Editor's Note: A conversation held on January 27, 2018 during dinner at Joyce Gander Cole's home in Apple Grove in Knox County, Kentucky, brought forth fond memories of the late Wilma Wahlstedt, who died in 1997 and is buried in the Barbourville Cemetery.
Mrs. Wahlstedt and husband Carl operated Emmanuel Bible Camp on Artemus Road (KY 225) for many years and taught Christianity-based lessons at the schools in Knox County.
Mrs. Cole's sisters, Anna Gander and Trudi Gander, remembered the Wahlstedts having dinner at the Gander home in Cannon, Kentucky. Mrs. Cole's daughter, Leeanne Cole Rogers, especially remembered Mrs. Wahlstedt's "wonderful" presentations in the classroom.
This discussion in turn led to a search on the internet that found a website about Emmanuel Bible Camp, the address being www.ebcamp.org which apparently was initiated by the Wahlstedt children and friends. Among the information provided is a history written by Mrs. Wahlstedt in 1970 in which she recalls how she and her husband came to Knox County as missionaries in 1943. Here's Mrs. Wahlstedt's history in its entirety:
May 6, 1970
Dear Friends at Home!
You have, indeed, given quite a task when you asked our life's history. The Lord has certainly marvelously led-even though we have often failed Him, yet He has never failed us. Praise Him!
I was born in the small village of Murdock, Kansas, Aug. 18, 1911. I can remember the time when the main roads there were just trails, no grading had been done. What a difference there is now!
At the age of about 8 my parents left Murdock and the store they were working in and went to a farm in the Pretty Prairie community. At the age of 11 they decided to move to Monroe, Washington, to see if that climate would be better for my father's health. His name was Henry b. Ratzlaff. However, he felt worse there, so the next year we moved back to the same community where we lived until I was about 20 years of age, when I graduated from Highschool. However, my parents gave me two years of schooling at Hesston Acadamy, which was a great blessing to me.
After one year of college at Kays State school I received my 30 hour teaching certificate. It was at this time that my Father went to be with the Lord. He had diabetes. This was a trying time. However, we managed to rent a house near where I taught school and so we kept the family together. My oldest brother was married, and four younger brothers and sisters were at home.
It was when I was about 10 years old that my Mother spoke to me and asked me to accept the Lord as my Saviour and to dedicate my life to the Lord. This I did. However, it was in my last year of Highschool The Lord had to send me on the sick bed for 3 weeks in order to halt my headlong rush into destruction. Praise Him for Mother and Father who prayed mych for me. Praise Him, that he led me back into fellowship with Himself and into a life pleasing to Him.
After teaching for 3 years, my younger brother got a job and helped support the family so that I could save some money to enter Moody Bible Inst. After 5 years of teaching the Lord made this possible. I had a deep longing to get to know the Lord better. This, I knew, would take place at the Inst. Some of the most precious times with my Lord took place at Moody.
When I first went there, I heard some of the other students tell how the Lord was miraculously supplying the means for them to stay at the Inst. I asked how He did this. They said that He was laying it upon the hearts of some folks to send in the money. I thought this would be simply impossible in my case because I knew of no one who was interested enough in the Lord's work to help anyone in Bible School. I thought the Lord would have to open a window in heaven and hand it down to me. But the Lord showed me that it was possible. Before the first term was half over, my cousin sent me a check of $25.00. I had no idea that He was interested in this way. Also some friends of mine sent some money. You can imagine that my faith was exceedingly strengthened by such miraculous provision!
My idea when I entered the Inst. was that I would meet some preacher and become a preacher's wife. However, before I was at the Inst. long, a Missionary from South America made a very deep impression upon my life. It was there that I really dedicated my life in Missionary service wherever He would lead. I made this stipulation-that I would go to the foreign field if He gave me a life's companion. I guess that little "if" kept me from going to the foreign field.
However, it was in the summer of my first year at the Inst. that I met two fellows, both interested in the things of the Lord, but one expecting to be a minister, the other a Missionary. The Lord gave me love for the Missionary, and so He led us into His service in the Homeland-not into the foreign land as we had both expected. It was mainly because of the war situation at the time that we felt the Lord was leading to work in the homeland. At the end of my second year at the Inst., 5 days after graduation from the general course, we were married at Newton, Kansas.
After we were married, we rented a small apartment in Chicago where Carl kept on working at the express. I worked some at the Y.W.C.A. It was soon after our marriage, Aug. 13, 1942, that Carl was called for a blood test for his induction into Military training. We had in the meantime felt the Lord would lead us into the Mt. work. We wrote to Carl's home church at Hartford, Conn., asking their prayer support. The Church voted to give us $50.00 monthly support to enter the home Mission Field. In the meantime, we were momentarily expecting to receive the report of the bloodtest. Car's pastor wanted us to come to Conn. To get Carl ordained before we would go out into the work. We waited for the results of the test and no results came. So we made plans to be in Conn. for the ordination by Nov. 15th. We were to leave for Conn. on the 9th. Just that morning we received notice for Carl to go for another blood test, that the first one was broken. We stayed in Conn. until after Thanksgiving. When we returned, there was the notice saying that Carl was in 1 A classification with only one day left to appeal for a change in classification.
When Carl went before the Board, he told them that the Lord was leading him into His service, that he was ordained as a Minister of the Gospel. They said that in view of evidences produced of his entrance into Christian Work, he would be exempted. So you see why the Lord allowed the first blood-test vial to be broken. He leads every detail of our lives!
