Cause for Celebration

On an unseasonably cool August evening outside of Lexington, Va., Sarah, a soon-to-be eighth-grader, nestled under the covers of her bottom bunk bed in a cabin at Rockbridge Alum Springs, a Young Life camp in the mountains of the Shenandoah Valley.
 
After the giggles and conversations of Sarah and her friends had died down, all was still and silent in the cabin for several minutes. Then Sarah shouted out her revelation — in the most emphatic way a 13-year-old girl can: “This was seriously the best week of my whole life,” she said. “And I’m 13, so that’s, like, a whole lot of years, and this was the best time of all of them.”
 
Sarah and her friends don’t know it, but their amazing week at camp would not have been possible if not for God’s direction of those who have planned for, prayed for and helped pay for Rockbridge. In the last 13 years, $15 million has been raised to fund the completion of the camp. 
 
“For now, a ribbon has been wrapped around Rockbridge, and I am grateful,” said Young Life President Denny Rydberg.
 
Rockbridge held its “Completion Celebration” in August to commemorate the property’s conclusion of a major capital campaign. Donors, members of Rockbridge’s development team and other friends of Rockbridge gathered for a weekend on the property, most of which took place during a WyldLife camp held there that week.
 
“Rockbridge is built and paid for to be used with kids,” said Lee Corder, Young Life’s vice president of the Eastern Division, as he addressed the group gathered at Rockbridge for the celebration event.
 
In order to grow
Set in a lush 273-acre valley, Rockbridge has hosted campers since 1993, with its first summer outreach camp in 1996. The property — although a very undeveloped version of what exists today — was purchased in 1992 as a solution to Young Life’s need for a camp in the East.
 
“We knew we would have to have additional camp beds to keep growth [of Young Life] going,” said Bill Branch, a former trustee on the Young Life Board.
 
God’s hand guided Young Life to the current site, which holds an interesting history. The land was home to a natural Alum springs resort prior to the Civil War. The Alum water was known for its high mineral content and medicinal benefits. The springhouse, which once housed the Alum water, still exists and is part of the property’s logo. Several Civil War-era cottage replicas make up some of the housing for adults on the property. During the Civil War, the property served as a hospital. Before Young Life purchased the land, it had been used by the U.S. Forest Service and local universities.
 
Branch, along with Corder, shared memories at the Completion Celebration of early trips to the property. They had to clear away brush and foliage to make their way through the property, which had several aging structures. Despite the amount of work that lay ahead to make the property ready for campers, Branch was optimistic about the potential. “I thought, ‘This works. This could be a great camp,’” Branch said.
 
Coming to life
A great camp indeed. Rockbridge has eight dorms — so far, enough for campers, work crew and summer staff. The club room opened for campers in 2000, before which the dining hall had been used for club.
 
Today campers at Rockbridge can bounce off the Blob into a lake, play basketball in the gymnasium, take on the climbing tower, swim in the pool or relax in the hot tub. And if they get a little hungry between meals, the snack bar will satisfy any sweet tooth.
 
But Rockbridge has another sweet spot. Toward the edge of camp, at the end of a path, sits a gazebo. Once a bandstand, it’s now a part of Rockbridge history and a reminder of God’s faithfulness. While the property was under development, it was customary to stop at the gazebo and pray for Rockbridge and the lives that would be changed there.
 
The week at Rockbridge changed Sarah, whose mother had died six weeks earlier. At camp, Sarah decided to follow Jesus Christ, and the four friends who were there with her that week committed their lives to Christ, too.
 
Long ago, Alum springs drew city-dwellers who believed the mineral-rich water could revive their health. Today, kids like Sarah are flocking to Rockbridge. While they are here, many discover streams of living water in the person of Jesus Christ, and their lives are changed forever.