I love Carson Springs and Linden Valley Baptist Conference Centers and Camps! I love the locations and I love the ministry. But then, camps and conference centers have been special to me since I gave my life to Jesus at camp as a nine-year-old boy.
It started with an invitation from my best friend in the fourth grade to go to camp with his church. We went to Camp Maranatha, which is located just off state highway 98 between Ila and Danielsville, Ga. It was a rustic camp. Boys stayed in a converted loft of an old barn in bunk beds. I remember we had Bible study and other learning activities in the morning and then, in the afternoon, we enjoyed the swimming hole in the creek. It had a rope swing over the hole that you would grab to swing out over the water and drop. There was horseback riding and I’m sure many other activities that have faded from my memory.
At night, we went to worship. It was held in an open-air pavilion. The seats were tree logs that had been split and set on stumps. The floor was sawdust. The preacher, who started the camp, brought an old-time message of hell fire and brimstone. I don’t really remember anything he said that Tuesday night of worship because it was truly the Holy Spirit speaking directly to me. As soon as we started singing “Just as I Am,” I went forward to kneel in the sawdust and give my heart to Jesus. One of the adult counselors came and knelt with me as I prayed.
The next Sunday morning I shared my decision with my home church. After that service, the deacons removed all the furniture from the pulpit area, pulled up the floor, and ran the water into the baptistry. That night I was baptized in front of my family and home church (still the coldest water I have ever felt in the month of June).
Facilities like Carson Springs and Linden Valley have continued to play an important role in my life ever since. In high school, I would attend retreats and other events at the Georgia Baptist Assembly in Toccoa, Ga., and the Rock Eagle Center near Eatonton, Ga. At these events, I grew in my understanding of the Christian life and developed leadership skills. It was at Ridgecrest in North Carolina that I made a commitment to full-time Christian vocation during “Student Week.” It was at Gulfshore Baptist Assembly on the Mississippi Gulf Coast that I spent time, during a Singles Retreat, with the prettiest girl who has been my bride for the last 28 years.
Camps and conference centers have changed a great deal since I spent a week in the loft of an old barn. Everything at Carson Springs and Linden Valley is now air-conditioned. Both have amazing worship facilities (no sawdust allowed). The delivery methods have changed, but the purpose is still the same: To create an environment for boys, girls, women, and men to step away from the busyness of life and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to their hearts.
Carson Springs and Linden Valley are places of spiritual significance. Literally thousands upon thousands of souls have made a commitment to Christ, to His Kingdom and His Service at these locations. I am proud to be associated with this ministry and am praying for some nine-year-old boy to have the same experience I did so many years ago.
By William F. Maxwell
Administrative Director, TBMB