Orthodox Presbyterian Summer Camps
Orthodox Presbyterians have supported summer camps and Bible conferences almost from the beginning of the denomination. At present, most of our presbyteries sponsor particular programs, sometimes in tandem with other denominations. Following are brief reports of summer camps and conferences, most of which are sponsored or directed by OP presbyteries. If you haven't already thought about getting involved with one, do so! (A list of these and some other conferences and camps can be found at the back of the OPC Directory, listing people to contact for each one.)
Deerwander Bible Conference (New York, New England)
Mike and Joan Anderson
What is sixty years old and still as young as ever? It's Deerwander Bible Conference!
Deerwander Bible Conference was founded in 1938 by the Rev. Burton L. Goddard with help from the Rev. Lawrence Eyres. It was originally called Summer Bible Conference at Deerwander Lodge, which was located in West Hollis, Maine. The lodge was a large, private home on Deerwander Road-hence the name Deerwander.
Deerwander Bible Conference operates as an overnight, residential program for one week in August. It seeks to achieve the original goal set forth by Mr. Goddard: "to provide an atmosphere that is not only conducive to fun and learning, but where young people are challenged and encouraged to serious Christian commitment in choosing worthy and unselfish goals." In a relaxed setting, the camp endeavors to help young people discover the relevance of the Bible in their lives and assist them in finding greater meaning and direction for their life. The theology of the camp is that of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, as taught in the Word of God and summarized in the Westminster Confession of Faith.
The camp has been held in many places and directed by many different people. Two of the most remembered and loved locations were Camp Laughing Loon and Chop Point, both in Maine. In 1994 Deerwander found it necessary to move to Camp Good News on Cape Cod. It was a bittersweet move for all, but it meant an end to turning away young people for lack of room.
Since that move, the camp has continued to grow, and it became possible in 1996 to divide the camp into two groups. One camp for young people in grades 6 through 8 is presently using facilities at Camp Windsor Hills in Hillsborough, New Hampshire. The camp for grades 9 through 12 has returned to Chop Point in Woolwich, Maine.
Deerwander Bible Conference has always been a guest on others' property, but with this continued blessing of growth, it may now be at the point of looking for a permanent home for the camp. God has blessed and guided this camp for sixty years, and he will continue to do no less in the coming years.
French Creek Bible Conference (Philadelphia, New Jersey, Mid-Atlantic)
For nearly fifty years, French Creek Bible Conference has served the churches of Southeastern Pennsylvania and the surrounding areas. French Creek Bible Conference is snuggled in the beautiful rolling hills of French Creek State Park in Berks County. Started by Orthodox Presbyterian ministers as a one-week camp for their youth, we have grown to a full summer ministry for all ages. Starting on Memorial Day weekend with our Family Conference, French Creek Bible Conference offers conferences throughout the summer until Labor Day. Our youth program begins with children entering grade 4 and extends through college-age adults. We also offer conferences for couples and ministers.
It is important to understand that French Creek Bible Conference is a Bible conference, not simply a camp. The emphasis throughout the weeks is on the development of a strong Christian walk through instruction in the Word of God, daily personal and corporate worship, and fellowship with God's people. One of the strengths of the ministry has been the relationships that we encourage our counselors to develop with their delegates. Our staff of godly men and women demonstrate God's love and the Christian life by leading daily devotions and living among their delegates. The teaching staff is drawn from our regional ministers and Bible instructors.
The days at French Creek Bible Conference are filled with activity. From morning Bible lessons to afternoons at the oversized Olympic pool to an evening time of song and praise, our delegates enjoy days of fun and growth. The friendships formed during these weeks of summer last a lifetime.
The conference dates for this year are as follows:
- Memorial Day Family"5/22-25
- Married Couples"7/10-12
- Grades 5-6 "7/13-17
- Post High "7/17-19
- Grades 7-8-7/20-27
- Grades 11-12 "7/27-8/3
- Grades 8-9-8/3-10
- Grades 9-10-8/10-17
- Grades 6-7 "8/22-29
- Ministers' Families"8/31-9/4
- Labor Day Family"9/4-7
Over the years, thousands of young people have benefited from this ministry by God's grace.
