opportunity to pair up with mentors to participate in fishing and hunting trips. There are eight youth who received bear tags, 30+ positions filled for the special youth deer hunt, not to mention turkey hunts and fishing trips. That’s over 50 youth this year alone who will be paired up with mentors, who normally would not have an opportunity to get into the outdoors, all at no cost to them! It’s going to be an exciting Fall season! Since the camp, there have been several mentored archery shoots, as well as Centershot programs starting up in the La Crosse area as a follow-up to the KB camp. God is amazing!
“And now, what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on His name.” – Acts 22:16
Kicking Bear is now going into its 20th year–there are several new camps starting up in 2019 across the nation, and only God knows the heights to which He will take them.

Kicking Bear is now going into its 20th year–there are several new camps starting up in 2019 across the nation, and only God knows the heights to which He will take them.

Kicking Bear Ministry has been taking youth off the streets and changing their lives. God has allowed us to keep His camps and outings completely free-of-charge to all participants due to the great partners He has brought to the ministry. Of the 122 events and 76,000 people throughout the nation who were touched by Kicking Bear last year, below is yet another life-changing story.

We are able to continue to host free events to the public and change the lives of the ones who need us most because of the continued financial support of people like you. Please consider either a one-time, tax deductible, year-end gift or a monthly recurring donation by clicking the “Support Us” button.

1 Comment. Leave new

  • So awesome!! Was a great event and a huge highlight of my summer. I am just so thankful to have been invited into the Kicking Bear family and I am so excited to see what the future holds for this ministry! Thank you Ray and Karen and the whole KB family. This is great work, with a beautiful heart, and the greatest reward of all for those who are moved by it. God Bless!!


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