From the beginning, Ponca Bible Camp has been “by the will of God.” The late Reverend and Mrs. Frank V. Wiebe, missionaries to the Ozarks, prayed that God would help them start a Bible Camp, and God answered! In 1947, Ted Friesen, a farmer from Garden City, Kansas, provided $500 to purchase three acres, in Ponca, Arkansas, and dedicated it to God. This property became Ponca Bible Camp (PBC).
A few years later, Reverend Wiebe deeded the property to the Mennonite Brethren Conference. It was in 1967, after much prayer and waiting upon God, Ponca Bible Camp, Incorporated was formed and placed under the care of the Ponca Bible Camp board of directors. In 1970, the Mennonite Brethren Conference sold the grounds and buildings to Ponca Bible Camp, Incorporated.
The camp was originally located on the east side of Highway 43, at the bottom of “the hill”. The only original buildings remaining are the old boys dormitory, which is now used as a storage building, and the old girls dorm / kitchen / dining hall, which now houses the Ponca Elk Education Center.
In 1976, the camp board felt the need to expand the ministry. On May 10, 1976, the board agreed to purchase twenty-eight additional acres. The newly purchased ground adjoined the original grounds and extended up the hill, west of Highway 43, and is bordered on three sides by the Buffalo River National Park.
Shortly after the new land was purchased, construction began. The first buildings constructed were the dining hall and shower-house, finished in 1979. Small cabins were brought up from the old campgrounds and used with tents to house the campers until new cabins were built in 1980 and 1981. In 1985, the full-size basketball court was added. In 1999 and 2000, the camp underwent major renovation with central heat and air installed in all buildings, the kitchen was doubled in size, and the old girls dorm was completely renovated. PBC has been greatly blessed over the years with countless men and women who have given of their finances, talents, and thousands of hours of labor to improve the campgrounds. Each year you visit PBC, you will see great improvements and to that we give all Praise and Honor to God!
In the fall of 2000, Ponca Bible Camp leased the facilities to GATEWAY Charter School, a residential school for students in the fourth, fifth, and sixth grades. The school was in service for the 2000-2001 school year, and then closed due to a lack of state funding. It was a tremendous opportunity for PBC to be used in reaching the lives of many Arkansas kids. Throughout its brief existence, 97 students attended the school and 27 of those students accepted Christ as their personal Savior! God blessed the GATEWAY program, and we are thankful to have been a part of it.
The Christian Camp Ministry Reverend and Mrs. Wiebe started in 1947 continues to reach lives for Christ today! Hundreds of souls have found Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord through Ponca Bible Camp. Some of these lives have gone on to be with their Heavenly Father, some are missionaries, and many are serving God through various ministries. The purpose of Ponca Bible Camp remains the same as it was in the beginning, “To Know Christ Personally and Make Him Known.”