Throwback May

Not nearly as poetic as Throwback Thursday, but the sentiment is the same. May is typically a very busy month for DuBois Center staff, volunteers and guest groups. Usually there are school groups wrapping up the year with quality time outdoors, artisans escaping to the woods to quilt and create, volunteers building, painting, repairing and installing during what has become a tradition – May mission week, and summer staff from local churches and around the world beginning to trickle in and begin preparing.

We celebrate Great May Memories and look forward to many more!

Graduation Edition – Amani

Four of our 2019 Summer Program Staff are graduating this month! Since graduations will be so different this year, we wanted to celebrate this milestone with them here.

Mtipe Koggani AKA Amani graduated from Eden Theological Seminary on Friday night, May 15. It was a virtual ceremony – which was different – but it did allow friends and family from around the world to join him! Hailing from Tanzania, Mtipe graduated with a Masters of Theological Studies. Due to the current health crisis, his plans are still in the works. He was accepted at Princeton University Graduate School, but is also exploring the possibility of a one-year commitment to Deaconess Anne House in St. Louis, which is part of the Episcopal Service Corps.

Mtipe is a gifted musician who sings, plays the piano and now the ukulele. He brought his years of successful experience working with children, youth and young adults in ministry settings to DuBois Center. Mtipe’s goal for his time at camp was to immerse himself in another culture and work with young people from backgrounds very different than his own. Though nervous at first, especially about the horses and the lake – he embraced the experience. He even learned to ride and swim at DuBois Center and now enjoys both immensely! In fact, one of his favorite memories from last summer was a dock to dock swim – which he completed. He also loved playing on the water mat with campers and staff!

Mtipe worked with every age group at DuBois Center from the youngest campers and their adults in Just You & Me Camp to high schoolers in X-Plore and related well to all of them. Mtipe is one of the most positive, gentle and kind people I have ever met; many, many others echoed this sentiment as well. His camp name is Amani, which in Swahili means peace. This is especially fitting for two reasons – PeaceWorks was our theme last summer and Mtipe embodies the word.





Graduation Edition – Minnow

Four of our 2019 Summer Program Staff are graduating this month! Since graduations will be so different this year, we wanted to celebrate this milestone with them here.

Bailey Reichert AKA Minnow will be graduating from Illinois Wesleyan University with a Bachelors of Science in Biology and a minor in Psychology. Illinois Wesleyan has postponed graduation until August, so she is hoping to actually walk with her class – live and in person. Bailey is moving to Carbondale and plans to finish some prerequisite courses before applying to an accelerated nursing program. After a year in that program, she will have a second Bachelors – this one in Nursing.

Bailey attended summer camp at DuBois Center in 2016 and then spent most of the summer of 2017 volunteering as a counselor. She joined our summer staff team in 2018 and returned in 2019 as our Waterfront Coordinator. When asked about a favorite memory from last summer, she couldn’t pick just one. She especially enjoyed returning to the rustic cabins for a week of counseling during High School Week and the evening of wacky relays at the waterfront. Bailey loves to sing, dance and act! Spending time with the horses and at the waterfront are two of her favorites activities, but she’s also a fan of candle times, crafts, creek walks, water games and almost anything DuBois! One of the many gifts Bailey brought to our staff was her organizational skills.

In addition to a heavy course load and work schedule, Bailey served on the Executive Council of her sorority – Kappa Delta – for three years and as the president for 2019. These experiences only served to strengthen her administrative and leadership skills. Bailey’s attention to detail, creative program planning, and the care she extended to campers and staff were an asset to our team.





Graduation Edition – Twig

Four of our 2019 Summer Program Staff are graduating this month! Since graduations will be so different this year, we wanted to celebrate this milestone with them here.

Laura Renken AKA Twig graduated last Saturday with a Bachelor of Science in Education from Eastern Illinois University. The current health crisis has slowed her job search, but Laura hopes to have her own classroom in the fall. She is certified to teach grades 1-6. Laura is an active member of Salem UCC in Alhambra. When not at school or camp, she sang in the praise team choir and volunteered for VBS.

Laura was a camper at DuBois Center for a number of years and then a counselor in training. 2019 was her third summer on staff. She is also a regular volunteer at our Father-Son and Mother-Daughter Retreats. Laura’s favorite memory from last summer was leading a candle time in the basement of Oak Lodge during staff training. “We all sat around and talked about the reasons DBC was home to us and why we wanted to make it home for others. It was a beautiful moment and I feel like it really helped us get to know one another on a deeper level.” Laura is known for her commitment to our campers, her fun and quirky personality, infectious smile and LOVE of creek walks.

The vintage photo is from Laura’s second year as a camper in 2007.  She’s the one in the blue hat. The second photo is from ten years later – her first summer on staff. In the third she’s hosting and learning from a mission group. Last, but definitely not least, the featured photo is of Laura on a creek walk – no surprise. Laura is quite the artist when it comes to shale tattoos! She specializes in mustaches, beards, and even eyeliner and lipstick. Her favorite, though, is writing her camp name.





Graduation Edition – Sparrow

Four of our 2019 Summer Program Staff are graduating this month! Since graduations will be so different this year, we wanted to celebrate this milestone with them here.

