Altar finds new home: Church furnishings donated to Badlands Bible CampThe altar, pulpit, baptismal font and railing from a Norwegian Lutheran church have found a home in a church that was once a place of worship by Catholics.
By: Linda Sailer, The Dickinson Press
The altar, pulpit, baptismal font and railing from a Norwegian Lutheran church have found a home in a church that was once a place of worship by Catholics.
The furnishings were installed into the building on the grounds of the Badlands Ministries in Medora.
“It’s breathtaking, it’s beautiful, knowing the history of it,” Badlands Ministries Director Brent Seaks said.
Seaks described the effort as ecumenical. The building was once the Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Amidon. It was moved to Bowman where it served as a store and as a place of worship for the Baptist congregation. Then it was moved to the bible camp where it has Missouri Synod pews and now an altar from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America denomination.
The donation came with a surprise call this summer from Mary Olson, who lives near Kloten, 55 miles southeast of Devils Lake.
“It was miraculous how she found us,” he said. “She has no connection to the camp.”
Olson’s great-great-grandfather and great-grandfather, along with other neighbors, founded and built the Valley Grove Lutheran Church in 1882.
“I was baptized and confirmed there,” she said.
The church was closed when it was reduced to four members. Olson purchased the interior furnishings at auction.
“It was simply to preserve the heritage that came from Hardanger, Norway,” she said. “I felt in my heart I wanted to preserve what they started.”
Olson read about the bible camp in “Dakota Legends,” which is published by NoDak Electric Cooperative.
Speaking with Seaks, she learned how the ministry reaches young people of all denominations.
“I was happy that I found them and they accepted the gift,” she said. “It was my purpose to share our heritage with future generations.”
Seaks was hesitant to accept the gift because of logical concerns, the first being — would the altar fit through the doors?
With tape measure in hand, Seaks and a volunteer made the 680-mile round trip to Kloten to pick up the altar on Oct. 2.
“It took us three hours to move it — it was so heavy, we moved it in pieces,” he said.
With the altar in place, he said, “When you get something that beautiful, now we need to paint and get new carpeting.”
Seaks said the bible camp hosts about five weddings per year. He expects that number to go up.
“It gives glory to God and it makes the church more special,” he said. “It gives us a greater appreciation of our history of faith. We didn’t know what was missing in the church until we got it back. We didn’t have to find church furnishings, they found us.”
Carol Smolnikar, director of hospitality and group sales, described the altar as beautiful.
“I’m really excited in the fact that the altar found a home, and apparently it was all hand-carved.”
She appreciates the picture of the risen Jesus as the altar’s centerpiece.
“It creates a presence that probably wasn’t there, because everything was so plain,” she said. “It enhances the church — it’s visually more enticing.”
The Badlands Bible Camp is five miles south of Medora —beyond Bully Pulpit Golf Course on east river road. The camp is open year around and the public is welcome.