October 01, 2015

The Lake Creek Camp meeting started as the big annual meeting for people in the Jefferson City circuit, at a time when your circuit riding preacher didn’t come around too often. The roots have a history of being a bit akin to a charismatic tent revival. Originally there was one preacher for the week. The small cabin directly behind the podium is the preacher’s cabin. The 13 trees in front of it are called Jesus and his 12 disciples. Each tree is named.

The central meeting space looks much the same as it always has, but it’s no longer necessary to use big t-poles to dump the water off of the canvas, because a couple of years ago the giant tent was upgraded to an open-air, tin roof tabernacle. They also went with a concrete floor – for the first 170 years they just put straw down on the ground if the area started getting muddy.

The tabernacle is surrounded by family cabins. Some haven’t seen overnight guests for a while and are starting to show their age. Others are relatively new. They are traditionally handed down from mother to daughter.

“We suspect the matriarch tradition was developed because the women do all the work,” Frazee said. “The meeting was held when the hay was in, and the crops were still growing, so the men had a bit of vacation before harvest, but the women were having to do all the cooking and laundry at the camp.”

The vacation for the men involved a lot of time with the Lord. Some years the schedule called for 9 a.m. worship, 11 a.m. Bible study, then worship again at 1 p.m., 3 p.m., and 5 p.m.

Nowadays worship is at 7:30 p.m. But a vacation Bible school does go on during the day. This year they had as many as 77 children. There are also activities before and after evening worship, which include volleyball, watermelon eating, capture the flag, a fish fry and a jam session.

The schedule has been moved up a bit so they don’t have to compete with the state fair. The camp meeting now happens on and between the two Sundays just before the state fair starts. In the past few years attendance has increased. This year the meeting averaged more than 100 people a night.

People attend the camp from all over. Some come and stay, tent camping on the grounds. There is a solid core group of regulars who have been attending the camp meeting their entire lives. One of the eldest was 93, and she recently passed away. The eldest title now lies with Lois Hoehns. She was born in April of 1932. Although she doesn’t recall, she assumes her parents brought her to her first camp meeting that summer.

Hoehns just lives two miles south of the church. Her family’s cabin was moved from the original site, by the cemetery, to the current location in 1891. It was upgraded to a new model two years ago.

Her son, Kevin, lives in Lawrence, Kansas, but has been coming back to the camp meeting the past few years to run the sound board, organize trivia night and occasionally sing and play the guitar. Hoehns irons three table cloths for the cabin that are about a 100 years old. She also brings home-made quilts. Tradition is a big part of the meeting for many, but worship remains the core reason for being there.

“For 172 years, thousands of folks have come to know Jesus here,” said Rev. Jason Veal, pastor at Lake Creek UMC. “The Holy Spirit is here to minister to each of us. I invite you to open your heart to the Love of Jesus Christ.”

It’s not all praying and preaching, the week does its share of mission work. There is a coat drive for a clothes closet in Westport, donations at the fish fry go to UMCOR and Show me Christian Youth Home in Lamar. The vacation Bible school set a goal of raising $500 for water filters in Haiti – half way through the week they already had raised $776.

Jason’s son, Nick Veal, was the preacher for Thursday night. He used 2 Timothy for his scripture, in which the apostle Paul was encouraging Timothy to rekindle the God-given spirit that had been laid upon his heart.

“How many times have we ran away from God’s goodness – ran away from what he’s calling us to do?” Veal said. “God’s calling us to live a fire-filled life, but you have to feed that fire.”

The curriculum for the VBS at the camp meeting was written by Sarah Page-Lewis, and the book L is for Love and Light - The New ABC Book: Encouragement for the Child in All of us is available on Amazon. She has a family tradition at the meeting that goes back generations. Her husband Darrel Lewis wrote the music for the VBS.

The camp meeting now has its own Facebook page. In 2016 the meeting will start on July 31.