During the 70th anniversary celebration of Truett Camp, N.C. Baptists highlighted the history and legacy of the Truett family and how the complex that bears their name is changing lives.
Seven decades ago, Fred Lunsford was among a small group of people who gathered to pray for God to establish a camp on the boyhood homestead of renowned Southern Baptist pastor George W. Truett in the mountains of North Carolina.
The spot where they prayed was the same place where many years before, Truett’s mother, Mary, prayed each day for her family’s salvation and the advancement of God’s kingdom at the base of a since fallen walnut tree behind the family farmhouse.
At a gathering at that same spot on a recent summer Saturday, Lunsford, now 98, shared details about the prayer meeting he attended all those years ago as if it happened yesterday. Before they prayed, the pastor who called the meeting relayed the story about Mary Truett, Lunsford recalled.
“He brought us over here under the old walnut tree, and he said, ‘Fellas, here is where George W. Truett’s mother came every morning to pray,’” Lunsford said. “Regardless of the weather, she’d come to this spot to pray for her son George. She believed in all her heart that George was going to be a preacher of the gospel, and she prayed for him every morning.”
Then, the pastor shared the reason why he’d called the group together to pray.
“‘We believe that God wants us to have a camp on this property for young people in these mountains,’” Lunsford recalled. “There was a long silence, and he said, ‘We’re going to pray about that.’”
They prayed, and the following year – during the summer of 1953 – the first camp was held on the grounds of what is now known as Truett Conference Center and Camp.
Lunsford joined a group of pastors, ministry leaders, current and former camp staff members, and others, on Saturday, June 3, for a 70th anniversary celebration of the facility. During the event, Lunsford and other guests with ties to the camp highlighted the history and legacy of the Truett family and how the complex that bears their name is changing lives.
“This is something that we tried to do to honor the Truett family, to honor the history of Truett Camp and now Truett Conference Center and Camp,” said Kenny Adcock, who has served as the facility’s director since 2018. “It’s a way to help all of us remember what has taken place on this property and the legacy that started back with the Truett family and has been carried on by so many faithful people.”
At the conclusion of the event, Truett staff members unveiled a commemorative sign highlighting the legacy of the Truett family and the history of the camp. The sign is located near the spot where Mary Truett prayed and where Lunsford participated in the prayer gathering. The memorial sign rests in the shade of a full-grown walnut tree, grown from the seed of the original tree where Mary Truett and Lunsford prayed.
Guests also toured the Truett family home, which now serves as a museum that includes memorabilia and artifacts connected to the Truetts’ and the camp’s history. Camp staff also debuted a special video on the life and legacy of George W. Truett.
The grounds of Truett Conference Center and Camp look a lot different now than they did then. Standing underneath a clear blue sky against the backdrop of lush green trees, Lunsford pointed across a pond and up a hill to a place where an inground swimming pool now resides.
“We put some old Army tents right up where the pool is, and we had our first camp for boys,” Lunsford said, recalling that first camp in 1953.
A summer camp for girls began the following year, and the boys’ and girls’ camps have operated annually since their inception.
Lunsford, who served as pastor of Little Brasstown Baptist Church in Brasstown at the time, brought children to the camp for several years. Those early campers included Lunsford’s now adult sons, Dan and Tony. Lunford recalled receiving a letter about 25 or 30 years ago from a man then living in Ohio who had gone to camp with Lunsford as a youngster and trusted Christ as Savior.
“Preacher, I want to at least write you this letter to thank you for all that you’ve done for me,” the man wrote. “You took me to Truett Camp, and I was saved at Truett Camp…. I am what I am because you loved me, and you took me to Truett Camp.”
That was just one of several stories of lives that were changed at Truett that Lunsford shared.
“Only God knows and only heaven will reveal the tremendous impact Truett Camp has made on the lives of thousands of young people and adults, as well,” Lunsford said.
A recent survey of available historical records housed at the Truett Baptist Association that cover 46 of the camp’s 70 years showed that more than 1,600 salvations have been reported at the camp. Still more have rededicated their lives to Jesus or answered a call to ministry on Truett’s grounds.
Growth and impact
For a number of years after those initial camps, the Truett property operated with a single building that was used for camp ministry. That building – which now houses the camp office – functioned as a meeting space, dining hall and kitchen. Now the facility has 20 buildings, which include a dining hall, worship center, bunk houses, conference center, gymnasium, game room and more.
Since becoming the camp’s director in 2018, Adcock has grown Truett into a year round operation, offering a variety of camps and retreats throughout the year.
Truett Conference Center and Camp is owned and operated by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and is one of three such camps run by the state convention. The others are Caraway Conference Center and Camps located in central North Carolina near Asheboro and Fort Caswell Coastal Retreat and Conference Center on Oak Island.
“From the mountains to the sea, we have all three,” Adcock likes to say.
John Butler, director of operations for the state convention, said Truett and the other camps are a valuable and vital ministry to churches.
“I am thankful for the opportunity we have as a convention to have conference centers and camps from one end of the state to the other to serve churches, because that’s really what we do as a convention,” Butler said. “Our mission is to serve the churches of North Carolina, and we do that in many different ways. But I cannot think of a more important way than through our camps and conference centers.”
Butler said this summer, nearly 10,000 young people will attend camp at one of the three N.C. Baptist camps at Caraway, Caswell and Truett, where they will hear the gospel and learn what it means to follow Jesus.
“I have a passion for our camps and conference centers because of the impact that they have on so many young lives,” Butler said.
Prayer fuels Truett’s past, present, future
Milton A. Hollifield Jr., former executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, called George W. Truett a “favorite son” of N.C. Baptists, although much of Truett’s ministry was spent in Texas after moving there with his family in 1889.
Truett pastored First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, for 47 years, growing the congregation from a membership of approximately 700 to more than 7,800 during his tenure. Truett served as president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1927 to 1929 and president of the Baptist World Alliance from 1934 to 1939.
During World War I, Truett was one of 20 ministers appointed by President Woodrow Wilson to preach to Allied Forces during a six-month tour. The seminary at Baylor University, where Truett worked and later studied, is named in his honor.
“On this 70th anniversary, we came here to remember what God did through an individual and a family who lived right here, was born here and preached the gospel throughout the world,” Hollifield said.
Just as Mary Truett prayed for God to use her son, Hollifield encouraged attendees to ask God to raise up someone else like George Truett, perhaps even from the camp that now bears his name.
Current Truett staff members expressed similar sentiments.
Phillip Yarborough, Truett Camp’s summer camp and intern coordinator, called on the 70th anniversary attendees to remember “what was started here by a prayer.”
That prayer began with Mary Truett praying for her son and continued with people coming together to pray for a camp.
“I’m excited for what God has in store for us and what He’s doing and has already done,” Yarborough said. “It’s easy to see what He has ahead of us for the next 70 years.”
Matt Brubaker, Truett Camp’s operations and special events coordinator, said those affiliated with the camp are trusting God to move in the future in a similar, but greater, way than He has in the past.
“George W. Truett’s life is a testimony to the impact that a single conversion can have,” Brubaker said. “His decision to surrender to Jesus Christ would influence this world. God blessed Truett with a ministry that produced a crop of many hundredfold. As we embark on even more decades of ministry, we are trusting God to make this property and His ministry fruitful beyond our wildest prayers.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: To learn more about Truett Camp and Conference Center, its programs, its history and ways to get involved, visit truettcamp.org.