WEC International’s US sending base is located on historic Camp Hill in Fort Washington, PA. Camp Hill is so named because it was the site of a large encampment of the Continental Army in November of 1777. Now nicknamed “The Hill,” this site provided General George Washington with an excellent view of the British army, allowing him to oversee his 15,000 troops, holding the area firm and defending against attack. From here the Continental Army moved to its winter quarters at Valley Forge.
In 1882 John and Sarah (Drexel) Fell, a wealthy couple from Philadelphia, chose Camp Hill as the site of their summer home. They built a mansion on top of the hill, leaving most of the 70 surrounding acres as woodland. Over thirteen years the Fells had six children. John died of a stroke, at the age of 37, in 1895. In 1898 Sarah married Alexander Van Rensselaer. Their wedding took place at Camp Hill Hall. The couple enlarged the main house to include 43 rooms and 13 fireplaces. They also added a swimming pool, stone bath houses, and gardens. The Van Rensselaers enjoyed showing hospitality on the Hill. They hosted underprivileged children at the mansion during the summer and held Christmas parties for local children. Sarah died in 1929 leaving an estate valued at $1.7 million. Alexander died in 1933.
After a time of vacancy, the Hill was purchased by a Mrs. Deichleman, who turned the property into a military academy. The venture failed and the property was again vacant for three years. During this time, vandals, vagrants and thieves nearly destroyed the property. In December 1951 WEC inquired about the property, which was then priced at $150,000. After Mrs. Deichleman learned about WEC’s missionary work, she decided to reduce the price to $60,000. The property was repaired and became the headquarters and sending base for WEC USA. Since that time, many renovations have been made and two buildings have been added. Some of the property has been sold to fund these projects. Approximately 20 acres make up the WEC USA property today.
“You cannot evangelize the world without a strong home base.”1 The sending base is essential to the success of WEC’s missionary work around the world. The Hill is the location for two three-month candidate orientation classes per year, WEC Trek training facilities and an English school for candidates from countries such as Brazil and Korea. The sending base also provides housing for missionaries who are on furlough or who have retired and is the home of the US WEC Directors, who provide ongoing contact and prayer support for our missionaries around the world. In addition Camp Hill is the headquarters for wec.go magazine, the YOUTH paper, the mobilization and financial departments of the mission as well as member care and many other vital ministries. Most of those involved in these ministries reside on the Hill. Due to increased demand for housing and office space, WEC is planning to add additional buildings beginning in 2010.
1The Lame Take the Prey quoted by A. W. Ruscoe