I have been attending Family Camp at Camp Gilead since I was "in the womb." Seriously ... my parents started coming to Family Camp in 1974, and they loved it so much that we have only missed one year since then! For our family it wasn't, "are we going to go?" but rather ... "when is it?"
For me, family camp meant new friends, reconnecting with old friends, hot summer days, 4th of July fireworks, eating meals with other families, late nights and great chapels.
We just finished up another week of family camp this past week. The weather was amazing and we had an incredible group of GREAT families that attended this year. Some have come for years while others experienced their "first" family camp week.
One of the highlights for me is to see past summer staff bring their own families back to Gilead for a week of Family Camp. We had a couple of staff alumni families, Sara Counts and her two kids as well as Faith and Darren Bridges and their daughter.
But there was one "staff alumni" that really stole the show this week. His name was Leland Haggerty and he was here with his son and his grandson. Leland is 95 years old! Leland stayed in the lodge with his son and grandson and worked his way around the camp with a walker and a cane. It was such a blessing to see him and hear his perspective on camp.
He shared with us that he was with Forrest Johnson when he came out to meet Elma Jenkins Faul, who would donate the Carnation Chicken Farm Property to Tabernacle Baptist Church of Seattle for a Christian youth camp. WOW! The stories he told! (My husband Josh Mallory spent an afternoon filming him sharing his stories!)
As the week wound down, we gathered around the campfire in the Victory Circle. Children, moms and dads all shared about how they were blessed throughout the week. Comments were made about the speaker, Mark Suko, about the staff and how they served the family campers, about the relationships built and about many other aspects of a week at Gilead.
After the sharing began to quiet down, Tom Ruhlman (my dad as well as the camp pastor) asked Leland to pray. His strong voice bellowed as he spoke to his God. He thanked God for the inner workings of what it takes to run a camp. He spoke clearly as one who knows about the "staff" side of camp ministry. He challenged us to burn brightly for our Lord in all the places we go. It was moving and incredibly touching to hear Leland pray and to realize that he was soaking in everything about Camp Gilead just as the rest of us were. He was given the rare opportunity to see a dream realized. A dream that had started in the 1940's and that dream was continuing to flourish through the blessing of the Lord.
It was a special week at Family Camp. I know many consider coming each year, but for different circumstances are not able to. I challenge you to clear your calendar for 2014. You will be encouraged, challenged, blessed and your family relationships will be strengthened!
See you in 2014!
Camp Gilead Program Director