In 1938, Joy El Ministries began in Pennsylvania under the name of Children’s Bible Mission, also known as CBM. Miss Mildred McEvers was CBM’s home missionary assigned to South Central PA. She began teaching the Word of God to boys and girls in Franklin and Perry Counties in public schools. Then in 1965, the U.S. Supreme Court declared it illegal to have Bible reading and prayer in public schools. Guided by the Lord in their effort to reach children, the local CBM Committee discovered that Pennsylvania had a law lying dormant, which permits students to be released from public school for the purpose of religious instruction.
With this knowledge, CBM developed the Released Time Bible Program, which allowed students to be released from their classrooms once a week to go to an offsite location to receive Bible teaching. Released Time began in two elementary schools in 1967. The program met with favor from parents, churches, the community and the students. Soon “Released Time” became a familiar phrase. In the succeeding years, it has expanded into more than 21 school districts, reaching over 3000 students weekly with the Word of God, and the program is still growing today.
From its inception, Released Time included scripture memorization. To encourage students to memorize verses, incentive awards were offered for various levels of points each student accumulated. The maximum award was a free week of summer camp. Initially CBM held its summer camps at a rented summer facility local to Greencastle, PA. However, as more and more students earned free summer camp, CBM considered building its own facility. A search began for a piece of land that was located in central Franklin County, had water (stream or pond), and some flat land for the buildings. The students involved in Released Time shared the prayer request of the ministry with their parents and one parent offered the first parcel of land, followed later by a second donation of land. The two parcels together were not sufficient for the camp and the prayers continued until a third farmer donated the final acreage. The three area farmers donated nineteen acres of land, which began the site of Camp Joy El.
Camp Joy El held its groundbreaking on March 17, 1974 and was soon off and running to become its own significant ministry to area young people. CBM Ministries needed to raise $200,000 for the original buildings: a dining hall/chapel and ten cabins. The local community provided a majority of the labor. Local churches and businesses donated their time, talents and tools to erect the buildings and the first camp opened July 7, 1974.
Over time Camp Joy El became the identity focus of the ministry and the name by which the whole of CBM Ministries was most widely known. Responding to that, in 2004 the Board of Directors took action to rename the entire organization “Joy El Ministries,” which is who we are today.
Today at Joy El Ministries, we exist to provide opportunities for people to experience life-change through personal encounters with God. Our operation is dependent on the Lord’s provision through the gifts and support of its contributors. At Joy El Ministries, we want people to know that God showed us how much He loved us by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to die for our sins. And because Jesus paid the price for our sins, we now have the opportunity to have our sins forgiven and to live a victorious, peace-filled life. If you are interested in learning more about this, please feel free to contact our office and speak with any of our staff members.