Executive Editor’s Note: The “Moving the Conversation Forward” article by Associate Editor Allan Eakin in the Dec. 20 issue introduced a series of articles we would feature at the beginning of the new year. The first of these articles — “How Do We Associate?” — appeared in the Jan. 10 issue.
In the Jan. 17 issue, we shared the stories of the two oldest ministries of the Baptist Missionary Association of Arkansas — State Missions and the Baptist Trumpet.
In the Jan. 24 issue, we shared the stories of the two largest ministries — BMA Global (Missions) and Lifeword — that are made possible because of the national association of churches, the Baptist Missionary Association of America (BMAA).
In the Jan. 31 issue, we shared the stories of the two departments that help maintain the identity of our association — BMA Theological Seminary and Baptist Publishing House.
In the Feb. 7 issue, we are shared about two national ministries that help churches extend the reach of what they could do on their own — Moral Action Agency and BMA Financial.
In this issue, we are wrapping up this series by sharing about the ministries that seek to reach the next generation with the gospel — the Arkansas Youth Department, Central Baptist College and Daniel Springs Camp. (All articles in this series are being made available and accessible to everyone at BaptistTrumpet.com. Look for the “Why An Association of Churches?” Series graphic.)
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, a group of people dreamed of the BMA of America having their own camp facility. Through that dream, partnership across the association, financial donations and a lot of work, the Daniel Springs Baptist Camp facilities opened its gate in 1965 for its first ministry opportunity through summer camps.
Over the years, the camp ministry has been a place where groups have looked forward to summer camps, but it is exciting to see the facilities expand to also host events and retreats throughout the year for men, women, college students, high school and junior high students, children and families.
Located in Gary, Texas, deep within the piney woods of East Texas, sits the beautiful 54-acre property that has been a location and a catalyst for missions. Much of the mission field the camp invests in comes to the headquarters in Gary. Daniel Springs Camp gets the amazing opportunity to be an extension of the local church. Through that partnership, testimonies of pastors and individuals tell of how God has moved in and through their lives while at a camp or a retreat. The camp continues to be the place they could go back to and say, “That was the place I heard from the Lord and responded.” It has also been exciting to hear from those missionaries who are serving all over the world about how their journey started at Daniel Springs.
Every summer, the camp takes up a summer offering to invest in ministries that are working to further the kingdom. Some of those ministries have been the National Camp of the BMA of the Philippines, The Master’s Builders and Everlasting Smile Shoeboxes. For many years, the camp would send small teams from the United States to travel to the Philippines and partner with the BMA National Philippines Camp. More recently, we have been able to send the summer missionary staff to West Texas to help with an associational camp at the beginning of summer. The ministry is on the move, locally and globally.
Since the beginning, Daniel Springs Camp has been a place to invest in people. I became director in 2015, and my family and I are excited about many more years of serving in this ministry. There were some great men who led this ministry and laid the foundation for the ministry we have today. Each of these men would say they were not alone in this calling because each family member had their own part in leading, helping and investing. Eugene Gaunt was the first to take the title of camp director. He and his family served from 1965 to 1979. James Speer became camp director in 1980 and he and his family served until 2014.
Each director and their family has seen ups and downs, but each one would testify that seeing and hearing testimonies of how the Lord has used the ministry of Daniel Springs to change lives has made a lifelong impact on their lives. These men and their families can testify that the ministry they were/are called to was/is too big for them alone.
The list of volunteers who have poured into the ministry would take a lifetime to tell. Those who have invested time, resources and financial gifts have allowed the camp to be an extension of the church and continue to do so. Each drop of sweat, financial blessing, building built and event held has been an investment in people, and that investment is worth it for the gospel. Each year, countless people have come and invested their time, whether a week during the summer or all summer long, into the ministry purpose of Daniel Springs Camp. Church leaders and volunteers are making an eternal difference by giving of their time to bring kids to camp. Making and building relationships and showing the love of Christ has and continues to change lives.
There is also a special group of people who have chosen to invest their whole summer. Those who choose to become part of the staff are summer missionaries. They travel from all over the US to the campus of Daniel Springs, dreaming of seeing someone else’s life changed. They work, day in and day out, for 8 to 10 weeks, leading others, loving on people and making sure the facilities are ready before and after every camp. They spend the summer with a group of people who are walking this journey alongside them each step of the way. The prayer has been and always will be that this summer of missional work and investment would be another way the Lord leads these summer missionaries into a life on mission to share the gospel.
Words cannot express how thankful the ministry is that so many have invested in the ministry of Daniel Springs Camp. Many of the buildings that were built in the beginning were built by churches and individuals who had a heart to invest in summer camps. The countless volunteers who have helped with facility upkeep and improvements over the years continue to make the camp a welcoming place for the gospel to touch lives. Those who have partnered financially have invested not only in buildings and maintenance but also in people.
The hope and dream of Daniel Springs Camp is to continue to be a place and a ministry that takes every opportunity to point people to the love of Christ. We want kids and adults alike to be impacted by the gospel and enter into an eternal relationship with Jesus Christ. We want to be an extension of the local church and partner with them to reach the world through a ministry called camp, both at the campus in Gary and around the world.
People ask all the time, “What does the camp need?” We need ministry partners. We need churches and individuals to walk in ministry with us. Some choose to come to a camp with other churches, and some choose to rent the facilities for their church alone. Some come to retreats with groups from their church or come with other churches. Either way, everyone has been blessed because we all realize we are not in life alone.
Many have been financial contributors, and we need more. Many realize that costs continue to increase, and I hate the idea of continuing to raise prices. The camp has been blessed to have over 140 churches and individuals who have partnered with the camp financially over the last year. Those financial contributions allow the camp not to have to charge the total amount of what it truly takes to offer ministry programming, meals and facility maintenance. We need more financial partners to allow the camp to continue to offer more exciting and inviting ministry programs and update and improve facilities so people of all ages will be excited to come. That investment is not just in programs and facilities but in people to hear the gospel.
The goal has always been, and continues to be, finding creative ways to love people so they will see the Lord. We desire to continue seeing Daniel Springs Camp’s ministry as a place where the Lord changes lives.
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