If you would like more information on our programs or a brochure for conference registration, please contact: Grace Mullen, 342 Limekiln Pike, Glenside, PA 19038.
Ohio Presbytery Summer Camp
During the second week of August, more than one hundred covenant children, teens, and their friends from the Regional Church of Ohio will gather together with a volunteer staff to hold the Ohio Presbytery Summer Camp near Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania. Campers (aged 9-18) enjoy a week of outdoor activities and solid Bible instruction.
Slippery Rock Baptist Camp offers centralized facilities surrounded by recreational fields, woods, and, of course, Slippery Rock Creek. Campers enjoy great food, outdoor sports, and other recreational activities. Other special activities include cheer night, skit night, and campfire night.
Each day begins and ends with devotions. Classes are held in which ministers and interns of the presbytery teach on relevant themes for youth, on the catechism, and on church history. Evening devotions feature a time of singing and a challenging message from the camp's main speaker. The camp is designed as a place where covenant children are encouraged to think about and act on their faith in the context of fellowship.
Our commitment to biblical Christian fellowship requires campers and staff to live together as a caring, covenant community. Responsibilities for cleaning and assisting are shared by all. The camp is an "extended family" camp, where youth of the regional church can establish and maintain Christ-centered relationships with other Orthodox Presbyterian youth.
The camp is sponsored by the Ohio Presbytery's Youth Committee, which plans the camp, secures the camp facility, and recruits volunteer staff from the presbytery's member churches. Plans are under way for this year's camp, and the committee hopes to improve the camping and teaching experience. Inquiries may be made to: The Rev. Larry Oldaker, Chairman, Ohio Presbytery Youth Committee, 696 W. Kochheiser Rd., Bellville, OH 44813.
Nature Camp in Wheaton, Illinois
The phone at Bethel Presbyterian Church in Wheaton, Illinois, begins to ring in January. "When is your summer Nature Camp scheduled?" "How soon can I register my child?"
Names and addresses are taken with a promise to send a flyer as soon as one is ready. Over half the campers each year are from outside the church, providing many contacts for follow-up. Thus begins another year of planning for Bethel's Nature Camp in Wheaton.
For eight years, the church has had an overwhelming response from the community, as children explore the wonderful world of nature and correlate their discoveries with Bible teaching about God's work in creation and redemption.
Five themes have been developed: trees, insects, birds, rocks, and creatures of the sea. Each five-day program is designed for two and one-half hours each day. Correlated nature lessons and Bible lessons are presented daily in large-group settings. Main concepts are reinforced by small-group activities that include projects, crafts, memory work, and discussions. This allows for one-on-one teaching and practical application.
It is a tremendous privilege to see children develop a sense of wonder at the intricacies of nature and learn to direct their thoughts of worship and praise toward God.
The following Nature Camp programs are available in manual form for a nominal cost: "Terrific Trees," "Incredible Insects," "Behold the Birds," and "Minerals, Rocks, and Me." The "Creatures of the Sea" program will be available after January 1, 1999.
Please contact Carolyn Sackett, 33 Walnut Circle, Aurora, IL 60506 or call 630/466-3719 for more information, a sample pack, and a catalog and price list.
Southland Bible Conference
The OPC's Presbytery of the South and the PCA's Central Florida and Southwest Florida Presbyteries join forces for two high-powered weeks of Southland Bible Conference each summer-one week for high schoolers and one for middle schoolers-at Camp Kulaqua. This camp is owned and operated by Seventh-day Adventists and is located in High Springs, Florida (near Gainesville). It is centered around a natural spring used for swimming, canoeing, and other activities.
On the wooded grounds are a gymnasium, a brand-new chapel, a large dining room, smaller meeting rooms, cabins, chalets, small lodges, a zoo (with lion, monkeys, etc.), a nature center, go-carts, rope courses, a camp store, and a rodeo facility with many horses.
The Southland Committee, comprised primarily of PCA youth pastors and OPC pastor Larry Mininger, plans all year for an intense week of activities. For middle schoolers, this may include a student rodeo, water sports, team competitions, indoor hockey, staff hunts, multimedia skits, optional tubing and excursions down the Itchetucknee River. For high schoolers, there may be volleyball, basketball, soccer, ultimate Frisbee, Velcro races, professional musicians, and outside speakers.
