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3300 River Road
Mount Bethel, PA 18343

(570) 897-6000

Christian retreat center for New Jersey and Pennsylvania marriage retreat, singles retreat, women's retreat and youth summer camp in Mount Bethel, Pennsylvania.


Tales of Tuscarora

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Give Thanks to the Lord: Olsen Activity Center


Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!

-Psalm 107:1

In this season of giving thanks, Tales of Tuscarora will be dedicated during the month of November to highlighting and celebrating some of the most special parts of our history and our ministry that have been made possible because of the Tuscarora family.


There is possibly no building on the grounds of Tuscarora that has housed more significant moments than what is currently known as the Olsen Activity Center. Construction on the Olav B. Olsen Auditorium was completed by Olsen and Lawson in 1975 and was used for a main meeting area for our guests for more than 30 years until the Senum Thompson Center was built.

Sara Pensyl, Program Manager at Tuscarora, tells you her favorite story of this special place below.

Pensyl Family.JPG

The date was July 7, 1994. I was a first time Junior Week camper. The speaker was Pastor John Blikstad. Serendipitously, my counselor was Janice Olsen - Olav B. Olsen's granddaughter.

I remember sitting in the old yellow plastic chairs that used to be set up on the volleyball court for sessions. As a fidgeting young girl, I remember how loudly they would scrape on the floor when I moved. The Lord had been working on my heart all week, and by Thursday evening I was ready to step into a new adventure.

When the speaker made the invitation to come forward, everyone was praying and our heads were down, until suddenly my body just rose and started heading toward the stage. Since then I've always felt like in that moment Jesus moved my legs.

At the time, the bottom part of the stage in the gymnasium would pull out when more space was needed. I remember stepping up onto the lower platform and thinking, "What am I doing up here?" The Pastor looked down at us all and walked us through the sinner's prayer and I walked back to my seat forgiven and accepted by Christ.

It's been a huge part of my husband Marc's story as well, coming to know Christ in February of 2000 at Senior High Winter Weekend. We've kept coming back to Tuscarora, coming back permanently when I began my job as Program Manager last August. I don't know of many people who get to see their story come entirely full circle - but I know my story will be book ended by the Olsen Activity Center.

I can still tell you exactly where my seat was that day, when God grasped my heart and didn't let go. My Tuscarora story started right there in that square of floor. Today, I have the blessing of working at Tuscarora, and the gym is currently under construction as it finds it's new identity for the generations ahead. It's so exciting to see it evolve, but there is a part of me that hopes it doesn't change too much so that my son Michael can have his own special moments in the years ahead.

Give Thanks to the Lord: Pastor's School


While it is Tuscarora's mission to serve the entirety of the Christian Community we are an affiliate organization of the Church of the Lutheran Brethren. Founded in 1971 with the intention of serving as a retreat center for the denomination - we still host programs specifically designed for the Eastern Region of churches.

Because of this relationship, Tuscarora sees it as an important part of it's ministry to care for the men and women who care for these churches. We are thankful for a week out of every summer where our pastors and their families come to Tuscarora for refreshment and encouragement.

We are thankful that God allows us to minister in this way. Below, Pastor Ryan Nilsen tells the story of his family's experience at Pastor's School.


Ryan Nilsen

Lead Pastor of Praise Christian Fellowship, a CLB congregation in northwest Connecticut, and Executive Director of Fifth Act Church Planting. He and his wife Kjirsti have five children and have served at Praise for ten years. Ryan has participated in Tuscarora ministries since he was a kid.

One of the things that I am thankful for as a pastor is that my kids actually love being pastors’ kids! My church deserves a lot of credit for not placing unrealistic expectations on my children or treating them differently from other kids, but one of the things that my kids love the most about being a “PK” is the chance to go to Pastors’ School every summer. In fact, they start looking forward to it about a day after the previous one wraps up! My wife Kjirsti and I feel the same way—we look forward to the chance to get away to Pastors’ School each year.

What is Pastors’ School? If you attend a congregation that is part of the Church of the Lutheran Brethren (CLB)—Tuscarora’s “home denomination,” you may have heard about it in passing. Before I attended, I had no idea what it was. It sounded either like a really tedious ordeal or a cover name for a vacation. It isn’t either of those things. It’s become an important part of the well-being of my pastoral ministry, and it is a huge blessing for my entire family. Let me tell you about Pastors’ School—one of Tuscarora’s most high-impact, far-reaching ministries in terms of its investments in the kingdom of God.

