All Things New: The Cabin Campaign Series, Volume III

Not too long ago, I had the distinct pleasure of visiting Benny and Gail Hopper. They are some of the most lovely and gracious people I have met, and funny too! I am humbled by their long-standing dedication to the ministry of Lakeshore and the lodge named after them.

Gail sent me their story as part of our All Things New blog series. If you didn’t start at the beginning, catch up here.

The Rev. Benny and Gail Hopper Lodge

“Benny and I have been connected to Lakeshore for many years. I first came to Lakeshore as a fifth grade camper. This was back in the days when we swam in the lake ( no lazy river swimming pool then.) We shared a shower house back then. (No bathrooms in cabins..) No air conditioning then..just hot air and mosquitos.

Benny began his experience at Lakeshore as an adult. After seminary, while serving Pickwick, Pisgah and Shiloh he began as a director of 5th and 6th grade camps. He did this for many years. He was on the board of trustees at Lakeshore twice.

Through the years, as our family grew, we sent our children to Lakeshore summer camps. While in college, our youngest son, John served on summer staff there. As time went on, we began to send our grandchildren to camp.

hoppersRev. Benny and Gail Hopper in front of their lodge

After retirement, Benny raised money for Lakeshore. Now days, we give monetary gifts in honor of our friends to Lakeshore at Christmas and encourage them to do the same.’ We were honored when it was announced that a lodge would be named in our honor. We make it a point to stay there for Retirees Retreat each year.Form us, Lakeshore has a special place in our hearts and always will.”

If you are interested in naming a cabin or would like to make a gift to the fall annual fund, please contact Jennie Dickerson at (731) 584-6102.



All Things New: The Cabin Campaign Series Too

I love this reflection from Susan Cox about how important Lakeshore is to their family. If you missed the introduction to this series, catch up here.

The Cox Family enjoying their home away from home in the Sun Room.

“A God-place.  A constant in our lives.  Home.  These are the words my family chose when I asked them to describe Lakeshore.  It is a place of joy and love and the Holy Spirit, and our hearts get full just thinking of it.

Lakeshore is where I did my spiritual growing up…I went every chance I got, as a camper, a counselor, and on summer staff.  I have made so many deep and life-long soul friends at camp–our marriage began as a “Lakeshore romance.” We have continued to return for family retreats and Mommy and Me camp–any opportunity to visit and be renewed. When I drop our kids off for summer camp, I still wish I could stay for the week!

What is it that draws us to Lakeshore so strongly and so often? At Lakeshore, I feel the presence of the Holy Spirit.  It is a place where people feel free to worship and to love others in the way that we are called to love, a place where we feel close to God and the beauty of His creation and the amazing love of those that He created. It is a God-place.

As an itinerant ministry family, Lakeshore is a constant home in our ever-changing lives.  I love that my children feel so at home when they set foot on the grounds of Lakeshore—they have grown up there.  Although God calls us to move from time to time, Lakeshore remains a place of love and safety for us. It is our constant, our home.

Lakeshore is a place of connection and relationships—the experience of this place bonds people from different ages and hometowns, varied backgrounds and experiences.  We come together to grow closer to God and each other at camp, simply as children of God.  A shared love of Lakeshore is a bond of knowing what it is like to love, laugh, and worship in this special place, an instant fellowship of believers.

Lakeshore is the church as it is meant to be.  I am amazed and excited to see how the ministries of Lakeshore have grown to include outreach such as the Camp Hope series, for children who have suffered abuse, and DayShore, offering this amazing love and spirit filled camp experience in communities around our conference to kids who might never have the opportunity to come to camp.  At Lakeshore, young people learn how to be servants; there God opens hearts to the call of ministry—full time ministers, missionaries, and community servants have realized their calling at Lakeshore.

We will continue to offer Lakeshore our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness because the people of Lakeshore are the church and the place of Lakeshore is a God-place.  For us, as for so many, Lakeshore is home.”

If you are interested in naming a cabin or making a donation to the fall annual fund, please contact Jennie Dickerson at (731) 584-6102.



All Things New: The Cabin Campaign Series

If you are like me, you have spent time pondering the stories behind the names on some of the cabins around camp. Who are these people? What’s their connection? How do they fit into our history?

We have just launched this year’s fall campaign, and it focuses on two major projects: building Hammock Shelters for hammocking camp and finishing the remodels of all remaining cabins. In light of this, I decided to ask our friends with their names on cabins to tell us their story.


We start with the little red cabin, called the Shanklin Cottage. A Lakeshore lifetime ago, it was the staff cabin. Summer staff wasn’t a whopping 41 people like it will be this summer. Just a few teens ran all the activities and programming then. Now this cabin serves as the Infirmary and popular hammock spot during the summer and a retreat cabin in the off-season.

Read all about Carrie and Russell Shanklin’s story below.

Carrie and Russell counseling a Wilderness camp.

