Camp Gilead is a non-denominational Bible camp that has served central Florida for over 75 years! Our mission is to reach children and teens with the Gospel of Christ by providing a Christ-centered environment. Full-time, qualified Christian workers, such as Bible teachers, missionaries, and cabin leaders challenge campers from the Word of God.
During their stay, our aim is to develop the camper spiritually, physically, mentally, and socially. Campers also enjoy a multitude of exciting games and waterfront activities. As a camp staff, we have seen many campers come to accept Christ as their personal Savior. Now, these former campers are pastors, missionaries and Christian businessmen and women around this world.
Camp Gilead also provides local churches, Christian schools, and other groups with a place to hold fall, winter and spring retreats or conferences. I welcome you to our website and hope you will stop by for a visit anytime you are in the area. Camp Gilead is located just one mile of I-4 at Exit 44.
Camp Gilead/CBM Ministries of Florida, Inc. is a member of Children's Bible Ministries. It is also a member of the Christian Camp and Conference Association.
Camp Gilead's History
Children‘s Bible Mission, of which Camp Gilead was the charter member, had its beginning in the early 1930‘s. In the fall of 1932, Mr. & Mrs. Walter Jensen came to Florida with a great burden to reach lost children with the Gospel of Christ. For two years, they worked alone reaching children through school assemblies and as they found opened doors. God was clearly opening these doors in response to a weekly prayer meeting for that purpose. A plan was then presented to some Christian business and professional men: the public school classes would feature a Bible memory program, with a set of awards to be given for verses memorized, the top prize being a free week of camp. Thus, on February 5, 1935, Children‘s Bible Mission was born in St. Petersburg, and in 1948 built their headquarters at 1628 Gary Road, Lakeland, Florida.
The first camp took place in a wooded area on a lake twenty miles north of Tampa in August, 1935. Dishes and cooking utensils were borrowed from a YMCA, and all supplies had to be brought out from Tampa. Food was also donated, including fruit and ice cream, and a young calf, which provided meat for the camp. Out of the 47 children who had earned a week of camp, 32 actually attended; and of these, 16 were saved and other important life-decisions were made.
Soon it was clear that bigger and better camp facilities were needed, and a search was begun. At the same time, people were praying specifically for this need and, in answer to prayer in 1938, the mission purchased the former Polk City Golf Course on Lake Helene for $1.00, where Camp Gilead now stands. Other wonderful provisions included materials and help in constructing the original buildings on the property. Missionaries and volunteers worked hard to put up ten buildings in four months, to accommodate 100 campers! In 1947, Hazel Yeater began working at Camp Gilead, and in 1948 she invited her friend, Edith Hulslander, to come and help with summer camp. When Mr. & Mrs. Ed Jensen moved from the area, Miss Hazel and Miss Edith became the directors and served there for nearly 50 years.
Over the course of time, there have naturally been many changes. Old buildings had to be replaced by new ones; more buildings had to be built including the chapel, gym, lodge and lakeside pavilion. These buildings, in turn, had to be renovated over time, with air-conditioning installed, etc. Probably the biggest change was that Bible teachers are no longer permitted to go to public school assemblies with the Gospel as they had once been allowed to do.
Camp Gilead History Video
Camp Gilead 1961-1980
In the winter of 1969, a large group of retirees from Berne, Indiana came to help Camp Gilead with various winter projects, and thus began a valuable ministry which continues to this day. This group has grown to include volunteers from Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, Indiana, New York and other states, as well. We are truly blessed to have these willing servants here each winter. They have made possible the accelerated building program.
The 60‘s and 70‘s brought not only changes to our programming, but also to our facilities. Some of the projects completed during that time included: an air-conditioned chapel to seat 200, enlarged dining hall to seat 200, gym, craft building, offices, several new cabins, and other buildings.
In 2010, the Board of Directors were concerned about the declining number of campers attending summer camp and the overall direction of the ministry. A call was made to the National CBM Director for assistance and a consultant was contracted to examine the ministry and make recommendations to the Board. As a result, the By-Laws were changed and a new era of governance and administration was adopted. Rev. Kenneth R. Pritt, Jr. was hired as the new Executive Director in 2011. New missionaries were added and Bible Clubs were reinstituted. The picnic pavilion was renovated into the current RCA Pavilion and dedicated in October of 2012. A new sand volleyball court, paintball course and outdoor chapel were also added as part of Phase I of a capital project that included all new bunk beds and mattresses for every cabin. In 2013, Camp Gilead celebrates its 75th year of ministry!