Gary & Connie Simpson are Faith’s 100 missionaries who serve at Camp Gilead in Polk City, FL. As their summer camp season is winding down, Connie shared the following article with us.
I have been thinking about the necessity of camp for quite a while. Six weeks of summer camp requires a tremendous amount of year-round work. Extra staff is needed. Tons of food and snacks are purchased. Buildings are cleaned. Why? Camp makes a difference in lives!!!
Ask the campers who come to us from very dysfunctional families and find unconditional love through Jesus Christ, demonstrated to them by loving counselors.
Ask the campers who come here hungry, and are able to have three meals every day — with seconds.
Ask the kids who come from great Christian homes but their material possessions have become more important to them than God — and hear them say they have decided to go home and “Live for Jesus.”
Ask the newly saved young person who recently came to Camp Gilead for the first time. Coming from a home that has a nearly non-existent family structure, this young person is practically homeless — sleeping wherever a bed (or floor space) is available. Camp provided FUN, a bed to sleep in, food to fill the hollowness of the stomach, counselors and adults that care, & spiritual food to give strength as they return to a dismal life, having to be self-supporting at a young age.
Ask the young man who attended Camp Gilead and gave this testimony,
“I have been severely abused in my life. But that is NOT who I am. I am not defined by that. I am new in Christ.”
Ask Karen Edscorn Board, who came to Camp Gilead at age 9, from an unsaved family. She saw the joy of the Lord in her counselor, wanted that joy, understood her need and accepted Jesus as her Savior. Eventually, her entire family came to know the Lord. Karen and her husband, Randy, have spent 10 years serving as missionaries in China, teaching English. Their desire is to return to the mission field. Camp made a difference in this family — for 3 generations — Karen & her siblings, her parents, and now her children, nieces & nephews.
Ask the Camp Gilead Winter Volunteer, Twila Stidham. She and her husband are retired and come south each year to volunteer at camp. Twila was saved at camp as a teenager. She has a desire to see children come to know Christ while they are young. Camp was certainly significant in her life and she wants to see children come to know Him.
Ask young men in Russia. They came to know Christ because many years earlier a young teenage boy came to Camp Gilead and was saved. He returned to Camp Gilead for many years, grew in the Lord, completed college and went to Russia as a missionary. He even had Camp Gilead in Russia.
Ask the mother who e-mailed and said her daughter is now enthusiastic about living for Jesus.
Ask the young man who wrote to us a number of years ago, telling us his mother was in jail. His aunt & uncle paid for him to come to camp and being here helped him forget all his hardships. He grew closer in his walk with God and learned to pray. He met people who did not judge him because of his situation or lack of finances. He said “Camp Gilead has good role models for me.” We have learned that his mother has been released from jail, and he is preparing to go to college. He said to his aunt,
“I learned to pray at that camp you sent me to. I never stopped praying for my mom, I just did not think it would take so long.”
Ask me, Connie Simpson. As a young teen, I was saved on Palm Sunday. That following summer I had the opportunity to attend camp and I have two vivid memories of that week. For the first time ever, I read Psalm 51. My heart was broken over my sin. Later that week, I walked the dirt aisle of that rustic chapel, knelt, and promised the Lord that I would live for Him all my life, doing whatever He wanted me to do. That summer camp experience changed me! Little did I realize when I was only 14 years old, that someday I would be working at Camp Gilead.
God changes lives at camp. Which life will He change next?