The Firs Bible & Missionary Conference

The information on this page was last updated 4/8/2023. If you see errors or omissions, please email: [email protected]


Since 1921, the Firs has been a place for people to encounter JESUS and experience the love of GOD.

Contact information

Mailing address:
The Firs Bible & Missionary Conference
4605 Cable Street
Bellingham, WA 98229


Phone: 360-733-6840

Email: [email protected]

Organization details

EIN: 910609820

CEO/President: Lem Usita

Chairman: Paul Anderson

Board size: 12


Ruling year: 1946

Tax deductible: Yes

Fiscal year end: 12/31

Member of ECFA: Yes

Member of ECFA since: 1990


The Firs serves the local church and community by drawing groups and individuals to a camp and retreat setting. The Firs exists for people to encounter Jesus and experience the love of God - this is our core mission.

From its beginning, The Firs has focused on developing and maintaining a ministry to God's glory. The Firs' emphasis has been to help people believe. This is done through instruction, creative activities and significant relationships.

The Firs' three facilities serve to support these efforts and provide a place for organizations and other ministries of similar purpose to offer programs of their own.

The Vision of The Firs is to see our world changed through Christ-centered children and family ministries, conferences and camping initiatives.

Mission statement

Statement of faith

We believe that the Bible is the Word of God, divinely inspired, infallible, entirely trustworthy and the supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct. (2 Tim. 3:16-7; 2 Pet. 1:20-21; 1 Cor. 2:13)

We believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14)

We believe in the deity of Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death, in His bodily resurrection and His ascension to the right hand of the Father. We believe in His personal, visible return to earth in righteousness and glory to consummate His salvation and His judgment. (Jn. 1:1-2; Rom. 3:21-26; 1 Thess. 4:13-18)

We believe that, because of the fall of humanity with the resulting sinful state and subsequent separation from God, there is the necessity of new birth, in salvation by faith in Jesus Christ alone. (Rom. 3:23; 6:23; Eph. 2:8-10; John 1:12)

We believe that God has called Christians to a life of sanctification through the Holy Spirit and to a life fully committed to the will of God in Christ. (1 Pet. 1:14-16; Titus 2:11-14)

We believe in the Christian church as the one universal body of Christ. Christ is the head of His church and calls God's redeemed people to be set apart for His purposes in the world. (Eph. 1:22-23; 5:25-30; I Peter 1:9-10)

We believe in the institution of marriage defined in Scripture as the covenantal union between one man and one woman. We believe that the Christian standard is faithfulness within that marriage covenant and abstinence outside of it. (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:5-6; Eph. 5:31-33)

We believe that every person is created in the image of God, that human sexuality reflects that image in terms of intimate love, communication and fellowship. We believe that God created humankind as two distinct sexes, male and female. (Gen. 1:27; Matt. 19:4-6; Mk. 10:6-8)

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Financial efficiency ratings

Sector: Camps/Conference Centers

CategoryRatingOverall rankSector rank
Overall efficiency rating464 of 111314 of 36
Fund acquisition rating388 of 111412 of 37
Resource allocation rating823 of 111429 of 37
Asset utilization rating297 of 111311 of 36

