An Interview with Justin Johnson, Director of Camp Jubilee

In just a few short months on June 7, Camp Jubilee will begin welcoming campers! The leadership team of staff, counselors, interns, our Executive Director (Ken Weldon) and our Camp Director (Justin Johnson) have been praying not only for this day and forthcoming season, but also for all of the children who will be joining them for Camp Jubilee. Recently we sat down with Justin to ask a few questions about Camp. Come join us at the table!

How did the name Camp Jubilee come about? Does it have a special meaning?

We wanted a name with a biblical foundation and tie to the ethos of what we feel camp is. There are three things I tell others when they ask me why camp is so impactful on the life of a child. First, camp is a place where children can rest. Camp is unplugged for a reason – to abide in the community and abide in the Lord, without all the distractions. Second, regardless of who your camper is, when they step through the gates of camp, every child is equal. We as a staff are going to welcome them in and love them as children created in the image of God, putting campers at liberty to live into the freedom and grace that the gospel provides. Lastly, while we are not unique in providing a space for children to experience kingdom-culture, it is unique that campers get to spend as much time fully immersed in a kingdom-centered community as they do at camp.

As we thought about rest, freedom, liberty, forgiveness, a fresh start and being immersed in a kingdom lifestyle, the idea of the year of Jubilee found in Leviticus 25 came to mind. In the passage, the Lord is calling the Israelites to pause every 50 years, to have a year of jubilee. It’s a season of Sabbath for the land so it’s about rest. It’s also a season where debts are forgiven. If you came on hard times and had to sell your land or had to become a slave because you couldn’t pay someone back, you were released from your slavery and your land was returned to you. And so again, people are at liberty to live as the Lord has created them to be in His image. And this is the kingdom lifestyle.

On top of all that, jubilee carries tones of joyfulness. And what is our response from resting in the Lord, being forgiven, and living in this community of the Lord’s kingdom?  To turn and to praise Him with joy.

What was difficult about the transition to a new camp location? Was there grief? What were moments of goodness? 

There was definitely grief involved in the transition of leaving the old summer camp location. I think one of the things that makes camp special is there’s a sense of place. People say “I’m going out to camp” and everyone knows what they mean. It’s been interesting saying that during this in between time.

What will “out to camp” mean this year? 

We are very grateful that the Lord has provided us with two locations to go “out to camp” this summer.  However, we recognize that these locations are not our permanent home. The Lord has put the word tabernacle on my heart. That we are in a tabernacle season, and Camp Kinard and Awanita Valley are tabernacle places. This summer we’re going to build a “tent of meeting” and create a worship space that we’ll worship in for a couple of weeks, break down, and setup up again in a new location. While our worship space will be transient we trust that the Lord will be faithful to meet with his people there if they draw near to him. That has provided encouragement in this process, and it is with great hope that we look forward to meeting with the Lord “out at camp” again this summer!

What are you getting excited about? 

I’m excited that this is a fresh start. Camp is full of traditions, and those are great, but sometimes they can limit our ability to grow. We’re going to hold on to the important traditions that matter, and there are going to be some traditions that we’re going to lay down for a season so we can develop new traditions. We’re also going to leave space for the Lord to allow us, as a community, to develop traditions together. I’m excited about the new programming ideas we’re developing as a leadership team. It’s been really fun! We’re threading a needle of not wanting to make camp unrecognizable but also unapologetically being something new. We are Camp Jubilee now! 

Will my child be safe? 

Absolutely. I’ve talked to our leadership team a lot about the fact that we are going to be one year old this summer as a program in a new place, but our ministry experience running a diocesan camp is 85 years old. We may have a new program location and name but we have the wisdom of 85 years with the Lord faithfully leading us in this ministry.

As a camp staff we view everything we do through the lens of being “camper first,” “safety first,” and “gospel- focused” in ALL that we do. All of our standards for training and policies for safeguarding campers and risk management, all the safety measures we’ve been taking are being carried over to Camp Jubilee. We take risk management very seriously. We do not take lightly the fact that we are being entrusted with the care of people’s most precious possessions, their children. 

