Lakeview’s popular summer camp is back after the pandemic
Josh Pulver, the president and CEO of Lakeview Methodist Conference Center, had only been on the job a few months when the pandemic brought the country to its knees. By mid-March of 2020, when the spread of COVID-19 was officially declared a national emergency, it was clear that Lakeview, the 74-year-old camping ministry in the Piney Woods of East Texas, was careening toward a summer like none before. At its April, 2020 meeting, the center’s board of directors made the inevitable official: Summer camp, a beloved tradition for generations of Texas youths, was canceled.
“It was agonizing,” Pulver recalled. “It wasn’t the first-summer experience I’d expected in my new job. It wasn’t what anyone expected. It was a bummer.”
This year, to the delight of thousands of kids, their parents, church ministers and the still-new CEO, camp is back. Under strict, detailed safety guidelines, Lakeview will welcome more than 2,000 youngsters, ranging in age from those about to enter third grade to newly minted high school graduates, to four five-day camp sessions, beginning in mid-June and running through early July.
Along with traditional summer-camp fare – archery, swimming, fishing, kayaking, hiking, and the like – this year’s sessions will feature a couple of new activities. There’s “neon dodgeball,” for one, and something called “silent disco.” (Picture 200 young dancers wearing headphones and dancing together – sort of – as they listen to three different disco tunes.)
First and foremost, Pulver said, are the camp’s spiritually centered activities: worship, prayer, small-group Scripture studies, and age-appropriate discussions about the challenges of growing up, and the power of God’s grace.
Lakeview occupies 1,300 verdant acres southeast of Palestine. “Though we’re just a stone’s throw from town,” the center’s website says, “once you’re on location you feel as though you are a thousand miles from anywhere.” It has its own lake called – what else? – Lakeview Methodist Lake. The campground is roughly 120 miles by car from downtown Dallas, 160 from downtown Houston.
In addition to its youth camps, the center hosts an array of activities year-round for guests of all ages: conferences and special events (it has 68,000 square feet of meeting space), retreats, outdoor education programs, and team-building exercises. In all, the center hosts more than 20,000 visitors each year.
Canceling last summer’s camps cost Lakeview $2.6 million in lost revenue, Pulver said.
Still, he noted humbly, “we didn’t have to lay anyone off due to COVID.” A few members of the full-time staff left of their own accord, but there was plenty of maintenance, groundskeeping and touch-up work to keep the rest – 16 employees in all – busy. “With 1,300 acres of woods, there’s always something that needs doing,” he said.
As difficult as the pandemic has been, Pulver said, for him it’s served as a reminder of the strength and comfort to be found through faith.
“In a terrible situation like this, we have to rely on God’s peace,” he said. “God is always right there with us.”
Lakeview’s Camp Schedule
There are four camp sessions this summer, each lasting five days. Parents can register campers online here. For driving directions to Lakeview Methodist Conference Center, see the map here. For more information, see the Lakeview summer camp webpage, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Registration deadline: May 30
Registration deadline: June 6
June 28-July 2
Registration deadline: June 13
Registration deadline: June 20