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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 applied 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.

After spending the summers of 2012 and 2013 at Camp Impact helping to prepare the property for the first summer camps at the German location, the Knakals moved to Germany in May 2014. They lived in a single room in a somewhat heated building at camp with two other families, sharing a kitchen and using bathrooms down the hall. These would be their living conditions for about three years. By 2020, the three full-time couples serving at the camp were housed in 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.

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 have 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. There also is a human foosball building, a sewage plant, a large game area/soccer field, and an old heating plant that is turning into a useful maintenance building. The campers still sleep in tents, but renovations have begun on a large building (similar to a college dorm) that will include camper sleeping rooms, an office, a winter kitchen, a dining room, meeting rooms, more bathrooms and showers, etc. This building will also have heat! When this building becomes useable, it will allow them to hold events year-round and greatly increase the opportunities to share the Gospel and build up the saints. The Knakals’ desire that Camp Impact will continue to be an asset to the churches throughout Germany.

The sheer volume of the camping ministry also 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- to 12-year-olds. A music camp that began with 6 or 7 participants grew to over 50 campers by 2020! Two more junior camps were added in recent years. Also, two churches annually bring groups for a week. Even in the summer of 2020 with COVID-19 present, the Lord brought Camp Impact a record number of campers who made many spiritual decisions and did not contract 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. Recently the church has significantly grown both spiritually and numerically. The Knakals are grateful for God’s grace in allowing them to have an active part in these two ministries!

During its annual board meeting in the spring of 2020, Camp Impact decided the time was right to hire two full-time workers. These would be men with building and maintenance skills who had already been able workers at the camp. Believing the missionary’s responsibility is “to work themselves out of a job,” Jim and Carol decided the time was right to consider moving on to another task. With the support of the GFA home office leadership and their sending church, they determined to first see that the two men were indeed hired and able to adapt to camp life before making any move. By the end of 2020, the two new families were living at or near the camp and were thoroughly involved in the work. The Knakals remained through the 2021 camp season when almost 500 summer campers attended Camp Impact and made many life-changing decisions! Jim and Carol’s departure in late September 2021 was bittersweet, saying goodbye to many dear friends and yet excited as to how the Lord would use them in the years to come.

For just over a year, Jim and Carol made their home base in Orrville, Ohio, where they lived with their daughter’s family. During that time they transitioned Jim’s parents from living in their own home to an assisted living home. They visited our supporting churches and attended numerous training seminars and pastors’ conferences.

The Knakals’ goal in seeking their next ministry was first and foremost to be where the Lord wanted them. They desired to work in a church where English was the first language, with a team that included a younger man, and in an area that was struggling to find willing workers. Fast forward to November 2022, when Jim and Carol moved to Brigham City, Utah, populated predominantly by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), also known as Mormons. They are working alongside Zack Sigmon and his wife, Angie, with Zack and Jim being the church’s elders. Another young couple, Mitchel and Belle, joined their team in January 2023. Mitchel leads songs and is being mentored for future leadership. As of June 2024, membership has tripled from a low of five members to the current fifteen, with a few more in the process. The leadership is seeking to build a culture of discipleship. The goal is for each member to be individually discipled so that he or she can disciple others. Thanks be to God, Rocky Mountain Bible Church is seeing a steady stream of visitors with many saying they first listened to a live streamed service before visiting.

Jim and Carol have four children and 14 grandchildren: five in Michigan, three in Ohio, two in South Carolina, and four in Switzerland.

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