The locations themselves are great. We went and looked at various camps at the end of this past summer, and opted not to go with some locations that had more of a “wow factor” because we did not feel their accommodations or their personal policy practices were up to our standard of care or would meet the ministry needs of our campers. And so, again, we are taking safety very seriously.

How exactly did you find the two Camp Jubilee locations and can you tell us about each one?

I just started Googling every camp and scouring a map of the state of South Carolina, coastal Georgia,  and North Carolina. I don’t even remember how many camps we visited or got on the phone with to talk through what we were trying to do. At the end of the day Camp Kinard and Awanita Valley were the two that rose to the top in terms of having enough space for us and being able to meet our needs. 

Camp Kinard is a great site. It’s in the rolling hills of the Midlands and has two beautiful lakes on it’s property. What I really like about Kinard is how centralized the campus is. We will be the only people out there which gives us the ability to do the type of programming we want to do. Their cabins have two sides to them that are connected by a living room with couches and sofas, which will enhance cabin fellowship and provide great spaces for some intentional small group time. The cabins are right next to the dining hall and  down the hill from what we’ll be utilizing as the chapel area. Kinard’s layout provides a great setting for the communal nature of Camp Jubilee.

At Awanita Valley we will be staying in a lodge style building, again keeping everyone close together. Awanita does have that wow factor as it is located in a beautiful valley. Everywhere you look, there are mountains. They have a small waterfall and beautiful mountain top vista onsite, and their lake front is top notch! 

Can you give us a “Day in the Life of a Camper”? 

Campers will begin each day with breakfast around the table with their cabin. We take meal time pretty seriously at camp. We see meals as one of the main catalysts for authentic relationships and community development. Chapel time after breakfast consists of teaching, bible memory verses, prayer and worship. Being Anglicans, we’re liturgical and we have our ways of doing things we enjoy, but we are also looking to inject some freshness into how we do some things in chapel to better teach and posture our camper’s hearts.

The day is split up into morning period, afternoon period and evening period that campers rotate through. Lake activities, nature hikes, arts and crafts, big field games, noodle hockey, all the fun stuff that goes with being at camp. After lunch, campers have a siesta time. We go hard at camp and we want our campers to be able to go hard all week long. Afternoon activities are followed with Canteen Time. Before dinner we have small group time where cabins gather together for campers to ask questions that are on their hearts, staff members to share their testimonies, talk about what they’re hearing in chapel, wrestle with the Lord and seek Him together as a community. After dinner, there will be a group wide game. We are going to introduce some new evening activities this year and have some classics in there, too. Each evening ends with a time of worship before everyone retires to their cabins for rest.

How are you seeing the Lord prepare the way for Camp Jubilee? 

I have to pause and remind myself that in the middle of October Camp Jubilee did not exist. We did not have a name, logo, website, staff or campers. We made a social media account and “launched” around Thanksgiving. In the brief time of about four months, we already have hundreds of families who have entrusted their children to our care, we have a full staff, and we have a full set of interns. The Lord is providing for our needs. It has all been a work of grace. We are so grateful for what the Lord is doing because it is obvious at this point, probably to everyone and if not, definitely to Ken and myself, that the Lord is doing all of this by His favor.

What do you want parents to know? 

We want parents to know is that though things are going to look a little bit different this year, this is the same ministry they have been participating in year after year, that their families are welcomed at Camp Jubilee and we are excited for them to be a part of the Camp Jubilee community. We want them to know they can ask questions. If they have questions, I would encourage them to contact me, to send me an email or give me a phone call ( or 843-628-2363). We want to answer their questions, so they feel comfortable sending their children to camp. Finally, we want parents to know that the experience their children will receive at camp continues to be important, and in many cases life changing, as they grown in community and in the Lord.

(Interviewed on February 25, 2023 by Molly Hare)