Off the Beaten Path but Still on Mission

October 27, 2013
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Off the Beaten Path but Still on Mission

Off the beaten path. That phrase describes the Camp McCall perfectly. Tucked away among the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains northwest of Greenville, it is one of the South Carolina Baptist Convention’s hidden treasures. At the center of this sprawling, rhododendron covered tract of alpine land, sits Lake Chillywater.

Lining its serene shore are the many activity sites open to the campers which are overseen by well-trained camp staffers. Situated on the north side of the lake is a large swimming area complete with water slide. On the opposite side of the lake is the Plumb Line. This elevated zip line carries campers from one side of a cove to the other where they splash into the lake’s cool water. Around the corner, nestled in the southwestern corner of the lake, sits the Drain Pipe. This 40 feet long water slide carries riders down the side of a hill dumping them, at top speed, into the lake. High above the northern shore of the lake are the 12  cabins where those who venture to Camp McCall reside during their stay. 

Getting to the camp may be a little difficult, but it is well worth the effort. The sheer beauty of its setting would be enough to make it worth the trip. But McCall has far more to offer than just its natural assets. The heartbeat of the camp is the mission of Jesus Christ. It began in 1960 as Camp Sunset. All along it has been associated with the Royal Ambassadors. That ministry has been used in Baptist churches for decades to instruct young boys and youth in the purpose of the church to reach the lost with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The foundation of missions is still the bedrock upon which Camp McCall is built. 

At the end of each of the various activities offered, the campers are debriefed. This debriefing turns the activities, like archery, Cobra dodge ball, and even sliding down the Drain Pipe, into object lessons which the staffers tie into scriptural truths. For instance, the staffers explained that in medieval times when an archer missed his target it was called a sin. This term was then applied to what we do when we fail to follow God. We sin by missing our target, God. All of our efforts to hit our target fall short of the mark. 

In addition to the activities, campers also participate in missions sessions each day. During these sessions campers are exposed to different places where the McCall staffers are taking the gospel. This emphasis on being personally responsible for taking the gospel to others encourages the campers to do the same. Missions is not something that is merely taught at McCall, it is lived out by the staffers themselves. As Camp Director Eddie Pettit, whose camp nickname is Honcho, described it, former Director Cliff Satterwhite decided in 1984 that the staffers needed to be personally involved in missions if they were to effectively teach missions to the campers. 

At present, two people groups, one in Malawi and the other in Peru, have been adopted by the staff of McCall. Staffers will go either to Peru or Malawi and live for extended periods of time. For example, this year, beginning in late August and continuing through mid-December, two staffers will be living in the Andes Mountains of Peru. They will travel from village to village living with the people and even working in the fields with them as they share the good news of Jesus Christ. This is not easy work. They will live in areas above 11,000 feet in elevation, in tiny villages with no running water, and in some cases, no electricity. 

As a result of the prolonged emphasis on personal missions, several of the staffers have become full-time missionaries. One is currently in the process of working towards a placement in Indonesia. Others are currently serving in Thailand and Uruguay. The impact of time spent at McCall has permanently impacted the lives of many of the staffers. Not all have become full- time missionaries, but they have gone on to be missionaries wherever they are. Some have become doctors and lawyers who continue to be involved in short-term missions work. 

While all of this is impressive, what is even more important is that many of the staffers were once campers. Some, such as Randy Vincent, known as Gunkin, practically grew up at the camp. Vincent started out washing dishes in Aunt Bea’s Kitchen and is now the assistant camp director. 

The reality of so many young men having been affected by their time spent at McCall as campers and staffers did not come about by accident. God led them to McCall. In addition to that, emphasis is placed upon mentoring and discipleship. As Director Pettit described the background of some of the staffers, it was obvious that God had moved in an extraordinary way not only to get them to the camp but to bring them to Himself. At present, one-half of the staffers come from broken homes. This is a fact that has not been lost by Pettit. He values the influence that he has over the young men under his watch-care as director. This came out when he said, “My passion is for developing a passion for God’s calling in the lives of our staffers.” When asked about his driving passion for the camp, Pettit replied, “To be effective you have to fall in love with it. It has to be a consuming passion. You have to have a spouse that understands that.” That love often involves 100-hour work weeks that begin at dawn and end after midnight. Pettit’s philosophy is summed up well by his personal motto, “If we take our eyes off ourselves we can accomplish a lot.”   
 
So while Camp McCall may be out of the way, it maintains a central position in the mission of God. Young boys from across the state of South Carolina as well as from neighboring states make the trek to the Sunset community, sometimes multiple times a summer, to experience the beauty of the camp. More importantly, as they come, they are challenged to be on mission with God. 

Quick Facts About McCall

  • Founded in 1960
  • 130,000 campers in its 52 years of operation
  • Average of 2500 campers for the RA camps each summer
  • 23,000 professions of faith have been made since 1960
  • Largest RA camp in the Southern Baptist Convention
  • Accredited by the Amercan Camp Association
  • 42 current staffers
  • Staffers are certified in First Aid, CPR, and AED
  • Certified lifeguard on duty at all times when campers are in the water
  • Off-season activities are available
  • Two onsite nurses

Keywords: camp mccall

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