Tribune-Courier News Reporter
AURORA – In its first 13 years, the Crossings Christian camp and conference center in Jonathan Creek has experienced incredible growth – from 1,000 campers in 2000 to almost 6,000 this year. Leaders at the camp say they are overwhelmed by the response from around the country.
David Rouse, property director of Crossings at Jonathan Creek, said registration for next summer already exceeds 7,000 people.
The increase in yearly visitors for summer camps and retreats has led Crossings to build a new 72-person lodge and a 900-seat worship center.
The new worship center will be attached to the old one, which seated around 725. The old center will be converted – possibly into a gymnasium, after the new center is built.
Pinnacle Construction Inc. of Benton will construct the lodge and worship center.
Crossings got its name from a passage in the New International Version of the Bible, John 5:24: “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”
The second part of that verse became the group’s slogan, “cross over from death to life.”
Rouse said it was important people knew that the camp’s mission is to provide excellence for everyone that comes to the facility.
“We maintain the property, provide excellent food, we keep the buildings clean – we remove any barriers and distractions so that people can focus while they’re here,” he said. “We don’t want people to be distracted from our purpose, spreading the word of God. We’re about proclaiming gospel in all that we do.”
Crossings hosts camps and retreats throughout the year, but during the summer groups from all over the country come to the Jonathan Creek facility.
Rouse said students of all ages – from primary school to high school – come to the camps each year from churches in Kentucky, and from many other states including Illinois, Indiana, Texas, Mississippi and beyond.
Rouse said the camp started with a handful of staff members; this year there were 47 college staffers, not including the professional staff already at Crossings. Rouse said next year they expect to bring in around 60 college counselors.
“It’s important for us to have enough counselors to provide a personal relationship between them and the people who come here,” he said. “We try to have 12 students to one leader. That allows them to have more personal relationships to help them with the gospel and helps them all share their own testimonies.”
Rouse said the college staffers come from universities throughout Kentucky and surrounding states.
“Some of the students that attended those first summer programs are coming back now that they’re in college to be part of the staff – they’re coming full circle,” he said.
Rouse said camp activities are a great attraction to keep campers coming back.
The Jonathan Creek location has 75 functional acres, with access to Kentucky Lake. It has several attractions including a 900-foot zip line; water slides into the camp’s pond; and a water zip line.
“Because of the growth and new opportunities we have to keep expanding – a good problem to have,” he said.