Camp Ministry News
The following video report and article was originally published by WCJB TV-20, the ABC affiliate in Gainesville, Florida.
HIGH SPRINGS – Rodeo, go carts, and rock climbing are some of the activities planned for this five-day camp. But beyond the fun and games, the camp hopes to show kids and young teenagers the importance of fellowship and the community.
Eleven-year-old camper Sean Monroe said pin trading is what he is looking forward to most at the Southern Union Pathfinder Camporee.
It’s a camping event created by the Pathfinder Club, a worldwide program that targets the development of youth. Pathfinders is sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventist Church and their goal is to mentor young people in the Christian faith.
Wednesday afternoon, RVs with families made their way to this 200-acre camp from all over the southeast. There are 12,000 Pathfinders in the south eastern region and about 5,500 of them are here in High Springs at Camp Kulaqua.
Yeseny Morales is one of those campers. She and her family took a road trip from North Carolina for their very first camping event.
“I am excited about the experience, especially spending time with my family,” Morales said.
Others, like Monroe, say it’s also a way to deepen friendships.
Camp director Allan Williamson says the activities the camp has created teaches kids new things without them even noticing it, like the Tower of Faith which he calls a trust exercise in disguise.
“You get in a harness and then all of the sudden it lets loose but then it catches you,” Williamson said.
He says the activities at the camp are not only fun but they teach skills that are relevant to everyday living.
“When they go back, we hope that they will make a difference in their home, their community, their church and also their school,” he said.
In 1953, Florida Conference Executive Committee members sat on the bank of Hornsby Spring northwest of Gainesville and prayed, “Father, should we buy this property for a summer camp and year-round retreat facility?”
God answered their prayers in the affirmative, and Camp Kulaqua was born. Soon, a name contest was held, and a church member in South Florida suggested “Kulaqua” or “cool aqua” since the fresh flowing water of Hornsby Spring is 72 degrees year round.
Located near the town of High Springs, Camp Kulaqua’s early beginnings were very basic, with the first groups staying in tents amidst the natural surroundings of a beautiful spring and the great outdoors on 250 acres. In those early years, Conference membership was 6,519, and the Camp could accommodate up to 200 people.
In 1984, a new master plan was designed for Camp Kulaqua to accommodate up to 600 people so it could meet the needs of a growing Conference with 23,904 members. The master plan was completed in the late 1990s.
Today, Florida Conference membership is more than 60,000. Meanwhile, Camp Kulaqua, with more than 600 acres, can still only accommodate up to 600 people in cabins, mini-lodges, and chalets. It also offers multiple meeting facilities and a variety of activities for people to enjoy.
As a rule, 1-2% of a constituency base attends Conference functions such as youth events, women’s retreats, and men’s conventions. Clearly, the need for larger and more accommodating facilities has grown as membership has increased. This is especially true now that Camp Kulaqua is the host location for both English- and Spanish-language Camp Meetings.
Thus, Conference and Camp administrators have initiated a new master plan study and are soliciting input for ministry and facility needs. Your feedback is very important! Please take a few moments to go to CampKulaqua.com and click on the master plan survey link to give us your feedback. A hard copy of the survey can be obtained by calling (386) 454-1351.
Florida Conference anticipates continued growth through discipleship and evangelism. With expanded and improved retreat facilities, this quiet place will continue to provide a beautiful setting where constituents can escape the rigors of this world and commune with God.
by Theresa Sroka
For more than 50 years, families and campers have come to ride the horses at Camp Kulaqua in High Springs, Florida. Now, they are becoming familiar with the latest addition to the horse barn, the Vernon Lynn Nielsen Equestrian Welcome Center. This pavilion features benches, an educational hands-on display, a life-size demonstration horse, and a television that gives instructional information about the trail ride.
The Nielsen Equestrian Welcome Center was donated by Joree Nielsen in memory of her son, Vernon, fondly called Lynn by his family. At the age of 17, he came to Camp Kulaqua and began working in the horse barn.
Starting out as a wrangler, Lynn’s hard work and love for horses led him to become the Equestrian Director of the Camp’s stables. His passion for horses and his love for God was shared with each camper on trail rides and riding lessons as he worked his way through college and law school.
Camp Kulaqua took the opportunity to thank Mrs. Nielsen, Lynn’s mother, for her generous donation to Camp Kulaqua’s stables at a special ribbon-cutting ceremony where Norm Middag, former Florida Conference youth director, spoke of the Camp’s history. Mrs. Nielsen shared the significance of the Center and what a difference she hopes it will make on the lives of young people in the years to come. In addition, she thanked Phil Younts, Florida Conference Camp Ministries director, for his vision and overseeing the design of the new Equestrian Center. Then, Mrs. Nielsen proudly introduced members of Lynn’s family who were present.
As Lynn’s memory rides on, it is the hope of his family that all who come to the stables will find the same joy that Lynn experienced in his relationship with the horses of Camp Kulaqua.