Family And Faith Unite To Continue Campground Tradition

Tucked away in a campground, miles from civilization, hundreds of people gather in a makeshift tabernacle with bare wood and open walls for the annual Salem-Methodist Camp Meeting.

"I think it gets in your blood," 86 year old Ida Mae Cumbest said.

For her entire life, Cumbest has flocked to camp the 2nd week in October, sharing her gift of music with thousands.

"It's kind of hard to describe, but when you get out to the tabernacle, and the singing starts and he preaches a sermon, there's something different about it from church," Cumbest said.

Perhaps it's different because for 181 years, generations of Methodist families have filled the hard-wood pews,  singing from paperback hymnals and worshipping from hand-built camp houses.

The tradition of campgrounds can be traced back to the Old Testament in the Bible.

Over the years, straw floors at the camphouses have been replaced by concrete, and outhouses have moved indoors, but everything else stays the same.

That includes a wood burning stove, and the Cumbest family recipe for "camp hash", a pot roast-like dish.

"I think it's very cool to know that my great grandparents cooked on the stove, and it's all the way back from then," nine year old Caroline Cumbest said.

After church, each family dines on a Thanksgiving style-spread, sharing smiles and laughter with relatives they haven't seen in months.

"If someone is missing, we know it! And we want to know why," Cumbest exclaimed.

At Salem Campground, life is simple, because without modern luxuries, only family and fellowship matter.

"We leave here with that attitude, that we'll be here ready to go next year," Cumbest said.

With three generations under one roof, you can be sure that this 181st gathering won't be the last.