CHARLES AND JUDY GATTIS'S CAMP STORY:

Camp Sumatanga is one of those “thin places,” as the Irish say where one feels naturally close to the holy. We know that God is everywhere, but our own experience tells us the there are certain places where we feel closer to God. Sumatanga has been that place for generations of Christians—not just United Methodists. The summer camping experiences, the weekend spiritual workshops and the Emmaus Walks, just to name a few of the events that have taken place there, have enriched the lives of so many and made our state, indeed our world, a better place to live.

It’s been such an important place for our family. Charles’ parents were there every weekend for almost every Emmaus Walk that was held for many years. Sumatanga gave meaning and purpose to their retirement years through the Emmaus Walk. We watched them grow in joyful spirituality as they ministered to others and were ministered to themselves through that wonderful community filled with God’s love.

Our children were raised there. They attended camp every summer after they were old enough and worked as counselors when camp was no longer available for their age. They attended almost every youth weekend that they could and always brought a group of friends with them. Our oldest son accepted the call to ministry there and knelt before a beautiful young lady and asked her to be his wife in that special place. Our youngest son served on Nina’s leadership team and became president of the conference youth—at Sumatanga.

Charles spent many weekends there in college and developed some of his most lasting friendships at that sacred place. After beginning his ministry, he worked as a counselor and watched as many lives were enriched by the good, holy work that was done in that wonderful place. We worked together to develop a ministry for Special needs children, youth and adults—a ministry that Judy took firm hold of and with a group of dedicated and determined friends worked for thirty-eight years as a director for the summer camp for special needs youth. As she was enriching their lives, Charles saw her life continually enriched and was so proud of her and what she did. We worked together in the Emmaus Walk from its very beginnings in North Alabama, sometimes as speakers, other times as directors and at other times just behind the scenes. That ministry did so much for us as individuals, as a couple, and for our marriage.

For all these many reasons, we are grateful to help with the fundraising campaign going on at Sumatanga now. We want to share in the work of making this “thin place,” accessible for generations to come.

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