By Guest blogger, Lee Martin
A recent week at Pine Lake with a work group from our church in Virginia brought back some wonderful memories of the time I lived in Mississippi as a young adult. I believe it was the summer of 1980, while serving as a counselor at Pine Lake for a week of teen camp, that one of my most memorable camp experiences took place with the seven guys in my cabin.
A couple of African-Americans and one Choctaw boy came along with me from Mashulaville, where I was in Voluntary Service. Also in our cabin that week were several white campers from the Meridian area and a Cajun boy from Louisiana. As we sat together at one of the round picnic tables in the pavilion for our first meal, it was painfully apparent that these guys were not sure what in the world they had gotten themselves into. My attempts at getting conversation going were met with silence, and it was obvious that they didn’t trust each other and really weren’t sure they wanted to. I joined them in wondering what I had gotten myself into, and began preparing for the likelihood of a difficult week ahead.
“…a week of life together at Pine Lake had broken down that dividing wall.”
But, as always, God was present and at work among us in ways far beyond our ability to imagine or control. A group of teenage guys can’t be quiet forever, and the daily routines and special activities of camp life required some interaction. Conversation began happening tentatively, and then more naturally. Bit by bit these guys were beginning to see and know each other as unique individuals with gifts and experiences that made our cabin group a one of a kind “body” with different but complimentary parts (I Corinthians 12). The last night the guys decided we should sleep out on the island around the fire, and I listened in awe as they spontaneously began talking about how they had viewed each other with fear and mistrust that first day together, and how a week of life together at Pine Lake had broken down that “dividing wall” (Ephesians 2). They shared challenges they faced in their homes and schools, and how the sort of friendships they developed with each other that week were hard to find elsewhere. It was a powerful God moment following a week-long God movement in our midst that I will never forget. Pine Lake was clearly fulfilling its founding mission of reconciliation through Christ in a world of mistrust, division and walls.
This is one of my favorite memories among many others of how Christian camping has profoundly shaped my life. I made my first public profession of faith in Christ at camp in Pennsylvania as a boy. Serving as a counselor at Highland Retreat in Virginia while in high school was the first time I recall actually engaging in ministry, and I was drawn back there on summer staff a number of years. Various involvements at Pine Lake during my three years in Mississippi are still a highlight. And, it was at Highland Retreat as summer staff members that my wife Peg and I connected in a way that moved us from friendship to marriage. Our wedding was at Highland and we served there on year round staff for 12 years.
It was a joy to return to Pine Lake Fellowship Camp the week of Feb. 20-27, 2016 and see that it continues to thrive and grow as a place of reconciliation and transformation through the power and presence of God’s Holy Spirit. To God be the glory!
See photos of Lee’s work team in our 2016 Spring into Service gallery.