“Oh next to my home, I love you Siloam.
It’s the land of a million smiles….”
The summers of my youth-years always meant a week at Siloam Springs Youth Camp. Siloam Springs was nestled in Northwest Arkansas. The accommodations were rustic. The food was camp food. Every year, however, we loaded buses and vans and caravanned to the mosquito infested ‘land of a million smiles’ to join other youth from around the state in worship, learning and fun. Each morning in worship and each evening in vespers, we sang the camp song whose introductory lyrics are printed above.
Youth camp is a time for developing friendships. A couple of decades after my last trip to Siloam Springs, I was pastoring in Macon, Georgia. A gentleman and his family walked down the aisle, during the hymn of invitation, to move their membership to our church. We looked at each other. He hesitantly asked, “Arkansas?” I responded quizzically, “Siloam Springs?” We both laughed. Repeatedly through the years, I’ve crossed paths in this ever-shrinking world with people I met at youth camp. It was a time of developing friendships.
Youth camp was also a time of intense spiritual development. Finding ourselves distanced from the distractions of life, we were able to focus on biblical texts, the words of competent teachers, and the small voice within each of us. I sensed God’s call to ministry at Siloam Springs. It’s a call that has sustained me throughout the years.
I walked to the AYMC this morning to send our youth off to Unidiversity. Later this summer, our children will travel to Camp Prism. These weeks will undergird their faith, undergird the future of the church, and provide an opportunity for relationships that will last a lifetime. Keep our students in your prayers as they head to camp this summer.