By Lonnie Wilkey
BLOOMINGTON SPRINGS — During World War II, the facilities of the former DeBerry Military Academy in Bloomington Springs, about 10 miles west of Cookeville, were used as a summer military camp.
Today, one of the few remains of the former military camp is an old building that was constructed in 1929 and has since been refurbished and incorporated with a number of new buildings that have been constructed over the past decade.
The property, however, is no longer used to train young men for the military; instead it is used for Christian “soldiers” to get away to relax and spend time with the Lord.
Joe Johnston, a Baptist layman, was a member of Hermitage Hills Baptist Church, Hermitage, about 20 years ago when he felt God tugging on his heart “that he was not doing enough for the Lord.”
After a lot of prayer, Johnston came to the realization that God was calling him to build a church camp. As Johnston told people about what God was calling him to do, his mother-in-law shared his story with a friend who told her to have her son-in-law to call him.
Johnston did and made the short trip from Nashville to Bloomington Springs to see the man’s property, which happened to be the former DeBerry Military Academy. One look at the facility which had numerous structures that would have to be torn down convinced Johnston it was not what he had in mind.
“I just told him it was just so much work to do before I even worked to try to even build this camp. It’s one thing to build it, but it’s another thing to tear one down … and rebuild utilities and everything,” Johnston said.
He continued to pray, however, and eventually made the financial arrangements to purchase the property in 2006 which would become known as Camp Calvary.
Over the years, Johnston, who owns a construction company, would work on the property as time allowed for the next 12 to 13 years. His son, Collin, joined with him after he graduated from college. The two of them do the majority of the work at the camp.
It has been opened on a limited scale for small groups, from churches to other Christian organizations, for about a year and a half, he said. Johnston spends much of his time now talking with churches of all denominations and other Christian organizations about using the facility for retreats. Johnston said “it is a time to focus on one’s faith and grow stronger in Christ, and for those who don’t know Him to find Him.”
Johnston acknowledged that the Lord “is opening doors and allowing that to happen. It’s been a great journey and we love it. It’s our passion.”
The facilities include cabins, an indoor building for worship (with commercial kitchen), an outdoor amphitheatre and more, Johnston said. “At Camp Calvary, our desire is that you would leave changed,” he said.
“Our hope is that you would leave knowing the Creator of the universe, feel His loving presence and leave with the knowledge of who you are and what you were created for in Christ,” Johnston said.
For more information about the camp, visit campcalvarybstn.com or connect on Facebook. B&R