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Devotional area at Camp Oak Haven.
Photo provided by Riley Watkins

After two decades, Texas Christian camp finds its forever home

After almost 20 years of bouncing from campground to campground, a Texas ministry has found a permanent home, though it’s a bit of a fixer-upper.

It had always been a dream for the Orr Family Ministries to own its own campground, Riley Watkins told The Christian Chronicle.

Riley Watkins with his wife, Brynna.

Riley Watkins with his wife, Brynna.

Watkins serves on the ministry’s board of directors and has been heavily involved with Michael and Loretta Orr’s The Leadership Camp since its inception — as a camper, counselor and co-director.

“We had spent so many years renting out facilities, dealing with scheduling conflicts, and just the overall stressors that are present when renting a church campground facility,” he said. “We knew that if we could one day own our own place that we could grow our church camp ministry by leaps and bounds.”

This year, that dream finally came true.

In 2003, the Orrs created The Leadership Camp, a camp session at the Peach Valley Christian Youth Camp near Shiner, Texas — where they had met and gotten engaged years earlier.

But the small spin-off camp week — initially supported by the Needville Church of Christ just outside Houston — never got a chance to settle down because of space, availability and other issues.

In 2008, the Orrs’ session briefly moved to Hensel Christian Youth Camp outside Austin before moving to Gulf Coast Christian Youth Camp in Columbus the next year.

In 2010, it moved back to Peach Valley, then back to Gulf Coast until 2014, when it moved to the Lake Cisco Christian Camp.

Related: A camp of a different culture

After another few years, it outgrew that campsite and moved to Hensel again in 2018. In the meantime, the Orrs had formed a nonprofit in 2016 — Orr Family Ministries — to run their summer camp session, along with several annual retreats.

But after returning from a COVID-19 disruption, this year was The Leadership Camp’s final session at Hensel, too.

That’s because next year, the ministry hopes to have its permanent home ready at the Gulf Coast campsite it left behind eight years ago.

A cabin at Camp Oak Haven.

Camp Oak Haven’s cabins can house 116.

The dream of owning its own campsite started taking shape in February, when through a stroke of luck, or providence, the Gulf Coast camp’s board offered to let the Orr ministry take over its campsite — for free.

It was the chance the Orrs and Watkins had longed for, but it did come at a cost. At this point, the campsite wasn’t in great shape.

“My first reaction was, ‘Do we want that place?’ with laughter following,” Watkins said. “I realized the amount of work it would take to get it up to par for a state inspection as well as getting it to where it could have a capacity to fill our needs as well as others. But my skepticism soon turned to excitement.”

Camp Oak Haven has a grove of 100-plus-year-old live oaks with an outdoor gathering area.

Camp Oak Haven has a grove of 100-plus-year-old live oaks with an outdoor gathering area.

Watkins said the campsite — which is being renamed Camp Oak Haven — has a lot to offer, including fully furnished bunkhouses for 116 people, a dining hall, air conditioning and a centuries-old grove of oak trees.

But it also needs some major restoration work that could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Camp Oak Haven, County Road 307, Alleyton, TX, USA

Some of the minor repairs have already been completed, and Orr Family Ministries is currently raising money to fix the roof of the basketball and volleyball court pavilion. It plans to begin hosting retreats and summer camp sessions in 2023 and is already taking reservations.

“We hope that by renewing this campground we can continue to write our story that began so long ago at a similar campground,” Watkins said, “and so that others might find the story that God is ready to write for them.”

Filed under: Camp Oak Haven Christian camp Gulf Coast Christian Youth Camp Hensel Christian Youth Camp Lake Cisco Christian Camp National Needville Church of Christ News Orr Family Ministries Peach Valley Christian Youth Camp Summer Camp Texas The Leadership Camp Top Stories

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