Celebrating a Vision


Several summers ago, an older gentleman arrived to drop his granddaughter for a week of summer camp. He followed behind her as she passed through the registration line like she had done it several times and excitedly ran off to join her counselor and cabin. Later, I noticed him sitting on the picnic table, gazing over the ball field. I wrapped up a few things at the registration table and went over to speak with him. Not knowing his connection to camp, I greeted and asked, “Sooo, how did you find out about camp?” It’s a common question I ask when meeting people at camp, but I wasn‘t ready for his response.

Bender Family observe Pine Lake in the early days.

Bender Family observe Pine Lake in the early days.

He looked at me over his glasses and began to tell me about the early days when there was nothing here but a lake and a house. He spoke about when he was with several people who hiked around what would become Pine Lake Fellowship Camp; at the time there were only pine trees to be seen. But as they walked, one gentleman shared his vision of “building a cabin here and another cabin here; a large gathering area down here.” On and on they walked and more vision was cast. How great it would have been to be in that group walking around this place? I can only imagine what this man, sitting on a picnic table years later must have been thinking as he gazed over the lake.

I imagine he was grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the beginning of camp. Thankful to see how God has developed Pine Lake to be a place for those to draw closer to Him. I imagine he was overjoyed that his granddaughter was receiving this experience decades after he was walking through a blank canvas.

Of course, this place could have remained a blank canvas used only for hunting and fishing if it were not for the vision of camp with the purpose of reconciliation that took root in several people. Through discussion, prayer, & discernment, others caught the same vision for a little tract of land that would be a place of retreat, reconciliation, & transformation for generations to follow.

Pine Lake minutes

Over 50 years old: Hand written minutes from the first meeting on November 20, 1965 of what would become Pine Lake Fellowship Camp.

On November 20, 1965, “a group of eight persons interested in the development of a church camp near Meridian, Mississippi, met to discuss plans. Those present were Nevin & Esther Bender, Glenn & Emma Myers, Titus & Ann Bender, Ann Zimmerly, & Mildred Bender. The purpose is to provide and promote Christian fellowship and recreation (from the meeting minutes). At that meeting, a vision was sparked into life that would paint a picture which continues to add brush strokes year after year.


That exploratory meeting could not have happened, but they were faithful with the vision laid on hearts. Today, we’re grateful for all those who were at the exploratory meeting on November 20, 1965, and many others individuals and churches who jumped on board to support taking steps of faith in the development of Pine Lake Fellowship Camp.

Praise the Lord for those who allowed His spirit to lead them in starting this ministry 50 years ago. Please celebrate Pine Lake Fellowship Camp with us as we enter our semi centenary in 2016. Join us for a celebration of God’s faithfulness on Labor Day weekend, September 2-5, 2016!

Written by Matt Graybill, Executive Director of Pine Lake Fellowship Camp.