- The Beginnings
- Stories of blessing from CBM’s founder
- Camp/area development
Children‘s Bible Mission had its beginning in the early 1930’s. In the fall of 1932, Mr. & Mrs. Walter Jensen came to Florida with a great burden to reach lost children with the Gospel of Christ. For two years, they worked alone reaching children through school assemblies and as they found opened doors. God was clearly opening these doors in response to a weekly prayer meeting for that purpose. A plan was then presented to some Christian business and professional men: the public school classes would feature a Bible memory program, with a set of awards to be given for verses memorized, the top prize being a free week of camp. Thus, on February 5, 1935, Children‘s Bible Mission was born in St. Petersburg, and in 1948 built their headquarters at 1628 Gary Road, Lakeland, Florida.
The first camp took place in a wooded area on a lake twenty miles north of Tampa in August, 1935. Dishes and cooking utensils were borrowed from a YMCA, and all supplies had to be brought out from Tampa. Food was also donated, including fruit and ice cream, and a young calf, which provided meat for the camp. Out of the 47 children who had earned a week of camp, 32 actually attended; and of these, 16 were saved and other important life-decisions were made.
Soon it was clear that bigger and better camp facilities were needed, and a search was begun. At the same time, people were praying specifically for this need and, in answer to prayer in 1938, the mission purchased the former Polk City Golf Course on Lake Helene for $1.00, where CBM of FL: Camp Gilead now stands. Other wonderful provisions included materials and help in constructing the original buildings on the property. Missionaries and volunteers worked hard to put up ten buildings in four months, to accommodate 100 campers to the public classroom.
The plan to reach children in the schools was to encourage them to memorize the Word of God by offering scriptural awards. A list of carefully selected Bible verses was prepared and awards offered for memorizing these verses and repeating them to the teacher. The schools were to be visited once a month, when the awards would be presented. The volunteers would also teach Bible stories and lead the children in choruses. In the first forty-eight schools visited, all but one gladly welcomed the program. The teacher in that school said that there had been no Sunday school or gospel service in the community for years and that it was useless to enroll her children as they were too indifferent to Scripture. However, she finally agreed to try and was amazed at the response!
News spread rapidly that the “Bible folks” were coming, and the often repeated greeting would be, “We thought you would never come!” The happy faces of the children and the comments of the grateful teachers more than repaid all of the effort of traveling many miles daily over narrow roads and trails. The memorization awards system was as follows:
John 3:16 – Gospel of John
25 more verses – New Testament
25 more verses – A story book
50 more verses – A wall plaque
100 more verses – A Bible
100 more verses – A week of camp!
In the 1960’s, public schools began closing their doors to CBM, saying that they could no longer teach Bible stories on campus. In the spring of 1967, CBM, in conjunction with Evangelical Fellowship of the Cumberland Valley, launched the first CBM Released Time classes. Seventy-two fifth graders from two elementary schools participated in the weekly program. Today, over 17,000 children attend CBM Released Time classes either weekly or monthly. Children are “released” from one class period and transported by CBM missionaries or staff off school grounds to either a rolling chapel or a local church to learn the Bible.
The following stories are three excerpts from Walter and Marie Jensen’s book, “Hedged In.” We pray they will inspire you to pray and believe God for great things!
The folks had moved back to Nebraska and I received a letter from our father asking me to come and take over the farm as he was sick. He wrote, “Your mother has gone crazy over religion and is spending half of her time down in the granary praying.” I knew my mother had not lost her mind but rather was happy in her new life, though I had no idea just what it was like.
A neighbor, Mrs. Jennie Kirk, had persuaded mother to go with her to go with her to a revival meeting in Bassett. Mother said she heard the Gospel for the first time that night. As they sang the hymn, “Down at the Cross where my Savior died,” mother’s strong will was broken and she humbly gave her heart to Christ, the One she now saw had done so much for her.
