We want to interrupt our continuing series on the State of the Conference for two articles on Camp Meeting.
The first such article is on the recently completed South Central Camp Meeting. That will be followed on next week with what has become something of an annual article, observations that I share with you as I have the privilege of visiting other camp meetings.
I am a hopelessly old-fashioned, dyed-in-the-wool Seventh-day Adventist, who grew up in this church attending camp meeting. My parents would take their vacation time, every year, and spend it at camp meeting at the old Allegheny Conference.
I have been around so long, I remember the days before Allegheny East and Allegheny West divided and there was just the Allegheny Conference. Camp meeting was on the campus of Pine Forge Academy.
I had the privilege of serving with Elder Charles Cheatham, who recently ended his service as President of Allegheny East, due to term limits. His father was the President of Allegheny Conference when I was a little boy attending camp meeting there. He was the first Conference President I ever knew.
Pretty much everybody stayed in a tent in those days, as did my family-all 4 of us children, 2 parents, and sometimes, my grandmother. I have no idea how we managed, but we did manage. In fact, we managed so well that all of us looked forward to going to camp meeting every year.
The last few years of our camp meetings in Allegheny, we “moved up” graduating from a tent, to staying at the home of Elder and Mrs. Walter M. Starks. Elder Starks later became the first President of Allegheny West and after a few months, became the first (I believe) Stewardship Director for the General Conference.
Now that I look back on the experience, staying with the Starks’ was probably an even more amazing feat than managing in a tent. My parents had 4 children-which seems now like anenormous number of children to me, especially since my mother did not work outside the home for many years and all 4 of us were in church school (how did they do that?). But the Starks had an even bigger family, I think they had seven children! And, the Starks opened their home toanother family, besides us, for camp meeting!
It is a wonderful tribute to the graciousness of the Starks’ that, until now, I never even thoughtabout how difficult it must have been to have that many people in your home for almost 2 weeks(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), in a house that already had a zillion people in it and NEVER give the slightest hint that it was a bother.
We must have eaten in shifts, gotten dressed in shifts, I have no idea how we managed. But we had a wonderful time.
Elder Starks is gone now, along with both of my parents, but “Aunt Dorothy” (Mrs. Starks, one of the sweetest people you will ever meet) is still alive. I hope she reads this in fact, I am going to send it to her and give her a big “Thank you” for being the most gracious host in history.
The point is, I have been going to camp meeting forever (I almost started to say for how long), but I cannot remember being more blessed than I was at this past camp meeting in the South Central Conference.
Lest that sound immodest, please let me be very clear: I am not, taking any credit, I cannot take any credit whatsoever for anything good that happened at this past camp meeting. I did not preach a single sermon or sing a single song or give a single seminar.
That is not to say that a lot of work did not go into camp meeting, to the contrary. From my position, camp meeting is a grueling, exhausting, expensive endeavor. We give our staff the first 2 days after camp meeting off. The first day and a half after camp meeting this year, once I arrived back home, every time I sat down, I fell asleep. The Pastors, the office staff and everyone affiliated with putting together camp meeting, worked very hard. I am very proud to have been associated with them in this endeavor.
But I am very clear that it was God’s working and not our work that made camp meeting special-at least, special to me. To give just one example, Sabbath service the first weekend. If you were there, or if you saw it over the Internet, was there any doubt that God visited the Oakwood University Church that day?
If our planning could make what happened that day (and throughout camp meeting) happen, then, we would make it happen all the time. You can’t plan that, you can’t schedule that, all you can do is to thank God for that. And I do. I really do.
I had the privilege of being at another camp meeting on last weekend, I shall share that wonderful experience in our next article next week. I was amazed at how many people came up to me there and told me that they were either at our camp meeting or they watched it over the Internet and they were blessed.
For me, camp meeting was a “mountain top experience,” the preaching, the music, ordination, etc., what a wonderful blessing it was. I hope that it was for you as well. That was our prayer, and if we learned anything during camp meeting, we learned that things really do happen “When My People Pray”.
But more than blessing your soul, I hope and pray that Camp Meeting, 2013, changed your life-all of our lives-at least, in some way. For, at the end of the day, that is what camp meetings are all about.