By Lillian Williams
Ask any United Methodist youth what comes to mind when “summer” is mentioned, and a response of “summer camp” is often given.
In South Carolina, there are three United Methodist camps for youth to attend: Asbury Hills, Camp Providence and Sea Islands.
In 2022, $319,000 in South Carolina Conference apportioned funds was designated toward the support of these three camp programs. Some activities that these programs offer are arts and crafts, archery, cycling, swimming, excursions and ziplining.
Camps and Retreat Ministries Director Arthur Spriggs believes camp is important today more than ever.
“Camping is no longer a nicety—it’s a necessity for today’s kids,” Spriggs said. “Learning community is something that has been forgotten, and it is something that has to be relearned in our isolation.”
As he noted, in today’s hyperindulgent society, it is easier for children to remain inside and lose touch with nature. Children who attend these summer retreats return home with a newfound appreciation for their earthly surroundings.
The transformation is incredible to see, he said.
“My favorite part has always been … watching a kid that’s hesitant about getting out of the car and then literally in tears on the last day of camp not wanting to leave,” Spriggs said.
Asbury Hills, Camp Providence and Sea Islands all offer year-round programs for ages 7-17. Asbury Hills is located in Cleveland (near Greenville), Camp Providence is located in Anderson and Sea Islands is located on Johns Island in the Lowcountry. In addition to their year-round programs, these camps offer weeklong experiences, day camps and partial-week camps. For college students interested in summer employment, they also offer opportunities to create bonds with campers as camp counselors.
Occasionally throughout the year, these camps also host events open to the public. For instance, Asbury Hills holds a fall festival where they serve apple cider and other fall treats as an opportunity for fellowship within the community.
Three years ago, these camp traditions were put to a halt because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was extremely difficult.
“We closed in 2020,” Spriggs said. “Interestingly enough about 17 percent of all camps around the country disappeared, never to be seen again. A lot of organizations—whether it’s scouting, secular and Christian camping altogether—ended up selling their properties just to sustain their organization.”
But this didn’t happen to South Carolina Camps and Retreat Ministries.
“We were very fortunate to have had reserved funds that allowed us to retain our year-round staff,” Spriggs said.
After the pandemic, their numbers were low, and they started slowly.
“We only agreed to take on 50 percent capacity to see if we could handle that and not have any outbreaks,” Spriggs said.
When this was successful, they were able to increase it to 75 percent capacity.
“This year, we go full-speed-ahead with 100 percent capacity,” Spriggs said.
Spriggs said if a child is given the opportunity to go to a summer camp, they should seize the chance. Lasting impacts, friendships, cognitive skills and relationships with God are developed or strengthened by attending a retreat. The lifelong impact it can have on a child is remarkable.
Spriggs said he doesn’t think he was called to camp and retreat ministry but rather born into it.
“I wanted to go to camp as a kid, [but] I was a welfare kid, so I couldn’t afford to go,” he said.
But at age 8, he got a scholarship to go to camp.
“I’ve been camping ever since,” Spriggs said.
South Carolina Camps and Retreat Ministries board said the importance of paying apportionments, which help these programs, can give a child a gift they will be able to cherish forever.
For more information about South Carolina Camps and Retreat Ministries, visit https://sccarm.org.