For five days every August, Tuscarora hosts Eastern Region CLB pastors and their families for a week of continuing education, rest, recreation, and bonding. While the CLB Eastern Region funds the educational expenses, Tuscarora quietly underwrites the bulk of the cost, providing lodging, meals, and meeting spaces for pastors, their wives, and their children—and at no charge to pastors or their congregations!

Here’s what a typical day at Pastors’ School looks like: Pastors and wives spend the morning in educational sessions together, deepening biblical knowledge or gaining ministry skills. In the afternoons, families spend time together at the pool, canoeing, tubing, playing volleyball, and more. In the evenings, pastors and wives gather together for times of worship and often receive more training. Through the course of each day at Pastors’ School, pastors engage in several renewing experiences that are crucial for resilient, enduring ministry: 1) continuing education, 2) peer support, 3) sabbath, and 4) recreation. Tuscarora provides the setting for these experiences that are not easy for pastors to schedule on their own.

It is vital for pastors to continue to hone their ministry skills through continuing education, yet it can be challenging amidst the daily demands of ministry to find the time to invest in training. Through Pastors’ School, clergy and their wives have opportunities to develop their biblical knowledge and ministry skills so they can return to their congregations better-equipped for their ministry calling.

Pastoral ministry tends to be a high-stress, sedentary vocation that places great demands on pastors and their families. To compound the problem, few pastors have the financial resources to cope with those stresses. Through Pastors’ School, pastors have a chance to find renewal and rest. They can recharge their batteries and along with their spouses enjoy fellowship with other clergy couples who can relate to the challenges and demands of vocational ministry.

Tuscarora makes it possible for those families to get away from the everyday demands of ministry and experience sabbath rest, the support of their peers, and a chance to relax and have fun with their families—all in a setting where they don’t have to worry about anything! No meal prep and no dishes! No meetings, phone calls or emails!

Through Pastors’ School, Tuscarora comes alongside every CLB congregation in the Eastern Region to help them care for and develop their pastors. You may already value Tuscarora for its dynamic summer youth camps, weekend retreats, or their Christmas concerts, and now I hope you will appreciate how much Tuscarora does to ensure the health of pastors and their families as they serve congregations along the east coast. Thank you, Tuscarora!

Serve One Another Humbly in Love



Work week is a bi-annual tradition at Tuscarora Inn and Conference Center. In the fall and spring a group of volunteers spend a week on our grounds being the hands and feet of Christ. They don't always know what needs to be done but the impact they make through their willing service is impossible to measure.

Each year, through the generosity of Thrivent Action Teams, we are able to multiply the work of these servants. Thrivent Action Teams is a volunteer program for individuals who are willing to lead a team of people willing to make an impact on a cause or place they are passionate about. They are interested in encouraging their members to use the gifts they have been given to live generously.  This year, $4,250 of money was donated toward Fall Work Week because of their members, and over the last five years we have put $23,000 to use around our grounds and facilities.

We want to use this week's entry to celebrate those individuals who donate their time, talent, and treasure to do work that may go unnoticed by guests throughout the year, and let you see a behind the scenes look at improvements and project that are underway.


As one of the oldest buildings on our grounds, the Mountainview Dorms are the home of dozens of youth retreats throughout the year. As all well loved building tend to do, they've begun to show their age and were in need of some bathroom updates. Guests will be able to use new vanities this fall and winter.


With lots of traffic during the summer, and a large crowd expected to stock up on Christian and Scandinavian themed gifts and goodies for Christmas, a new door was installed between the snack shop and bookstore.

Our Inn rooms, and some of our cottages, received a fresh coat of paint on some of the railings and banisters. This will keep our grounds looking professional and photogenic throughout the winter season.

There's plenty of books, artwork, and attired for sale in the Tuscarora Bookstore. Now, it can all be displayed on a new counter top which was installed this past week.

Each year, there is mending work to be done around the grounds on curtains and bedspreads. Without a team of seamstresses and many donated sewing machines Tuscarora would need to replace them more often, and it's always amazing how much work can get done when people are laughing and having fun!

Amidst the many handy-work projects and repair jobs, there is always cleaning and sprucing up to do. Many of our work week volunteers spend their days cleaning out corners, emptying garbage cans, and dusting unseen surfaces. Their work makes Tuscarora a welcome, clean, and comfortable place for refreshment and relaxation.

The work of these volunteers brings to mind the words of Galatians 5:13, "You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh ; rather, serve one another humbly in love." This past week, our brothers and sisters were willing to serve humbly, and Tuscarora is better for it. Join us in thanking them today!