While we were in Conn., we met Rev. Otteson, now of Southland Bible Inst., Pikeville, Ky. He preached the ordination sermon. He suggested that we locate with them at least until we knew where the Lord would have us serve. So in Jan. 1943 we arrived in Ky. We had no car, no furniture, only $50.00 promised monthly support. We stayed with the Ottsons for 3 months. It was in the beginning of April that Mr. Otteson got a letter from the Ruddy Larsons of Barbourville, Ky., saying that they planned to leave the field to go to Oregon. Would he know of someone to take their place? He told us about the letter. We decided to come and look over the field.
In the Meantime, at one of the Home Missionary conferences we met Rev. and Mrs. Staples from Va. They said a brother left them a Model A Ford and that they wanted it used in the Lord's work. We could have it for $100.00 although it was worth at least twice that much. We did not have the $100.00, but made a down payment of $15.00. It seemed like a big undertaking for us, and yet, we realized how very wonderfully the Lord had supplied the car just in time for us to go to Barbourville, about 150 miles from Pikeville.
When we arrived at Barbourville, we felt the Lord's call to take over where the Larsons were leaving off. He was really doing wonderful things for us. We could get enough furniture from them, very cheaply, to start housekeeping-entering the house they left. The Lord opened every door for us. These were trying days financially, but within a year we had received enough finances to pay off our debts!
After we returned from our preliminary visit to Barbourville, in just a few days, I was taken to the hospital at Pikeville and realized the Lord had given us Twin baby girls. They had to be kept in the incubator for almost a month as they were born prematurely. While I was in the hospital, Carl took our belongings with a trailer and went to Barbourville. When I was up and around, he came and got me. Then we made another trip to get the Twins. The folks at the Hospital were so very good to us and did not press us for payment. They greatly reduced the bill and let us pay it off as we could.
We were not satisfied to stay in rented houses as we were obliged to move from one place to another because the places were sold. So we began thinking of how we might obtain some land of our own. Then the Lord gave us the thought of a Bible camp. It seemed such a large undertaking. However, we began looking around. Carl had an insurance policy that he could cash in, if it were necessary. We looked all over the county, and then the Lord led us to the present location, where it was secluded, yet it is right next the highway, natural gas, electricity, railroad, telephone, and centrally located. This we could have, about 68 acres, for $3000.00. By now our faith had gone up very much, and we felt that we could tackle it. This was in May of 1944. So we cashed in the insurance police for about $800.00 and made a down payment and had enough left to start building. There were only woods, no buildings on the land, not even a road. We gathered the Home Missionaries in this area together in the summer of 1944 and there we first organized to work together as a group and begin a Bible camp here. In the fall of 1944, the 16th of Oct., we moved on the place here, into a small shed-8' x 8' because we were going to have to move out for the second time. In all we felt it was easier to rough it out here than to clean another place because the owner wanted it for his son. Carl built some lean-tos and we lived this way for four months until he had the Homestead built on the camp site-a small cottage. The Twins were 1 1/2 years old when we moved into the 8' x 8'! There was enough room for their crib, a bupboard, heatrols, which I also used for a cook stove and table. We kept backless chairs under the table, etc. We slept under the leanto. After we moved in the house, even thought it was not really closed in yet, we felt like it was too close for use to sleep well. We really could sleep with all that fresh air-even snow sometimes blowing in on us. We had plenty of covers and so were snug and warm. It was quite a time of pioneering-a time I would rather not have to go through with again. The Twins spent most of their time in the crib. When we got into the house, they were like little calves when they are let out of a pen. They just ran around so happily. They had to go through the time of pioneering with us. I helped Carl saw down many a tree, which we sawed up and he chopped up to keep us warm that winter. In that way we both got rid of extra trees and also got firewood. In those days we worked hard to saw down trees to be snaked out and taken to the mill for logs with which to make boards to put up the first camp buildings. We could give on incident after another of how the Lord wonderfully answered prayer to supply our needs here. He certainly did great things!
In April of 1945 the lumber came back from the mill. The beginning of May the building of the first tow absolutely necessary buildings was begun. He supplied so that we could hire carpenters to help out them up. The dining room and kitchen was 18' by 28' and the dormitory 16' by 50'. By camp time in June we had the buildings up. Then two days before camp started there was no water. We knew of an abandoned mine on the hillside which help much water. So the Lord supplied the pipe, and the men worked hard and got the water piped down into a sink in time for camp. We had only 48 campers that first year, but oh, it was a most blessed year with all of them professing to accept the Lord. Not all of them have kept faith, but we keep praying and believing that we shall see them all in Glory when we get there.
During these 25 years we could site many very wonderful things the Lord has accomplished here both materially and spiritually-supplying workers and counselors, etc. We praise God for Emmanuel Bible Camp where many have found the Lord and grown in Him. Many campers have gone on into the Lord's work. Just last Sunday night we went to Merrimac where a former camper is pastor and he asked Carl to preach.
Ester Carlene was born after we had the water in the house, had electricity and installed the natural gas floor furnace. Eunice Ruth came in 1950 and Tim in 1951. The Lord wonderfully answered in sending Hilda Bixel from Bluffton, to care for us during the time Tim was born.
In 1944 we started the Green Road Sunday School. This is where Belle Jones came from that went to Southland Bible Inst.-married Ken Barker who is now teacher at Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas.
It is a real joy to hear of results from the school visitation all these years. Just today I gave one of the cooks at Girdler a ride. She told about her son in Vietnam that has earned citations and medals for bravery. He was saved not long ago and told his mother that the preacher under whom he was saved preached just like Mrs. Wahlstedt had told them in the schools. Praise the Lord! His Word does not return void!
God bless you! Keep Praying!