“When I think of the biggest blessing we have received from Lakeshore, it’s joy! Lakeshore has brought us joy in many ways: new friends, old friends, crazy camp adventures, worshiping God under the stars and in the woods, awesome camp food, a “home” we can always come back to, a place of quiet solitude with God, and the joy of marriage!  Russell grew up going to Lakeshore – starting as a baby with his church’s Family Camp, then on through high school.  I was 16 when I first attended Lakeshore at a Sr. High Camp. But no matter when you first drive up the hill, Lakeshore welcomes you in! We met when we were volunteer counselors, and we counseled together at one of the first Wilderness Camps. We didn’t really believe it years later when Papa Gary said he was going to name a cabin after us, but then he did! So that’s cool to have the little red Shanklin cabin as part of our Lakeshore story. Now our daughters, Clara and Molly, are Lakeshore Campers, and it’s a blessing that Lakeshore is going to be part of their story, too!”

If you are interested in naming a cabin or making a donation to the fall campaign, please contact Jennie Dickerson at 731-584-6102.


Become a 2017 DayShore Host!

Lakeshore is more than just a place. It’s a spirit of the love of God and a family that seeks to love and serve God and each other. At the end of every camp closing worship, Executive Director Gary Lawson reminds every camper that God loves us, that we are His children and, as such, we are called to “go and be about the family business.”

This year, Lakeshore Camp and Retreat Center in Eva, Tennessee, launched a new program with Lawson’s words in mind. DayShore packed up the spirit of Lakeshore and every activity we could think of in a 15-passenger van and took camp on the road. We met people where they were, physically and spiritually. Eight churches hosted DayShore camps where nearly 300 campers came to experience what Lakeshore is all about. They met God in worship, games, Bible study, archery, tie dye and more.


Everyone deserves the chance to play games with new friends and experience the love of God, so many churches decided to invite their neighbors to DayShore camp in 2016. They came; they played; they laughed; they learned. At DayShore in Union City, Tennessee, one camper from the community came to the church for the first time. She started going to church there the very next Sunday and has been bringing her whole family with her ever since. Earlier this month, all five of her family members were baptized into a new family.

We believe in the power of the Gospel and the power of camp to introduce people to it. DayShore will be back for its second summer in 2017, and we are looking to double the number of churches by adding a second traveling camp team.

If your church is interested in reaching its community, introducing people into a new or deeper relationship with God and partnering your Vacation Bible School (VBS) team with trained Lakeshore staff, give us a call at (731) 584-6102.


The Misadventures of Jennie and the Camp Dogs

This whole story starts two weeks ago when I couldn’t find my purse. The whole office sprung into action and helped me look for it. Travis even checked the surveillance footage to confirm whether or not I had forgotten that I’d taken it to Beersheba. I had not.

With no purse, I headed back to Memphis, but first I locked my cabin door for the first time in history of camp living, slightly concerned about the fact the purse was missing.

When I got home, it was hanging exactly where it was supposed to be. Confirmed: I hadn’t lost my purse, I’d lost my mind.

Fast forward two weeks, and I am back at camp preparing for our debut at the Benton County Fair! I worked on signage at the Admin Building until about midnight and then headed to my cabin. My locked cabin. In the dark. I fumbled in the dark trying every camp related key on my key ring and quickly discovered that I do not actually have a key to cabin 9. I went back to admin in search of a spare key. No luck.

It’s midnight, and I’m locked out, so I decide the loveseat in the office is as good a place to sleep as any. Both dogs and I settled in for the night, all three of us on the loveseat. And then the alarm clock went off. The horrid sound was coming from Vickie’s office. Vickie’s locked office. Again, I went in search of a spare key, and again, no luck. I opened up the sliding window and made several attempts to climb through. I could see the offending clock taunting me from across the room, but it was too far out of reach.

Exhausted and with the clock creeping past 1:00 am, the pups and I headed to the furthest place in the office away from the screeching clock–the couch in Gary’s office–and slept there until it was light enough to try every key on the spare key ring until I found cabin 9. By the way, that couch wasn’t bad, if you ever need a spot to crash.

And that’s one of the things I love about camp. The Admin Building at Lakeshore is like the living room at your mom’s house. Everyone is welcome. Everyone can relax. You will most certainly be greeted by a dog or four at the door. Shoes are optional. Real talk is encouraged. And if you need a place to stay, you have one. So stop by and see us some time, and we will welcome you home to the ‘Shore.

Oh, and Travis has already made me a cabin 9 key.


Even Retreat People Need to Retreat

Last week, Gary Lawson and I left one retreat center for another in search of rejuvenation, inspiring ideas, and new (and old) friends who are passionate about camping ministry. Nearly 30 camping professionals from Las Vegas to New York, from Michigan to Alabama and everywhere in between gathered in a sleepy, magical town called Beersheba Springs for three days to soak up the wisdom of wonderful speakers and the brilliance of each other.


We talked about how to best tell our story and who to tell it to. We talked about all the social medias, how they are different, how they are alike and what the rules are for each. We talked about white space and clean design. We discussed brand as an overall personality of the organization.

Most importantly, we talked about The Power of Why, and how even if you get all the other stuff right, if people don’t know why you do what you do, it really doesn’t matter that you have an awesome water park or a slingshot course or the coolest zip line around.


