KANSAS CITY, MO (June 27, 2015) — David L. Swanson helped build three Covenant camps, participated in multiple global mission trips, and played an instrumental role in the founding of one of the Covenant’s most successful global mission initiatives. Today he was presented with the T.W. Anderson Award at the 130th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Covenant Church.
The award has been presented at each Annual Meeting since 1985 to laypersons in recognition of their outstanding service to their church, community, profession, and the broader world. It is named in honor of the only layperson ever elected president of the ECC.
Swanson, who lives in Minneapolis with his wife, Ann, has been an active member of Bethlehem Covenant Church there for more than seventy years. He has served the congregation in just about every capacity possible, and members of the church call him their “go-to person.”
Pastor Philip Stenberg says Swanson’s training as a mechanical engineer has been invaluable during the church’s various renovation projects, especially in the design and construction of a new addition. “Having a history in the building trades, Dave served as the general contractor, working with the architects in the planning and then with various subcontractors in the building project,” he says. “The new addition has greatly enhanced the church ministry in the neighborhood.”
Swanson has applied his skills to helping others outside the church walls as well. When Habitat for Humanity homes in Minneapolis began to crumble, Swanson organized teams of volunteers from several area churches to renovate and rehabilitate the buildings.
He also helped start Covenant Pines Bible Camp in McGregor, Minnesota. He was a member of the founding board of directors and invested his own money and time in the construction of the first structure on the property—the dining hall. Between 1957 and 1991, Swanson served various terms on the board, many of them as chairperson.
His dedication to the camp did not stop there. At one point, Swanson sought to acquire a small piece of land surrounded by Covenant Pines property, even flying to California to negotiate the deal with the property owners, who lived there. When the deal fell through, Swanson called the blow “devastating.”
But to everyone’s surprise the landowners eventually decided to donate the land to the camp. “All of the effort and all of the time I put in seemed to finally convince the owner that we were the proper people to own the property,” Swanson said. “And that was a wonderful feeling.”
Bruce Peterson, executive director of Covenant Pines, says that Swanson’s heart for camping ministry ultimately allowed more children to experience camp. “With campers on a waiting list, Dave provided funds and workers to construct a ‘temporary cabin’ to house campers, enabling fifty more campers to attend camp for the summer,” he said. “That temporary cabin is still in use today, serving campers that would otherwise have been turned away.”
“The education and spiritual formation of young people is so important,” Swanson says, “because young people are an important part of the church. That is why I support camp ministry.”
Swanson has helped organize, lead, and participate in many short-term missions trips, including trips to Japan, Ecuador, Mexico, Alaska, DR Congo, and Chile. “I was not part of the evangelism arm of the church; my background was in construction,” he says. “So what I was doing on the mission field was just a small part in helping to push evangelistic work forward.”
He also played a major role in the formation of Covenant Mission Connection, an organization that paired congregations, groups, and individuals wishing to undertake mission work with short-term trips and long-term ministries. “Through this network, he encouraged, recruited, prepared, organized, and supervised the participation of many more people in his passion to serve Christ’s mission around the world,” Stenberg said. Covenant Mission Connection has since merged with Covenant World Mission, and its spirit lives on in the multitude of short and long-term mission opportunities offered by the Covenant Church.
To combine his passion for world missions and his love of camping ministry, Swanson led large groups of Covenant camp employees in the construction of two camps in Reynosa, Mexico, and Concepcion, Chile. This program is still in place today and camps are continuing to be constructed around the world.