By: Jon Benson
The first session of Camp Li-Lo-Li commenced on July 25, 1953. However, as with all great works of God, the process of getting to that first day started many years prior.
It started with the conversion to Christ of a 13-year-old boy. He had previously heard the gospel and on at least three occasions prior to his conversion had gone forward to the altar, having made a profession of faith. But it was when he was 13, that the gospel had become real to him under the preaching of brother John Bramhall, and with his heart convicted of sin he turned to the Saviour in simple faith, believing in the finished work and redeeming blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. This young man was Mel Northrop.
Years later, now married to his wife Midge, the Lord continued to stir in Mel’s heart the need for more outreach, which eventually led to the burden for camp ministry. Hearing other brothers and sisters share their positive experiences and having been impressed with the work of other camps that they were familiar with, they spoke often of the value of Bible camp ministry.
In 1951, they began to ask the Lord to make a move toward a Bible camp in the Rochester, NY area where they were now living. Several brothers, including Colin Caldwell and Stephen Smith, Mel’s father in-law, began meeting together for weekly prayer at Congress Avenue Bible Chapel (now called Cornerstone Bible Chapel), in Rochester, NY. It was these prayer meetings that fanned the fire of inspiration for camp work and a greater burden for local gospel outreach.
In the summer of 1952, Mel and Colin were preaching at a series of meetings at the assembly in Jamestown, NY. While in the area, they visited Allegany State Park having heard that the park had sites that could be rented for camp purposes. However, they soon learned that the park was so busy that people often rented their sites many years in advance and that there would be a five-year waiting list for them to get a site. However, that year by God’s providence Camp No. 11 became available due to a cancellation, which made the site available for rent the next summer. They discerned that this was the Lord’s will to move forward and reserve Camp No. 11 at Allegany State Park for the two weeks of July 25 to August 8, 1953.
On August 9, 1952, Mel and Colin, along with the Jamestown assembly visited Camp No. 11 to have a look at the site. The Jamestown assembly was so enthralled with the camp that they agreed to support the work of the camp ministry. Once Mel and Colin arrived home to Congress Avenue Bible Chapel, they received a similar response to support the work. On Saturday, October 4, 1952 a meeting was held with three representatives of seven assemblies (Rochester, Erie, Jamestown, Niagara Falls, three Buffalo area assemblies). All seven assemblies agreed to support the camp ministry.
On Saturday, November 1, 1952 a picnic was held at Allegany State Park in 70-degree weather, clearly a gift from the Lord for that time of year. The purpose of the picnic was to tour the campground and discuss how the buildings could be used. It was decided at this picnic and tour that Allegany State Park Bible Camp would hold its first session from July 25 – Aug 8, 1953.
What had once been a dream, had now become a reality. At a camp meeting in March, 1953, the camp name was officially approved to be Camp Li-Lo-Li. This was actually developed by Mel’s 11-year-old daughter, Betty Northrop. Since that date the name has stood the test of time continuing to offer its deep meaning that we have held so dear. Though the name is so often mispronounced, it continues to embody the intention of the camp’s founding assemblies and each person that serves there. It represents sharing the Life, Love and Light of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In 1955, after much prayer and searching, the Lord provided the land that would be the future home of Camp Li-Lo-Li. We were able to agree on a price of $6,800 for 296 acres that also included a farmhouse, chicken coops, schoolhouse, and two old barns. Some of this remains at camp today, including the schoolhouse and a barn.
A while later, with the Lord’s provision and much labor, the lodge and several cabins for the summer sessions were built. In the summer of 1956, during our 4th year as Camp Li-Lo-Li, we hosted our camp sessions in the “Promised Land.”
We have now completed our 65th year of camp ministry. It is with incredible appreciation and gratitude that we can look back and truly see “all that God hath wrought”. It is a tremendous reminder to each of us that we are just pebbles in the work of Christ in building His Church. The mission of Camp Li-Lo-Li is to “Share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the teachings of God’s Word to children, youth and families in a rural camp setting.” In summary, our desire is to continue to be used by Him in the process of making disciples, either preaching the gospel so that the lost can be found in Christ or teaching those who have been found the more excellent ways of Christ.
The people whose names are written in the Book of Life and that will be rewarded at the Bema for the faithful work of the ministry at Camp Li-Lo-Li are impossible to recall. Many do specifically stick out as it is with any ministry. However, there are so many more whose names may not be remembered but will be rewarded for a work well done.
Camp Li-Lo-Li continues to serve the Lord, His people, and the lost by preaching the gospel with the goal of “Changed Lives in Jesus Christ!” We run camp sessions and guest groups throughout the year, but the primary ministry is still the summer camps, with attempts at follow-up and discipleship with campers and staff throughout the year. We run six weekly kids camps throughout the summer, as well as a Family Camp Week during the 4th of July week. We end the summer with a Family Camp session on Labor Day weekend.
It is a joy and a blessing to be involved in the work at Camp Li-Lo-Li! If you have not yet found a camp to serve at and support, we are always happy to welcome new history makers!