I have found the camping world to be full of godly leaders who are not competitive with each other, but are helpful, humble, and Kingdom minded. The three largest Christian camps in California are affectionately referred to as the “3 H’s”, those being Hume Lake, Forest Home, and Mount Hermon. I was privileged to attend all three of these camps growing up.
It was at Forest Home where I saw my first snowfall at a Jr. High winter camp. It was at Hume Lake, while in High School, where I stood up with full conviction and said to the Lord, “Here I am Lord, send me!” And each summer Mom and Dad brought us kids to Family Camp at Mount Hermon. I’m blessed!
There is an old camp photo taken at Hume Lake with all the Sr. High campers from that particular week standing by the Lake. It was probably 1979 or 1980. My wife Jane and I are both in the picture, attending Hume from different churches, but we wouldn’t meet for several more years until our junior year in college! It has become my privilege and joy to become close friends with Dathan Brown and Gary Wingerd, the leaders of Hume Lake and Forest Home. We often talk on the phone, we had regular Zoom calls throughout 2020 and 2021 as we helped each other navigate a pandemic, and we genuinely just like hanging out!
Recently the three of us and our wives (Sheri, Danielle, and Jane) enjoyed three days together at Pismo Beach— and yes, us guys are all wearing the same jacket!
I asked Dathan and Gary three questions, and I want to share with you their answers. You’ll see why I love these guys so much!
Why do you believe in Christian camping?
Gary Wingerd | Forest Home: “My life was changed at camp! I remember several life-changing moments where God revealed Himself to me and gave me a vision for my life as His Ambassador. I can’t imagine a more powerful ministry to students and families. Forest Home’s founder— Henrietta Mears— would state that a week at camp will accomplish spiritually in a student’s life what it takes years to do otherwise. I’ve seen this firsthand and it’s why I continue to invest in camp ministry.”
Dathan Brown | Hume Lake: “Christian camps are often located in beautiful locations where it is easy to remove the distractions of daily life for a defined period of time, focus on your relationship with Christ and other believers. When we open the pages of Scripture we find that Jesus not only taught in the temple but shared powerful lessons under the stars, around a campfire, while fishing, or even when sleeping in a boat. He valued and practiced stepping away from the masses of people and spending time away from the crowds in retreat type settings. My life has been changed at camp.”
Why is the 3H relationship meaningful to you?
Dathan Brown: “I’m guessing some may wonder how can the CEOs of Mount Hermon, Forest Home and Hume Lake be such good friends? Are we not competitors? The answer is sure, in one sense. We all want to represent our ministries with excellence and to thrive. But most of all we want the good news of Jesus Christ to be boldly proclaimed throughout California and around the world. We are FAMILY. I love Gary and Mike’s passion for the gospel and for the ministries they represent.
Each ministry has a clear mission and together we can go farther than anyone can go individually. Over the past couple of years COVID has threatened the very existence of camping ministries. Behind the scenes, the leadership at Hermon, Home, and Hume have prayed together. We have brainstormed, consulted with each other and even counseled each other during difficult days. It has been a tough road, but one in which deeply meaningful relationships have been deepened even more.”
Gary Wingerd: “Through God’s miraculous provision, Forest Home launched in 1938 under Henrietta Mears’ vision with camp programs she saw modeled at Mount Hermon. In many ways, we owe our existence to Mount Hermon!
We have a high calling before us: to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). I do not believe this work can be done alone, and we must partner together to see this come about. It’s a joy to pray for, encourage, and lock arms with Hume Lake and Mount Hermon as we seek this same goal together. We have experienced each other’s amazing support through fires, floods, and COVID!”
What is on your heart to pray for these days with regards to camping ministry?
Gary Wingerd: I am burdened to pray for each person who God brings to camp. My prayer is that they would personally “have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth” of the love of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:18–19). I believe that if we all had a bigger picture of His love for us, we would focus more of our energy on Great Commission work, and less time on the distractions of this world. My prayer is that each camper would surrender fully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and gain clarity as to the specific call that He has for them.
Dathan Brown: Kids are facing serious issues and are looking for answers. Although there is a lot of hurt and disillusionment, there is also a spiritual hunger that is out there. As believers in Jesus, we have a message of hope. May God use us all to effectively point people to Jesus and challenge Christ followers to grow more in love with their Savior. I pray that God will wildly bless the ministry of Mount Hermon and Forest Home (and other like-minded Christian camps) in the years to come. May we partner together to make a significant kingdom difference here in California and beyond.
Please join me in thanking God and praying for these leaders, the effectiveness of their ministries and for continued partnerships for