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Campmeeting filled with reunions, guest speakers

POSTED: August 1, 2012 4:00 a.m.
Mark Watkins Dawson Community News/

Nicky Gilleland, from left, Betty Styles and Steve Styles laugh together on the front porch of one of the tents during campmeeting.

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Campmeeting concluded its annual weeklong festivities at Lumpkin Campground on Sunday evening.

Filled with church services, singing and fellowship, the event gathered dozens of local families and friends together for seven days in the rustic, wooded setting.

Orin Sampson, pastor at Bethel United Methodist Church, the host for the event, said he predicts about 600 people came out for each evening service.

"The week went exceedingly well. It was a joyous time. We had a full capacity every night and were overflowing on Sunday morning," Sampson said.

Traditionally held at the end of July, campmeeting began in 1830 when 40 Methodist church members each pledged $1 to claim a 40-acre grove of trees.

The open air pavilion sitting in the center of the "tents," or rustic cabins, was constructed to house the morning and evening services featuring Bible readings, preaching, personal testimonies and altar calls.

Since its founding, the event has expanded to include Baptist church members and various other denominations.

At its core, campmeeting is a spiritual revival and family reunion. Some families have had numerous generations attend the event.

"Growing up here and being a part of this, it takes you back to the times when you didn't have all the cares and worries of life," said Dan Elliott, 61, a local resident who grew up attending with his family.

A special addition to this year's campmeeting were three youth guest speakers.

Award-winning Christian music artist Laura Story, the youngest Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne and Eric Redmon, a survivor of an extreme car accident, all spoke to the youth after evening services.

"The guest speakers were really impactful on our youth," said Chris Maher, youth minister at Bethel UMC. "All three talked about how God had brought them through obstacles and that was something the teens could really relate to."

Maher added: "Overall, campmeeting was great. It had lots of wonderful times filled with fellowship and services."

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