By Jana Clack
JOHNS ISLAND—Overlooking the Bohicket Creek, South Carolina Camps & Retreat Ministries Executive Director Arthur Spriggs witnesses a pair of dolphins making their way across the waterway from the dock.
Sightings like this are part of the experience often had at Sea Islands Camp & Retreat Center, Spriggs said.
“Sea Islands is a place set apart, truly a place where heaven meets earth, and God’s creation is all around,” Spriggs said.
From the Spanish moss-covered trees to the sounds of seagulls overhead, Sea Islands is also now becoming a rustic experience for all ages.
For decades, the site served as Rural Mission, a United Methodist ministry that worked tirelessly to improve the lives of impoverished island people, repairing their homes and educating their children. But funding issues forces the ministry to close its doors.
Then in May 2019, Camps & Retreat Ministries—another ministry of the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church—bought the property, hoping to make a way for the ministry to live out its mission across the state.
Since 2019, work projects at Sea Islands have gone on behind the scenes. Transforming the former Rural Mission location into a true retreat center brought with it many challenges given the geographic location, the property’s age and the onset of a global pandemic. Throughout the past four years, challenges have been overcome largely because of the support of Camps & Retreat donors, apportionment dollars and grants awarded and designated toward the restoration of the property.
But now, significant repairs to the property’s buildings—including roofing, plumbing and electric—have been made, creating a safe space for groups to enjoy the coast and fellowship with one another.
Four years later, Sea Islands is moving into its third year of welcoming groups for youth and adult retreats, scouting adventures and mission trips on Johns Island.
Many groups who had relationships with Rural Mission continue to use Sea Islands as their home base for outreach mission trips within Lowcountry communities. Its locale and capacity make it an ideal location for groups who travel around the island for work projects or to enjoy recreational activities.
“What Sea Islands offers that contrasts our well-established Asbury Hills camp and retreat center is an unplugged, blank canvas in a beautiful location where groups can build a unique experience that supports their spiritual needs,” Spriggs said.
At Sea Islands, groups have lodging, designated meeting and dining spaces and access to a commercial kitchen alongside access to activities, which are in close proximity to the camp.
S.C. Camps & Retreat Ministries now operates three properties in South Carolina: the mountains at Asbury Hills, the lake at Camp Providence and on the coast at Sea Islands.