Garland Franklin, a native Kentuckian, and his wife, Ellenore, were working, in various ministries in Hyden, KY. Ruth Huston, Ethel Lawton, Ruth Achey, Irma Gaffney and Pearl Grigg joined with them in a fellowship of prayer. Through this relationship, God initiated in their hearts a desire to begin a school Bible program and summer camp ministry.
After a year of teaching in the public schools of Leslie County, the first camp was held in the Franklin’s backyard. Forty children earning the privilege of attending through Bible memorization, warmed to the glow of that initial spark.
During the second year, more classes were added to the school program, increasing the number of children eligible for camp. Property became a vital concern.
In 1936, with the ministry expanding among youth and adults, God graciously opened the door to purchase 66 acres of beautiful farm land in Knott County. The arrangements were finalized and a new banner flew aloft: CAMP NATHANAEL (Gift of God). The first campers “roughed it” in army tents, slept on straw tick mattresses, swam in Troublesome Creek and contended with wandering pigs and cows.
A wide range of activities in the community and at Camp Nathanael were developed during the next four decades as the ministry grew. Missionaries were placed in Perry, Knott, Harlan and Letcher Counties. The camp property expanded to 210 acres with cabins, chapel, dining hall, swimming pool and recreational facilities.
Today, almost 75 years after its founding, the ministry continues to grow as Scripture Memory Mountain Mission blazes at beacon capacity. Over the last thirty years Floyd, Breathitt and Johnson Counties have been added to the community outreaches and Camp Nathanael encompasses 540 acres with thirty eight buildings, recreational facilities and hiking trails. People of all ages throughout the region are being reached with the Gospel through community and camp programs, Bible studies, DVBS and church ministries.
Development of the ministry and camp property are prayerful concerns for SMMM as they look to the future. The desire is to see the flame that ignited in hearts in 1932 grow even brighter in the years ahead – faithful in shining until Christ returns.