About The Lodge

Hidden away on 82 acres of solitude is one of Michigan’s best-kept secrets. The Lodge, a 1921 French country estate, is an oasis for small groups looking for that old-world charm with all the comforts of today.

The setting is secluded, the facilities charming, the amenities abundant, and the atmosphere distinctly Christian. The Lodge displays the greatness of God and tenderly invites each guest to draw near to Him.


The Lodge features an elegant dining room and a bright, tranquil sun room. The centerpiece, however, is the Great Room, which is a large, rustic meeting room complete with a fireplace, piano, sofas, and a gorgeous view of the river. The Lodge is equipped with wireless Internet and video projection. Additional meeting rooms are available at Life Action’s National Ministry Center located nearby.


There are eight guest rooms, including five in the main building, two in the adjacent Briar Patch building, and one in the adjacent Beehive building. The main building has one deluxe suite with a sitting area and a view of the river. All rooms have a queen-size bed, a full private bath, a desk, and a large closet.


Guests can cruise the river in a pontoon boat, hike the wooded trails, play a game of croquet or tennis, or just relax as our staff prepares meals and offers friendly service. Southwest Michigan also has a great variety of places to visit (see “Local Interests” to find out more).


Ed & Gayle Villalba

Director of Pastoral Care. Ed serves as “the pastors’ pastor” during our retreats. When Ed was seventeen, God confirmed his call to full-time ministry, and he spent almost 47 years in various ministries before coming to The Lodge in 2007 with his wife, Gayle. While having an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity from the Calvary Christian College and Seminary of Kalamazo, MI, Ed’s background of pastoral and counseling service helps him relate to pastors’ needs.

Jeff & Cheryl Garr

General Manager. Jeff has held various administrative positions since coming on staff with Life Action in 1989. Before joining The Lodge staff in 2007, Jeff and Cheryl served several years with a church-planting ministry in Guyana, South America. They both carry a burden for the Lord’s church, which is why Jeff is grateful for the opportunity to use his administrative gifts to help pastors and Christian leaders find rest and renewal through The Lodge ministry.

Tom & Roz Sullivan

Hospitality Coordinator. Tom worked in hotel management prior to God’s call to full-time ministry in Russia. Along with his wife, Roz, and their three children, they moved to Moscow in 1999 to minister to fatherless and disadvantaged children. God also opened doors for them to encourage and support national pastors and wives. In 2010 they returned to the States, excited to join the hospitality team at The Lodge and continue this ministry God placed on their hearts.

Bob & Sandy McKee

Guest Services Assistant Manager. Bob and Sandy were first introduced to Life Action Ministries in the mid 80’s. They were so impressed with them, that they continued to follow, pray for, and partner with the ministry for over 30 years. Since 2012, Bob and Sandy have been providing hospitality, listening ears, prayer and spiritual refreshment for missionaries and pastors. In 2017, the Lord led them to continue this passion at The Lodge.

Full bio

Barry & Chris Frost

Chef & Food Services. Barry and Chris were first introduced to Life Action back in 2010 when their family attended Family Camp. Since that time, they have seen God use Life Action to strengthen their own faith and grow the faith of their children. Barry is now using his culinary arts training as a part-time chef at The Lodge and is raising support to come fulltime as the head chef and Food Services Manager.

Full bio

Bethany Holland

Administrative Assistant. Bethany was introduced to Life Action Ministries several years ago when a team came to her church in Ohio. In 2017 she attended a Thrive Women’s conference at Life Action Camp. Since becoming a Christian at age 9 she felt the call in to full time ministry. After the Thrive Conf. she applied to serve at Life Action. Bethany currently serves at The Lodge as an administrative assistant. She enjoys being part of a ministry that provides a place for pastors and there wife’s, as well as other ministry leaders, to relax and be refreshed.

A History

In 1918, Eugene Bradley Clark, founder of Clark Equipment Company, purchased 100 acres on a bluff overlooking the St. Joseph River as a place to build his summer home. He built the lodge in 1921 and named it Tapawingo, meaning “Place of My Joys.”

What Eugene Clark built to be a place of his joys, God allowed Life Action Ministries to obtain. We strive to make it a place where pastors and Christian leaders can have their joy restored as they seek to honor the Lord in their family and ministry. Below is a brief history of this place of joy and how Life Action acquired it.

Mr. Clark died in July 1942, and Mrs. Clark continued to live at Tapawingo until 1949. The house and grounds were sold to the Ernest Morris family of South Bend, Indiana. Mr. Morris was the founder of Associates Investment Company and the First Bank & Trust Company of South Bend. He was also the director of Clark Equipment Company from 1935 until his death in 1951. Mrs. Morris continued to use the house as a summer residence until her death in 1969. Her daughter, Ernestine (Carmichael) Raclin, purchased the property.

At that time, Mrs. Raclin’s husband, O. C. Carmichael, was Chairman and President of Associates Investment Company. The property was sold to Associates and used as a meeting and lodging facility, and the name was changed to The Associates Lodge. Gulf and Western purchased Associates in 1969 and moved the company headquarters from South Bend to Dallas in 1976. In the same year, Notre Dame University acquired the lodge through the generous donation of Ernestine Carmichael, and they leased it to Clark Equipment Company. In 1985, Clark Equipment Company purchased the lodge from Notre Dame.

From here on, the history becomes a bit sketchy; however, in January 1996, Clark Equipment deeded the lodge over to National Steel Corporation. In that same year, a couple by the name of Bill and Nora Johnson eventually became owners of the lodge. With the help of their property manager, Tim Niffenegger, they did a stellar job at efforts to restore the property to its original splendor.

In August 1999, they sold the property to an anonymous donor who, in September of 2001, gifted the property to Life Action Ministries. The story of God’s provision for Life Action Ministries’ beautiful facilities is recorded in the booklet “Remembering God’s Goodness.”

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