The History of Camp Bethel
In the early months of 1939, the Bible Mission of Southwest Virginia was born from nine missionaries’ vision to unify and coordinate the efforts of independent missionaries in the Appalachian Mountains. The Bible Mission established itself as a point of contact for those who wanted to get in touch with Christian work in southwest Virginia and aimed for a united effort in sharing the gospel of Jesus with the mountain people.
Together, they saw the need for a summer camp in an area where the idea was completely novel. The missionaries visited public schools during the spring of 1939 and urged school children to learn Bible memory verses for an opportunity to spend a week at camp. After hosting camp at prior sites for 7 years, the Lord brought John D. Henry, Jr. and Camp Bethel together on the same parcel of land in the summer of 1946.
God motivated many wonderful and generous people whose time and resources built Camp Bethel. Starting with three cabins and a “mess hall” on 29 acres in 1946, Camp Bethel has grown to include six additional cabins, a full-size gymnasium, and a 300-seat dining hall to provide a full service camp facility on 160 acres today. Through this expansion, Camp Bethel Ministries continues John D. Henry, Jr.’s vision of taking the gospel of Jesus into the community.
No longer do the cabins stand silent and dark from late summer to early summer of the next year. Our mission, to know Christ and to make Him known, is taken to our community in a variety of ways. In addition to summer camp, Camp Bethel is open year-round and offers retreats, outdoor adventure activities, and facility rentals to groups and individuals.
This mission of proclaiming the Gospel is what Camp Bethel has always been about and through His grace and His strength the camp will remain committed to that mission throughout its years ahead. All that has come before and all that will come through this work is by grace through faith in Christ.