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Bible camps light fires, fan flames

I have a friend, David Hartman, who makes an 865-mile trek from Oklahoma City to Black River Falls, Wis., each summer.
David, who grew up in the Midwest, goes to reunite with old friends and make new ones amid white water falls and rapids, quiet pools and bends at Wisconsin Christian Youth Camp.
Twenty-five years after he first enjoyed camp as a teenager, David sees his two weeks there each August as a powerful evangelistic opportunity.
“We get more and more kids from unchurched homes,” he said. “While that creates some challenges, it also presents real opportunities to share Jesus.”
At the 40th annual National Christian Camping Workshop, hosted by Central Florida Bible Camp in Eustis, I met a lot of fellow Christians who view camping the same way. With the theme “Lighting the Fire and Fanning the Flame,” the recent workshop focused on providing tools to make camps’ evangelistic efforts stronger. Sixty-seven camp leaders from 19 states attended.
Larry Ray, director of the Central Florida camp, did a quick survey to see how many campers will be served this summer just by those represented at the workshop.
The count: 14,710.
“If we look at the impact for the kingdom, we have a great opportunity,” Larry told camp leaders before we sang around a campfire.
Larry discussed the positive influence of a week — or two — away from television, cell phones and video games. “We find young people are much more willing to get into the Word here at camp,” he said, “because the distractions are gone.”
I asked a few leaders: What about your camp might surprise or inspire your fellow Christians?:
“We work hard on the spiritual aspects of Christian camping. We do have several recreational activities. … But our major focus is on the content of Bible classes, chapel services, cabin devotionals and campfire devotionals. We provide a variety of spiritual leadership opportunities.” — HAL JAMES, Midwest Bible Camp near Brighton, Iowa.
“We try not to let sports overpower the character-building aspects of Bible study and team building. … Many of our campers can’t wait until the day they can serve as staff. Leaders of our home congregations often comment on the changes they see in returning campers.”DONALD BREWSTER, Rockford Christian Camp, 90 miles northwest of Chicago.
“We hope to give children a week or two where electronics and shopping malls are the farthest thing from their minds as they climb Tahkodah bluff and look at God’s wondrous nature and take the time to know someone as they share their struggles and their faith in God to overcome them.” — NITA COCHRAN, Camp Tahkodah, Floral, Ark.

“Many of our young people attend the camp from age 4 through 12th grade and then go on to be counselors at the camp. Our volunteers work many long hours prior to camp to prepare the physical activities, food, etc., and to prepare the Bible lessons and activities.” — BETTYE GARRETT, Rolling Hills Bible Camp, Mount Sterling, Ky.
“In 1956, several men had a dream. They stepped out in faith and purchased 1,100 acres of land and started a camp where kids could come to a beautiful mountain setting and learn about Jesus. The driving force in that group of men was a young man named Scotty Witt. Scotty is still serving today on our board of directors, leading the way for the camp he started 50 years ago.” — MICHAEL McCOY, Camp Blue Haven, in the mountains 16 miles west of Las Vegas, N.M.
“Separated from the world, we see kids reaching out to be close to God. I am also amazed each year at what the adults will give and sacrifice to make the week happen. … Keeping over 300 kids active and involved in sports, recreation, Bible study and worship – it is the hardest week that we have and the one we love more than any other part of ministry.” — GERALD ELLIOTT, Bandina Christian Youth Camp, north of Bandera, Texas.
“I see the way the kids have grown closer to Christ year after year, and mature into group leaders and counselors, and the friendships that are forged at camp and continue into adulthood. And then to watch them become leaders in their home congregation is an awesome witness that camp is one of the main reasons people stick with their Christian faith.” — TERRY TAFLINGER, Springmill Bible Camp, Mitchell, Ind.
“Bible camp makes such a huge spiritual impression on those involved, unlike a trip to Six Flags. At camp, our teens are able to live in an environment similar to that of the first century church, and that experience is priceless, in my opinion.” — BYRON SMITH, Gulf Coast Bible Camp, Lucedale, Miss.
David told me about a boy named Elliott, who grew up in a non-Christian home. His first year at camp, Elliott caused all sorts of trouble in David’s cabin. David contemplated asking the director to send him home, but a fellow counselor who knew Elliott’s story asked David to show extra patience.
When Elliott returned the next year, he had changed. After lights out, he turned on his flashlight under his sleeping bag and read his Bible. A few days later, his sins were washed away in the cool, spring-fed waters of Robinson Creek.
Years later, David ran into Elliott again. He was studying to be a missionary.
CONTACT BOBBY ROSS JR. at [email protected]. Check out his personal blog at www.bobbyrossjr.blogspot.com.

Filed under: Inside Story

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