SILOAM SPRINGS – Flashlight? Check. Sunscreen? Check. Bible? Check.
Camp season is upon us, and students are packing their bags in anticipation. But how does the camp staff get ready for summer?
“Camp readiness is both physical and spiritual,” said Jason Wilkie, executive director of Camp Siloam.
Camp Siloam’s home team (year-round staff) meets together once a month to accomplish big projects as soon as summer ends. Many men and women volunteer during the off-season to help the camp with many tasks.
“Our summer staff comes two weeks before camp and starts to train and get camp ready,” said Pat Moore, associate director of operations at Camp Siloam. “Generally, they are helping get bunkhouses ready, grounds looking great and activities prepared – such as the water slide, giant swing and volleyball court.”
Staffers must also personally prepare for the busy season.
“Physically, it is important to get plenty of exercise, stay hydrated and eat well,” said Moore. “Spiritually, I begin each day in His Word, reading over a solid devotional and praying. As fully devoted followers of Christ, we must stay connected to the Vine to see the Lord working in us and through us.”
The home team meets between four and five hours each week to pray for the camp and to study Scripture from September to March.
“I have to spend time with the Father in the days outside of summer camp. Each of our home team staff is poured out all summer, so we must be filled up by the time the summer staff arrives for orientation,” said Wilkie. “We prepare camp by getting our college staff’s hearts in the right place through worship, teaching and fellowship.”
Wilkie’s favorite tradition is the candlelight prayer walk on Saturday night before campers arrive. The summer staff gathers in the small worship center, and Wilkie reads John 1 with the lights out and one candle lit. The staff then comes up one by one and lights a candle. They leave the building and walk to the west end of the camp. As they walk in a way their light does not go out, they pray for the campers who are coming.
“When we get to the far ballfield, I ask them what lessons the light taught them,” said Wilkie. “Their responses are treasures to me, and their prayers lay a spiritual foundation for the summer.”
Last year, Camp Siloam hosted 5,800 campers. More than 450 campers made professions of faith, and 260 expressed interest in missions or full-time ministry.
“We are expecting around the same number of campers this summer, but we would not be surprised if we surpass 6,000,” said Moore.
This summer, Camp Siloam has acquired a yurt from a nearby camp. They have turned the yurt into a retail store and made the old store an additional bunkhouse for male campers. A traditional yurt is a portable, round tent covered with skins or felt and used as a dwelling by nomads in Central Asia.
Camp Siloam has also partnered with a new outfitter on the Illinois River and will offer kayaking to campers in the afternoon.
The biggest upgrade is the new cafeteria, Cedar Hall. The $3 million project opened in June 2018. Cedar Hall seats 900 and feeds 1,100. The cafeteria offers five serving lines, four drink stations, a salad bar and air conditioning.
“It’s just so nice to not have to sweat onto your chicken tenders during dinner,” said Wilkie.
The camp has made itself available to individuals this summer. One bunkhouse each for girls and boys has been set aside for children, June 17-21, and students, June 24-28, for campers to come without a church. These campers will be led by college students hired specifically for these weeks.
“We are humbled He uses us and this place to do His ministry,” said Moore. “We are privileged to see the gospel preached and God use it to redeem young people each week. The legacy of Camp Siloam to impact the lives of people each week, each summer and over many decades has been amazing to me.”
For 96 years, Camp Siloam has been a place to share the gospel with campers and where thousands of students have accepted Christ, but Wilkie finds the immeasurable things the most valuable.
“How do you measure the friendships that deepen here? The camper who all of a sudden feels like his pastor is a friend because he spent a week with him at camp?” said Wilkie. “How valuable are the memories or the inspiration of a college student speaking into a young person’s life? What kind of impact does our college staff make when they come back to the BCM excited about ministry and confident in sharing the gospel?”
Contact Sarah Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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