Bonnie Holiness Campmeeting in Bonnie, IL has an amazing history. It was begun in 1891 (the year of my grandfather’s birth) and born out of the fires of the great American campmeeting movement of the late 1800’s. The camp saw an attendance of 1,000 people (and hundreds of horses!) in its “heyday,” and in its history has had a real impact on this region of southern Illinois. In recent years, the camp has felt the impact of the great challenges and downward economic trends of this part of rural, southern Illinois. In this its 125th year, I think that camp has wisely decided to focus toward reaching the youth of the area and making this a large part of the focus of the camp.
Toward that end, this campmeeting consisted mostly of youth, many of whom came from homes where the family does not attend church. This presented me with a most unique opportunity in a campmeeting setting and one that I had not experienced before. It took on almost the sense of a youth camp --- with some adults listening in! Instead of the “normal” campmeeting attire of slacks and a dress shirt, it was jeans and t-shirts, getting right down front with these students, and speaking to them right where they were in a very interactive manner. It was a powerful experience to see so many of these youth respond to Jesus --- some of whom knew so very little about God’s Word or the Christian life.