August 2016 Update

Dear Friends of Ben Israel,

As some of you may know, we moved to the Ben Israel property last summer. The two remaining families that had been on the property left to be closer to family and for healthcare reasons. Since the homecoming of Art (Sissle’s father) in 2007, those who have been here have wrestled with the question of what will become of Ben Israel Fellowship and the lodge at the former Camp Dominion. We also wondered if there was any part of the original Ben Israel vision that would and could still come to fruition. Through much prayer, we ourselves believe that God has a continued use for the property beyond even what the initial vision was that Dad had over 40 years ago. What all of this looks like, is still unknown to us. However, we believe the Lord will unfold His plan in due time.

Many have been wondering what is taking place on the BI property. Our primary calling at this time, is to steward the grounds and buildings so that when God does give the green light for further ministry to start up again, the buildings will be in good and usable condition.We also continue to oversee the sale of Art’s books. As part of walking this out, Sissie has resigned her Director of Nursing position in order to be more available to help with the work on the property and with the church we pastor in Bemidji. This is a huge step of faith for us!

When it comes to stewarding the BI property, there are major projects that need attention which include re-roofing and replacing the siding of the garage, scraping and repainting the barn, tractor repairs, farm house (community center/office) exterior scraping and painting along with needing new plumbing and a hot water heater, as well as repairs and updates in two other mobile homes that could be used for housing and ministry. The list seems to grow daily!

As we have been praying about the future, we are sensing that God might want to use this place as a prayer and retreat center. We also feel this could be a place of respite; where pastors/missionaries, their wives and families could come to be rejuvenated for a short period of time. We even see the potential for a discipleship training school of some type. Again, we are waiting on the Lord’s guidance, direction and timing for what His desire is for this property.

After much prayer and dialogue, we believe that the lodge should be used during the summer months for faith based camps, seminars and retreats. The desire is to be able to have it up and running so that beginning next summer, it can be used. We are currently discerning how the vision for this will unfold. We know that we will need someone with a heart for this type of ministry, that can run the day to day tasks of overseeing the lodge during months of operation and be the “go to” person. We had several requests to use the lodge this summer, but felt that there needed to be proper organization and more thought put into this before opening it up for use. There are several updates and repairs that are needed which we are currently evaluating more thoroughly. The septic system needs to be checked for compliance, broken windows need to be replaced, and replacing of exterior doors to keep out bugs and rodents is a priority…day to day things that have not had the attention needed to keep it up and running.

We recently found out that a portion of the original Camp Dominion property is for sale! The land available includes where the old Camp Dominion Tabernacle was located. This would give us access to Steamboat Lake again, something that has not been an option at the lodge since the Camp Dominion property sold several years ago. There are no financial resources available to make this purchase; however we strongly believe that the Lord can provide and we are exceptionally excited about this potential opportunity! Please pray specifically for this.

There is new life on the farm! This month, we will be joined by Pastor Rick Weinert and his wife, Billie Jean. Pastor Rick was the Senior Pastor at a local church in Bemidji. He resigned his position recently to take a step of faith in a different direction in which the Lord has called him. We are also happy to be able to provide housing for two students and their families who attends Mokahum, a Native American Bible College in Cass Lake. Our niece and her husband, Cody and Jessica Theisen also moved to the farm (Jessica is Emi and Dwayne’s daughter, for those of you that know the Totzauer family). Cody has multiple skills and abilities and will be a huge asset in assisting with maintenance needs on the property.

We were recently blessed by a work crew that came up from North Carolina. What a precious group of saints (Art would have fallen in love with them!) that served and volunteered over 100 hours of labor in cleaning, scrubbing, painting, organizing, hauling trash, and other tasks that needed to be done. We ended their time here with a meal and worship together in the old farm house, just like the old days! We included a few photos below.

Now, how to wrap this all up? Would you be in prayer for us as we steward the property and that God’s purposes would be fulfilled for this place? Please also pray that He would provide the financing it takes to complete all the repairs and ongoing maintenance. Art’s books sales are our primary source of income and He has been faithful to provide and meet the current needs! Would you also be praying for the potential land purchase at the lodge, the vision for a camp and retreat director and additional volunteers who are able to assist with the ever present work projects and ultimately, that the lodge would be used as a resource to disciple and train people for the glory of God?

We appreciate your support and encouragement and know that many of you think of this place from years gone by with fond memories and love. We also know that there are many that remember the vision Dad and others had for this property and have been standing in prayer alongside us, waiting for God’s time and revelation as we seek Him. We know we are not alone in this and are truly grateful for the years of friendship that have been established. If you have been a part of the BI family in the past or present, we are cooking up a BI Family feast on August 13th and invite you to join us for supper! Please contact Sissie if you plan on attending.

Mama Rose who had been a significant prayer warrior here for years, (now in a nursing home in Walker) put it best when she told Sissie during a recent phone call…

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not in thine own understandings, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy path.” Proverbs 3:5

And we respond…


Keith and Sissie (Katz) Pennel
Ben Israel Fellowship
Art Katz Ministries