Camp Oak Hill: Loving kids, sharing faith

Jul. 23, 2013 @ 09:05 PM

Forty years ago, Greg Poole stood alone on an auction block to make a bid on the vandalized property of Oak Hill High School.

“It was my belief that this school still had another use,” Poole said.

After Poole acquired the property, he sought the council of fellow believers to confirm what he knew to be God’s plan. Three years later, in 1976 Camp Oak Hill held its first summer session for 33 children.

“God’s vision for the use of this property was unveiled over time to create what His plan was over all,” Poole said.

Last week, Camp Oak Hill held an open house to display all that God has done through their co-ed Christian summer camp in Oxford.

More than 40 turned out and got a tour. Board members, returning counselor alumni, curious locals and camp staff had the opportunity to watch some of the 138 current campers as they enjoyed the camp facilities during their free time, seeing how Camp Oak Hill has served thousands of children over the past 37 years.

Peggy Diggs, one of the staff located in the Raleigh office said, “It’s just fun to be in the back because they don’t know you’re watching them.”

The kids swam, boated and slid down the Tower zip line into a nine-acre lake.

“I almost peed in my pants the first time I went down, I’m not gonna lie,” said Tom Dixon, counselor alumni and board president. “One cool thing about being scared at the top of the Tower is that counselors get to pray with them. Campers get the opportunity to really rely on God.”

Patterson and Dixon explain it’s the little things like prayer in the face of fear that set Camp Oak Hill apart.

After the tour, visitors shared dinner with the campers before listening to a brief program.

While the 108-acre camp has a wide range of engaging elements Kim Patterson, president of Camp Oak Hill, said, “We’re not about the zip line or the water slide or the other fun activities. We’re here to attract children and fill every bed because it’s about Christ and what He did.”

Dixon said 85 percent of people professing to be Christians said they did so between the ages of 4 and 14.

“That’s us.” he said “That’s who we serve.”

Dixon went on to say, “For some of these kids it’s the first time for people to just invest, not to get something out of it but just to share the love of Christ.”

“Our strength here is to share the gospel,” Patterson said.

Camp counselor Lou Bankhead said, “Camp Oak Hill is a blessing. It’s not a job, it’s a privilege. I get to love kids and I get to talk about Jesus and I get to do that together.”

“Look what has happened because of what one person did,” Patterson said.

“We worked together to have what God’s plan has been,” Poole said.

After the program the guests were invited to participate in the camp’s Carnival, which included a variety of games, bubbles and face painting.

Neely Cline, 9, said, “I like the way it looks!” She added, “I like the zip line and the water slide and I can make new friends and have lots of fun! If I come next year, my brother has to.”

Brother Garret did not object, “Cause it’s a really nice place.”

He said he was anticipating the fishing.

Then Clines heard about the open house from their friend, Lorri Foster, of Wake Forest, who had attended a retreat at the camp the previous year. She also came to the open house to show her daughter, Peyton, age 8, what Camp Oak Hill was like.

Local resident Kyle Williams said he came because, “I’ve seen the signs but I never took the opportunity or the time to see what it’s about. It’s a wonderful opportunity for kids to get away in a nice, safe, Christian environment.”

Contact the writer at aouthouse@hendersondispatch.com.