SPRING VALLEY TOWNSHIP — Located between the rise of two hills on State Route 380 a few miles south of Xenia, is about 40 quiet acres of land dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of young people and their families. All that land makes up Camp Jabez, a Christian ministry operated by The Dayton Gospel Mission.
The camp first opened in 2002, before it was acquired by the mission in 2007. Since then, it has grown into a full-fledged day camp, which features a large indoor horse arena with a variety of horse programs, fishing, archery, a ropes course, a zip line, paddle boats and more. Work is wrapping up on a 12,000-square-foot “Country Education Center,” which is set to serve as a local meeting center and gathering place.
All told, it’s a campus that serves a variety of purposes.
While summer activities at the camp have largely wrapped up and things are slowing down a touch, it’s not always quiet at Camp Jabez. During the summer months, the camp is bustling with young activity, as campers show up to learn about a variety of subjects. And even in coming months, regular programming will begin for the rest of the year.
There’s always something going on at 3191 S.R. 380.
“More than just a good time”
On one particular hot July afternoon, young campers are sitting under a shelter situated next to the camp’s pond, busy learning about a particular Bible subject for the afternoon. Soon they’ll leave the day camp for home after a week of outdoor learning.
“When our kids come here, we really want to give them a good outdoor education and appreciate God’s creation,” camp director Ken Clarkston said. “The kids will come away from here with more than just a good time.”
Summer camp activities largely center on getting campers out in nature. Scavenger hunts, nature walks, orienteering activities and more all take place in the camp’s “Jabez Forest.”
“Everything we look at here, we explain it from the terminology of the good Lord,” Clarkston said while standing in the middle of the forest. “The 100-foot oak tree takes enough carbon dioxide out of the air, generates enough oxygen in one day for two people. We want them to understand the concepts of what trees are all about, the various plants and things and really give them that kind of education, so they can appreciate God’s creation.”
Campers also regularly go out on challenge and ropes courses, which get them out above the forest floor, forcing them to learn lessons about trust and overcoming fears.
“ … When you’re trusting in the right thing, you’re going to be safe,” Clarkston said. “ … We try to show [kids] very practical lessons about building trust in something you can trust in, like this [ropes] system.”
Yes, when youngsters leave Camp Jabez on State Route 380, they’ll likely leave having had a fun time, but they’ll also likely take with them lessons that will last far longer than their week at camp.