By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Editor-in-chief
While walking around the lake at Camp Hargis in July 2019, Aaron Knight had tears streaming down his face.
Emotionally, the local pastor at Chelsea Redemption Church had been crying for days as he watched those attending a youth summer camp give their lives to God. But during her 45 minute walk around the retreat, after seeing a girl stand up in front of everyone to say that she made the decision to give her life to Jesus, and then see them all go, the emotions de Knight were at an all time high as he enjoys the serenity that surrounds him.
It was then that he knew he had to do something to save the Christian camp that had made its way into the lives of many since 1965.
âI knew that at that point the Lord was going to save him,â Knight said.
Later that week, with Chick-fil-a cookies, a card, and a letter in hand, Knight walked into Doug Eddleman’s office in Mountain Brook in the hopes of making his way to speak with one. from the best real estate developers in the state.
Eddleman, the president of Eddleman Properties, Inc., had purchased the nearly 200 acres that housed Camp Hargis in January 2019.
The YMCA, which had run the camp since 1999 when it bought the land from a local church, leased it until August 2019 before relinquishing the reins after Labor Day.
At this point, it was unclear what would happen to the camp and the land in the future.
âIn my mind I had already said, ‘Hey, this is probably going to be sold to the developer that’s growing really close to this location,’â Knight said. âWhen you come over the first hill, there’s Pine Mountain Preserve, and Doug Eddleman started a development there. I thought it would end up being developed early on.
But for Knight, the camp meant something more than a future development as he thought about what God had been doing on the property for all these years.
Not only had his family known the Hargis and the landowners for a long time, it was the place where he went to speak with God.
It was there that he married his wife, Kellie Knight, and the place he would love in the tranquil countryside.
Knight has gone out daily to pray for the property and its future for the last nine months of the YMCA’s lease.
âWhen I first learned in October 2018 that it was going to go up for sale, I just wanted to save my lakeside place of prayer and eventually build a house there. Said Chevalier.
Then, about a month into this process, he went out for his daily prayer and saw children playing and enjoying the camp, as the worship music rose from Cannon Hall.
âThe Holy Spirit has exchanged things around me,â he said. âI’ve heard God tell me to do crazy things before, and I’m usually going to go out and do them. That’s probably why he’s telling me because he knows I’m going to do it. I was there one day, and he just whispered this to me in my mind as I prayed, “Don’t build a house, save the camp.” “
Knight joked that at first he thought it was the dumbest thing he had ever heard. He didn’t know how it was possible.
âI had X amount of money in the credit union up the street, and that’s not going to cover it,â he said. “Like, not even close.”
But as Knight continued to go to camp to pray, the Lord continued to send signs, including a detailed memory of children studying the book of Daniel in a gazebo as he walked past them on the way to the sea. pray.
âDuring the three years of faith in the camp, God gave me firm confirmation that he was there,â Knight said.
Finally, all the time on the property in prayer, and even cutting the grass for three consecutive summers, it became clear on that summer day of 2019 when he saw all the young people drawn to the Lord.
That’s when Knight began his bi-weekly trips to the office.
Trusting God’s message to him, Knight alternated cookies and other foods every two weeks to show his passion for the property.
âI didn’t know how I was going to meet Mr. Eddleman, so I did the only thing I knew how to do. I went to his office every two weeks with food, gifts, letters, scrapbooks, and cards, âKnight said.
Then the phone call came.
âAfter 10 months of that, I finally got a date. When we sat down, Mr. Eddleman informed me that the reason he hadn’t reached out was that he had to wait for a time when he could sit down with all the other parties who were also interested in the camp. noted. âTo be fair to everyone. He was incredibly kind and always took a lot of time with me in our meetings. He loves the camp and wants to see Hargis thrive again. He never bought the camp with the intention of demolishing it. If anything, he bought it actually saved it. He loves Chelsea and he loves Hargis. He’s a good man and I’m glad I met him.
That day the two met at Applebee’s in Chelsea and chatted for two hours to get to know each other and discuss possibilities with the property, while a number was offered for sale and purchase.
Then, about a month later, Knight was training at a local gym when he received a text from Edleman.
