In late 1981 God led my wife, Ermeda, and our two sons, Justin and Sloan, and I to donate our land, home, barns, cattle, horses, and equipment to establish Lighthouse Christian Camp, Inc. The camp is a non-profit, 501(c)3, corporation ruled by a board of directors and a faith ministry dependent primarily upon donations from individuals who have a heart for fatherless, helpless, abused and neglected children. In those early days, God had not revealed His complete vision and plan for the ministry.
In 1982, the camp began very primitively with our converting two barns into sleeping cabins, setting out tables under the trees and food brought out of the house and served. Restrooms consisted of two outhouses that I had constructed of rough sawed timber obtained from the property. Our activities consisted of horseback riding, field games, hiking, boating, and swimming on the shore of Center Hill Lake. We had two chapels each day and the Gospel was preached. The campers were church kids.
In 1983, as the summer camp season was underway, with a full complement of approximately 50 church campers each week, God spoke to my heart about the children that would never have the opportunity to attend camp because parents could not afford the cost or they wouldn’t send them because they just didn’t care and would not spend the money. God put this question in my mind “What about those children that would never otherwise have the opportunity to attend camp and participate in all the great activities and hear the gospel preached unless we brought them free of charge?” Over and over in my mind God kept pressing me with questions, “What are you going to do about all those children that nobody cares about, the forgotten, fatherless, the abused and neglected?” Following God’s command, I organized a camp at the end of the summer in 1983 for the needy children. With the help of volunteers, I walked the streets in low income housing areas in Nashville and offered parents and guardians the opportunity to send their children to camp free of charge. We brought over 50 disadvantaged, abused, and neglected children to that first camp in 1983 and God did His supernatural work as He brought conviction and there was a heart cry in camp for forgiveness of sin. Children and teens found hope, purpose and direction for their lives. Bitterness, anger, and hopelessness were changed to peace and joy as they gained a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. When they got on the bus to go back to Nashville, they were weeping and begging us to let them stay at camp. When the bus pulled out at the end of summer in 1983, God said “You know now why I have called you to start this camp. You will fill this camp in 1984 with needy children not only from the Nashville area but from throughout middle Tennessee and the Upper Cumberland area.”
Following God’s command, as I prayed, He led me to organize free camps for needy children in surrounding middle Tennessee counties and in the summer of 1984, hundreds of children attended the camp "free of charge" and came to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Now, thousands and thousands of disadvantage children have had the opportunity to attend camp through the years.
During these years many improvements were made to the camp facilities which included:
From 1982 through 1989 Camp Round-ups were conducted. I would rent a local gym in the different counties where the children resided. These were conducted to follow-up with the children that had attended camp in previous summers.
I know the Camp Roundups just did not allow enough time to spend with the children to love, encourage and disciple them. In prayer, God said, “Bring them back to camp,” and in that prayer He gave the vision for the construction of a gym and multi-purpose building. God said, “Trust me” and God did a miraculous work to provide this facility to have the first Christmas Party in December 1989. The building has sleeping quarters, a dining room and kitchen, recreation room and a full size gym with a stage area and classroom.
Since 1989 a girls weekend retreat and a boys weekend retreat provides the opportunity for needy children to return to camp each month for fun, fellowship and discipleship.
Construction of new horse barn, corrals & riding ring
First cabin constructed for Camp 2 development
Second cabin constructed for Camp 2 development
Third cabin constructed for Camp 2 development & roads paved with asphalt
Many upgrades for Camp 1 - new roof, fences, concrete drives, vinyl siding
Construction begun on dining hall at Camp 2
Dining Hall completed and limited use of cabins from Camp 1
Camp 2 swimming pool completed and opened cabins to receive 60 campers, bringing the total number of needy children attending camp each week to 120
Three story building completed providing quarters for staff and volunteers, laundry facilities, snack bar, craft and recreation room
Camp offices for Bro. Ben and Mrs. Ermeda were in their home until the spring of 2005.
Construction was completed before camp began in 2005 on the Camp Office building to accommodate all staff.
In 2006 God established the first 'Sing for Joy' Widows Home.
Based upon the scriptural mandate of caring for widows, the goal and mission of “Sing for Joy” is to offer widows safe, independent retirement living with unlimited opportunities to serve in ministry.
In 2008, the Lighthouse Boy’s and Girl’s Ranch homes were established for children needing a stable, loving family. With a motto of “where LOVE abides for children in need,” Lighthouse Boys and Girls Ranch provides homes for children who are abandoned, orphaned or who can not be cared for by their current guardian. The homes are now administered by the Tennessee Baptist Children's Home for foster children.
Pastor's & Wives Retreat Ministry established including beautiful home made available at not cost to Pastors and their family to rest and relax for a week or even a few days.
The second Sing for Joy Widows Home constructed bringing the total number of apartments for widows to eight (8).