For years, confirmands from St. Peter Lutheran Church in Macomb have made their annual trek to Camp for Fall Confirmation Retreats. Usually, that involves a fleet of vehicles and volunteer drivers. But this year, all 46 kids and 12 adults packed into a decommissioned school bus bought off of Facebook Marketplace.
“It was difficult for us to stay together and manage the group in four separate vans,” said St. Peter confirmation retreat coordinator Bernadette VanOverbeke. “We didn’t want transportation to be a setback for anybody.”
VanOverbeke said she knew there had to be a better way to transport the group.
“My husband and I were praying about it and trusting that God would provide for these kids to be able to go to Camp,” VanOverbeke said. “I made a joke that we should just buy a bus and my husband thought I’d lost it.”
VanOverbeke’s husband, Mike, owns a construction company and drives large trucks every day, so driving a bus full of kids was no problem, VanOverbeke said.
“I just struck out with the resources that God had given us,” VanOverbeke said. “So I went to my husband again and said, ‘I really think we should buy a bus.’”
The pair prayed about it and that week, VanOverbeke ended up striking gold. She found a $3,500 decommissioned school bus for sale on Facebook Marketplace.
Within the span of a few months, the VanOverbekes purchased the bus and both earned the proper certifications to drive a school bus full of confirmands. The church plans to use the bus for next year’s confirmation retreats, as well as for Alpha and Omega Teen Retreats, VanOverbeke said.
“God worked everything out and now we have a lot of opportunities locally to use the bus to bless our community,” VanOverbeke said. “We want all the glory to go to God.”
VanOverbeke took the lead on coordinating St. Peter’s confirmation retreats after longtime camper and fellow St. Peter member Jason Gottschalk passed off his leadership to her. When Mike VanOverbeke attended Camp for the first time in 2020 with the Gottschalk family, VanOverbeke said it was love at first sight.
“He called me right away when he got there,” VanOverbeke said. “He said, ‘This place is incredible. I can’t believe we have the opportunity to come here for a retreat.’ It was like frosting on the cake.”
The following year, the VanOverbekes attended Camp for the first time as a family.
“Camp Arcadia is a way for us as a church community and a family community to draw nearer to God in a beautiful place,” VanOverbeke said.