While traveling, I love to stop and visit other camps; I just returned from a 3000 mile trip where I visited 4 different camps. As always, each camp was different, each camp operated with different guidelines and with a unique methodology. One had 20 beds and the last one I toured had over 500 beds. One was at the end of a long, narrow Arkansas graveled road and others had blacktop right up to the front door of every building.
One of my favorite visits was to Camp of the Rising Sun in French Camp, Mississippi. The camp was nice, the 25 acre lake was enviable, and the lodge looked comfortable with the rockers perched on the porch overlooking the lake front. But it wasn’t the camp itself that interested me; it was its history; it was hearing Margie Newman, the first director of the camp tell her story of how the camp was built.
Here is what I heard from Margie about the startup of the camp in 1980 and the building of the facility.
Much of the layout and design of the camp was her design brought with her from a camp where she had worked previously in Maryland. She built open air cabins. The lake was the vision and result of her late husband, Ralph. The lodge’s hallways were lined with pictures of camp week: staff and campers from each week: 35 years of history laid out in 8 x 10’s. Margie and Ralph’s finger prints were on every building. They created the vision and they executed and ensured that it happened.
Margie said this about the history of the camp, “Over the 20 years that I directed, it was my greatest joy to see children respond to the Gospel, inviting Jesus to be their own personal Savior! Knowing that God created this earth to bear testimony to His greatness, we delighted in focusing on His handiwork around us. Even our cabins were designed to assure that campers could hear crickets and frogs as the lay in bed at night! Many parents sent their children for the high quality of training in various activities, but, at the end of the week our greatest joy is knowing that their lives had been changed by knowing Jesus personally!!”
Margie and Ralph persisted: they never gave up on their dream. I love stories of pioneers who took their dream and made it reality.
On the other spectrum of my camp visits, I visited a camp in Arkansas that equally had as big of dream by the founder in 1976. The proposed plans were great, the program had innovative ideas that were cutting edge for the day. Today, the camp still has a sign out by the highway claiming there was camp back in the woods down the long lane, but I only found a few buildings that were un-kept and lacking any consistent use by any groups. The founder’s dream was neatly printed out in the brochures that were found in the camp house; but today there was no life, no vision, and no future.
Regardless of the size or age of your camp: everything rises and falls on the right leadership. With the right leaders with a pioneer spirit that says, “we will get it done,” a camp can grow and develop in its purpose. With a wrong leader who is full of ideas, but lacks the fortitude and the tenacity to finish the job, a ministry only looks good on paper.
I trust you are envisioning greater things for your ministry; whether at a camp, a church, or in your personal ministry. Stop talking about your dreams! Do something today, so that tomorrow you will be living in reality and not the dreams of the past.
Dreamer or doer? Which do you want to be?