A wilderness camp in the Missouri Ozarks that offers a free week of fun—and evangelism—to inner-city kids who live in gang-infested neighborhoods has just finished its twenty-fifth year with a record number of attendees and converts. This summer at Camp Penuel near Ironton, Missouri, 90 miles southwest of Saint Louis, 2,403 kids ages 7 to 11 attended, with 1,180 of them making decisions to become Christians. The trip and stay in the cabins and dorms cost about $200 per child, but the entire amount is subsidized by donors.
"Our whole mission is to go into gang areas, take kids to the camp, win them to Christ, and get them in church before they join gangs," says the camp's founder and director, Harry H. Douma, 65. Workers from neighborhood churches and parachurch groups, particularly inner-city missions, select the participants. Three-fourths of the children receive follow-up ministry from churches and parachurch ministries once they return home.
The camp encompasses 650 acres. A second facility, Camp Penuel East, covers 100 acres and has been operating for five years at Eldred, Pennsylvania, in the Allegheny Mountains, serving 730 children annually. In the past quarter-century, 33,000 kids have been bused in from Saint Louis, Kansas City, Memphis, Chicago, Buffalo, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Rochester, and Washington, D.C., to the two camps.
The camps cost $500,000 a year to operate, and a $1 million building program is in progress.1
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