A tremendous burden now came upon her mother for her husband and her six children, who had been so neglected spiritually all the past years. She discovered a good secret prayer room in one of the empty grain bins in the granary and there she spent eight hours out of twenty-four daily, praying for her lost family. I was the first one to yield my life to Christ, but not until six years later.
Revival in Camp
When the Reeds moved to Tallahassee they had camp for their children near Lake City. The highlight of that first camp in the northern part of the state was a message by Billy Graham, who had come up from Tampa where he was attending Bible School. The Reeds had met Billy when they were in Lakeland and also had been in his parents’ home in North Carolina.
Billy’s subject that night was “The Handwriting on the Wall.” There was deep conviction of sin and it was after midnight before we got the children settled down. They ran from room to room, pulling one another out of bed and getting them down on their knees. There was constant singing and praising God and this was one of the most impressive services we ever had. Even in those early days the Spirit of the Lord was present in power in Billy Graham’s life.
A Providential Meeting
During the last week of camp there were two more days to go and no money to buy more food. The children were told about the situation and asked if they would like to pray, so instead of the usual class, we had a prayer meeting and asked the Lord for $50.00. After dinner it was necessary for Mrs. Mackey to make a trip to Lakeland and there on the street she met a friend who inquired about camp and then handed her a check for $50.00! She hurried back to camp with the check and the children were called together and told of the Lord’s provision in answer to prayer. It had a profound effect on them and it was a lesson they would not soon forget.
National Office (CBM Headquarters) – Tuckaleechee Retreat Center
1935 – housed in a St. Petersburg, FL church
1941 – moved from St. Petersburg, FL to Lakeland, FL
1987 – moved from Florida to Wa-Floy Mountain Village in Gatlinburg
2000 – moved from Gatlinburg to Townsend, at Tuckaleechee Retreat Center, where it is housed today
CBM of Florida, Polk City – Camp Gilead
1935 – the ministry began; camp was held in a wooded area on a lake 20 miles north of Tampa
1935 – the mission purchased the former Polk City Golf Course on Lake Helene for $1, where it still operates as Camp Gilead
CBM of Virginia, Stevensburg – Camp Red Arrow
1937 – the ministry began; camp was held at various camps throughout the years
2007 – received a gift of a 48-acre property known as Camp Red Arrow
CBM of North Carolina, Raleigh – New Life Camp
1937 – the ministry began
1955 – a beautiful 68-acre wooded camp site, now known as New Life Camp, was purchased for $12,000
CBM of North Carolina, Fairmont – Camp Grace
1954 – the ministry began
1997 – 240 acres of land was received as a gift to be developed into a CBM camp, now known as Camp Grace
CBM of Alabama, Samson – Camp Victory
1942 – the ministry began; camp was held at various camps throughout the years
1959 – a 200-acre farm was purchased for a little less than $80/acre and offered as much of it to CBM as they needed for Camp Victory
CBM of Alabama, Mentone – Poderosa Student Ministries
1947 – the ministry began; camp was held at various camps throughout the years
1976 – the 80-acre camp, now known as Ponderosa Student Ministries, was purchased
CBM of Tennessee, Watauga – Camp Ta-Pa-Win-Go
1943 – the ministry began
1948 – CBM was given a tract of land now known as Camp Ta-Pa-Win-Go (“Place of Joy on a Hill”)
CBM of Pennsylvania, Carmichaels – Cornerstone Ministry Center
1944 – the ministry began; camp was held at Camp Sunrise Mountain for many years
2007 – a 27-acre property was donated to CBM to develop into a camp, now known as Cornerstone Ministry Center
1984 – the ministry began; a campsite is rented each summer
1946 – the ministry began
Today – CBM has grown to 25 schools and nearly 1,600 students; there is no camp facility
CBM National of Rockwood, TN – Camp Ozone
2015 – a 320-acre property was partially donated/partially sold to CBM. In summer 2015, one week of day camp was held. In summer 2016, one week of day camp and one week of overnight camp were held. In summer 2017, one week of day camp and two weeks of overnight cap will be held. Please pray for the Lord’s blessing upon this new area!