United Methodist flotilla gets campers across

The adventures of summer camp can include just getting there. Ask the teenagers who floated across floodwaters to Cross Point United Methodist Camp in Kingston, Oklahoma.

The recent flooding cut off road access to the camp on Lake Texoma near the Texas border. What had been a peninsula is temporarily an island with no bridge.

Leaders scrambled to find other camps, but finally decided to create “island camp” at Cross Point, at least for older kids.

So on Monday, June 23, using 11 canoes and a pontoon boat – with a fishing boat in reserve – some 100 plucky campers and staff members floated nearly a half mile over to Cross Point.

“Camp is about the unexpected, it’s about flexibility, and it’s about dealing with challenges as they come along,” said Ed Parker, executive director of camp and retreat ministries for the Oklahoma Conference.

The canoes and other vessels made more than 30 trips, all under a broiling sun. But the water was smooth, and the current helped move things along fairly quickly.

Within three hours, the campers  from the Lawton District of the Oklahoma Conference – were all across and ready for the next adventure.

“It went awesome, without a hitch,” Parker said.

Kyle Batt, 17, was making his third trip to Cross Point for summer camp. But this was the first time he arrived by canoe.

"We were all really excited," Batt, a rising high school senior from Carnegie, Oklahoma, said by phone Tuesday. "It was a good bonding experience for the campers who canoed together. And it was good for the experienced campers to come into camp in a new way."

Safety concerns ruled out bringing younger children. Everyone on Monday’s flotilla wore a life jacket, and life guards were posted along the route.

The camp can handle a medical helicopter landing in case of emergency. For a less serious injury or illness, a camper would be floated back over to an ambulance or some other vehicle.

Parker praised Ken Long, camp director, and other staffers. He also credited the Ben E. Keith Co., the camp’s food provider.

“They went the extra mile, backing their truck right up to the water,” he said.

Kingston United Methodist Church helped as well, providing parking and a place for registration, and shuttling kids by van down to the water.

Parker, a military history buff, said the experience reminded him of the World War II evacuation Dunkirk, when the British used all manner of vessels to get endangered troops out of France.

Parker said he even referred to United Methodist flotilla as “Oklahoma’s Dunkirk” when asking people to lend a vessel.

The Lawton District camp runs through Friday, when the teens are scheduled to float back across. On Tuesday, campers were doing a rope course and archery, as well as having worship.  

Oklahoma, like much of the Southwest, had flooding rains over Memorial Day weekend. The Kingston area got another several inches last week.

Parker said the access road is under about 10 feet of water, with only the tops of telephone poles showing.

Even with dry weather, he believes it could be late July or August before road access is restored. The camp season will have ended, but retreat groups could begin to use Cross Point.

Cross Point has cancelled or rescheduled about 10 summer camps. Two groups scheduled for July are considering following Lawton’s lead and coming by water.

Last summer, Cross Point struggled with drought. Lake Texoma was so low that the camp’s dock was on dry land.

Bishop Robert Hayes Jr., of the Oklahoma Conference applauded the Cross Point team for coping with nature’s latest challenges.

“What it shows is creativity in the face of adversity,” he said. “The lesson I hope people will take away is that we can find a way to be the church, to be the gospel, to be disciples of Jesus Christ, in spite of all things.”

Hodges, a United Methodist News Service writer, lives in Dallas. Contact him at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org

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