Two statements sum up the reactions of many children and youth to their summer camp adventures the past two months at the Eastern PA Conference’s four Camp & Retreat Centers:
- “I feel so much more connected with God, personally” and
- “If you come here, you will make great memories and friends.”
Indeed, of 2,366 total campers who enjoyed great fun, food and fellowship while deepening their Christian faith, many returned home with memories and friendships that may last a lifetime. The same surely can be said of many summer camp staffs and volunteers.
The numbers of campers at each site rose far above 2021 attendance figures. But they must and, no doubt, will continue to climb to reach pre-COVID pandemic levels.
Pocono Plateau Camp in Cresco welcomed: 411 overnight campers; 24 paid summer staffers—including four international staff; 102 volunteers; four Campers in Leadership Training (CILT); and 350 retreat guests.
The camp’s 12 Adventure Site cabins were filled for the Youth Adventure camp for the first time in several years. “We hosted three campers from just outside Philadelphia through the Methodist Services organization, using funds from a UMCRM (UM Camping & Retreat Ministries) grant,” reports Carmen O’Shea, Site Director. “All three campers left with smiles, new friends and a desire to continue learning more about the Bible.”
Gretna Glen Camp in Lebanon, like Pocono Plateau, used the “Water of Life” summer camp curriculum and theme, drawn from Isaiah 43:2—“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.” Gretna Glen welcomed 1,229 campers over seven weeks, including 590 day campers.
“All those who came to our site were surrounded by an amazing crew of staff and volunteers,” reports Apryl Miller, Site Director. Forty summer staff, 75 volunteers and 12 CILTs “gave it their all to create a space away for campers to grow in love with the outdoors and learn about the living water that only our Lord can provide us.”
Gretna Glen also welcomed back Camp Can Do sibling-and-patient campers and their team of volunteers for two weeks of programs. (Learn about Camp Can Do.) “Seeing these campers who battle cancer with their siblings do all the usual camp activities is truly a beautiful experience,” says Miller.
She shared more comments from satisfied campers of all age levels:
- “It is one of the best camps I’ve been to. Awesome food. Awesome games. And in general, the best!”
- “I found deeper meaning in the Bible stories.”
- “The desserts are the best.”
- “Everyone was helpful and a joy to be around!”
- “Can I just live here for the food?”
- “I grew as a listener.”
Carson Simpson Farm Christian Camp in Hatboro used the theme “Discover Your Treasure,” offering a nine-week stewardship curriculum based on Matthew 6:21—“Where your treasure is, there your heart shall be also.”
Carson Simpson Farm (CSF) welcomed 335 campers, 51 summer staffers and seven volunteers. “We served two groups through our PEACE ministries program, reports Site Director Jonathan Curtis, “and we are excited to see that number grow higher next year.”
CSF’s camper population is becoming more diverse, Curtis said. “We estimate that for a majority of the nine weeks we operated, 40 percent of our campers were people of color.” He is excited to see the camp’s service area expand beyond its typical five-mile radius. Twenty percent of its campers came from beyond that radius; and 10 percent of day campers came from Philadelphia.
“God was present here this summer,” Curtis said, “and many children came to know him for the very first time.” Now CSF is preparing to host its first-time Worship Fest event Oct. 15.
Innabah in Spring City welcomed this summer: 391 campers (about 25 more than in 2021); 59 volunteers; 19 staffers; and 368 retreat guests.
“Our newly renovated dining hall was a huge hit,” reports Michael Hyde, Site Director. “The new flooring was incredible and so easy to keep clean. And the new air conditioning and windows, funded by the UMCRM grant, was a highlight for many.”
The Challenge Camp program (campers with intellectual disabilities) continues to thrive. “We are so blessed to have volunteers and staff who give of their time to provide a summer camp experience for these individuals,” said Hyde. “What a blessing to have kids at camp learning about God’s word!
Check out the four camps’ websites and Facebook pages to see colorful photos depicting some of their summer camp experiences.
- Websites: innabah.org, gretnaglen.org, poconoplateau.org, csfarm.org.
- Facebook pages: Gretna Glen; Innabah; Pocono Plateau; and Carson Simpson Farm.
Also view a YouTube video video that shows and tells about the joyful sharing of community, adventure and God’s love at all our summer camps.
Thanks to our four Camp & Retreat Center site directors for providing information and photos for this story.