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Centrifuge campers grow close to God, each other after fire

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–A week of Centrifuge camp that began with a June 21 fire destroying a building where 65 campers and sponsors were staying ended as “the best bonding week we’ve had,” according to the director of the youth camp at Glorieta (NM) Baptist Conference Center.
“Anytime you come close to a near-death situation, you see how important life is,” said Richard Holt, Centrifuge director for the summer and minister of music at First Baptist Church, Bangs, Texas.
The camp opened routinely on Saturday night, June 20, with 366 campers and 105 sponsors present for the opening service, Holt said. But fire broke out about 1:30 Sunday morning in Cedar Lodge, ignited by a faulty electric blanket. Sixty-five teenage girls and sponsors from four churches got out of the building safely with only the clothes they were wearing.
After getting to bed after midnight, Holt said he was awakened to news of the fire at 1:50 a.m. by a Centrifuge staffer. From his nearby residence, he could see the flames soaring into the air. Miraculously, he believes, the winds that had blown so hard in previous days were gone.
By the time he got to the scene about 2 a.m., everyone in the lodge had been safely evacuated and firefighters from three departments were seeking to contain the blaze.
Before the fire was put out, firefighters from four other units including Santa Fe County and the city had arrived to help. But acts of heroism took place even before firefighters arrived, Holt said.
A male Centrifuge camper from Spruce Lodge, located next door to Cedar, ran barefoot to New Mexico Hall, obtained a water hose, ran back, hooked it up and began wetting down Spruce to keep the fire from spreading.
Holt commended Glorieta staff who ushered Centrifuge campers to the dining hall, provided blankets, pillows and breakfast and made alternative housing arrangements for Cedar residents. Centrifuge staffers were available to talk and counsel, along with adult camp sponsors.
“My biggest concern was for our staff to spend more time with our campers than we ever had,” Holt said.
Because everyone had gotten so little sleep, the Sunday morning worship celebration and Bible study groups were held, but recreation and track times were cancelled. A full slate of activities resumed Monday.
The Sunday worship service “was a celebration that all lives were spared,” Holt said. In the Bible study groups, many leaders set aside lesson plans to “allow sharing time” that included many tears. Throughout the day, leaders were available to talk and listen.
Helping their fellow campers who had lost everything was a big concern of most youth, Holt said.
“They saw kids walking around without shoes. They saw the need and had the opportunity to give,” he said.
At the Thursday night worship service, about 90 percent of the campers raised their hands when Holt asked how many had given time, money or clothing during the week.
“This was a great testimony of giving,” he said.
As the week drew to a close, 17 youth attending the camp made professions of faith and 55 rededicated their lives.
But Holt’s strongest impression of the week was the power of prayer.
In addition to the prayers of campers and participants in the Sunday school leadership conference also taking place at Glorieta, he said they received letters and phone calls from other Centrifuge camps, letting those at Glorieta know of their prayers.
“I’ve never seen so much prayer go on in one week. God really heard and answered,” Holt said.
After a short break, Centrifuge staffers began another week of camp June 27.
Meanwhile, campers who lost possessions in the fire have provided lists to Glorieta officials. Insurance will cover campers’ personal possessions.
“We continue to be thankful our only loss was a building,” Glorieta director Larry Haslam said. “That can be replaced.”

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  • Linda Lawson