It has been said that history is HIS-story. The history of the Bongiorno Conference Center has been the story of God's history and the movement of the Spirit in the lives of multitudes of people. The Bongiorno Conference Center (BCC) exists to see lives transformed by God’s power through Christian retreats. It strives to provide the best retreat venue that enables a spiritual atmosphere to facilitate successful life change. The facilities and staff partner with churches and ministries to encourage spiritual growth and renewal. If you’ve had the privilege to experience a retreat or camp at BCC you would know this to be true.
The Christian camp experience has been a valued tradition in ministries and churches and especially in our denomination. Prior to the purchase and establishment of this retreat center, our fellowship owned two other properties: Maranatha Camp and Living Waters Camp. They served as locations where church groups and individuals came together to experience the presence and power of God.
Former Superintendent, Dr. Steve Tourville, remembers the influence of these camps in his own life and says, “My personal spiritual journey was impacted by the summers spent at Maranatha in the ‘tabernacle.’ And now our son’s life was redirected, and the call of God to ministry was reinforced on the grounds of Bongiorno in Carlisle, PA.”
The late Dr. Paul Grabill, former Assistant Superintendent, was deeply impacted at the Living Waters Camp in Cherry Tree, PA. He wrote, “I am more grateful to God than I can express that I grew up in an Assemblies of God family and church that valued the Christian camping tradition. Neither of my parents had ever experienced its value for themselves, yet I was the fourth of their children to make summer camp a priority. In fact, it was the highlight of my year.” He fondly recalled that, “It all started with Kids’ Camp where I was enthralled by Sister Crosby’s legendary storytelling of Pilgrim’s Progress. It continued with Youth Camp….salvation, Holy Spirit baptism, holiness - they were the staples but never got old…of course, there were the water fights and incredible fun nights with the Couriers (Gospel singing group). And the ever-popular lesson in brushing teeth while ‘conserving’ Living Waters’ rancid water.”
But one memory, among them all stood out in particular in Pastor Grabill’s memory of Living Waters Camp. It goes like this: “It was the summer of ’69. Two Americans were on the moon, hundreds of thousands of American youth were at Woodstock in upstate New York. I was at Living Waters Youth Camp in Cherry Tree, PA.” He continued, “So why do I remember the Youth Camp of ’69? One event that year is seared into my memory. For about an hour, I went to someone’s cabin and watched the moon landing on television. Sure, like everyone, I was in awe. But the feeling I walked away with wasn’t based on the events of the world. As awesome as they were, they had intruded into my sacred week. Sure, they had touched the moon, but I had touched heaven.”
Think about it…history was made! A man on the moon! But for Paul Grabill, what mattered most was the HIS-story taking place in his heart! He had touched heaven.
Countless stories are imbedded in the hearts of many where HIS-story sowed its first seed, where salvations and Holy Spirit baptisms were the staples and where lives touched heaven at a Christian camp.
Oh, that we all might feel that intruded upon that something as history-making as a man on the moon would intrude upon our sacred week at camp! How priceless! Nothing can compare to a spiritual encounter with our Lord during a Christian retreat.
Other accounts are inspiring as well with lasting effects. Sharon Poole, Girls Ministries Director says, “I attended Living Waters Camp in Cherry Tree, PA from the time I was too young to remember. It was there at that camp that I came to accept the Lord while kneeling beside a cot in Cabin 66. A few years later I was filled with the precious Holy Spirit as I knelt at the altar. Because of the influence of many at a Christian camp, I accepted God’s call to full-time ministry.”
As the culture changed and people transitioned their patterns of travel, vacation and interest, the camps (Living Waters and Maranatha) were sold, and the Pennsylvania-Delaware District began to offer camps at the newly purchased campground, Bongiorno Conference Center in 1984. A rich HIS-story was already in the making at 430 Union Hall Road, Carlisle, PA
Written by: George Krebs Director BCC