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August 15, 2003


Bishop's Corner

Camps for Christ

By Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker
The fragrant aroma of pine straw baking under a southern sun will always be associated with the call of Christ in my own memory. My response to the call of Jesus Christ to “follow me” did not begin at a church camp, but it was confirmed and clarified there at a formative moment when I was making significant decisions that would determine the future of my life. It took place at Camp Wesley Pines, the retreat center owned by the Mississippi Conference of The Methodist Church.

I did not want to go to a church camp, but I consented reluctantly under pressure from my parents, friends and other adults. To my surprise I enjoyed it. Most of all, I discovered other youth who were living a joyful and committed Christian life. Under the influence of Christians my own age and with the help of caring adults serving as counselors, I made decisions at church camp to commit to Christ and to the ordained ministry.

My experience at Camp Wesley Pines is not unlike the experience of thousands of persons who have attended camps and retreats at the Warren W. Willis Youth Camp and the Life Enrichment Center in Leesburg or at the two other camps in the Jacksonville and Ft. Myers districts. Support of these camp and retreat facilities and programs is one of the best investments that we United Methodists in Florida can make in the cause of Christ.

One of the items on the agenda of the Conference Table will be the evaluation of the operations of the camps and retreat centers of the Florida Conference. What is our vision for the long-term use and development of all of our facilities? What should be the role of the two facilities in Jacksonville and Ft. Myers in relationship to the facilities in Leesburg? What changes need to be made in policies so that the facilities and programs do not have to require financial support from the apportionments to local churches?

Many persons have contributed much over the years so that the Florida Conference could have the facilities and programs we have today. As a result, many lives have been transformed at these beautiful places. We need to explore what we need to do in the future so that we can provide camps and retreats of the highest quality to serve the mission of the church in the 20th century.

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