Youth Haven Bible Camp, originally called Bear Track Bible Camp, held its first summer session June 21-26, 1948. Jack and Helen Brown, deeded the original two acre camp site to Kentucky Mountain Mission. As they built a road, sawed logs and built the auditorium and cabins, the Browns saw their vision become a reality.
The original girls dorm was built where the camp gymnasium now stands, and could house 40 girls. The first boys dorm was a new log barn behind the Brown’s old barn. Many of the staff slept in tents. Although the walls were on the auditorium, the roof was not yet completed when the first campers arrived. In fact, the Camp Director, George Fox, had to be called down from the roof to assemble the children and begin camp.
Youth Haven’s original staff members were Jack and Helen Brown, George and Grace Fox, Helen Becker, Dorothy Hosking, Selma Johnson, Gladys Jones Schroeter, Bill and Barbara Lewis, Hazel McCabe Durbin, Lawrence and Meta Powell, and Chester and Margaret Ranck.
64 children attended the first camp in 1948. Of those, 23 made decisions to accept Jesus Christ as Savior and to live for Him. From 1948 to the present, Youth Haven’s purpose remains the same – to win boys and girls for Jesus Christ, to encourage spiritual growth, and to develop future Christian leaders.
From two acres and a few buildings in 1948 – Youth Haven’s campgrounds have expanded to 70 acres, 10 camper cabins, indoor and outdoor gymnasiums, swimming pool, and guest accommodations for volunteer workers. A gymnasium and swimming pool are used for summer camps, spring and fall retreats, and community outreach. The original chapel and dining room is now being renovated for other purposes, as a new chapel and dining room built in memory of Julia Brandenburg (daughter of KMM missionaries, Scott and Amy Brandenburg) has been in use since 2017.
In 1948, one week of summer camp was held. Over the years, additional camp weeks were added to accommodate the growing numbers of campers. In 1968, camps for the disabled (Sunshine Camps) were added to Youth Haven’s summer schedule. Youth Haven currently hosts one week of Teen Camp, three weeks of Grade School Camp and two weeks of Sunshine Camp, along with spring retreats and other ministry outreaches.