The picture had unusual dimensions for a 1920’s era photograph. When we unrolled the picture, it was a black and white panoramic photo (8” x 39”) of a group of campers and counselors. The men wore white shirts and dark ties. The women wore light linen dresses. No one smiled. The oak tree saplings behind them in the picture are now mature trees, 36” in diameter. On the back, in faint pencil, is written “Arkansas Baptist Assembly 1929.”
Who were these people? What did they do when they came to Camp Siloam? How far had they traveled in 1929 to get here? How were their lives changed by an encounter with Jesus at Arkansas Baptist Assembly? Did any of them become prayer warriors, pastors, missionaries or Sunday school teachers? Why weren’t they smiling? After all, the old camp song says this is “the land of a million smiles.”
As we celebrate 100 years of Camp Siloam in 2023, one of our goals is to answer some of these questions about our history. We are constantly learning new things about Camp Siloam. For instance, recently I was talking with Freddie Pike, Executive Director of Camp Siloam from 1983 to 1993. Freddie shared with me that Camp Siloam didn’t always have executive directors. In fact, for a period one week of summer camp was organized, programmed and administered by a department at the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.
Pike said Lawson Hatfield became the first true executive director of Camp Siloam. Around 1965, the Convention approached Hatfield and asked if he would program every week of summer camp. According to Pike, Hatfield said he would do so if he could have oversight of the administration and finances as well. The convention said “yes,” and Camp Siloam had its first executive director.
Details, stories and pictures like these are not in any single place. It is our hope to put together a comprehensive history of Arkansas Baptist Assembly and Camp Siloam for the 100th anniversary of Arkansas Baptists doing Jesus’s ministry at Camp Siloam. We plan to publish snapshots of history recorded both on video and in writing. We will publish these vignettes on social media and in articles throughout the year. We will produce a chronological video history of Camp Siloam for our Centennial Celebration, August 4-5. Finally, by the end of the year we hope to have an Arkansas Baptist Assembly/Camp Siloam Wikipedia page that will be the official history of Camp Siloam.
We could use help from Arkansas Baptists to collect information about Camp Siloam. We are looking for pictures, stories, and videos of events that happened at Camp Siloam since 1923. If you have any information you would like to share with us, you can email Mitchell Waite, our social media supervisor at email@example.com or call us at 479-250-1865.
We stand in awe of how God continued to meet a loose gathering of Arkansas Baptists in a field each year, and now, 100 years later, He meets with hundreds of young people each summer at Camp Siloam. Through that span of time one thing has remained consistent: people have an encounter with Jesus and their lives are different.