Popular culture provides a springboard for fun and teaching. For example, the movie The Lost World inspired the theme "Living in the Lost World" as a spiritual growth and evangelism emphasis for one week, with raptors and other dinosaurs (including Barney) as recreational team mascots. Another year, Mission Impossible inspired lively skits as well as serious messages about our mission as Christians.
The Adventists provide meals, lifeguards, and maintenance staff, while the Presbyterians program the recreation, counseling, and meetings. Chapel services each morning are followed by elective seminars, which explore topics such as personal devotions, women of virtue, Calvinism, media influences, evangelism, and male-female relationships. Afternoons are full of recreation. Evening chapel services include lots of singing and a speaker for the week, followed by activities in the gym or on the grounds.
Southland was begun by the late OP pastor Glenn Coie in the 1960s, and was later directed by OP pastors Luder Whitlock and Roger Schmurr. It was expanded in the 1970s to include the former RPCES, and eventually became a joint PCA/OPC venture which was moved to the Kulaqua site. Larry Mininger, pastor of Lake Sherwood OPC in Orlando, has been involved in the conference's leadership for nearly thirty years, and he continues to serve as the on-site director for middle school week, which has grown to serve over five hundred staff and students annually.
Youth Camp in the Dakotas
"As I sit on a rock and look at the camp for the last time this year, I see the river, feel the breeze, and smell the woods. The Lord has given us a beautiful place in which to have this camp. I will miss it!" So I wrote in my journal, seven years ago.
The Youth Camp of the Presbytery of the Dakotas has been meeting for generations. They have met in the Black Hills of the Dakotas and in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. The purpose of all the camps is to bring young people together and teach them the gospel. Along with activities, campfires, and the like, these young people form a bond that will last for their lifetime. For the past two years we have met at Keystone, South Dakota, three and one-half miles north of Mt. Rushmore. Yes, every year we hike up to Mt. Rushmore.
In the past, Youth Camp was primarily for young people in high school. We now have one camp for grades 7-12 and another for grades 4-6. Last year we had about one hundred campers and counselors.
Most of the counselors take vacation time to participate in the camp. My workmates are surprised that I would use my vacation this way, but when I tell them of the rewards, they get a little envious.
Anytime you are responsible for eight to ten people in a cabin, it is work. Sometimes there are long nights, talking to those who are lonely or homesick or discussing what is being taught. But the rewards far overshadow the sleepless nights. I have kept in contact with a number of past campers.
Mrs. Evelyn Hofer, from Bridgewater, South Dakota, forty years ago or so met her future husband at a youth camp, and for the past six years she has accompanied her granddaughter to our camp. She has been a teacher and a counselor during those years.
Then there is Mrs. Kathy Abbott, from Caney, Kansas, who has been involved with our camp all the years that I have been involved. There are many more I could name who have been instrumental in the operation and education at this camp. Some recent campers have returned to be counselors.
The young people who write to me have been a tremendous blessing. I have watched some of them grow from children into adults, working in Christ's kingdom. That is the reward when you do this work. True, not all of the campers return or continue their walk in the faith. But our job is to teach them and lead them in that direction. Youth Camp proves the proverb, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Prov. 22:6 kjv). Our camp has had its share of unchurched children, and the Lord will bless our efforts to teach them the gospel. So pray for our camp this year. It will be held from June 27 through July 3.
Young People's Camp (Southwest)
Snail mail and e-mail fly all over the place after camp. New and renewed friendships compel communication. So it is that young people in the Regional Church of the Southwest enjoy a wider circle of fellowship, thanks to our summer camp at Ceta Glen Christian Camp in Happy, Texas.
Last summer, all 125 campers were "actors" on a movie set for the filming of an adapted version of C. S. Lewis's Prince Caspian. Under the directorship of Betty Brack, Kathie Jerrell, and Rick Shaw, the campers produced costumes, group scenes, and individual performances, all combined into a momentous, cooperative effort. Their blockbuster video was released at the last evening of camp at the climactic, gala premier screening. The campers seemed delighted with their Grammy-level performances as they cheered for each other and even found occasion to laugh as they watched.
