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What Pilgrim Heights Means to Me: My Sacred Space by Rachel Connelly Received January 2010

Why I love Pilgrim Heights so much. It forces me to slow down and just spend time with God. It’s human tendency to doubt Him once in a while, and no one questions too much when you admit your doubts. But if you were to go to Pilgrim Heights, sit at Vesper Point (the worship place), and look at the cross at the end of the platform, out across the lake, to the white cross on the hill, and still doubt, my jaw would drop.
I’ve been a camper there for years; now I counsel for young kids several weekends each summer. What used to be amazing and faith-changing were the lessons I was taught by the counselors. Now, it’s the lessons I’m taught by the campers. There’s nothing like hearing a five-year-old state, without a shred of doubt, “There’s the cross that Jesus died on for us.”
A few summers ago, we didn’t know if we’d ever be back at Pilgrim Heights because of money and ownership issues. I left there at the end of the summer, wondering If I’d ever see the crosses there, if I’d ever experience God in all of His simplicity. But they created a new non-profit organization, Our Sacred Space, and Pilgrim Heights lives on.
It’s a simple place: a lake, some buildings, some cabins. But what it does to my faith is never simple. It strengthens what I believe in like nothing else. It only takes a weekend at camp for me to wonder how I, or anyone else, can ever doubt God and His existence and power. I’ve never left camp doubting anything about God, and that feeling lasts for weeks.
Pilgrim Heights has many retreats and camps for people of all ages. I encourage you to find time in your busy schedules next summer to go. To go experience nature made by a wonderful, amazing God. You and your faith will never be the same.

The Elizabeth Ernst Family Centennial Celebration, July 2007 Elizabeth Ernst - Grinnell, Iowa Jean Ernst Porter - Mission, Kansas Maryjane Ernst Scharenberg - West Lafayette, Indiana Stephen Ernst - Detroit, Michigan

We just had a family reunion at Pilgrim Heights. It involved 40 people, of those 40, ten were children between the ages of 18 months and 12 years old. We rented Autumn House for the weekend and it will be a weekend all will remember for years to come.

We came from Washington State, Colorado, Kansas, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri and Iowa. It will be one of those reunions that others will try to replicate.

Pilgrim Heights staff and facilities were what made it such a success. The staff was willing to help in anyway they could, answering questions and making suggestions, throughout the 4 months of planning.

On Saturday we rented the large conference room. We had specific ideas of how it was to be set up. Everything we needed was there when we needed it. The staff brought in some comfortable chairs so we could have some conversation groupings set up as well as tables for childrens activities such as crafts and games.

We are an outdoor family, so an evening dinner around a campfire was arranged at one of the large fire circles. The staff also found fresh Iowa corn on the cob for us to have at our cookout. Plus the rest of the cookout food was delicious also, the potato salad was homemade by the cook rather than from a deli and the fruit was fresh rather than frozen.

Because there were so many children that would be sleeping in and an 8am breakfast would be difficult, the director recommended that the breakfast be extended for our group, it ran from 8-10am. We ate with the campers for other meals and this worked out well, it took us back to our days at church camp.

During that weekend not one electronic device was asked for or seen, just sounds of creativity and joy were heard.

Our family would recommend Pilgrim Heights to anyone planning a family reunion.

Thanks to the Pilgrim Heights family for making us a part of their family!

Cedar Rapids Jr. Bassmasters Larry

 Thanks for a great weekend. The kids had a good time & food was great! Hope to see you again next year!

Blessing Bonnie

"Just a short note to let you know that we had a great time at camp, my Granddaughter is not very outgoing and she was in the middle of all the activities from the start. I got to see a whole new side of her. Everyone was so kind to her and she is looking forward to going next year. She stated that she made new friends and the staff was funny! Thanks for a wonderful week end."

First Congregational, Waterloo Sally Walker

God gave me another gift this past weekend of being Camp Nurse for Grandparents Camp for 8-11 year olds. (Praise be to the Lord, my "skills" were not needed).

What remarkable things I witnessed. Take the eleven year old whos Grandmother brought her to camp " get her to do something besides read... that's all she wants to do and she is so shy" Over the weekend I saw her emerge as an "unofficial leader" of a group of three girls. As they left Sunday her Grandmother said to me, "this camp is magic if it can do that."

Yes, there is something special about Pilgrim Heights. I think it is so full of God's love that even the mosquitoes don't bite as hard or as often. The birds sing sweeter and louder, the breeze is softer and the shade a bit cooler because theyre have been so many prayers and thoughts of God originating among those hills. It is so saturated with love for God, prayers and praise that wonderful things can happen there. I think it is one of God's "special places" in this world.

There is so much about PHRC that I am learning. They have an apple orchard and rasberry and pumpkin patches [owned by the neighbor's the Hindgardner's]. The food they serve is great and they have the best iced-tea in Iowa. Could it have been that my body was hungry and I was thirsty? I know when I left Sunday, I had refreshed and fed my soul. That is the magic and blessing that is Pilgrim Heights.

Wedding Facility Jen & Heath

Thank you for allowing us to have our wedding at your beautiful camp. I grew up going to camp a week of every summer and always dreamt of getting married at one.

The transportation of guests with the tractor and trailor was perfect along with everything else that day. Your people were wonderful. The weather was perfect and your location was perfect.

Grandparents Camp Pat

Madison and Grama had a GREAT time at camp!!!!

Great staff, Great facility!

Grandparents Camp Marilyn

Thank you for a wonderful Grandparent/Grandchild Camp last weekend. The best I've attended in 7 consecutive years. Your enthusiasm and management skills were very evident in the program offered and staff members. You may be interested that three of my grandchildren were very upset after our weekend. Gretta was upset as she is no longer eligible to attend with her cousin next year due to her age, Megan cried because she did not want to leave camp and Donnie, her brother, cried because he was only 4 this year and unable to attend. Please convey to your staff that the little ones retain much of what they hear. They all sang "Da Moose, Da Moose . . . Dead Moose, Dead Moose" for an hour on the ride home. They were practicing so they could sing it to their parents. Again, thank you for the wonderful camp and providing the opportunity for me to share the experience with my grandchildren. 

Residential Camp Camper

“I had the best time at Pilgrim Heights camp! One week was not enough… I can’t wait to go back next summer.”

Residential Camp Parents of Pilgrim Heights Campers

“We sent our four kids to Pilgrim Heights Camp this summer and all of them reported having a fantastic time. …for them, next summer’s camp can’t come soon enough!”

Residential Camp Camper

1. "I like to play and meet new people.
2. I like campfires and singing songs at night.
3. I like swimming in the lake. 
4. I like the dog that lives there.”

Residential Camp Parents of Pilgrim Heights Campers

“As parents, it brings us great satisfacgtion to have introduced the kids to a program that fosters positive Christian experiences. The memories of camp will be with them a lifetime. Kudos to the volunteers and staff at Pilgrim Heights Retreat Center for putting it all together.”