Hundreds of people from all over the U.S. arrived last week for the 128th annual Indian Springs Holiness Camp Meeting in Flovilla.
Worshippers filled every tabernacle at the Indian Springs Holiness Camp Ground July 13, with more people expected to arrive during the weekend for the 10-day event.
Zera Ruth Luce, 3, carefully placed a stuffed toy on one of the benches honoring the campground’s founders. With a little help from her aunt Sara Sides, Zera lined up hickory nuts for a miniature congregation.
Just a few steps away, Zera’s grandfather Steve Luce, president of the Indian Springs Holiness Camp Meeting, was in the main tabernacle listening to a Bible study program.
Zera has not yet missed a camp meeting, Sides said.
“I think I missed one, so I’ve been coming 30 years,” Sides said. “Zera was here when she was very little. It’s really a nice place.”
Worshippers filled the Snackateria to buy books, many of them by the Rev. Mark Nysewander, the evangelist who had just finished speaking. Among them were Paula Castleberry of Eclectic, Ala., who said she appreciated the well-marked roads in and around the campground.
“It’s my first time here,” Castleberry said. “My family comes from this area.”
Also browsing for books were Duane and Anne Kline. Duane Kline, who lives in northern Kentucky, is a former principal of Jackson High School and director of operations for the Butts County School System. He is now the principal of Owen County High School in Owenton, Ky.
“We’ve been coming to the camp meeting about 18 years now,” Duane Kline said. “I’m not sure if the teaching or the singing is the best part. We like it.”
He added that he and Anne had come down early to attend funeral services for the late Bob Carrick, a longtime school resource officer here.
Anne Kline noted that her son was working with the ‘tween ministry this year.
“Our kids are scattered to the four corners but my sons come every year,” Anne Kline said. “They’ve been through all the ministries, from the nursery to the adults.”
Ann Smith, pointing out her family cottage, said her family has been coming for six generations now.
“It started with my great-grandparents, then my grandparents, parents, me, my children and now my grandchildren,” Smith said. “They all love it. I’ve been coming my entire life. My great-grandmother was born in 1904 so she came to camp meeting from the time she was a little girl.”
Sylvia Boykin Neff is another lifelong camp meeting participant. She grew up in Macon but now lives in Asbury, Ky., where she is affiliated with Asbury University, one of the seminaries supported by the Indian Springs Camp Meeting.
“When you come here your whole life, some of your first memories are of this campground and it’s hard to be away from it,” Neff said. “There’s a lot of history here. The houses come and go, but some of these families have been coming for more than a century. For so many people, this is their happy place. It’s like a little town.”
Neff was looking forward to Saturday’s 5K Run/Walk for Missionaries, which winds its way through the camp ground not once but three times.
“Not everybody runs,” Neff said. “Most of those who don’t can be seen on their porches, cheering us all on. ”
As lunchtime neared and the sound of prayer meetings for all ages drifted through the trees, Abigail Smith settled herself at the end of the cafeteria line.
“I worked here last summer and volunteered to help,” she said. “I usually work in the nursery.”
Mary Thurman headed up a staff of 16 workers and volunteers who were working in the kitchen this year after the February death of longtime cafeteria manager Barbara Pike of Monticello.
“I worked with Barbara for 20 years,” Thurman said. “We stepped in to run the cafeteria this year.”
In addition to daily services and Bible study, Missionary Day at the Indian Springs Camp Meeting is set for July 19. This year’s missionaries are John and Beth Muehleisen of World Gospel Mission. They have served in Kenya and Uganda and recently have trained African evangelists, church planters and missionaries.
John is the regional strategist for WGM Africa, working with mission and national church ministry teams. Beth is the business manager for WGM Uganda. Together they are the mission’s community health empowerment coordinators for East Africa.
Founded in 1890, the camp meeting draws families to worship services featuring old-time camp meeting singing with preaching by evangelists and Bible teachers. Speakers and ministry leaders for the 2018 camp meeting include the Rev. Nelson Perdue, the Rev. Bill Ury, John Vermilya and Nysewander.