Kristian Avise-Rouse AKA Sparrow will be graduating from Illinois Wesleyan University with a Bachelor of Music Education. This fall, he will be joining the team at Pinckneyville District #50 as a Junior High Band Director and High School Choir Director. Kristian grew up at Eden Theological Seminary and St. Paul UCC in Columbia. He has always been active in his schools and communities – playing in bands, singing in choirs, acting in plays, participating in sports and volunteering at church and elsewhere. Kristian was a camper and retreat participant at DuBois Center for years before his first summer on staff in 2016. He attributes much of who he is as a person to his weeks as a camper and his first summers as a counselor.

Kristian once commented that his favorite part of summer camp is “the love!” He is continually amazed by all the campers, staff and volunteers who bring and share their love for each other and DuBois Center. His favorite memory from last summer was when Crazy Jam was on the beach and everyone made crazy sandcastles. Walk with us through memory lane from 2013 and Kristian’s first summer as a high school camper, to his first summer on staff in 2016, to time with the horses – always a favorite activity and finally connecting with campers.

Throughout the years, Kristian’s big heart, engaging smile and gentle coaching as a peer and supervisor have had a significant impact on campers and leaders alike. CONGRATS Sparrow!



Our Decision – Fallow Ground

Here in the Midwest, fallow ground is a familiar concept. It refers to land that has been plowed but not seeded for one or more growing seasons. It is a ritual that helps restore the land’s fertility.

Leaders of the Illinois South Conference and DuBois Center have spent the last month planning and preparing with great hope, while simultaneously reviewing current data to determine if we can safely serve children at camp this summer. The favorites bar on my monitor is littered with links to the Illinois (IDHP) and Missouri Departments of Public Health, John’s Hopkins University, the American Camp Association, the CDC and others.

Latest projections and models show that COVID-19 may peak as late as the end of June in southern Illinois, although no one knows for certain what the current staged lifting of restrictions might bring. Our #1 priority at DuBois Center is the health and safety of our campers, guests and staff. After long and careful deliberations, leaders of the Conference and DuBois Center have come to accept that we cannot provide our summer camping programs as planned. Try as hard as we might, we just can’t envision being able to offer a safe experience for children and youth this season.

At a regularly called meeting of the Illinois South Conference Council, after prayerful and tearful consideration, it was decided that this summer will be a season of fallow ground for DuBois Center. The vote was unanimous, though made with heavy hearts. Currently scheduled programs for June – August 9, 2020 are being postponed until summer 2021. The ground was plowed and harrowed as brochures were sent to eager families, potential staff were interviewed, and plans were set in place. But the seeds, our blessed campers and leaders, will not be sown at DuBois Center this summer.

The situation in our state and region may change, but we felt it was important to be proactive and make a decision sooner rather than later. New protocols for groups related to distancing, cleaning, safety in sleeping areas, food service, life-guarding and participation in cherished activities are being established, but they need to be in place and practiced before camp can open. This is just not possible for DuBois Center by June or even July.

We are taking some time to grieve this decision and the loss of a summer of joy at camp. During the coming weeks, a team of creative volunteers will be exploring ways that our campers and their families can stay engaged with DuBois Center. Watch for news by the end of May.

We realize that finances are tight for many right now. That was one of our primary reasons for implementing a Register without Risk policy. However, before making a decision about the fees you have already paid, I hope you will consider all the options outlined in the attached document. Yes, you may still request a refund, transfer to a DuBois Center event in the fall, or donate the fees paid to camp. In addition, you may also transfer your payment to Summer Camp 2021. There is no rush to decide, so please take your time. No actual refunds will be made until early June. We want to ensure systems are in place and avoid wasting valuable staff time.

As you may be aware, our spring and summer programs take significant effort and resources to create, much of which is expended months before the first camper or guest arrives. Some of the expenses continue regardless – insurance, basic utilities, animal care, and critical maintenance and office work. The loss of this year’s spring and summer seasons is tough on our hearts, but it is also challenging financially.

DuBois Center is resilient, but we do need your prayers and support. If you are able to make a donation at this critical time, it will go a long way to help DuBois Center withstand the loss of spring and summer revenue. Links to online giving can also be found at or and the mailing address for DuBois Center is included below.

In 2020, DuBois Center and the Illinois South Conference celebrate 55 years of ministry and our work has only just begun. We believe in an Easter God, a God of joy and hope and peace. We enter this summer of fallow ground giving thanks to our loving Creator who truly does make all things new again.

Sending prayers to you, your families and communities.


Shirley Asmussen AKA Kayak,  Director of Outdoor Ministries

This letter is being sent with the full support of the Illinois South Conference Council.

Dr. Jill Baker, Conference Moderator
Rev. Christy Eckert, Conference Vice-Moderator
Mr. Dwight Asselmeier, Conference Treasurer
Rev. Ivan Horn, Conference Secretary
Rev. Shana Johnson, IL South Conference Minister
Rev. Rosemary Captain
Ms. Virginia Ilch
Rev. R.J. Morgan
Rev. Mike Southcombe
Ms. Barbara VanAusdall

For a printable copy of the letter and refund options, click here.