Camp Lebanon has been in my life for a long time. My mother attended camp when it first opened and her experiences at Lebanon led her to become an active member of her church – Grace Baptist Church in Trenton, NJ. Later, she married and became a member of First Park Baptist Church in Plainfield, NJ. Which is the church in which I grew up.
At First Park Baptist I was brought up singing, praying and learning about Jesus. As part of that church’s ministry to the children of their church, they gave scholarships to families so they would be able to send their children to experience a week at Camp Lebanon, where I learned what it was to live in a community of believers. At camp I developed deep and lasting friendships, grew in my personal relationship with God, and learned how to reach others through my life.
As a teenager, I decided to apply for a job at Camp Lebanon and was hired. For several years I was privileged to lifeguard and teach swimming. Eventually I even managed the waterfront. During my time as waterfront manager, I improved in my interpersonal and work skills – improving my effectiveness as a teacher.
After graduating from college, I became a public school teacher and moved to WV to live, serve God, and grow in the Holy Spirit. As an adult I felt Camp Lebanon was a pleasant memory, but would not again be in my life. I was wrong.
In the summer of 2014, Don Smith put out a plea for lifeguards to help during the summer camp sessions. I smiled at the thought of a 50 something lady going back to camp, but something inside me said, “Pray about it.” As I prayed, the urge to respond became stronger. Finally, I asked my husband if this was a crazy idea. He said if I thought I was being called to go then I should. So I did.
Don took me on for the few weeks I could donate. The young staff welcomed me with open arms and I felt rejuvenated for the beginning of my school year.
During my time at camp I spent some evenings and days off with my parents, who were in nursing care, just because I happened to be so close geographically. Sadly, my father died August, followed by my mother in September. I was devastated, but also comforted in the fact I had been able to spend some quality time with them over the Summer, all because of Camp Lebanon.
The Baptist Camp and Conference Center, affectionately called Camp Lebanon, is an effective ministry for children, youth, and adults. I will continue to support this ministry with my thoughts, prayers and monetary support as long as I am able. You should too. It is well worth it.
About the Author
Gayle is a long-time member of the Camp Lebanon family, currently residing in West Virginia.