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DUGSPUR — Tucked in the trees behind Calvary Baptist Church, the scene from Mountain View Bible Camp is truly pastoral, a fitting place for its mission.
2011 served as the 65th anniversary of Mountain View, and the 64th camp at this site overlooking a picturesque line of hills behind green fields. It was the first Bible camp set up in Hillsville, before moving to its current location the next year.
Parents have come to collect their kids from the six weeks of camp, where Pastor John LaMontagne spent his second year as director.
He continues the traditions of the camp originally started by Richard McHenry, before he moved on to found Joy Ranch home for children.
Those mainstays include hiking, roasting marshmallows, swimming in the pool, playing games, paddling on the creek, crafting and sharing fellowship.
Campers are told to leave their hi-tech gadgets at home, so they won’t be tempted to play video games or text during the day’s 2.5 hours worth of Bible study and inspirational speakers.
“We still hold to the tradition of camp — campfires are big, some kids have never had a campfire,” the pastor said, “It’s like how camping was 50 years ago — it helps them focus and start building relationships.”
The pool is also one way the campers have to beat the summer heat.
Mountain View relies on shady trees and fans and keeps the children hydrated. There is no air conditioning.
The simplicity of the camp helps in sharing the message of the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made in dying on the cross for the world. “It’s presenting kids with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
A relative latecomer to camping himself, LaMontagne got involved with camping ministries as he studied at the Pensacola Theological Seminary.
His wife attended Christian camps in Maine and New Hampshire while growing up in New England, but LaMontagne didn’t go until he was 16. Once he started working at Christian camps, he was hooked.
He’s glad that Calvary contacted his school’s recruitment office, looking for a pastor who would also lead the camp.
“I surrender my life to preach,” LaMontagne said. “I had a desire or a heart for Christian camping. This is where God led me.”
The giving nature of the people here and the beauty of the surroundings at the Dugspur church also pulled him in.
Christiana Wing has attended Mountain View for seven or eight years now, with other members of her family. Her parents first discovered it when they were invited to share their experiences as Christian missionaries with the camp.
She looks forward to summer camp all year, traveling from Statesville, N.C.
This year, the Wings also brought first-time camper Emma Karraker.
“We’re going on a hike tomorrow and I’m really excited,” Karraker said while stringing tiny beads onto a necklace alongside a glass cross. “I like being outside.”
The camp has been around long enough that the third generations of families are coming today.
Al Pinkerton served as the church pastor for 53 years and still lives next door.
He and wife Lois watched the camp grow from five acres to its present 21. They can recall a year where they hosted 300 campers over the summer.
When time came to turn over the ministry, the Pinkertons simply moved from the parsonage to Lois’ mother’s house next door.
They didn’t want to go far from the place they’ve called home for so long.
“We were cooking for the last week of camp and all the church members were walking with my belongings to this house,” she recalled.
The camp continued with lots of assistance over the years in order to reach out to the youth.
Whether it’s been from the volunteers — everyone from the cook to the counselors to the director — or donors, the camp has grown with minimum debt.
“Everything we have was built by prayer,” LaMontagne said. “We keep tuition low so kids can come to camp without worrying about finances.”
The camp has a website at www.mtviewbiblecamp.com