Gladstone Camp Meeting Celebrates Kids, Reformation

August 17, 2017 | Dick Duerksen

Camp meeting is marked by planning, anticipation, exertion, exhaustion and spiritual uplift.

Planning for the next year begins right after camp meeting is over.

Camp meeting week itself is both fun and exhausting. As one leader told me, “I’ve never been quite as ‘happy-tired’ as Sunday morning this year.”

This year I spent an hour Sabbath morning with the Beavers, a wild-eyed group of 5- to 6-year-olds digging in a sandbox, putting jewels on crowns, listening to stories and sweating in the heat of a tent that would make a blacksmith feel at home. By the end of my part (“Please tell the story of Gideon and the Barley Bread Pizza!”) I was as wet as Michael Phelps after a 100-meter swim.

As I left the Beaver tent, the last event of the morning was just beginning. Everything was still in perfect order — the kids were happy and reasonably quiet. I told one of the staff members she deserved combat pay. She laughed and said, “Not at all. This is the best week of my year.”

That was the spirit I found everywhere I went. Yes, staff were exhausted, but they were also still wonderfully kind, patient and eager to find even better ways to show God’s love to the kids.

This year’s overall theme was “It’s All About Jesus,” and each department worked hard to bring that message into their programming. Since this year also marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, many of the adult classes and presentations focused on Jesus’ centrality to every aspect of the Reformation.

I wasn’t sure how that would go over with our members, but it was a total win. Members listened, compared messages with Wikipedia, read unmarked portions of their Bibles and talked about reformers — during meals, after meetings and even during Sabbath potluck.

  • “I’m amazed at the strength of their convictions.”
  • “I hope I have the same strength of love for God as the martyrs.”
  • “I didn’t know about Leonhard Keyser and am going to have to Google him as soon as I get home.”
  • “I knew Martin Luther wrote a song and nailed something on a church door but had no idea he was so important in the Reformation.”
  • “I was amazed to see that the Reformation took place at about the same time America was being discovered and settled.”

The evening speaker, Ty Gibson, presented five “solas” of the Reformation. The big tent filled each evening for Gibson’s presentations and for the evening spiritual drama that followed Martin Luther through his life as a growing Christian and Reformation leader. The men and women who became Martin Luther, Emperor Charles V, and several of Luther’s friends and mentors practiced for weeks to become the people they played each evening. Laura Wibberding wrote the scripts and directed each presentation.

The evening programs were livestreamed, and more than 1,500 people joined the services virtually. Though most were from Oregon, folks tuned in across America and from more than a dozen other countries. Video and audio of the evening programs, and many other seminars and presentions, are available on the Oregon Conference website at

Read about a camp meeting miracle that happened this year.

Next year’s Gladstone Camp Meeting will be held July 12–14 (Spanish language) and 17–21 (English language.) We hope you can join us!