Founded by P.C. and Lillian Sorensen, Camp Joy first took place in 1939 at Lake Lida. It started as a small camp that was only one week long in the summer. The main building was the dining room, kitchen, and cooks' room. Boys slept in an old boat house, and the girls slept above the main building. If there was not enough room in the boat house or the dining room, some children would sleep in tents outside. Classes and services would take place in tents and the Sorensens slept in a trailer house.

        1941 was when Camp made a big move. A small strip of land was bought on Star Lake in Dent, Minnesota. The piece of land was so small that each end of the main building (the dining hall) touched the border of the land that camp owned. The boys now had to climb up the wall of the kitchen to get to their quarters, which they affectionately called "Tumble Inn" and "Cubby Hole Inn."

        Water was heated for dishes over an outdoor fireplace. Campers would then wash and dry their own dishes in two tubs outside. There was also no food or mail delivered to camp, so Mr. Sorenson would drive to the local farm for milk every morning and pick up the mail that was dropped off in a box by the highway. There was no electricity, so gasoline and kerosene lamps were often used. However, lamps weren't permitted in the dormitories due to safety concerns, so flashlights were used instead. Some children still had to sleep in tents.

        It was a small start, but the Lord blessed the early beginnings of Camp Joy.

        From there, camp grew. In 1942, it was expanded to two weeks; one junior week and one senior week. On one of the opening days, there was such a large crowd that some of the boys had to sleep in a shed. By 1944, bread was delivered to camp by a truck from Fergus Falls. During the same year, 74 children registered for camp. Three weeks of camp were introduced in 1945, and by 1948 Camp Joy had electricity!

P.C. and Lillian Sorensen

"We almost feel we're not camping anymore."

-the daily Camp Joy newspaper, "Joy Notes," on July 5th, 1954, reflecting back on sleeping in tents, not having electricity, and washing dishing outside.

Campers swimming in Star Lake
Campers playing volleyball

        As God continued to bless Camp Joy, a chapel was built in 1955.  By 1960, camp celebrated its 20th anniversary on July 10th with a service of 400 people.

        P.C. had to retire from being director of camp in 1962, with David L. Pritchard taking his place. In 1965, Gustav J. Hansen was the next director. Camp Joy's 25th birthday was celebrated in 1965 with a cake and the Happy Birthday Song in the dining hall.

      In 1968, Camp Joy's iconic song was written by Lillian Sorenson and continues to be sung every year since:

Camp Joy Song

(Sung to the tune of "Redeemed")

Camp Joy is the spot where we gather

Enjoy the best time of the year.

There isn't a place we would rather

Be spending our time than right here.


Camp Joy, Camp Joy,

The greatest for each girl and boy,

Our Captain is Jesus,

In Him there is wonderful JOY.

If you've never trusted the Savior,

Receive Him right now while you may;

To all who would gain his blest favor

Take Jesus, the Life, Truth, and Way


Camp Joy, Camp Joy,

The greatest for each girl and boy,

Our Captain is Jesus,

In Him there is wonderful JOY.

        By 1969, there were now 4 weeks of camp. A piano was donated to be put in the chapel and restrooms were built. Campers came from California, Wisconsin, 38 Minnesota towns, and 9 North Dakota towns.

        In 1970, Camp Joy celebrated 30 years. The last year that camp's newpaper "Joy Notes" was published weekly was in 1971.






        Since then, not much has changed. Sure - camp has new buildings, grounds, and people - but the calling that God has placed in our hearts is the same as those who founded and built Camp Joy. Our mission is simple: to teach the Gospel and lead youth to Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. We teach that real JOY comes from putting Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last.


"Many contributions are listed in 1957 Joy Notes, as well as other years from missionary societies, churches, and friends. We are so grateful to God, first of all, and to the many, many friends who so faithfully support Camp Joy."

-Ruth E. Ottoson, writer of the "History of Camp Joy"

"As we work together for the Lord, giving our lives in humble obedience, the Gospel will go forth to the ends of the earth as Christ commanded."

-Ruth E. Ottoson, writer of the "History of Camp Joy"

Past Directors

P.C. Sorenson

Gus Hansen



Roland Bergstrom

Dale Heaton

Shane Hollenbeck


        Camp Joy is the place where we gather! In 1941 P.C. and Lillian Sorenson founded Camp Joy with the desire to see the kingdom of God better reached and the families of the Ottertail Lakes area better served. Over the past seven decades Camp Joy on Star Lake has remained true to God’s word and faithful in the pursuit of engaging people to experience God’s truth.


        Camp Joy is intentional in providing places to gather for fellowship. The 21st century focus of the camp is to dream big dreams and to allow God to guide and shape the future of the property as we seek to reach as many people as possible for the purpose of His glory and building His kingdom. We are thankful for God’s provision and desire to faithfully upgrade the infrastructure and grounds of camp, seeking enjoyable and high quality facilities while continuing to operate debt free and with integrity. Camp Joy believes in operating the camp at a price point affordable to all people.

        The mission of Camp Joy is to serve the Church by providing an atmosphere of gathering for His purpose and His glory!

        It is a priority for Camp joy to engage the entire church community, above all else love KIDS into the Kingdom, encourage FAMILY as God ordained it, and facilitate GUEST GROUP ministries.


Camp Director
Matt Larson

Matt Larson and his wife Krista have been married for 18 years and living in Fargo.  They have 4 kids ages 16, 14, 11, and 10.  Matt is a Bible, Math, and History teacher at Park Christian school for the past 17 years, and they attend Salem Evangelical Free Church in Fargo.  Matt and his family have been a part of camp the past 3 years as a speaker for both the senior high and junior high ages.  He is looking forward to the opportunity to lead Camp Joy as we follow Jesus!

Board of Directors and officers

Steve Jahnke



Chad Young

Vice President



Aaron Carlson




Josh Eiler





Kevin Dahlgren



Mark Jesser



Jim Knoll



Kelly Nelson