Camp Cherith Brings Christ To Every Aspect Of A Person’s Life
By Kim Kern
Somewhere just outside of the Letchworth State Park area, in a modest hamlet within Hunt, New York, lies a breathtaking haven called Camp Cherith (pronounced CARE-ith, as in the Bible!). There are acres and acres of vibrant green grass, trails and trees, with a big blue sky overlooking it all! The cabins are like little houses, placed near each other, like a cozy, close-knit community that centers around Jesus Christ.
Camp Cherith’s name comes from 1 Kings 17:2-6, where “God told Elijah to go to the brook called Cherith during a drought. God then sent ravens to bring food to Elijah so that he could be nourished.” At Camp Cherith, the counselors are known by names of animals and birds to symbolize the role they play in a camper's life — thus, feeding the campers spiritual food. The mission of Camp Cherith is to “…transform lives, cultivate disciples, and train leaders through a Bible-based, Christ-centered outdoor camping program for children and youth.” Thus, as it explains on their website, the camp strives to help campers to “…draw closer to God in His creation, grow stronger in their faith, build new friendships with others.”
Camp Cherith kicked off its ministry in 1946 as a “girls only” camp. After moving around central New York for twelve years, the camp “settled in” for a while, at Camp Hickory Hill in Johnsonburg, New York. The people of Camp Cherith needed to find their own home, so in 1970, they moved to an area near Letchworth State Park, in Hunt, New York. It had been an old farm and the site offered a 130-year old restored Colonial home on 83 acres that are adjacent to the park. The property is bursting with a natural splendor and includes a trout stream and large pond. Eventually, by the turn of the century, the camp stretched its wings and added a boys’ program, writing another chapter to its success story.
Debbie Betts, also known as “Willow,” has been the Director of Camp Cherith since 2019. A
mother of four, Betts is also the proud owner of chickens, goats, and a miniature horse, and has over 25 years of experience working with children. In addition to her work at the camp, she is an active member in the Dansville School District, and also holds a Bachelor’s in Social Work from Roberts Wesleyan College.
Evie White, also known as Rufous, led Camp Cherith for over 15 years, and handed the reins over to Debbie in 2019. She has been a tremendous mentor and friend to Debbie during the transition of leadership.
Debbie’s husband of over 25 years, David, serves alongside her at the camp. He is the Off-Season Site Manager and Project Coordinator for the new pool that is being installed there. Additionally, when David isn’t juggling responsibilities on site, he continues his career as a sales engineer. David is also a Director of the Children’s Ministry, and has considerable experience working with kids. David has a bachelor’s degree in Engineering/Management from Clarkson University, and an associate degree in Theology.
“One of the mottos we have here at Camp Cherith,” explains Debbie, “is ‘Christ in Every Aspect of a Person's Life.’" The camp offers two Bible Studies. One called Morning Watch, which is an independent study, while the other is Bible Exploration, where counselors may get involved if a camper has questions about Scripture. A biblical message is presented during their campfires that includes sing-alongs, which they hold every night.
There is just so much to do here! Though biblical studies are interwoven throughout the day and night at the camp, campers can play light saber wars, frolic on the slip-and-slide, go horseback riding, enjoy swimming and fishing, walk the trails, be creative in arts and crafts. You name it, Camp Cherith has it! All this is done in the name of the Lord.
This is a “Christian Camping Ministry,” serving 7 – 18-year old children and youth. There is a girls’ camp, boys camp, and co-ed camp for four weeks, starting July 6th and ending August 8th. There is also financial aid available through a fundraiser that the camp has in May, which provides scholarships for the children. In addition, there are several organizations that have stepped up to provide financial support for the children to be able to attend the camp as well.
Camp Cherith has a program called, C.I.L.T. (Campers in Leadership Training). The website states that, “The Camper in Leadership Training (CILT) program provides a unique educational and practical challenge for high school age campers with leadership potential.” It allows these young adults to use their experiences at the camp to enhance their experience and skills, should they ever choose counseling as a career goal. The campers applying must be at least 15-years old and entering the 10th grade.
Looking into the near future with the COVID-19 virus being an ever-present danger, Debbie says, “I’m looking ahead to the summer of 2020 and praying for 20/20 vision as we focus on our theme: “Fix your eyes on Jesus.” The biblical verse of Hebrews 12:2 is appropriate in this situation, as it rallies believers to be “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”