Christian camp in Bladen County is ready for visitors

By: Chrysta Carroll - Bladen Journal

WHITE LAKE — A new Bladen County retreat is up, running and open for business.

Situated on lakefront property, White Lake Christian Camp and Retreat Center became a ministry last summer when Lake Church purchased Lasley’s Motel and the three acres of land, 300 feet of shoreline, two trailers, two piers, and seven houses that came with it.

This week, it began seeing its first visitors.

Currently, visitors are staying in some of the 11 motel rooms that have been renovated top to bottom. Inside one of the rooms, Moroccan-print quilts top recently purchased mattresses on the two double beds, each of which has a freshly painted white headboard. Between the two beds is a nightstand, above which are two shiny wall lamps. In the kitchenette, a new refrigerator and modern microwave are accompanied by upper and lower storage cabinets and a two-person table.

“We’ve tried to make it so people staying here could do everything in here if they wanted,” Lake Church Pastor Cameron McGill explained.

Opposite the beds stands a new dresser, and another end table and two chairs sit in front of the window. In addition to the updated furnishings, bathroom fixtures have been replaced, as have flooring and paint.

“Everything’s new and clean,” McGill remarked, gesturing around the entire property. “There’s such history here, and we’ve tried to retain the trees, for example, to save some of that old-school White Lake, while making sure things are neat and clean.”

Indoor/outdoor carpet that used to line the front of the motel has been replaced with shrubbery and annuals and a concrete ramp McGill and other church members installed.

“Everything has been purchased with money loaned by church members, and all the work has been done by us or by church groups who came here to work,” the pastor said.

The space that originally served as the motel office has been enlarged to include a solarium and, since the camp will not need a registration desk, it will be converted to a gathering space for campers.

An additional gathering space is situated at the end of the motel. Between the motel and the water, situated horizontally to the shoreline, are two trailers. The first has a small deck — work done by visiting Baptists — and inside are multiple bedrooms with handmade bunks, bathrooms, a living space, and a kitchen. McGill said he hopes it can accommodate 10-12 people. The other mobile unit — originally the same floor plan as the other — has been completely gutted. All that remains are a kitchen and one, large meeting space. McGill said he hopes it will be used as a place for worship services. If so, worshippers will have one of the best views in the county; the windows behind the stage overlook the Spanish-moss-draped trees that line the shore of White Lake.

Upon exiting the latter trailer, McGill pointed at one of the two piers that extend from the property over the lake.

“When the (McSwain) family asked us about purchasing the property, we started gathering right out there and praying about it,” he said, staring at the covered deck. Then, sweeping his arm from one side of his body to the other he said, “The Lord just showed up and blew right threw the place, and we knew this was what we were supposed to do. We’ve never looked back.”

Forward looking is the order of the day, evidently. Six houses that used to dot the property are now gone, all demolished just in the last two weeks.

“People ask us why we’re tearing the houses down, but they just took up so much of the property, and there were so many problems,” he explained. “Some had air conditioning, some didn’t. They needed new plumbing, new wiring — so much work was necessary that it just made more sense to tear them down.”

Where the six houses previously stood will be recreation courts and parking.

The only house that remains is the one previously occupied by Lasley’s owner Helen McSwain. Although undergoing renovations of its own, The Lodge, as it will be called, will retain five bedrooms and four bathrooms, a full kitchen, and a gathering room.

At the eastern end of the property along a fence, however, will be the centerpiece of the site, Lake Church. Currently, the assembly, which numbers 500 sometimes during the summer, is renting space for its Sunday service. McGill said he hopes within two or three years to begin construction on a 400-500-seat structure to house Lake Church worshippers on Sunday and to serve as the meeting space for campers during the week.

“You know, the inspiration for this whole thing is Caswell,” said McGill. “When it was purchased for $80,000 back in the 1930s, a lot of people didn’t want to do it. Now, it sees 10,000 people every year, and it’s the pride of the Convention. I think we’ve got something really special here, too.”

If it’s special for churches, it has the capability to bless the local community as well, according to McGill.

“There’s a lot of need in Bladen County, and I’d love to see groups from all over come stay here while they’re doing mission work in Bladen County,” he said. “It can really benefit the community.”

A camp director has recently been hired, and White Lake Christian Camp is taking registrations. Persons interested in marriage retreats, church leadership retreats, special needs camps, family vacations, senior citizen getaways, youth group gatherings, or any other group wanting a retreat are encouraged to visit the camp web site, dublinfbc.org/locations/white-lake-christian-camp.

Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing ccarroll@bladenjournal.com.

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Chrysta Carroll

Bladen Journal