The Camp Near a Nuclear Reactor: Another Response to Camping in Missouri

Imagine going to camp for the first time as a kid, closing the door to your cabin and reading the nuclear fallout evacuation plan posted on the back of the cabin door. (To this day, I don’t fully understand the purpose. The nuclear reactor was so close to the camp that if it exploded, it would be too late to evacuate.)

The cabin was rustic.  Sand was imbedded in every thin mattress. A sink, shower and swamp cooler offered the only relief from 100 degree nights. Rustic, but it taught me to love church camping.  Every year we went by districts, reunited with old friends and made new ones.  Over the years, I returned to that setting as camper, counsellor, camp director, and ropes course facilitator. People like Billy Strayhorn, Mike and Terri Ford, Mary Gean Cope, and Dean Posey mentored me into the ministry of camping.

During my sophomore year at Lon Morris College, I spent every weekend rebuilding United Methodist camp that had been hit by a tornado. The A-frame chapel was split in two. Trees were ripped out of the ground. The shell covering the basketball court was found in the next county. I helped the “UM Army” teams every weekend so that camp could reopen the following summer.

Years later, after a week at Frontier Camp in Buena Vista, CO, I accepted the challenge to go to Brite Divinity School at TCU to pursue a Master of Divinity, specializing in Recreational Ministry. My goal at the time was to be a camp site director. While keeping the relationship with my childhood camp, I left TCU for full employment in youth ministry in a different conference and began a relationship with yet another camp.

The call to return to seminary persisted and I moved to Missouri.  In my first year at Saint Paul School of Theology, I was asked to help with camping. I am grateful to Sarah and Bret Fagan for including the “new guy” in Missouri camping. We did some crazy things in our attempt to transform lives. For instance, in the pitch of night, while telling the story of Jesus walking on water, Bret stood in the darkened lake on milk crates submerged in the water in order to appear walking on water. For him, it was agonizing, but it resulted in many giving their lives to Christ that night.

That experience began my involvement with Missouri United Methodist camping. I have since served on the Camping Commission, started and directed a camp, helped raise money to fund a new camp pool, contributed to that campaign, and started a church that pays 50% of all camper fees. I have served in four annual conference’s camping programs. I provide this background to show that I have a broad understanding of church camping which has led to me forming a deeply held opinion on the Missouri Annual Conference taking a different direction in camping.

This Blog, and the three that follow, will discuss why I am convinced this is not a rash decision. The direction of our camping program for the past fifteen years has led inevitably to our present circumstances.


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