A-Camping We Will Go…
Column #315 for Release Saturday, May 9, 2009, or Later
Much is heard these days about “faith-based” initiatives.
At the risk of tackling a topic that may seem “mighty churchy” to some, I submit to you that an ongoing effort of thousands of churches centers on camps.
Most of them focus on children/teen programs that have been around for several decades. As my 96-year-old Uncle Mort claims, church camps are “as faith-based as all ‘git-out’.” He says that most of ‘em have operated across the years by the grace of God, the prayers and efforts of many, duct tape by the boat load and a barn full of baling wire….
It’s at this time of year that camp personnel, knowing that summer onslaughts of children and teens are at hand, take deep breaths. Campers will come by the busloads, all ready to put aside the serious business of school and many eager to take on the monkey business of summer.
These getaways, however, are settings for encounters with God.
Many leave camps, usually 4-5 days later, with changed attitudes, values and goals, never to be the same again. Often called “electric Chihuahuas” upon entering camps, they take giant steps toward spiritual maturity during programs of worship interwoven with recreational activities….
One such facility is Camp Copass, now in its 64th year of operation. It’s only a couple of miles from Denton, Texas, on a beautiful 36-acre tract on a peninsula that juts into Lake Lewisville.
Though no more than an hour removed from the hustle and bustle of more than six million people, it is a quiet refuge, bathed in natural beauty. Scriptures are carved on large stone blocks along the trails. The sounds of birds and animals rule here, heard above the din of honking traffic on interstate highways just a few stone throws away.
It is a good place to be still and know that He is God….
Like other Christian camps, it chugs along with more faith than funds. It has a handful of paid staff, but volunteers, mostly senior citizens, work throughout the year in ways that allow the camp to serve more than 20,000 visitors annually.
Without such help, the impact of camps would be greatly diminished, if not halted entirely.
A few days ago, 100 or so senior adults made their annual visit to “Keenage Kamp.” Permeating the three-day assembly were prayers for upcoming youth camps and an auction to raise funds for a partially-built retreat center. Construction is slow on the pay-as-you-go project, the most ambitious one ever mounted at Camp Copass. It is now ready for windows, and hopes run high that the three-story structure with 50 motel rooms will be completed by the fall of 2010….
There have been a few major gifts for the center, but most of them are more in line with the Bible’s “widow’s mite” proportions.
Items at the Keenagers’ auction included homemade candy, crocheted items and a recliner. $900 was collected, all of it directed to the building project.
“Maybe it’ll buy a couple of windows,” one of the seniors said….
Proceeds from CD sales went to help with the building, too. The CD includes a selection of hymns by a vocalist well known at First Baptist Church in Mineral Wells, but not beyond.
The “artist” is a layman who has been a regular at Camp Copass for years. He’s well-known for spontaneous renditions of hymn favorites, often as benedictions in lieu of “amens” for prayers.
“They’ve been after me for years to make a recording, so I figured this was a good time to do it,” said Hugh Magers, age 95….
Mineral Wells provided another person whose devotionals are “hits” with the seniors each spring. His name is Dr. Lucien Coleman, a distinguished seminary professor who retired 16 years ago.
He spoke of lives today being tomorrow’s parables, and the importance of “seizing the day” without watching the clock. Dr. Coleman described a wall clock that he and his wife value greatly. “The numbers are piled in a stack, as if they’ve fallen from their assigned places on the dial,” he said.
Inscribed on the dial instead are two words: “Who Cares?”…
The final session was marked by spontaneous prayers, many for the staff and upcoming summer challenges.
Camp Manager Brad Springer smiled as he heard a vocal benediction.
It was Magers, of course, singing “One Day at a Time.” When he finished the song, he shook hands all around, saying, “God willing, I’ll see you next year.” His hands firmly gripping a walker, he shuffled slowly toward the church bus, ready for the ride home. My guess is he sang most of the way….
Dr. Newbury is a speaker and writer in the Metroplex. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com.