Today is day 47 of our 50-day countdown to the start of Camp Meeting and the celebration of the camp’s 50th anniversary at Lake Agape. Below is a piece the late Rev. Carlton Bodine Sr. (many of us knew him as “Pop”) wrote in 1985 for the 20th anniversary at Lake Agape. Have a memory or photos you’d like to share from the past 50 years? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The move of Delanco Camp from its historic home in the town of Delanco did not come easy. Hard decisions had to be made and the future was all unknown. It was questioned whether or not the program would be harmed and the Camp Meeting spirit lost. It was feared by some that it might no longer be a Camp Meeting but just a summer youth camp.
The move was precipitated by a car accident in which in the early morning hours a driver missed the bend in the road and drove into the side of one of the cottages. The sum of $468 was received from the insurance and while some of the directors were considering plans for repair they asked, “Why should we spend more money on these old buildings?”
While they were considering this, word came from Dr. Shipps that his son in the real estate business knew of a 344-acre tract of land in the Pinelands at Sooy Place that was available for $60,000 less the commission. A special meeting of the directors was called at the Tabernacle United Methodist Church nearby. After discussing the matter the meeting was adjourned to the Sooy Place property.
There at the site they walked around the lake and through the woods and then met together again at the edge of the lake in front of the only building there. They formed a circle of prayer seeking the Lord’s direction. After all had prayed each one was asked his opinion. Without exception each one expressed his belief that it was of the Lord and that we should proceed with the project.
A Special Meeting of the Stockholders convened January 11, 1964 at which the project was presented and discussed. It was voted to proceed with the move. The directors met again January 25th and considered the legal steps to be taken.
The Annual Stockholders Meeting for 1964 was postponed to July 13 at which a quorum of Stockholders was present. A motion to proceed with the purchase and to sell the Delanco, NJ property was passed. Authority was given to pay $57,000 for the Sooy Place property. The directors were given the power to make the purchase.
A meeting of the directors was held at the Holly House (in Millville) on September 22nd to consider raising the $16,000 required for the first payment. It was suggested that each director buy a thousand dollar bond from the Camp Meeting to be interest free for five years. The bond would be paid off within that time or exchanged for an acre of ground. If carried beyond the five years three percent interest would be paid annually. The sum of $11,500 was raised by this and a short term note was taken at the bank for the balance of the $16,000. Papers were signed and the payment of $16,000 was made on October 1, 1964.
Then the testing time came. The cost of framing up the boys’ dorm with the roof to be put on by volunteer help was found to be $3,573. A motel type guest dorm would cost $16,797.00 excluding electrical and plumbing work. A pre-fab tabernacle steel building with one end closed in and the rest of the building open would cost $10,500. The Riverside Bank would not lend us more money since we were leaving the area and the Delanco property was not yet sold.
In desperation and faith the president went out to look for money. All he knew was that he was going to stop at the first bank he saw. That turned out to be the Burlington County Trust Co. of Moorestown. Entering the bank, he asked for the loan officer and was directed to his office. He explained the project and the nature of our problem to Mr. Gardiner and was asked, “How much do you need?” With pathetic candor he replied, “$23,000.” The request seemed so far from anything one might expect to receive that it seemed like wasted time. But the next day, May 4th, 1965, a letter came in the mail saying that the loan was approved on the basis of a second mortgage. The miracle had happened. God was leading the way. Delanco Camp Meeting “at Lake Agape” was proceeding.
Now we had from May 4th until the opening of camp July 1st to get buildings up and get things moved from Delanco. The directors pitched in and put the roof on the boys’ dorm. Plumbing supplies were purchased from the ship salvage yard along with bunks. The tabernacle steel was delivered June 14th and then erected. The open sides of the pavilion part of the apartment building were closed in. Kitchen equipment, beds, benches etc. were moved over from Delanco and camp was made ready.
The Evangelists, Dr. Delbert Rose and Dr. James Gibson were housed in a nearby motel the first night but were in their rooms by the second night. Only cold water was available that year but somehow everyone managed. The woods at Lake Agape resounded with the songs of the redeemed and the preaching of the Gospel.
The people had a mind to work and soon the buildings were finished. In a brief time, two weeks of Junior Camp, one week of Junior High and one week of Teen Camp were added to the Camp Meeting program. In time the Memorial Reunion Camp flourished and weekend retreats were held in the spring and fall by various churches. The new dining room was built and the tabernacle was renovated to accommodate the extended program.
Our beloved camp, begun in a prayer circle on the lakeshore by faith, awaits only more praying people for a greater and greater witness to the Lord Jesus.