âI opened it and saw the price, and it was $ 2.2 million,â Knight recalls. “I was like, ‘Oh, my God, I must have heard you wrong on all of this, I think for a year and a half. I went back to training and said, ‘Okay, my God, I didn’t hear you right. It’s too much.’ But it didn’t take long for the Holy Spirit to remind me that no price is too high for God to bear. It was his property and it was up to him to buy it.
The two then met again in September 2020, and like the first meeting, they spoke for almost two hours.
âI took my friend Darrel Eidson to this meeting with me because he’s an amazing businessman,â Knight said. âIt was a good reunion. I met Will Eddleman that day. A super nice guy like his dad. But I felt like we had nothing on the table.
After this meeting, Knight did not hear from Edleman for eight months.
âIn March 2021, after more than two years of believing, I almost quit,â Knight said. âA friend convinced me to go back there and mow the grass for one more spring and summer. So glad we did. I got a call from Mr. Eddleman in June saying he wanted to meet again and discuss how to start camp. My wife Kellie came with me this time. She is so talented and administrative. She drew up a lease-purchase agreement and presented it to Mr. Eddleman. He liked. It was quite special for Kellie to be at this meeting because God had put this mission in both of our hearts from the start.
Finally, it was agreed on December 1, 2021 that a deposit of $ 195,000 was required by December 31.
âI’m not a fundraiser,â Knight said. âI don’t even call for an offering in our church. I’m not very tall, ‘Hey, give me some money.’ The Holy Spirit must have reminded me that, ‘hey, it’s not yours, it’s mine. They don’t give you, they give me.
And this is how the camp is designated. In the bylaws, this is a nonprofit Christian camp and must remain so, eventually transferring hands to someone else if Knight is not there to lead it.
Knight stepped out of his comfort zone and contacted Chelsea businesses, many of which had memories of Harris themselves, looking for those who wanted to be a part of saving the camp.
He wrote 4-5 handwritten letters every night to local businesses to let them know what he needed.
âAll of a sudden people started to come out and say, ‘Hey, we want to donate. We want to work with you. We believe in it. We believe the Lord is in there.
He has set himself a goal of raising $ 196,000 by December 30, an additional $ 1,000 and one day before the deadline.
Instead, Chelsea Businesses helped Knight raise $ 235,000 to go over the necessary down payment.
âThey were just people led by the Holy Spirit,â Knight said.
Now Knight and his wife can officially start planning events and summer camps, which they are already on top of for this year.
They are yet to raise $ 1million in 2022 and $ 1million in 2023, but Knight said he’s not worried because the Lord has brought him to this point, and he will continue to guide him through. that.
The camp will host fundraising events and be open to youth groups, men’s and women’s groups, special needs camps, small groups and more in the summer of 2022 with renovations already underway. .
âMore than anything, I hope people come out and use the camp,â Knight said. “That’s what I want. It’s always meant to have been used for Kingdom purposes and the glory of God. We want to see the people come to know Christ there. For marriages to be restored, hope to be rediscovered and broken lives and hearts to be healed and healed there.That is what Jesus is and there is no better place to do that than a beautiful camp environment.
Now, more than two years since he has walked the field in tears because of what he has witnessed, he will now have the chance to continue to change lives through a camp that has touched many people over the course of his life. 57 years old.
There are several ways to help.
âWe were asked how people can help. There are 14 buildings which all need renovations, âhe said. âWe need boots on the ground to help rebuild and reshape. If you have a religious group, a group of friends, or just your family and want to help out, we have a project for you.
In addition to helping renovate the camp, monetary donations are also needed.
“We have to raise $ 1 million by December 31,” he said. âWe ask people to partner with Hargis at least for the first two years to save him. You can donate through our website at Hargischristiancamp.org. It would be great to get 1,000 people to pledge a recurring monthly donation of $ 50. It’s only $ 600 a year. But for us at 1,000 people, that’s $ 600,000 this year and would go a long way to reach the million needed and help with expensive renovations. “
There is a donate button on the camp website to meet these needs. You can also donate through the Camp PO Box to PO Box 226 Chelsea, AL 35043 by making checks payable to Hargis Christian Camp.
You will receive a donation letter for your taxes that you give recurring or by check.
âEven if you don’t give, please pray,â Knight said. âTogether, with Him, we will save the camp!