Some time ago I was asked to bring a group together to share their stories on camp meeting. That same day the Adventist Review asked me to write my own camp meeting testimony. So this reminiscence is a story about camp meeting inside a camp meeting story—a story of my invitation to share a testimony in the Spanish tent of the Central California Conference’s Soquel camp meeting. My story was to be part of the launch of their annual event.
As I was getting ready to share my story I saw Pastor Alejandro Bullón, the week’s designated speaker. I was a Peruvian youth setting eyes on Adventism’s most famous Peruvian for the first time, at a camp meeting on America’s west coast. I was a freshly graduated young pastor, and many emotional thoughts surged within me. Before me was this renowned international evangelist with so much to say. But for now, I was to speak to him and all of the congregation.
Nervous, I shared my testimony, simple but very meaningful to me, of being mistreated during my canvassing in San José, but later, because of my insistence and perseverance, having a man decide to give God a chance in his life and accept Bible studies.
Testimony concluded, I was able to go over to Elder Bullón and get a photo with him. Then Elder Bullón preached. It’s one of the most memorable sermons I’ve ever heard. Because it was just for me: John 17 and the truth of the Logos, for a youth just graduated, canvassing for the summer, searching for ministry opportunities, with fog on his future, but knowing, despite the gloom of circumstances, that God had called. I had shared my testimony on the work of faith rewarded, but inside me there was more deep longing than high confidence.
Bullón shared about Jesus’ prayer, both for His disciples back then and for others, me and all the rest, who would later believe (John 17:20). I saw myself in there, one of those later disciples Jesus prayed for. The truth of the Logos went right through my heart. Tears were falling from my eyes; I felt Jesus’ prayer; I felt His Word set me free. I had shared a testimony, but now the testimony of the Scriptures had opened my eyes. I walked up a mountain trail on the campsite’s perimeter to pray and reconnect with God as never before; I saw the sea and saw clearly the same God of heaven that the man saw. I was a new person; I had felt the “heartburn” that comes only from God. I was renewed. I shared it with friends in the tents. Since that day God has opened doors for me as never before, all at the right time. He is so good.
In summary, camp meeting is a great opportunity to fellowship with family and friends, and to connect with saints from everywhere. But it’s more. It’s a time to renew your walk with God; to remember Jesus’ prayer for you, and for His plans that you can accept as your plans. It is a time to share testimonies, testimonies that will last forever, testimonies inside other testimonies—like this one; testimonies that sustain the cycle of joyous faith, round and round and on and on, inspiring new experiences of joy in the Lord
Jenner B., Laurel, Maryland
Camp meeting, what’s that? Camp meeting—a concept not in my vernacular, until a family friend invited our family on a trip to the country, on a Saturday. And so, as an impressionable teenager, I traveled with my mother, a few hours from our home in New York City to this friend’s cherished event: a camp meeting.
Our family regularly attended religious services on Sunday and cherished the Christian training of our Baptist church. From American slavery to that camp meeting day our heritage was engrained in the Baptist tradition. To this day, my great-grandfather, emancipated in 1863, along with his wife, have their names embedded in the stained-glass window of a Baptist church still standing in the woods of the rural South. They, their children, their children’s children—my parents—were entrenched in the Baptist culture. This Saturday trip to a religious meeting seems to have piqued my mother’s interest. Alternately, her loyalty to the family friend inspired her to consent to the trip. Whatever the reason we were on our way, and in a while had arrived at a lovely country setting.
“The sun was shining brightly and so were the faces of the people I observed.”
I saw tents and cabins and a huge pavilion. The sun was shining brightly and so were the faces of the people I observed. My mother conversed freely as her friend introduced her to strangers. The most vivid memory of my susceptible teenage mind was of strangers my age dressed in church apparel, chatting happily together: the glow on their faces was almost palpable. Their healthy glow, smiles, and wholesome persona were striking. It was remarkable. That moment and that picture of these camp meeting teenagers is frozen in time in my memory bank. An overwhelming sentiment, almost audible, arose in my thinking: I want to be like them!
That was my first camp meeting, without even knowing what camp meeting was. It left an impression, a desire, a yearning to be more like them, which, in essence, was to be more like Jesus. After all, wasn’t Jesus their reason for camp meeting!
Sometime thereafter, when the Spirit-empowered evangelist came to New York and shone the bright light on all 10 of God’s commandments, my mother took the bold step of adding the three angels’ messages onto her Baptist Christian foundation. So now, as members, we went on our own to camp meeting, faithful family friend now deceased. What a glorious meeting the next one with that friend will be!
Camp meeting—what’s that? It’s the place where my soul caught new fire, a greater desire to be more like Jesus.
Jacqueline Galloway Blake lives in Detroit, Michigan, and hosts a weekly radio show named “Save Our Black Boys.”
