First Arkansas Black Camp Meeting

“June 16th [1907] I pitched the tent and began a series of meetings here in Pine Bluff. The interest was quite fair from the first and has continued so. After about one month of continuous labor two ladies began to keep the Sabbath. With these, their children, myself and my organist, we organized a Sabbath school of twelve members.

It came into my mind that since the tent was already here and meetings were in progress, and better still, some were accepting the truth, it would be a good thing to bind off the work if a camp meeting for the colored believers of Arkansas could he held here. So when Elder Porter called by on his way to the Texas camp meeting at Fort Worth, I mentioned the matter to him. He spoke favorably of the proposition and promised to talk it over with the brethren and let me know the decision as early as possible.

In a few days I got a letter from him telling me to go ahead and arrange for the camp meeting. So I wrote letters the same day to every point in Arkansas where there are colored Seventh-day Adventists. I could not give them the date as Elder Jones had not arrived but I told them to begin to plan to come. Shortly Elder Jones came and then I sent them another letter with his signature attached giving the date — August 23 to 31.

The meeting is now in the past, but its good influence will live on. Although there was only two weeks from the time I sent the first notice to the time of meeting, nearly the whole membership of colored Adventists in Arkansas was in attendance. The three or four that did not come felt obliged to ‘stay by the stuff’ while the other part of the family came.

Prof. W. H. Swait, our teacher at Devall’s Bluff, wishing to bring his whole family (8 souls) and being unable to pay their fares on the train, fitted up his wagon gypsy fashion and came the dirt road, a distance of about seventy miles. He started two days ahead and was here on time the same as those who came on the train.

I trust that with this effort, voluntarily on our part, our brethren who have the camp meeting matter in hand will appoint a camp meet for us next year and give notice of it through our papers. There were only about thirty of us including children, but we praise the Lord that we could get that many together on only two weeks notice. (As before stated, this was nearly all we have in Arkansas.)

On the last night of the camp meeting we called for those who intended to keep all the commandments of God and go with us through to the kingdom to stand up, and five stood up and three besides the two already mentioned. O, it did our souls good to hear these five souls who have newly come to the faith express themselves freely and without any fear of those on the outside.

But already the devil is enraged. The husband of one of the new converts got a preacher to come to his house to convince his wife of her error. So she came after me to come and defend her. I was not at home at the time (and I believe it was well I was not) so she persuaded my wife to go. My wife took with her another sister newly come to the faith. They found the preacher there and he at once began his ‘time worn’ argument, using I Cor. 16:1,2 and 2 Cor. 3:3-18 etc. Before they got away the husband came and ordered my wife and the other sister out of his house. He said, “Get out of my house with your lies. Get out, get out! I don’t want to hear a word from you.” That night (Sunday) he forced her to go to the church where she has been a member. She left with her little boy and he waited a few minutes then he came on behind. But she dodged him and went to the home of one of the sisters who accepted the truth with her. So when he got to the church and could not find her there he came and knocked at my door and when I opened the door he spoke out in a very angry manner, “Has my wife been here?” I told him no, I had not seen her. O, brethren, the time is right upon us when we take our lives into our own hands in seeking to win souls to Christ. But our trust is in the Lord. Pray for me.

Elder Jones could remain with us only about three days of the meeting, having an engagement at the Oklahoma camp meeting but everything went on all right. On Sabbath we went to the Arkansas river, and three dear souls were buried with their Lord by baptism. At the close of the Sabbath which was the close of, our camp meeting, we all shook the parting hand, and o, what unity of hearts, as manifested in the free low of tears ! We look forward to that glad day when partings will he no more.” – J. W. Dancer.


Citations

Dancer, J. W. (1907, Sep. 10). Southwestern Union Record, p. 5.

Ibid. (1907, Sep. 17). p. 6.