Camp Patmos: Beacon of peace, faith for teens

KELLEYS ISLAND Being a teen in a fast-paced, MTV-saturated world can be tough, especially for young
Sarah Weber
May 24, 2010

 

KELLEYS ISLAND

Being a teen in a fast-paced, MTV-saturated world can be tough, especially for young people trying to lead Christian lives.

Luckily there is a little-known place tucked away on the northeast corner of Kelleys Island where they can get away from it all.

Camp Patmos has been providing a peaceful place for kids and teens to reflect on their lives since 1952. Originally purchased by a group of Baptist churches, Camp Patmos was turned over to an independent board of trustees about 10 years ago to be run as a non-denominational camp.

Since then, camp leaders have been building and updating the property and programs.

Children and teens who take the camp's tram up the winding Monagan Road come to enjoy fishing, sailing, swimming, archery, videography, art and companionship in the spirit of faith.

"There is something about being away on an island that allows them to think," said executive director Tim Richardson. "It's really neat to watch God work in their hearts."

Richardson said children and teenagers go to the camp both individually and with church groups. Most come from an area stretching from Indiana to Western New York and Pennsylvania. The teens arrive at the camp on Mondays, and finish their retreat the following Saturday.

Camps are run throughout the summer for various age groups. For the week ending today, the camp was for high school students.

Jamie Staten, 17, said camp is a stark contrast to her neighborhood on the west side of Cleveland.

"It's peaceful," Staten said, looking around at the breezy sun-soaked soccer field. "It's kind of a culture shock at first."

Staten said it's nice to get away from the noise and traffic of the city. She visited the camp with about 35 teens from Scranton Road Bible Church. One of her companions, Icesis Scott, said she went to the camp last year and looked forward to returning.

"You feel more comfortable being with people who share your faith," Scott said. "Nobody is judging you."

The 16-year-old said her favorite part of being at camp is tubing -- hanging onto an inflatable tube while a motor boat pulls the tube though the water.

She said that while camp is fun, it also helps her get back in touch with God and reading her Bible, something she said is a challenge when she goes home to Cleveland.

"Just walking out your door, there are a lot of obstacles," Scott said. "There are a lot of creeps."

Richardson said his favorite moments in his seven-year tenure at Camp Patmos come on Fridays, when the group gathers around the camp's bonfire to talk about what they experienced.

"Hearing a kid get up and rap his life story -- about what he was like before he came to camp and what he is like now -- it's amazing," Richardson said.

He said he is also impressed by teens who go on to do missionary work.

"It's amazing to think of these missionaries serving in Africa, serving the whole world ... sitting here as a 12-year-old and making that commitment," Richardson said.

Whether the teens go on to do work in the community or just find new meaning in their own lives, he said the most important part of camp is making some kind of an impact.

"Some kids come from tough backgrounds," Richardson said. "Sometimes they'll come back for a second week, and we'll have to backtrack a little bit and then move forward."

John Craig, 22, a camp counselor and criminal justice major at Indiana University-Purdue University, said he has been surprised with how much he learned about his own faith in guiding the 10 campers under his supervision.

"I expected to come out here and have a good time and share my faith," Craig said. "But it's been so much more."

He said he takes each group of young men on a hike to a rock wall in the woods. He said the exercise helps the boys visualize the challenges in their lives and ability to overcome those challenges.

"Last night I was talking to a couple of them watching the sun set," Craig said. "When you are near the water like that, looking at God's creation, you feel so far away from whatever is going on at home."

For information on the camp or to register for a session, visit camppatmos.com.

Camp Patmos by the numbers

* Founded in 1952

* 1,200 children per summer

* 60 staff members

* 20 acres