The United States Southern and Eastern District (SED) congregations are thanking God for their 2022 camp meeting held August 3-7, and for the beautiful site He blessed them to use. The campground in Century, Florida, could not be ready in time for this year’s event, so camp meeting was instead held at the Lake Yale Baptist Conference Center just north of Orlando, where attendees enjoyed hotel-style room accommodations. The saints appreciated the technology that made remote camp meetings possible in 2020 and 2021, but there is nothing like actually being together in person, and they are thanking God that they were able to reserve the Orlando retreat center this year.
The 2022 SED camp meeting experience actually started the week before, as many met online for evening prayer meetings. God’s presence was felt as brothers and sisters gathered in praise, supplication, and submission. The theme of corporate prayer continued on-site in the 6:00 a.m. prayer meetings held each day, with blessings falling upon many. At 6:30 each morning, there was also a children and youth morning devotion, including prayer and activities. The group was further blessed with the attendance of four special guests from the United States Virgin Islands, Brother Wilburn and Sister Sylvina Thomas, Sister Doreth Gumbs, and Sister Nola Stuart.
Spirits were high as attendees gathered for the first camp meeting service on Wednesday evening, held after check-in and dinner. Hearts were hungry and looking Heavenward. The service opened with singing “One More Time,” recognizing God’s blessing of bringing everyone together again after three years. Reginald Segres, the pastor in Kingstree, South Carolina, led the congregation in “Revive Us Again” and several other hymns. The testimonies were opened by Joyce Marshall of Fort Worth, Texas, who shared how she came to know about salvation and thanked God for His continued guidance, protection, and healing grace. Josephine McElveen, the pastor in Washington DC, and District Superintendent of the SED, brought the message from Psalm 122, “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go unto the house of the Lord.” Speaking of the anticipation of coming to worship the Lord, she emphasized that the Spirit of God is within His people, yet the saints came to camp looking to move higher with Him and deeper in consecration. Those who came in the spirit of heart submission would not be disappointed.
Following instrumental preludes, Thursday morning’s congregation singing was led by Olulana Alofe, the leader of the group in East Bridgewater, Massachusetts. The testimonies opened with Elizabeth Ashe from Tampa, Florida (who also served as the on-site nurse), thanking God for His touch and support as she recently opened a new medical practice while dealing with physical pain resulting from an accident. Rebekah Ashe, the leader of the Key West group, brought the morning’s Bible teaching. She taught from the account of Esther, drawing from the instructions in Philippians 4:6 to bring one’s requests to God. Esther exercised three keys in order to receive answers to prayer: she relied upon her supporters; she submitted to God and to the authorities over her; and she clearly and faithfully placed her supplications before the King of Heaven as well as before the king of the land (her husband). These same keys can also help believers today to receive answers to their prayers.
In the afternoon, the group enjoyed the annual Women’s Fellowship Service. The song leader was Verena McElroy of Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas. Theresa Ross from Kingstree gave a welcome, and Mariam Udo from Houston, Texas, spoke on “Memorials and Milestones.” A violin rendition of “The Goodness of God” was played by Elizabeth Adebayo from East Bridgewater, and “Through It All” was sung by Lydia Waribo from Wahsington DC. Paulette Wyatt from Brooklyn, New York, delivered the message from 2 Kings 4:1-7, bringing out that as the widow followed the prophet Elisha’s instructions, she realized the value of her oil. Her actions blessed her community, and she walked in faith and not in fear. Sister Paulette encouraged the ladies to recognize the unique nature of their individual callings, to allow God to bless their communities through their lives, and to move forward using what God has blessed them with for His kingdom’s sake.
The second evening service opened with a district-wide orchestra and choir prelude. Bernice Pinney, pastor of the Reed Road church in Houston, led the congregational singing. During the testimonies, Sister Theresa testified of the benefits of having learned to lean on Jesus in the midst of life’s hardships and sorrows, and praised God for His strengthening grace. The last special was a unique rendition of “Learning to Lean” by Debra Piper of Anniston, Alabama. Then Ernest Marshall, pastor in Dallas/Fort Worth, brought the evening message from Jude 1-3, warning against complacency in one’s Christian walk. Stressing the importance of earnestly striving and maintaining a true example of Christ in these times, he challenged the congregation to take an honest self-assessment as to where they stand spiritually in comparison to God’s expectations.
