73rd annual camp meeting held

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The 73rd annual Montosa Camp Meeting runs through July 28 near Datil. The annual event includes nondenominational worship services and prayer meetings, food, youth activities, singing, and on some nights with weather permitting, a camp fire.

The Montosa Camp Meeting was started by five residents of Catron County in the early 1940s. Cowboy camp meetings are over a hundred years old in Texas, and in other parts of the southwest are 65 to 75 years old. There is a series of camp meetings that were started by Ralph Hall about 65 years ago. He was a preacher, a missionary sponsored by the Presbyterian church, with a dream of teaching God’s Word to all of the ranch people of the West. Hall established many Sunday Schools, churches, young people conferences, and cowboy camp meetings during his fifty plus years of his work spreading the gospel.

Montosa Camp Meeting and a camp meeting in Nogal Mesa, east of Carrizozo are two of the first New Mexico camp meetings. Both started in the summer of 1940. Nogal Mesa was chosen because the spot “made you want to remove your hat.” Their organizing committee decided cooks would be hired, benches would be donated and tents would be provided for services. There would be four prayer meetings under the tent. Ministers of many faiths came to preach.

Montosa Camp Meeting, which was then held at the Montosa camp grounds, on the edge of the Saint Augustin (then called San Augustine) Plains, approximately 12 miles east of Datil, started with a similar philosophy and principles – a simple camp-style atmosphere that is open to everyone.

These cowboy camp meetings are conducted in much the same way today. The local committees are responsible for securing the preachers, music, youth programs and other staff and activities. The cooks prepare three meals a day. There is no charge but donations are accepted. The local committees handle the donations for each camp and see that all bills are paid. Nowadays the cost is between $7,000 and $15,000 for each camp meeting. Each camp pays an annual assessment fee based on camp registration to the Ranchmen’s Camp Meeting Association which is used for equipment maintenance, replacement and organization coordination.

Any person may go to a camp meeting. This is a gathering of people from all religious faiths and the preachers and song leaders will be of various interdenominational faiths.

“You make your bedroll, tent or R.V… Bring your children and your friends…wear your blue jeans and bring your Bible…come for one service or three or four days…it will be an experience you will never forget,” touts the Ranchmens Camp Meetings web site at www.ranchmenschristiancamp.org.

The Montosa Camp Meeting is held three and a half miles east of Datil, New Mexico on Highway 60, 1/4 mile west of Highway Marker 81. Turn south and travel 4 miles on County maintained & graveled road. Signs directing to the camp grounds can be found on Hwy 60 and along the gravel road.

This year’s staff include Glen Foster of Tucscon, Ariz. and Rick Steele of Albuquerque as camp preachers, Jack and Beverly Duncan of Lemitar as youth leaders, and Billy Tucker of Alamogordo as camp and music director. For more information, contact John Hand, Jr. of Datil at 575-772-5763 or Marilyn Stokes of Los Lunas at 505-228-0578.