Sitting in the hotel ballroom at the 2018 Heart of the Hills Benefit Dinner, Bruce and Carol Bartling felt a nudge. Looking around, it wasn’t the person sitting next to them, or even a member of the event staff walking past; it was the Holy Spirit.
“Dave [Coker, former NLOM Executive Director] was talking about the generous gifts that make it possible to offer camp for just $50, and I thought, ‘we could make up the difference,’” Bruce recalls with a shrug. As soon as the Gala ended, they sat down with Jason Gerdes, NLOM’s new Executive Director, and came up with a plan to make Sullivan Hills Camp FREE for all children this summer.
Sullivan Hills has a special place in the Bartlings’ hearts. Bruce will tell you that he grew up near Sullivan Hills Camp. And when he says near, he means it. His family farm near Lodgepole shares a fence line with Sullivan Hills Camp.
College took Bruce east to Kearney, where he met Carol. The couple have raised their family on Carol’s family farm in Gage County near DeWit. They have three grown children who all attended confirmation camp at Carol Joy Holling Camp, and their two daughters “caught the bug to be counselors, too,” as Carol puts it.
“Camp is a wonderful place to introduce kids to God,” Bruce said. “They have fun and learn. In some cases, it’s the first opportunity for these kids to experience God.”
He is right. Last summer, one in every three campers at Sullivan Hills Camp said they didn’t have a church they regularly attended.
“For a number of the kids who are coming without a home church, this [gift] gives them a chance to experience God and learn more about Him,” Carol added.
The Bartlings have experienced God’s blessings in many ways. When the Holy Spirit asked them to move, they said yes without hesitation. Now, hundreds of lives will be impacted—children’s faith sparked or renewed. “We hope these kids feel the love of God and realize what He has done for all of us,” Bruce said.