On 150 acres just north of Tyler lies the Rockin' C Ranch. It is a working ranch. It's also the newest Christian Summer Camp in East Texas.
You'll find all the typical summer camp things at the Rockin C. Of course swimming is the biggest attraction, at any camp, but this is a working ranch and at the Rockin C campers work. Most of the fences, benches, even the bunk houses were built by campers. It's all part of the work ethic that is the theme of the Rockin C.
"Work is an honorable thing it shouldn't be looked at as a drudgery it's a privilege to be able to work and also the self esteem from actually building a project," says Rockin C Director Matt Clapp, "Doing something with your own hands and just having that feeling and that team work that you have to work with other people to get things done."
In the off season some schools are beginning to use the Rockin C as a retreat for their students. During our visit a group of students from Canton had just kicked off a two day stay. Most of these kids have never seen a real chicken, much less gather eggs.
East Texas native Matt Clapp had dreamed of building a camp on the family ranch for years...but it wasn't until about 1996, when he life was threatened while trying to help friends with a domestic crisis, he realized the Rockin C was God's direction for his life. "I think God knew that I needed to get off high center and this event needed to happen in my life to make me realize the clock is ticking and I need to get on with it, I couldn't put this off any longer," recalls Clapp.
A lot of prayer, and a lot of help from family and friends made the ranch camp a reality says Clapp. It is that kind of faith and fortitude that he tries to teach at the camp. Like at the ropes course, where high in the towering trees another lesson can be learned.
"Its still real hard to take that first step, and I think its hard sometimes to take that first step maybe in a Christian journey, getting started sometimes is the hardest part and it helps kids with the self esteem to know they can do it," says Clapp
That kind of lesson is found all over, especially in the horse arena. Not only do kids learn to ride, by the end of the week they'll go on a real cattle round-up. Riding horses, branding cattle and finding out a little more about themselves.
"We try to get it back to something, to an idea that builds character," says Clapp, "and let the kids know that God has a plan for them and a plan for their life." This kind thing goes in with our devotional time that we do at night, kids are making so many decisions at this point in their life. Our age range is 10-17. There are so many decisions that kids make when they are at that age that affect them for the rest of their lives...that can be a moral decision, or just a decision to like or not like work it kinda depends on your attitude, and we try to hone in on that attitude thing a lot also."
By camp standards, the Rockin C is just in it's infancy stages, but it's numbers are growing from 40 campers the first year to more than 500 this summer. Clapp hopes the Rockin C will be a place where, fun, faith and little sweat combine for a summer time experience not soon forgotten.