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Camp Bays Mountain is on a mission

Deborah Peterson • Updated May 28, 2019 at 2:09 PM

Did you love summer camp as a child? Most people fondly recall the fun adventures: swimming, campfires, hiking, crafts, archery and bunking with friends. To Jordan Gobble, camp was all that and much more.

The new program director at Camp Bays Mountain in Kingsport, Jordan started attending summer camps when she was in elementary school. After high school, she became a camp counselor, and now the 24-year-old plans to make summer camp a lifelong career. “Summer camp changes lives,” Jordan said. “Last year, 10 percent of the campers had a first-time dedication to Christ, and several rededications. Great things are coming out of Holston Conference Camping!” she added.

Camp Bays Mountain is a ministry of the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church. It began in 1947 as the Buffalo Mountain Camp in Johnson City. After serving the region for over 60 years, the camp was damaged by flooding and landslides in 2012 and was shut down. Wanting the ministry to continue, the Board of Directors purchased new property in Kingsport in 2016. Renamed Camp Bays Mountain, it was opened in the summer of 2018 and attended by 258 campers. The staff hopes for at least 300 participants this year; it has a capacity for nearly 400 campers.

The camp offers many exciting programs and activities for children in grades 1 through 12. Campers can enjoy a rock-climbing wall, archery, kayaking, hiking, crafts, disc golf, swimming in the camp pool, tubing on the Holston River, zip-lining and a high-ropes course at Bays Mountain Park, nightly campfires and smores.

However, the heart of the camp lies in the daily worship, Bible study and spiritual teaching. The theme of camp this summer is “Rooted In Christ.” Jordan explained, “You’re immersed in nature; all the trees, everything, is rooted in the ground. So, the whole theme is that your faith has to be initially rooted in Christ for you to grow in Christ and in your walk with Him.”

Jordan lives on site during the summer. A self-proclaimed outdoors fanatic, Jordan’s position at the camp is a perfect fit for her.

“I love to be outside! If I can be outside doing something while being able to teach people about Christ, what can be better? You get to be immersed in His creation for a week or more; that’s what I love the most,” she said. Jordan is one of two full-time staff members, with a total of 22 staff members who work as counselors, kitchen crew, support team and adventure crew.

Camp counselor Callee Whitaker has a long family history with the camp. The 19-year-old Kingsport resident started attending day camp at Buffalo Mountain when she was only 6 years old.

“I love camp! My parents were both campers and counselors, and even had their wedding at Buffalo Mountain, which I think is really funny because it’s now a wedding venue,” she said. Her grandparents, aunts and uncles were all staff members as well. She is excited to be working at Camp Bays Mountain, especially with the special needs children who have their own program at the camp. “My whole life, I’ve had a passion for kids with special needs, to help make them feel accepted,” she said.

All staff members are well-qualified and undergo a criminal background check, an application process and training sessions which include two weeks of training in safety procedures. A nurse also comes to camp regularly and is on call to oversee health concerns. The kitchen staff prepares healthy meals and snacks, and most staff members are certified in CPR and first aid.

Many exciting programs are offered at Camp Bays Mountain. Day Camp Adventure (grades 1-3) is a 5-day introduction to Christian camping. A Taste of Camp (grades 2-3) is a half-week camp for children. The perfect first-time overnight camp adventure consists of two nights and three days of camp. The Best of Bays (grades 3-5) is a full week of camp lasting five nights and six days. Junior High Sampler (grades 6-8) is also a full week of traditional camp activities. Introduction to Whitewater Kayaking and Kayaking II (grades 7-12) is led by experienced kayak instructors. No experience or equipment is required. Senior High Adventure Sampler (grades 9-12) combines adventure activities with in-depth conversations to strengthen the campers’ Christian faith. And finally, Celebration Camp (ages 15-adult) offers an outdoor experience for youth and adults with special needs.

The legacy and mission that began at Buffalo Mountain in 1947 continues at Camp Bays Mountain.

“It’s a great ministry to be in, because who doesn’t love camp?” said Jordan. “Because of the great messages, morning Bible studies, evening worship, vespers on Thursday nights and great messages throughout the week, you are just immersed in God,” she said. “You’re going to have an awesome time in camp because you’re going to learn,” she added.

The season opens to campers on Sunday, June 2, and runs through July 25. Registration can be completed online at www.CampBaysMountain.com or by phone at (423) 349-8401. Visit the website for information regarding the summer schedule and pricing. A flexible payment plan, subsidized rate plan, and church scholarships are available.

If you love the outdoors, enjoy meeting new friends and desire to grow closer to God, Camp Bays Mountain is waiting for you. Happy camping!

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