In a lot of ways Rev. Clay Brantley is a big kid. In other ways, he is a wise old man. So, it might be best to describe him as a Gilmont Camper! He's led Spiritual Practices retreats for adults, served as a Bible Study leader at Summer Camp, participated in a variety of retreats and now serves on our Board of Directors. In the midst of the uncertain world we find ourselves in today, we hold to real stuff; that which is comforting, that which is reassuring, that which is hopeful. In that spirit, Rev. Clay Brantley wrote a poem in celebration of Gilmont’s 80th Birthday. Although we are not able to gather at Gilmont today, this place holds blessings of yesterday and hope for tomorrow.
I sense in me and in others a deep yearning
to connect and experience and know God,
the one who creates us, calls us
and gives our lives meaning.
In this yearning is the desire
To have extended moments,
A time for listening and being and learning with Christ
That is outside of our normal routine.
This is Gilmont
I sense in me and in others a desire
To connect and know others
In ways I cannot through emails and meetings and lunches.
I want to be known and to know others
Deeper than just their names or the work they do or where they live.
I want to encounter their soul and they encounter mine.
This is Gilmont
I sense in me and in others a profound wanting
To connect with myself.
To be willing to be present with me
Beyond the distractions of everyday life.
To bring together all the scatter pieces of me
That run in many directions.
I want some way to see me, know me.
Truly love me and be loved by me.
Where can I connect with me in this profound way?
This is Gilmont.
I sense in me and in others a hunger
To connect with nature
To connect with creation, with the Earth from which we come.
So many times, my connections
Have happened in the midst of nature.
There is something inviting, freeing, life-giving
When I spend an extended period of time,
Hours and days
Among the trees and flowers, birds and sky, lakes and trails.
This is Gilmont
We are in a time of disconnection
From God, from one another, from self, from nature.
More and more of us believe there is no God, no deep connections,
No life-giving gifts from nature we need to receive.
Gilmont is more than a conference center
A place to which retreat.
It is a critical piece to the survival of our species
To the sanity of our race
To the yearnings of our soul
To the connections with Life Itself.
Gilmont offers us the space to connect,
That we do not find in our normal walks of life.
This we must shout from the hills and lakes and trees of Gilmont
Come and connect.
Life Skills Learned at Camp, By James Hilliard, Gilmont's Executive Director
What are kids learning and experiencing at Gilmont this summer? Let’s take a look!
"I think the single most important thing camp teaches children is to be independent," longtime camper parent shares. While a majority of children who attend camp experience homesickness in some form or another, camp provides a safety net that allows them to navigate decision-making processes, discover likes and dislikes and gain the ability to become a confident, self-aware community member.
With that newfound sense of independence, your kids may even (gasp!) gain a sense of appreciation for you and all of the things you do that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. Now that your child has to make his bed, tidy his room and take turns doing different chores around camp with the other kids, it may dawn on him that you're the one taking care of this stuff, and help him appreciate these things more deeply upon returning home.
Each week campers come from all walks of life and enter into an East Texas Ecosystem. What does that mean? It means that for 7 days and 6 nights in the out of doors, campers are learning what is safe and what to watch out for in the woods. They also learn about God’s creation and how each piece has a purpose and works together in the greater system. As good stewards, our kids learn “the only thing we leave in the forest is our footprints.”
Camp is a safe place for campers to stretch comfort zones, and sometimes fail! For some campers, this is a big step. An activity might be fun for one camper, while frustrating for the next. Interpersonal skills are nurtured as campers get over their frustrations. They learn what it takes to build relationships, problem solve as individuals, as well as in a group, and practice effective communication.
At the heart of camp is building courage. How hard is it for us, no matter our age, to spend time away for a week? The absence of the familiar can be a bit overwhelming. Not only do campers go away for a week, they are thrown into a family group of mostly strangers and learn to start working in community to build one another up. They learn how to try new things and take risks in a safe and nurturing environment.
Being an active participant in a community is a genuine life lesson learned at camp. Camp teaches children that they can build a supportive family of friends on their own, without relying on their parents.
Across the country, camps like Gilmont are busy year-round, welcoming campers of all ages and taking the "ho-hum" out of adult trainings, workshops, and conferences. So, what makes Gilmont a great choice for such a gathering?
1. Hospitality for groups. A relaxed place where folks feel welcome and the meeting planners have extra staff onsite to help them meet their goals.
“Camp Gilmont is in a beautiful, secluded area, offering a wonderful opportunity for your group. The staff is very friendly and go above and beyond to ensure everyone has a good experience. I highly recommend it to anyone considering a retreat.”
2. Great Meeting Spaces. The Crain Conference Center with meeting space for 200 and breakout rooms for small group gathering; the remodeled dining hall where guests enjoy great food; and, of course the upgraded lodge rooms for a comfy nights sleep.
“If you haven't been to Gilmont in the last few years, you need to check it out! It's a different place, with the beautiful Crain Center for meetings, excellent signage throughout the camp, and, as always, great food!”
3. So many extras at no extra cost. Just being in nature and enjoying the seasons. Trails to walk, ponds to fish, and porches upon which to relax and spend time talking to each other - getting to know the other attendees. Great places to go during down time and reset for more productive meetings.
“A hideaway retreat in the woods.”
4. Convenience. Nestled in the piney woods, Gilmont is 30 minutes from Longview and 45 from Tyler. Traveling to Gilmont is easy too – we recommend flying to Shreveport if you want the speedy and easy route, or if you like the city, enjoy DFW or Love Field, and the drive is 2.5 hours away. Folks often car pool to Gilmont and enjoy the fellowship.
"It's just around the corner, but when you turn into the place you feel like you are a world away."
5. A good value. Our pricing is competitive with other camps and will trump a hotel destination.
“Gilmont is a good value and it was a great place for our group to clear our minds and make new plans for the future.”
6. You get a personalized experience. It is Gilmont's mission to serve, so we are eager to meet the needs of our groups. Whether it is serving guests with special diets, customizing a group's dining hours, building menus, or helping guests with certain challenges, we are happy for you to let us know how you can help.
“Gilmont is a wonderful place for renewal, centering, and fun! A great resource for East Texas and beyond!”
“Check it out. It is a little piece of heaven on earth.”
This article was inspired by the great folks at Retreat Central