Bringing folks closer to God

Children participate in youth activities at a recent Paisano Baptist Encampment. 

Paisano Baptist Encampment is a special place for family fellowship in a beautiful outdoor setting under the Texas stars. It has come a long way since its inception in 1916, when area ranchers, cowboys, and churches joined people from all over Texas and beyond to gather in Bible study, preaching, and instruction.

The encampment, located between Alpine and Marfa in the Davis Mountains, will take place from July 25-30, and will attract those looking for spiritual renewal amid moderate outdoor temperatures and beautiful views.

Bill Collins, a Louisiana resident, is president of the Paisano Baptist Encampment Board of Directors. He said it all started when a preacher named L.R. Millican rode on horseback to preach the gospel and teach Bible study.

Said Collins, “When Millican got too old to ride a horse and too old to travel around, he told the ranchers out there, ‘I can’t ride anymore and I can’t get around,’ so he set aside close to a thousand acres. That was designated for folks to come out and avail themselves of preaching the Word of God and to learn more about the Bible.”

Collins’ own family started venturing out in the 1940s, Collins himself in the 1960s, and then his children in the 1990s.

“When I was a boy, my dad brought me out there, and when he was a boy, his parents brought him out there,“ said Collins. “My sons are the fourth generation coming in our family, and some families have five or six generations coming out there, so it’s just a family tradition.”

Kathy Hillman, who resides in Waco, is the encampment’s vice president of Public Relations, and has family members who helped establish the camp and were part of the Mitchell Ranch near Marfa.

The weeklong encampment isn’t just for Baptists, either. People from Methodist, Presbyterian, Church of Christ, and other Christian churches have always joined in.

“Historically, the ranching families who were in the Big Bend and all their families have grown and moved away to different parts of Texas and the U.S.,” said Collins. “They pilgrimage back every year, and come back to this place.”

There is a nursery, day camps for first through sixth graders, and youth activities, including volleyball, basketball, and dodge ball tournaments for seventh through 12th graders, a children’s choir, and adult Bible study, along with worship services.

“Everything is going to be fun, and exciting, and new this year,” exclaimed Hillman, “We will have a special choir coming this year, a Gospel choir, and we have new folks in charge of our activities, including our children and our youth, so there are just lots of exciting things going on.”

People normally stay in cabins, but there are also RV and tent sites to accommodate all the guests. According to Collins, there will be anywhere from 1,200-1,500 people over the course of the weekend.

“It is a time of family reunions as well as time for spiritual renewal,“ said Collins. “You hear people say that the spirit, the fellowship, the history, it’s like nothing else. There is no place like Paisano.”

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