Summer Camp. It is the place memories are made and at Pine Cove, a place where lives are changed.
This marks the 40th year that a group of men paddled out in a small boat in a pond near Lake Palestine and felt God's call to create a Christian Summer Camp. Since then some 800,000 children have come six different camps operated by Pine Cove.
"What's remarkable is, when we look at these 40 years God has done such an amazing work," says Pine Cove President and CEO Mario Zandstra. " And I would say it was in response to those four men in that boat praying. They were 4 guys praying. There is a guy by the name of A.T. Pierceson, and I won't quote him perfectly, but he says every great work of God begins when people go to the thrown of grace, as God draws them to the thrown of grace, and they pray. And God shows up in such a powerful way that even the unbeliever says this is the finger of God. And when we look at Pine Cove, it is absolutely obvious to me that it is the finger of God."
Ask any of the college counselors here and they will be quick to to tell you, Pine Cove exists to be used by God to change the lives of people for His purposes and His glory. Its a mission statement Pine Cove has clung to for 40 years.
Robert Peltier experienced that mission first hand. Robert, who most folks will recognize, is one of the largest auto dealers in East Texas. He came to Pine cover about five years ago for a father/daughter weekend, a weekend that would change his life for ever.
"My wife told me Robert you ought to take your daughters to camp, father/daughter," remembers Robert Peltier. "I thought, I'm a camper, I've always camped at camps when I was young so I came here with Peyton, my youngest daughter about five years ago. The first night I got here we had to listen to the lectures. I kind felt like we "had to." And this guy named David Gowdy said no matter you do you will never earn your way to heaven. You'll never be worthy of Christ's love. And I remember in college, I read the Bible every night because I had to. And if I did I was okay. And he really gave me an understanding of Grace. And I felt that from that day forward I got saved. It was like lightning."
That lightening struck at Robert's heart and he began to look for new ways to be more involved in the community. In a short amount of time he would be the force behind building the boys and girls club in Tyler. Later he would work with Pine Cove to provide a Christian Camping experience for low-income inner city children.
"And what I see week in and week out is God do that kind of work. And when you think of Robert," says Zandstra. "Robert came here to hang out with his daughter. And he and his daughter left changed eternally. I mean, not temporarily eternally. And then you think about the things he and I have talked about and we're bringing these kids out here from Boys and Girls club and the Salvation Army. I mean these kids in very many ways have very little hope. And we offer them hope and God does amazing things. And what is crazy is that this year we will pass the 800,000 camper mark. But what is really wilder than that is that we think that somewhere between 20 to 25 thousand kids have trusted Christ in those 40 years. And that is amazing. That is even hard for me to kind of wrap my brain around."
"We are in the midst of something right now," says Zandstra, "in 2003 we prayed we want to impact 50 thousand new kids over a ten year period. If we would have done nothing it would have been 75 thousand kids and the goal was 120 thousand. And we are well on our way. And when you think about those 50 thousand new kids about 10 percent of them will trust Jesus as their Savior. And when I think about 5,000 kids being radically different...those kids are going to grow up and go to college, and they have to have a meaningful opportunity in college. They are going to be husbands, and wives and parents...So it is just this opportunity to impact kids and families for Christ and what's next, who knows. We are just leaning on the Lord, asking he just show us the way."
Just like they did for Robert, who believes it is no coincidence that his life was changed by a prayer said 40 years ago
"I think that everyday the Lord has brought me peace. And there are days that I struggle just like any other human but I have peace now that transcends all and I only get that from Christ and they showed me the way. My life is absolutely different. People see it in my life," says Peltier. 'I think that is the power of prayer that...some people had been praying for me to accept Christ and I did and it made a tremendous difference. That would have never had a chance had I not been receptive. Had these people from the Towers camp and Pine Cove...just this normal camp made a difference in my life."
Clint Yeatts, KLTV 7 News
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