For three days, in this sleepy, magical little town, we got to learn some tools to share with people why we do what we do, all within the context of The Why. We meditated on that as we learned all of these things.

After a long, hot summer full of crazy-busy-can-I-nap-yet days, it was good to mediate on The Why. Why do people love Lakeshore so much? Why do they keep coming back? Why do we work so hard to program great events? Why do we call this place home and these people family? Why is this work so important?

Because God loves you. Unconditionally.
Because Lakeshore is a place set apart, offering ways for all people to experience life, love and the God of grace.
Because camp is sacred ground where you can often hear that still, small voice.
Because the Spirit moves and lives are changed here.

That is why. That is why we went to learn how to better communicate our story. Not because we have something to offer, but because God does, and we have found that sometimes it is easier to see when you retreat away from your ordinary surroundings.

It was for me. Three days in Beersheba Springs, and we are back, ready for retreat season. Ready to welcome you to a place set apart, so you too, can be reminded that God loves you.


-Jennie Dickerson


The Ultimate Fall Retreat Guide

Summer camp may be over, but the year-round ministry of Lakeshore is alive and well. Retreat season at Lakeshore Camp and Retreat Center is well underway after the Scrapbooking group came and created beautiful things last weekend.

Our Fall is full, and we have a little something for everyone at every age group. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of returning to our everyday routines, don’t forget to take time to retreat and reflect on what is most important. I often find that whatever anxiety I am facing melts as soon as I see the Lakeshore sign on Pilot Knob Road. I immediately switch gears and see with clarity the big picture that God is Love, and I am His and the worries of this world are fleeting.


I encourage you, too, to allow yourself a weekend this season to fix your eyes and your heart on Him at the shore of the Tennessee River.



Elementary O.W.L.S. #3 9/23-9/25 (ages 9-12) – This is a tent-sleeping, fire-building, outdoor safety, knot-tying, meal-cooking, Jesus-worshiping kind of weekend. Safely learn outdoor skills during a weekend under the stars.

Jr./Sr. High OWLS #4 10/7-10/9 (ages 12-18)This, too, is a tent-sleeping, fire-building, outdoor safety, knot-tying, meal-cooking, Jesus-worshiping kind of weekend. Safely learn outdoor skills during a weekend under the stars.

Older Elementary Retreat 10/21-10/23 (ages 9-12) This year’s theme is “Mighty”! Join us as we discover what Paul is meaning in the book of Ephesians when he says to “Put on the full armor of God.” As a community of God’s children we will answer one very important question: what do we do when life is not easy? Travel with your youth group for this retreat.

Jr./Sr. High Retreat 11/11-11/13  – We aren’t revealing the theme on this one just yet, but it’s going to be a good one. If you’re missing your friends from camp this summer, this is the place to find them. Travel with your youth group for this retreat. Age limits are dependent on the ages your church considers junior and senior high ministry.


Young Adult Wilderness 11/4-11/6 (ages 18-35)Remember before you had to adult and the best thing was going to camp in the summer and trying to explain to your friends why it was cool not to shower for a whole week? Remember good nights and mud volleyball (sans the volleyball) and archery and s’mores? Let’s go back to that shall we? Never did that? It’s about time, then isn’t it? Forget the adulting for a few days and worship God in the woods in the place we love most.

Scrapbooking 11/18-11/20 – Do you ever feel like you just have to express yourself or create something? The scrapbooking group gets your inner crafty side. Come relax and craft while the fall leaves are creating an unmistakable masterpiece themselves.


MCSAM 9/23-9/25 – The Memphis Conference Singles Adult invites you to relax and reflect at the Shore. This group is the place to make great memories and long-lasting friends. Register online at: Memphis-umc.net/mcsam-registration

Men’s Emmaus 9/29-10/2 – The walk to Emmaus is an experience of Christian spiritual renewal and formation that begins with a three-day short course in Christianity. It is an opportunity to meet Jesus Christ in a new way as God’s grace and love is revealed to you through other believers. Sign up through your home church.

Retirees Retreat 10/4-10/5 – A two-day reunion gathers the retired clergy in fellowship and worship. It is a testament to the relational aspect of the Methodist church and the relationships formed in ministry.

Women’s Emmaus 10/13-10/16 – The walk to Emmaus is an experience of Christian spiritual renewal and formation that begins with a three-day short course in Christianity. It is an opportunity to meet Jesus Christ in a new way as God’s grace and love is revealed to you through other believers. Sign up through your home church.

United Methodist Women 11/5-11/6 – This retreat is an opportunity for women to learn and grow in their faith while meeting others from throughout the Memphis Conference. The United Methodist Women’s purpose is to know God and to experience freedom as whole persons through Jesus Christ, to develop a creative supportive fellowship and to expand concepts of mission.

Scrapbook 11/18-11/20 – Do you ever feel like you just have to express yourself or create something? The scrapbooking group gets your inner crafty side. Come relax and craft while the fall leaves are creating an unmistakable masterpiece themselves.