Camp Hopewell testimonials
Jondelyn Doler Catlette
My many years at Camp Hopewell prepared me for life more than I could have ever imagined. Because of Hopewell, I had a consistent place to be and grow as a camper from the age of 9 to 16 and a staff member from ages 17 to 19. The Hopewell community taught me to be considerate, responsible, respectful and humble toward God's creation. I was the healthcare manager at Hopewell my last two summers and I had never planned to fill that position. I am now planning on going to nursing school, and I would have never thought I could handle healthcare situations if it weren't for my two summers as healthcare manager and my involvement in learning about diabetes with friends at Camp Hopewell. I found many gifts and a home at Hopewell.
Meredith Carlson Fleming
Camp Hopewell is a place that helped shape the person I am today. I grew up going to Hopewell as a camper and also to visit family. (My Uncle Chris was the groundskeeper for many years and lived on site at the camp.) It has been a part of my life for over 22 years.
Once I “graduated” from camper age, I was able to stay involved with Camp Hopewell through the St. Andrew Presbytery’s Presbyterian Youth Council which I served on for two years. It was then that I truly fell in love with God and all the aspects of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The people I met as a member of the youth council are people I eventually served on the Hopewell summer staff with and some of the retreat attendees were my campers! I spent the summers of my college years working on the Hopewell summer staff. At first, I served as a group counselor and later as the adventure camp counselor working with the teenage campers. These summers at Hopewell honestly served as a strengthening period for me. I counted on these summers to rejuvenate my Godly spirit and prepare me for the trying times I would face in the coming years at college. My fellow counselors and my campers taught me countless lessons I use in my everyday life.
After graduating from college, I took a job with Hopewell as the administrative assistant and registrar of the camp. Those 18 months were some of the hardest months I faced in my life. I was 23 — young, energetic, but lost as to where my place in this world was. Being able to see those smiling faces and the energy of the staff breeze in and out week to week, made my problems seem so small that they seemed to fade away.
The Hopewell Family is the support system I know I can fall back on when God sends challenges my way. The friends I made are friends I still have and friends I will continue to follow all the days of my life.
I was a counselor from 1984 to 1987. Camp Hopewell was and remains a very special place for me. Following a very serious car wreck in 1983, I became a camp counselor at Hopewell at the suggestion of my friend Melinida Skelton (Meme). I did this because the injury I sustained to my back in the wreck hampered my ability to lift heavy objects which is what I would have been doing in construction.
What started out as a job until I could get stronger became the first firm step in my calling to the ministry. My love for kids and the outdoors and the opportunity to grow in my Christian faith came together in this incredible experience known as camp Hopewell. It was so impressive that as I returned to Virginia from active duty service as an Air Force Chaplain, I took my two oldest children for their first Camp Hopewell experience. They loved it. Hopewell is very much the springboard of my ministry.
I remember one afternoon after I had decided to give in to a call to ministry and my wife and I were about to head off to Columbia Seminary to begin that journey, I was at my parents' house looking through some old high school era stuff of mine. While reading through a journal that I had kept for my 11th grade English class, I found this entry that I had no recollection of making:
"I think I might work for my dad's newspaper when I grow up. If I do want to do that I will probably work for him at the paper this summer. On the other hand, I might want to be a preacher when I grow up, and if that's what I want to do I should work at camp this summer."
Like I said, I don't remember writing that, but I do remember that it was the first summer I worked at Camp Hopewell. Now, after six summers on camp staff and with a seminary education under my belt, I am well on my way to being "a preacher when I grow up."
- “... children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe…” (Philippians 2:15 NIV)
Camp Hopewell has been a part of my life for more than 20 years now. As a camper, support staff, counselor, adventure leader, challenge course manager, resource staff and summer program director I have experienced all walks of life at Hopewell and it has taught me many things. The scripture above comes to my mind when I sit in the pews at the old Hopewell church where it all began.
The Hopewell church gived the building and the land that started camp back in the 1940s. In the church still today there is a picture frame that has 13 stars in it. Each star represents a person that grew up in the church and became a minister later in life. If you were to “update” that frame today you would not have enough room for all the stars it should hold. I have seen men and women who used to be counselors turn into ministers of the Word and Sacrament. I have worked side by side with those who have done the same thing. I have shared conversations with others who have worked at Hopewell that feel the calling to become ministers, and I myself have felt that call and serve at the closest PC(USA) church to Hopewell I could find.
Hopewell is a special place in which God not only works within the lives of the children that attend, but also in those who serve the little children. Hopewell takes you in and carves out a little section of your heart where it will stay forever. If you let it in, you can “shine like stars in the universe … ”
After camp and the retreat where we learned about trust I learned which ones of my friends I could really depend on. It helped me so I will not go through the pain my untrustworthy friends had put me through. They still make up stuff, but I don't care cause they were not ever true to me and never will be.
Camp Hopewell has been part of my life since I was about 7 years old. At the age of 7, it seemed like a huge adventure to be going off to camp for the first time, and as I prepare to return for my second year on staff this summer, it remains an adventure. No matter which role I take at camp: camper, PYC member, retreat chaperone or staff, I always feel the same feeling as I drive through the gates onto camp grounds: contentment. Camp Hopewell has been a place of many firsts for me. My first time to successfully stay away from home for a week (as a camper), my first time to successfully share God's word with others even my first time to light a fire on my own! I am so excited about my return to camp in a few months. It is my last summer before I move on to occupational therapy school and I can't think of any other place I'd rather spend it. I know that I will cherish my time at camp forever. Camp Hopewell is just the kind of place where you know that everything is going to be okay.
My first summer as a counselor was 1999, and I had a group of four 8-year-olds for Camp Hope that year. We were staying in cabin six (which was the source of a lot of ghost stories about camp — cabin six is definitely haunted), and about 12 a.m. we heard a loud noise like boots stomping up the stairs to the deck and right up to the door. I looked out the window, but there was no one there.
The girls were terrified and very upset because the sound of the boots was very loud and slow and purposeful, and I won’t lie — I was pretty unnerved myself. I even spent the next day asking around to find out if anyone had stopped by our cabin the night before, but no one had. So from 12 a.m. to 2 a.m., the girls were crying and unable to sleep and I had exhausted all the options I could think of for trying to get them calmed down and asleep. I had gathered them all together on a bed to sit and listen to a story, and it suddenly occurred to me that I should read to them from the Bible. So I began reading out of John 3, not because it had any special significance as a whole chapter, but because I at least knew that John 3:16 had a positive and reassuring message and that it would hopefully be familiar to them. I read them the whole chapter, and they began to visibly relax.
After I finished reading, they were pretty calm and were ready to lie down, and I was anxious to get them to sleep, since we had to be up at 7. As I was tucking in one of the girls, she sleepily looked up at me and said, “You love me like my own mama.” I suddenly got a lump in my throat. I couldn’t believe that simple act that I had used as a tool to get these girls to sleep had been felt as an expression of love by this little girl. And I also realized that she probably didn’t have too many people in her life who expressed their love for her — I was so happy that I could make her feel loved, and I was even further moved because it was the Bible reading that made her feel that way.
There are plenty of other stories I have told over the years about my camp experience, and I certainly feel that I formed lifetime bonds with counselors and campers both, but I can point to that moment as the single most poignant memory from two and a half summers as a counselor at Hopewell. It was an incredible joy to me to be able to make a difference for someone else.