MEXICO - Visitors at Island Grove Campground describe the annual meetings as a step back in time, but they have not been immune to change.
Founded in 1897 in Mexico, Juniata County, families have gathered at the campground for more than a century.
Now, they have electricity and air conditioned campers, movie nights and craft fairs; but they stick to the traditions upon which the camp was founded - Bible-based worship, teaching and fellowship.
Families gather for a photo during the 1910 Island Grove Camp Meeting in Mexico. The campground was founded in 1897, and summer meetings continue annually. This year, camp meetings will be held today through Friday.
"Our attendance is smaller than 100 years ago, but I attribute the fact that camp still exists is due to our love of God and His glorious Word," Kathryn Wisegarver, one of the organizers, said in a press release.
This year, the camp meeting is a little shorter. It runs today through Friday, Aug. 12. All evening services begin at 7:30 p.m.
The organizers switched from a 10-day to an eight-day event, after the meetings conflicted with early school openings in recent years, according to a press release from the organizers.
Tonight, Missions Night will feature Charles and Denise Weiand, who work with the Pima and Tarahumara Indians in Rio Chico, Chihuahua, Mexico. They have two daughters, Alyssa, 6, and Hannah, 2.
The Weiands are independent missionaries with the Mexican National Christian and Missionary Alliance Church. For three years, they have been providing relief work to the Indians, church development and opportunities for short-term missions teams to minister.
A first in Island Grove history, the Rev. Crystal Lyde of the Mexico and Port Royal Presbyterian churches will be the first female featured speaker for the week.
She comes from a long line of praying people who believe in the power of God through spoken and silent prayers, according to the press release.
Lyde spent 21 years in law enforcement. She began as a Harrisburg police officer and then a Pennsylvania State Trooper. She retired in 1999. God began to prepare her for the ministry; and as she prayed, studied her Bible and worshipped the Triune God, she learned to zealously submit herself to God's will. She was licensed as a minister in 2003 and ordained in 2005.
She will speak nightly Sunday to Friday. Her theme is "Revival, Restoration and Reconciliation."
Special music will be featured every evening. Tonight the Grace UMC Bell Choir from Lewistown will worship. Other musicians includes the Bunkertown Men's Chorus on Sunday, Ethan Fowler on bagpipes on Monday, the Brass Ensemble from the Lewistown area on Wednesday, the Juniata Valley Mixed Chorus on Thursday and Phil and Joan Loewen on Friday.
After every service, there will be a time of fellowship at the Mexico Hilton. Cottage holders will take turns serving ice cream, soda and nightly specials for a minimal charge.
On Sunday, a Fun Fair will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. There will be crafts and games for children of all ages, including jewelry making, face painting, tossing games and free ice cream. The fair is open to everyone, not just campers.
Bible study will be held at 10 a.m. Monday to Friday in the Mexico Hilton, with Children's Service in the Tabernacle and Teen Time in the Norman Cottage.
The popular family movie show will continue this year on Wednesday. Popcorn will be provided.
The annual wiener roast will be held Thursday at the Mexico Hilton. Cottage holders will provide hot dogs, rolls, mountain pie ingredients and marshmallows.
On Friday, there will be a pot luck supper at 5 p.m. at the Mexico Hilton. Everyone may bring a covered dish to share, place settings and a drink.
"From a personal point of view, I grew up at Island Grove, and now my children and grandchildren are sharing the experience," Wisegarver said. "Life is so busy, and camp is a step back in time. The favorite past time is sitting on a cottage porch and visiting with one another.
"We're not idle. There is always something to do, but the main focus is the evening service. God is the heart of our camp."
They welcome anyone from the community to visit Island Grove during the camp meetings, Wisegarver said. These events are for everyone, not just campers, she said.
Any Christian church is invited to become a member of the campground by paying an initial fee of $25 and a $10 annual fee.
Camp sites are available for tents and campers. Sites with electric hookups are $10 per night, or without for $5. A special rate of $75 for electric hookups for eight to 10 nights is available.
To make a reservation or for more information, call or write to Paul Culbertson, superintendent of grounds, at (570) 374-0951 or PO Box 202, 413 N. Eighth St., Selinsgrove, PA 17870.