By Alli Davis
Host pastor Rusty Jones rang the bell hanging above the front of the wooden tabernacle at the center of the Ebenezer Campground outside of Center Point Wednesday night, July 20, to bring in campers of all ages for the night’s meeting. This year marks Jones’ 52nd year as a camper.
As the group of nearly 100 settled in with their handheld fans under the dimly lit structure, Jones proceeded with an opening prayer and announcements before the Mennonite church choir performed for the crowd. Groups including The Testimonies of Nashville and Harmony performed earlier in the week at nightly meetings.
Surrounding the tabernacle are the ground’s original cabins standing since it had been reestablished in 1857 for worship. The newest improvements to the cabins have been fans, electricity and raising the beds to optimize storage space. This past spring, however, lightning struck one of the many old trees in the area which landed on one of the sections of cabins that was rebuilt before camp began.
For most campers, the summer getaway began on July 15, and others come and go during the week for activities and even small family reunions traveling from all over Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma.
Throughout the week, young campers attended a children’s program in the morning, swam at the lake and traveled to local waterparks. Also held were two daily worship services open to all members of the community.
Young campers are allowed to wander around the grounds during the day, lounging in hammocks and playing on swing sets and with the dogs brought along for the week. Monday night held an ice cream supper for the campers, something that is done every year.
For Merilyn Jones, attending every year has become a lifetime tradition. She has only missed one year in 79 and has been able to have many family members join her over the years.
After the Mennonites’ performance, Carlton Cross took the floor in front of the crowd to preach from the book of Daniel and to remind the campers to focus on God, his love, his hope, and his power. As his voiced echoed over the crowd and out into the night, he ended his sermon with a personal story about a youth trip to Hot Springs.
“These are wonderful, godly people that have been gathering together for years, and I hope they are commended for it,” Cross said.