In August of 1925, six men with a vision met under a big oak tree on the shores of Lake Marquette near Bemidji, Minnesota. They prayed and asked God for the land where they stood to be used as a Christian camp and training facility. Their prayer was answered through donations from friends and by using their own money. They accumulated $250 to purchase 14 acres of lakeshore property. That oak tree became known as the Prayer Oak, and the organization became Oak Hills Fellowship.
After two decades of ministry in camping, evangelism, and church planting, the second part of their vision was realized through the development of a training facility. The purpose of this facility, known as Oak Hills Christian Training School, was to provide instruction in the Bible, Christian character, and fellowship. The first graduating class of four men and three women took place on April 8, 1949. Oak Hills Christian Training School became Oak Hills Bible Institute in 1961, Oak Hills Bible College in 1985, and Oak Hills Christian College in 1998. The name and academic criteria have changed over the years, but the original purpose of teaching and equipping men and women to be effective servants of Jesus Christ continues to guide us.
Desiring to develop a camp ministry, Mr. S. Cummings soon recognized that a permanent camp property would be needed to establish such a ministry. In August 1925, the five men of the Bible Study Fellowship gathered with Mr. Cummings on a hill overlooking Lake Marquette under a prominent oak tree, known in later years as The Prayer Oak. They prayed that God would provide the land for a camp. In September, 1925, the initial 14 acres was purchased for $250. In the spring of 1926, two summer cabins for workers and a large summer building, were built. The camp was called Camp Koininia, a Greek word meaning “fellowship.” Successful camps were held in 1926 and 1927. The camp became Camp Oak Hills in 1927.
The camp continued to develop on that original plot of land and more acreage was purchased or donated until there were over 160 acres owned by Oak Hills. In 1962, the area on the east shore of Upper Marquette Lake was developed and the camp was relocated there as “South Camp.” In 1984, Camp Oak Hills was leased for over 20 years to Concordia College, Moorhead, MN for one of their summer language camps. Eventually, the lease with Concordia was revoked and the camp again was opened for Bible camps under Scott Buchan's direction in 2009.
Oak Hills has a very unique placement in Northern Minnesota. It is located between three Indian Reservations … White Earth, Leech Lake and the Red Lake Indian Reservations. The Center for Indian Ministries (CIM) was founded in 1987 with the desire to facilitate the formation and strengthening of local Native American churches in Northern Minnesota. CIM does this by ministering to the whole person through Godly example, evangelism, Bible teaching, discipleship, and biblical counsel. CIM has volunteer and support staff missionaries. Each of these missionaries participate in their local Native American community in different ways with the ultimate expectation of glorifying God by serving Him and bringing glory to His name.