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Balance sheet
Receivables, inventories, prepaids$132,059$78,941$82,193$117,272$166,131
Short-term investments$0$0$0$2,997$2,581
Other current assets$0$0$0$0$0
Total current assets$1,711,361$1,217,181$847,850$714,574$707,153
Long-term investments$0$0$0$0$0
Fixed assets$4,051,749$3,932,603$4,073,107$4,033,488$3,751,542
Other long-term assets$2,341$3,019$3,696$1,550$1,550
Total long-term assets$4,054,090$3,935,622$4,076,803$4,035,038$3,753,092
Total assets$5,765,451$5,152,803$4,924,653$4,749,612$4,460,245
Payables and accrued expenses$122,250$83,718$70,689$135,017$105,678
Other current liabilities$27,117$33,517$38,323$37,026$26,016
Total current liabilities$149,367$117,235$109,012$172,043$131,694
Due to (from) affiliates$0$0$0$0$0
Other long-term liabilities$766,452$780,452$753,452$801,000$874,000
Total long-term liabilities$1,330,666$1,357,833$1,373,311$1,100,716$879,865
Total liabilities$1,480,033$1,475,068$1,482,323$1,272,759$1,011,559
Net assets20222021202020192018
Without donor restrictions$4,060,760$3,408,056$3,281,642$3,230,553$3,216,105
With donor restrictions$224,658$269,679$160,688$246,300$232,581
Net assets$4,285,418$3,677,735$3,442,330$3,476,853$3,448,686
Revenues and expenses
Total contributions$638,712$1,181,694$842,173$700,172$393,768
Program service revenue$2,127,025$1,199,296$909,905$2,538,697$2,747,894
Membership dues$0$0$0$0$0
Investment income$1,763($1,635)$427,663$975$1,724
Other revenue$1,018,559$159,389$199,343$243,692$232,935
Total other revenue$3,147,347$1,357,050$1,536,911$2,783,364$2,982,553
Total revenue$3,786,059$2,538,744$2,379,084$3,483,536$3,376,321
Program services$2,425,560$1,675,303$1,812,346$2,717,562$2,691,255
Management and general$733,611$621,723$586,133$719,468$706,000
Total expenses$3,178,376$2,303,339$2,413,607$3,455,371$3,415,341
Change in net assets20222021202020192018
Surplus (deficit)$607,683$235,405($34,523)$28,165($39,020)
Other changes in net assets$0$0$0$0$0
Total change in net assets$607,683$235,405($34,523)$28,165($39,020)


Lem UsitaExecutive Director$113,344
Krista KokFinance Manager$67,421
Jon EppsInterim Executive Director$10,606

Compensation data as of: 12/31/2022

Response from ministry

No response has been provided by this ministry.

The information below was provided to MinistryWatch by the ministry itself. It was last updated 4/8/2023. To update the information below, please email: [email protected]


The Beginning - With a desire to use what God had given them for His purposes, Otis and Julia Whipple gathered a group of 35 people at their property overlooking Lake Whatcom in Bellingham, Washington, for a five-day retreat. Their purpose during that July week in 1921 was to "meet the Lord and strengthen the ties of an extended spiritual family". They probably couldn't have imagined what was to follow: an unbroken string of camp and conference activity that has spanned many decades and grown into a multi-site, multi-program organization now called The Firs.

Incorporation - Held together by the faithful efforts of 18 core individuals, The Firs became an official, incorporated non-profit entity in June 1927. It was called, initially, the Lake Whatcom Bible & Missionary Conference and for almost 35 years, flourished at its original Retreat Center site. In the summer of 1954, a group of 30 junior high campers paddled along the shores of Lake Whatcom to a beautiful camp site they called "White Sands". With permission from the owner, the first week of resident youth camp took place on this 80-acre site that soon became known as Camp Firwood. In 1955, with its 4,500 feet of pristine shoreline, Camp Firwood was purchased for $35,000. What a tremendous act of God, as this expansion of The Firs ministry would soon become a fully developed summer youth program.

Expansion - Just weeks after the purchase of Camp Firwood, The Firs was contacted by the Mt. Baker committee of the Bellingham Chamber of Commerce and asked if it would like to build a private ski lodge on Forest Service land at Mt. Baker. As a testament to God's blessing and the faith of godly leadership, The Firs went ahead. Within three years, the four-story A-frame Chalet was completed and The Firs now existed on three distinct and unique camp sites.

Thus began a period of growth and expansion at all three locations of The Firs. In 1960, the Fircreek Day Camp program kicked off at the Retreat Center site. Churches and other organizations began renting The Firs' facilities for camps and retreats, and ministry partnerships were soon established.

In response to a growing suburban community and a need for child care, in 2001 The Firs began the After School Adventure program at the Retreat Center. The Firs ministries to school age children now operate 12 months out of the year.

Program accomplishments