Inspiring vista guides installation of benches at Good Earth Village


GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE New crosses were installed at the amphitheater to represent the crosses at Calvary

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE The new amphitheater at Good Earth Village, stationed at the Three Crosses overlooking a deep valley, will be perfect for worship services and weddings.

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE Steve Atwood stands in the rows of benches that he, his son, Isaac, and Wayne Eickhoff made for the amphitheater.
By: 
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Steve Atwood spent almost a whole month just prior to summer activities measuring, cutting, staining, sealing and assembling benches, inspired in his work by the panorama of maple and pine trees behind the Three Crosses outdoor amphitheater at Good Earth Village.

The maintenance supervisor at Good Earth looked beyond the long hours of work to the beauty of the place where the benches have been installed as well as to the potential for ministry that it offers campers and visitors. The old split-log amphitheater benches stationed there had served their purpose for 17 years, come sunshine, rain or snow, and it was time to replace them so that children would have a seat on which to settle — after a long day’s hiking the camp’s trails — to hear the word of God from camp counselors who brought them to Three Crosses, a place chosen for its valley vista. 

The determination that the benches needed to be replaced wasn’t made until late April or early May, as an inspection of them found cracks and loose backs, wobbly parts that could distract wiggly campers from the message they were there to hear. That meant that there was a big job ahead of Atwood. 

“After last winter, all the old log benches started to rot and fall apart. It was a crunch to get the new ones done at the start of the summer,” Tyler Anderson, Good Earth director of retreat services, said. “It was mid-June, and the question was whether we were going to be able to do the closing of camp for the first week, but it was raining so we went inside Log Lodge. But by week two, the benches were done.” 

Atwood enlisted the help of his family and friends, as well as some construction contractors he knows. Wayne Eickhoff, of Chatfield, and his son, Isaac Atwood, helped him put this together.  Eickhoff did about 80 percent of the staining, said Atwood, which took a lot of time because every board had to be stained three times on all four sides. 

Brad Bly poured the concrete, the lumber came from the local lumberyard, the brackets came from a company in Waterloo – Atwood drove down there to pick them up because it saved money on shipping — and the summer staff helped him put the new crosses in. 

“We always do a value day, and a team came out here to put in all the gravel under the wood chips, to spread it out,” Anderson said.

Atwood concurred, “We did have a couple of youth groups come out to do a workday.” 

The new amphitheater has double the seating now, with room for nearly 120 people to enjoy all that God has painted in the valley before them.

“The big difference about this amphitheater setup is that it has a center aisle, something we never had before – the old one had two side aisles – so we can have more weddings here,” Anderson said. “We use this for summer camps, outdoor worship services.  We might even get some groups that come out here in the wintertime because kids are more resilient in the cold weather.  We’d like to have more weddings here.  We’d love to get more churches holding outdoor worship services here, more weddings, any outdoor service or event, we can do it here.  We’ve already had one church hold a service here, and the other one was GoodStock.” 

“Hopefully, we’ll get more weddings happening here,” Atwood agreed. “I’m thinking about how to add benches for seating more people, and that’ll be another project.  There’s always something here to keep me busy.” 

Recently, he stood back and looked at – and over – the amphitheater filled with new benches, with the one remaining log bench pulled back against the trees.  “In the 23 years I’ve been here, this is one of the best accomplishments…to see it completed,” he said.

Anderson agreed, “It’s one of your greatest accomplishments to see it come to fruition, to see it completed.” 

Camp director Dianna Parks added, “We replaced the benches so that we could be good stewards of the camp that God has given us, so that we can have a worship space, and so that it’s open to the community. We hope they will come out and enjoy the new Three Crosses with us.”   

Good Earth Village is currently accepting dedications for each bench. Donors can sponsor a bench, which will then have a plaque identifying the sponsor. 

“We wanted to do something like this with these, because unlike the log-style benches, these are more likely to have plaques,” Anderson said. “It’ll help pay for the new benches, and they’ll be out here hopefully for a long time.”

Good Earth Village is located northeast of Spring Valley just off County Road 8.  For more information on the camp, its programming, accommodations, or how to sponsor a bench at Three Crosses, log onto www.goodearthvillage.org or call 507-346-2494.