Here's the view of Branson from the elders' camp

By Bill Stough

BRANSON, Mo.-Branson, a popular United Church of God Feast site, had an attendance this year ranging from 1,800 to 2,000 per day. Most Feastgoers, attending here on the traditional dates beginning the night of Oct. 15, stayed in motels and condominiums, but The Journal found two elders camping together at nearby Table Rock State Park.

Bob Hedge serves in Mena and Fort Smith, Ark., and Dan Cafourek is an elder in Bentonville, Ark. Both men are bachelors. Here are their answers to several queries about why they chose to camp out.

How long have the two men camped at the Feast?

"This is our fifth year," said Mr. Hedge.

Why would they camp rather than seek out more-expensive housing?

"We can't take four motels walls," said Mr. Hedge, "and we prefer being out in the open. We bring our gas grill, camp stove and barbecue. We like cooking outside and having guests over in this beautiful setting. We also have no plans to eat in restaurants during the Feast. Last year we ate out one time and the food was all greasy. We brought produce from our own gardens to add to the food we buy here."

Is it safe to leave your camping gear out while you're attending services?

"The camp is regularly patrolled," Mr. Hedge said, "and we've done this for years with no problem. Someone took some mixed nuts from us once."

Wouldn't some people frown on elders camping? How have the two men gotten away with it?

"We've never told anybody," Mr. Hedge said good-naturedly.

But isn't it a bother to change into suits for church services while camping out?

"Oh, no," he said. "We use the bathhouse. One year, however, at Hot Springs [Ark.] there was no shower in the camp, so we rigged up a contraption by hanging shower curtains in our camp site. We got water from the rest room in milk cartons. Elegance is not our idea of what the Feast should be like, anyway. The camaraderie with other brethren camping here is great. It was that way in the early days in Big Sandy also. It's a big contrast going from our tent to the auditoriums the church meets in at Branson."

Mr. Cafourek commented on the notion that the brethren should live high on the hog at the Feast because it represents a prosperous world tomorrow.

"The Bible doesn't speak of observing it that way with so much emphasis on personal entertainment and consumerism," he said. "Deuteronomy 14 and other scriptures speak of being in temporary places, being sojourners and eating and drinking before the Lord awaiting the holy city. Israelites used to leave their homes and erect shelters on their rooftops with tree branches and live there during the Feast. It's hard to remember the temporariness of this life aspect when Feast accommodations are so luxurious. We feel camping enhances the meaning of the Feast."


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