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Jim and Carol Knakal

Status: On the Field

Location: North America
Field: Utah
Ministry: Church Planting



While in the Air Force, Jim Knakal was saved at the age of 18 through the faithful witness of a fellow airman. Nearly 1300 miles away Carol was led to the Lord by a fellow student at Northern Michigan University. The Knakals met at a college and career Bible study while Jim was stationed in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Shortly after marriage, Jim and Carol moved to Soldotna, AK, where Jim was the program director and announcer for a Christian radio station. Jim became aware of his need for Bible training after being asked to speak in local churches. The Knakals returned to Michigan in 1979 for Jim to attend the Grand Rapids School of the Bible and Music. During the next four years, Jim and Carol actively served the Lord in local church ministries. In 1986 the Knakals moved to metro-Detroit and began a career in the retail bicycle business which continued for the next 21 years.

In January 2004 an opportunity arose to sell the bicycle shop. The Knakals prayed much about what the Lord would have them do and pursued the sale. When the sale fell through six months later, two things had changed.

First, they now realized that simply leaving the bike shop was not all that simple. Second, their attitude had changed from "Lord, if you send, we will go" to "Lord, if you insist, we will stay."

They determined to free themselves of the bike shop in order to be truly available to serve the Lord. By December of 2006, Jim and Carol were in the position to go wherever the Lord led, but where?

Through his friendship with Brad McKenzie, Jim was well aware of the Germans' desire to establish a physical camp ministry base within Germany itself. For many years, the Impact ministry had used rented facilities to operate summer camps. In 2007, Jim and Carol were able to attend summer camp at a rented facility in Spain. Soon discussions began with Gospel Fellowship Association for Jim and Carol to consider serving the Lord full-time with Impact as soon as the Lord would provide property. In December 2008, the 11-year search ended as our great God provided a 14-acre former East German military training center in the very center of the country. The Knakals began the process of applying to GFA and began deputation full-time, hoping to be in Germany shortly after the last of the permissions were granted by the German government.

In the summer of 2012, they took time off from deputation to spend time at Camp Impact helping to prepare the property for the first summer camp at the German location. By the summer of 2013, they had sold their home in America and shipped their belongings to Germany. They were not yet finished with deputation but spent most of the summer at the camp continuing to work on the property. In May 2014 they had one-way tickets to Germany. They moved into a single room in a somewhat heated building with two other families. They shared a kitchen and used bathrooms down the hall. These would be their living conditions for about three years.

Leap forward now to the fall of 2020. The original three families are still there, but with time their makeup has changed. In 2013 Kevin and Carol Matthia had 5 of their 7 children living with them when the Knakals arrived. Today only their youngest son lives at home. However, their oldest daughter, Lorainne, married a German man with a very keen interest in the work of Camp Impact. In 2014 Kev and Lorainne were newlyweds, and now they have three children. The three original families now have nice apartments that they were able to build in the slower winter months in one of the large buildings on the property with the help of many volunteer helpers. When Jim and Carol left for Germany their oldest son was married and a second grandchild was less than a year old. Their second son had been recently married, and Jim and Carol's twins were still working on undergraduate degrees at Bob Jones University. Today all four of the Knakals' children are married, and they have 12 grandchildren!

If you visited Camp Impact in 2012 and then returned today you might say the property has developed in leaps and bounds. The reality is that it has developed with thousands of prayer-saturated baby steps. The original 14 acres has grown to 25. At the first camp there was a chapel (half of which doubled as a dining room/game room), a kitchen, a sand volleyball court, and a rented container with bathrooms and showers. Today they have an almost finished complex consisting of a chapel, game room, dining room, small gymnasium, guys' and girls' bathrooms with showers, craft room, camp store and snack shop, bike repair shop, and some nice places to just hang out and fellowship. Coming soon will be a “wallyball court.” There also is a human Fussball building, a sewage plant, a large game area/soccer field, and an old heating plant that is turning into a very useful maintenance building. The campers still sleep in tents, but they have begun renovation work on a large building (similar to a college dorm) that will include camper sleeping rooms, an office, winter kitchen, dining room, meeting rooms, more bathrooms and showers, etc. This building will have heat! When this building becomes useable it will allow them to hold events year-round which will dramatically change things and greatly increase the opportunity to share the Gospel and build up the saints. Their desire is that Camp Impact will continue to be a valuable asset to the churches throughout Germany.

The Camping ministry in sheer volume increases every year. Two teen camps were held the first summer. A third teen camp and teen leadership retreat were soon added. Then a college and career camp with intensive Bible study was added and finally a junior camp (for 8-12 year-olds). They added a music camp that began with 6-7 participants, and in 2020 we hosted over 50! Two more junior camps were added in recent years. Also, two churches bring groups annually for a week at a time. Even in the summer of 2020 with COVID-19 present, the Lord brought them a record number of campers who made many spiritual decisions and no one contracted the virus!

Running parallel with the expansion of Camp Impact has been the growth of the church plant, Bibelgemeinde Gotha, in the city of Gotha. GFA missionary church planter, Stephen King, has led the church in purchasing a bankrupt casino and bar and renovating the property to include an assembly room, a classroom floor, and a fellowship hall with a kitchen. Recent years have seen significant growth both spiritually and numerically. The Knakals are grateful for God’s grace in allowing them to have an active part in these two ministries!

To view Jim and Carol Knakal's photo gallery, click the picture below.