Children with the Ikthoos Camp eat in the cafeteria on East Mississippi Community College’s Scooba campus. This is the 14th consecutive year the Christian summer camp has been held at EMCC.

July 12, 2018

Children, pastors and chaperones from churches across Mississippi are taking part in the annual Ikthoos Camp held each summer on East Mississippi Community College’s Scooba campus.         

The Christian-based camp that began Saturday, July 7, and runs to Saturday, July 14, has been held at EMCC each summer since 2005, and in intermittent years prior to that beginning in the late 1980s.

Starkville Christian School student Mackenzie Murphy, 12, attended her first Ikthoos Camp as an infant, accompanied by her mother, who is a volunteer with the organization. Mackenzie hasn’t missed a summer camp since that time.

“I really enjoy coming back each summer and visiting with people I haven’t seen in a year,” Mackenzie said. “You develop a lot of friendships and the fellowship is great.”

The camp is broken up into two groups of about 150 people each, with a junior camp for younger students the first half of the week and a senior camp for students 13 years or older the second half of the week.

The students and their chaperones bunk in EMCC student residence halls during their stay and eat breakfast, lunch and dinner in the cafeteria located in the F.R. Young Student Union. Children with the Ikthoos Camp eat in the cafeteria on East Mississippi Community College’s Scooba campus. This is the 14th consecutive year the Christian summer camp has been held at EMCC.

The camp is packed with events that include music, games, crafts, skits, talent nights, testimonials and bible study, among other things.

During a recent lunch, an impromptu chant of “joke, joke, joke” broke out and lasted until someone stood up and obliged. Another chant called for a weather report from a chaperone from Canada, who is a meteorologist. His prognosis of “Hot and humid and dark tonight” was met with raucous laughter.

“We have a lot of fun,” said Kenny Hodges, who is pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Starkville. “We have rallies where we sing camp songs, team sports and all kinds of other activities.”

Part of the attraction for the students is that the camp is not “churchy” said Butch Simmons, pastor of Pine Bluff Baptist Church in Pheba.

“But it is biblical,” added Dennis Smithey, pastor of Central Grove Baptist Church in Aberdeen.

The name Ikthoos derives from the Greek word “ikhthys,” which refers to the symbol of the fish adopted by early Christians. Ikthoos camp was founded in 1964 by Nap Clark, Wayne Neal and Ken Sheppard. Clark and Neal have since died, with Clark passing away in 2012 while at the camp.

“We are kind of their disciples,” Hodges said of the founders.

EMCC Dean of Students Tony Montgomery makes sure the campers have everything they need while on campus. He has developed a close relationship with the pastors and staff.

“What is really cool is that I am seeing students enrolled at EMCC who have been coming to the Ikthoos Camp since they were 7 or 8 years old,” Montgomery said.

One of those students is Starkville resident Jade Justice, who graduated from EMCC with her Associate’s Degree last May. She has been attending the Ikthoos Camp since the age of 5.

“A lot of us have been coming to EMCC for the camps for so long it feels like home,” Justice said.

John Baker, general manager for Sodexo, which operates the cafeterias on the college’s two main campuses, was named an honorary camper last year by the Ikthoos group.

“This is a really great group of people,” Baker said. “They come back year after year and I have gotten to know some of them really well.”

Smithey said the hospitality from everyone at EMCC is what keeps them coming back.

“I cannot say enough about the administration and the staff at EMCC,” Smithey said. “Tony Montgomery is the best guy we have ever worked with, hands down. In fact, he is an unofficial official for Ikthoos.”