Campers, counselors, and preachers come from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the Christian Reformed Church, and the Presbyterian Church in America. Our campers may know more people from other Reformed and Presbyterian churches in the Southwest, than do the adults in those churches! During the week, as many as seven or eight ministers preach and teach. The campers get to meet and hear virtually all the pastors from the churches.
Involvement by each and every camper is vital to the camp. Participation ranges from the serious and joyful consideration of the claims of God's Word on our lives right up to hilarious insanity! Whether it be the choir, the Music Fest, group competitions, the banquet, hymn sings, Loco 'n' Poco, Rockin' Ricky (Shaw, that is!), Big John, the Mule Train Driver, or even Michael J. Dog, regional fellowship is alive and well.
Year after year, many covenant young people at this camp share their godliness in amazingly mature ways as they accept and include their peers who may be struggling. In the Southwest, we believe that God is with us as we celebrate our redemption in Christ, as we seek to live to him in all things, and even as we have a blast!
Blue Ridge Bible Conference (Southern California)
The Blue Ridge Bible Conference is the formal name of the Family Camp of the Presbytery of Southern California. For most of us, the words "Family Camp" stir up memories of pleasant times. Images of towering pine trees, the aroma of cedars, concentrated study in the Scriptures, the shout of praise, and the blessings of fellowship all come to mind when we think of our yearly retreat to the PineCrest Christian Conference Center in the mountains of southern California.
A typical day at Family Camp starts at 6:30 a.m. with a morning prayer meeting. Hearty souls shake the sleep from their eyes and gather for prayer as the mists of morning slowly dissolve in the heat of sunrise. Breakfast follows. It's amazing how the clear, cool mountain air can give you an appetite! Then it's back to our lodge for a quiet time with our families. At the appointed hour we gather in our meeting hall for announcements, singing (there is no sound on earth greater than the united voices of believers singing "psalms, hymns and spiritual songs"), and the morning messages. Children have their own vacation Bible school during the morning hours. Lunch break!
Afternoons are free for hiking, swimming, volleyball, basketball, horseshoes, and conversation. After an evening meal, there is the evening service, with more singing and Bible study. Afterwards there are songs around the campfire, games in the lodge, and, of course, informal discussions sparked by the speaker's messages.
This year (June 15-19) our speaker will be the Rev. Dr. Joseph Pipa. Dr. Pipa, a PCA minister, is the new president of Greenville Theological Seminary in Greenville, South Carolina. Our camp registrars are Dr. and Mrs. Larry McHargue, who can be reached at 606 Meridian Ave., South Pasadena, CA 91030-2522.
Northern California Family Bible Conference
The aroma of redwood trees fills the air as folks gather for their annual Family Bible Conference in northern California. This is held at Redwood Christian Park near the town of Boulder Creek, a half hour north of Santa Cruz. Soon hearty singing also fills the air as we rejoice in God our Savior. We have been thrilled by the teaching and preaching of God's Word from men from Westminster Seminary in California as well as others, such as Ross Graham, Thomas Tyson, Michael Horton, and Joel Nederhood. One meeting lasted more than two hours, with the speaker and many of his listeners moved to tears of joy at the Word. Meetings are held in the mornings and evenings. After the main morning presentation and a coffee break, there is a period for questions.
Afternoons are free for recreation and sightseeing. A group led by deacon Frank Young (retired from the Santa Fe Railroad and Amtrak) always goes to enjoy a ride on a mountain railroad train pulled by a Shay steam locomotive. On another day, a group spends the afternoon in Santa Cruz enjoying the beach and the boardwalk (famous for its wooden roller coaster). A state park with more redwood trees is close by. Farther south is Monterey, with its cannery row and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Those who stay at the park can enjoy the swimming pool and play games on the athletic fields. They work up an appetite for the hearty fare in the dining hall. After the evening meetings, there is swimming again. An ice-cream social and talent night are highlights of the week.
The 1998 conference will be held June 15-19, with the Rev. Charles G. Dennison as the featured speaker. Registration forms are available from registrar Richard C. Miller at 8 Doris Avenue, Novato, CA 94947-3814.
For an up-to-date list of OPC camps and conferences, click here. Reprinted from New Horizons, June 1998.