Friday morning’s teaching session started with sanctuary-wide praise as the congregation spontaneously sang together “Think About His Love” and “He’s Worthy to Be Praised.” A violin duet of “Count Your Blessings” preceded the testimonies, beginning with Sharron Ashe from Key West thanking God for His keeping power and saying that she is looking to the Lord to draw her nearer. She also requested prayer for the Key West work. Sister Bernice sang “Bless the Lord” before the Bible teaching by Brother Olulana. Drawing from 1 Samuel 12:24, he brought out that God can make a perfect heart when individuals give Him their all. Encouraging the group to see themselves as employees and to see God as the gracious and holy “manager,” he said believers can confidently approach God with their petitions when they know they have been faithful in His business.
The afternoon’s youth service began with a rendition of “I Love You” followed by “We’re Together Again.” Several youth and young adults testified, thanking God for saving and keeping them through the past few years. A vocal duet of “Spirit of the Living God” closed out the testimony service. Brother Nick delivered the message about how the devil packages and sells sin as if it were an attractive snack, but in reality, sin is like processed junk food with nothing good in it. He said that what people “consume” (in media, entertainment, etc.) becomes who they are, and ultimately determines how they present the Gospel to others. Next, Sister Rebekah led a children’s group in performing a skit about Zacchaeus. Featuring “Come into My Heart,” the drama focused on the power and joy of salvation. The service closed with the song “All My Life You Have Been Faithful,” and Brother Dwane Ross of Kingstree drawing from these two messages in a call to prayer.
The final evening service opened with a flute and clarinet duet, “Glorify His Name,” followed by a medley of praise from the East Bridgewater choir. A trumpet rendition of “How Great Thou Art” was given, and then instead of a testimony service, all the pastors in attendance introduced themselves and gave a short statement of thanksgiving. Karolyn Segres, from Aiken, South Carolina, then sang “Lord, Remind Me” before the sermon. Drawing from Matthew 15:21-28, Johnny Wyatt Jr., the pastor in Brooklyn, encouraged the saints to give Jesus space and liberty to truly “be Jesus” in their lives. He said that Jesus blessings have unlimited jurisdiction; the only limitations are those that people set through unbelief and disobedience.
On Saturday morning, there were outdoor activities for the youth and children while the adults attended a seminar about communication in marriage. Carrie Keju, from Washington D.C. presented first, speaking about godly communication within a family and how various personality profiles tend to communicate differently. Then Andres Mercedes, the pastor in the Bronx, shared practical advice for successful communication.
Saturday evening’s traditional camp meeting concert was successfully repackaged as a “Joy Night” by Dolly (Kim) Lewis, from Mobile, Alabama. As expected in such an event, the audience was included as participants at several points throughout the evening, starting with congregational singing led by Sister Paulette, who led the evening’s program. A combined district orchestra provided a medley of music, and the combined choir sang “Salvation and Glory” and other songs. In addition, the audience enjoyed a trumpet duet, a guitar-accompanied solo, and a clarinet solo. They were also blessed to hear a Creole duet of “You Are My All in All” from two of the Key West youth. Lavon Brown of Pensacola, Florida, gave a testimony of praise for how the Lord provided heart healing since the 2012 killing of her son. She also shared how God has opened a ministry in her community to other families suffering such loss. She closed with singing “We’ve Come this Far by Faith.” The evening concluded with a beautiful trilingual rendition of “It Is Well”—in English, Spanish, and Yoruba. Truly, the Joy Night ended with all feeling joy-filled!
The group was blessed on Sunday morning with the arrival of Bob Downey, Director of North American Work, and his wife, Cheryl. They arrived directly from the Midwest camp meeting. Though it was the closing service, there was still anticipation for God’s blessing. The service opened with “Holy, Holy, Holy” by the combined orchestra and “You Are Alpha and Omega” from the combined choir. Congregational singing was led by Charnissia Huggins from Brooklyn, including several hymns that focused on Heaven—a wonderful way to close out the time together! A men’s trio sang “The Battle of Jericho,” and then Nathaniel Hunsu, the group leader from Athens, Georgia, brought the Scripture reading from Acts 1:1-11. Sister Paulette sang “My God Is Real” before Brother Bob gave the morning’s message. He drew from the Scripture reading as well as Mark 16:15-20, reminding the group that Jesus’ last words to His disciples were a commission of responsibility that applied to both the Early Church saints and to saints today. Brother Bob encouraged the congregation to return to their home locations with the Holy Spirit filling their lives, and to bring Christ to the lost world around them. The service concluded with “God Be with You ‘Till We Meet Again.”
Truly, God met the heart’s desire of His people at the 2022 Southern and Eastern District camp meeting! By God’s grace and as He tarries, the saints look forward to gathering again next year in His holy name.