A historical overview of our ministry and facility will give you an appreciation of our miracle-working God who has brought us where we are today. The Lord is definitely displeased with presumption, and we would be presuming greatly on His mercy if we did not daily acknowledge Him as our source of strength, wisdom, material blessing, success with campers, decisions, and even life itself. From the very beginning, “To God Be the Glory” has been our theme song.
Chuck Chastain and Walt Brock, along with the help and support of their wives Sarah and Betty, founded Ironwood. Early in 1972, these two men met together on numerous occasions to discuss and pray about beginning a camp ministry. Around Easter of 1972, Mr. and Mrs. Chastain and Walt Brock looked at this property. Through prayer for wisdom and help, investigation, periods of despair, and periods of optimism, God answered prayer and allowed them to assume control of the property on January 1, 1973.
In 1973 a non-profit corporation, Fundamental Christian Endeavors, Inc., (FCE) was formed to operate the camp. The original board of directors included Walt Brock, Chuck Chastain, John Brock (Walt’s brother), and Lee Brock (Walt’s dad). Those four men formed a partnership called Triple B-C Ranch. After a few years, John Brock and Lee Brock were unable to continue with Triple B-C Ranch but stayed on the board of FCE. Triple B-C Ranch no longer exists, having served its purpose in the transition of ownership from private hands to FCE by 1986. The Triple B-C Ranch partnership dissolved at that time, making it possible for Ironwood Camp (FCE) to become sole owner of the entire 185 acres and all the facilities included.
Where did the name Ironwood come from? When they first started the camping ministry in 1973, Walt and Betty Brock and their children moved to this location. During that entire year they had been thinking about a suitable name for the camp. The official corporate name was Fundamental Christian Endeavors, but they had not given the camp a name. They were looking for a one-word name that had a strong sound and carried a western theme. Also, they wanted a unique name that was not being used for other purposes. In looking for those qualifications, two other aspects were very important: that the name had a good connotation without any negative baggage and that it had some spiritual significance. Pages of possible names were listed. After more than a year of much prayer, thought, and discussion, they chose the name Ironwood.
Ironwood was a strong-sounding word, had a western sound to it, and was unique. The spiritual significance to it comes from the name of the ironwood tree, a low-desert tree that grows some miles from here and the ironwood mesquite trees growing on our property. The ironwood tree grows slowly and is strong. As with all young plants and trees when they are small and tender, the growth of the branches and limbs can be directed. When the ironwood tree is old, it stands strong and true; you cannot bend or direct the branches without destroying the tree. We want to see young people be molded by God’s Word while they are tender and pliable. As they grow in life and become mature Christians, we want them to stand strong and true with convictions and Christ-likeness in their attitudes, not bending under the pressures of the world and not compromising their convictions when under stress.
What about your lake? Where does your water come from? When we first arrived here, we decided we needed a lake to make the desert location work. We enlarged the lake that was here when we bought the property, and we drilled a 250-foot well. In the hottest part of the summer, we have to pump water into the lake daily. During the cooler months, pumping water a few weekends each month is all that is necessary to maintain the water level. God has certainly blessed our facility with this lake and allowed us to control who uses it and how it is used, making it a central part of our camping program.
What was here at Ironwood when the camp first started? When the camp first started, there was a cement block building which included our present Cattleman’s Lodge, breeze-way, storage, and two little restrooms. Besides that, there was a two-acre lake, a barbed wire fence that went around the perimeter of the property, and a couple of wells which have since been abandoned because of lack of water.
When did the camp get started? The first camp was April 1973 when a group of about 75 junior high young people came from the church where Walt Brock was youth pastor. Walt cooked, preached, and directed the program with the help of the high school youth group and some adult sponsors. The first camp held for an “outside” group was for First Baptist Church of Santa Maria; they brought around 15 young people to camp in April 1974 as a work group. They helped clean up around the lodge and get things ready for future camps. It was encouraging to have a group of young people come from a church other than the one the Brocks had been working at before coming to Ironwood.
The first summer we operated as a camp was 1975. All the camps that summer were Nehemiah work camps, as were all camps in 1976. During the summer of 1977, half of the camps were work camps. It wasn’t until 1978 that we had a summer essentially set aside for camp as we know it today. The Nehemiah work camps of 1975, 1976, and the first half of 1977 built such things as the giant slide, the big shade at the lake, the high tower, Durango, Submission, Obedience, the western fronts on the program office, fences, and put in water lines around the property.
Good Grub and Plenty of It: From the early days of Ironwood, the goal of our kitchen has been “Good Grub and Plenty of It.” The first kitchen was on the west end of the Cattleman’s Lodge. In the early 1980s, a new dining room and kitchen were built and given the name the Homestead. (It is now the Meetin’ Hall and program offices.) When the new dining facility was finished in 2001, the name moved to the new building.