For more than three decades in the Central California Conference, camp meeting for me was a single-day affair: Sabbath.
Who’s the big name speaking at the divine hour? I attended one Sabbath per year, to hear that preferred speaker and nothing else.
Then everything changed when one of my teenage granddaughters found a job at the campsite; now I had to be there for the full 10 days. Planning and preparations for the event were well worth it: this would be grandpa’s opportunity to bond with his granddaughter.
The bonding moments barely lasted two days: she found more satisfaction working long hours and making new friends; Grandpa was little more than her chef and butler. I had lived long enough to forget how the teenage years overflow with energy; how sleep comes second to fun and friendships. Still, I was excited to see her make so many friends in a short time. Pretty soon her waking hours were split between work, meetings, and just hanging out—it was the most social interaction I had ever seen her experience.
In the meantime I turned to the camp meeting calendar to select events I was interested in. To my surprise, camp meeting had more to offer that just some select Sabbath speaker. My days grew busy too: morning and evening worship services, workshops, even time to visit with friends and make new friends as well. By the end of camp meeting I wanted to do this whole thing all over again.
Last year my camp meeting experience took on new dimensions; in addition to one teenager, I also took two 11-year-olds and a 7-year-old. Planning and prepping were still intense. But I rejoiced at the excitement that shone on the faces of my three younger granddaughters. Ten days with Grandpa in a camper—they couldn’t wait! Then reality set in for me: I would be the lone two-generation older soul trying to manage four irrepressible grandkids. What was I thinking? Or perhaps, what were their parents thinking?
The date arrived and I settled in for this new adventure, totally unsure of how it would work. But bless their hearts, my grandkids’ parents had trained them well: they were organized and demonstrated maturity well beyond their years. They soon registered for all of the activities in their age group and located their meeting places. As the days went by, I could tell that they were loving it and that they, too, were making friends along the way. I got less free time to attend meetings, since they were usually out before the adult events were over. However, watching their excitement at just being there and getting to participate in age-appropriate events was a sure thrill for me. Grandpa had done the right thing in bringing his grandkids to camp meeting.
But the greatest thrill for me came when we met for Thanksgiving and they approached me together with glee in their eyes and an important question—about going back to camp meeting.
So, yes! A new generation is falling in love with camp meeting. Indeed, as I write this in April, we are all headed to Ottawa, Canada, for summer vacation. Exciting as that is, their grave concern is: “Are we getting back in time for camp meeting?” You know my answer.
Steve M., Palo Alto, California
I remember like it was just yesterday: one of my fondest memories of camp meeting. My dad was working at the headquarters of the former East Africa Division in Zimbabwe, so I was there until about 12 years old. Camp meeting, an Adventist world church tradition, was a family affair, and families came in groups.
Families prepared all year for camp meeting; they looked forward to it. Special outfits were made in preparation for camp meeting. It definitely felt like a banquet in honor of God. In some instances we stayed there for a week; sometimes it was just three days. We stayed in cabins out in the country. I loved the road trips, meeting and making new friends. Camp meeting became more than a tradition; it became a way to reconnect with other believers. The themes were inspirational and had a greater meaning behind them. I loved hearing the children’s stories. There were songs and good preaching. Children were provided with good speakers. I participated in well-prepared children’s activities. Families would eat together and enjoy worship together.
“Young as I was, camp meeting helped strengthen my spiritual foundation and brought me into the presence of God in a way that I did not experience at church.”
Most camp meetings were held in outdoor settings. I learned a lot about the Bible and about nature, God’s second book. It taught me to appreciate nature and creation. I saw many kids getting baptized, giving their lives to God. There was also the memorable visit of a choir from South Africa that sang so powerfully it made me think of how heaven would be with all that singing.
Young as I was, camp meeting helped strengthen my spiritual foundation and brought me into the presence of God in a way that I did not experience at church. Being in nature and being around so many different people was just a beautiful experience. I may have been very young, but those memories have helped shape me into the woman of God that I am and strive to be.
Why is camp meeting so important in the Adventist Church? To me as a child, camp meeting meant stepping out of your comfort zone and being in the presence of God while fellowshipping with others who came from different parts of Zimbabwe or other countries close by.
And in Zimbabwe or wherever else, it’s always an amazing experience to hear various perspectives from others while you are at camp meeting. By the time I was 8 years old I had already lived in two other countries. I can say that camp meeting helped me develop a wider worldview at a young age, and it works in America too, with people coming from everywhere. Though I’m not a kid anymore I still think that being a part of camp meeting was an experience of a lifetime. I come from a family of pastors: my grandfather was very much involved in camp meeting as an evangelist, and now my father has passed the banner on to his children. So what about you? Yes, go ahead: hoist your own camp meeting banner!
Tanya M., Beltsville, Maryland