Reading Eagle: Natalie Kolb | Douglas E. Batchelor delivers a sermon during a camp meeting of the Pennsylvania Conference of Seventh-day Adventists at Blue Mountain Academy, Tilden Township, on Wednesday.
Reading Eagle: Natalie Kolb | Douglas E. Batchelor delivers a sermon during a camp meeting of the Pennsylvania Conference of Seventh-day Adventists at Blue Mountain Academy on Wednesday.
Bruce Posten | Reporter
Bruce R. Posten is a freelance reporter for the Reading Eagle.
Saturday June 16, 2018 12:01 AM
Pastor shares his life-changing story at Seventh-day Adventist Church camp meeting
Douglas E. Batchelor turned to Christianity after years as a rebellious child.
Written by Bruce Posten
Tilden Township, PA —
Earlier this week, on their way to the annual camp meeting of the Pennsylvania Conference of Seventh-day Adventist Church in Tilden Township, Douglas E. Batchelor and his wife, Karen, flew from the West Coast to Philadelphia, a bit weary and with their luggage yet to be united with them.
While a bit disappointed with airline foul-ups, Batchelor, 61, pastor, Christian author, evangelist speaker and leader of a worldwide ministry, seemed resigned and understanding, not angry.
He wasn't a man venting spleen publicly (think road rage) at those deemed responsible for his plight and lateness, evoking what is often seen as frustration to modern-day systematic mishaps that just seem to happen, brushed aside as nobody's fault.
"I strive to be a Christian about it," he said, patiently being interviewed in the chapel at Blue Mountain Academy, site of the camp meeting, and less than two hours before his scheduled speaking engagement in the high school auditorium.
He gave generously of his time, yet he obviously needed to freshen up, change and get ready for his presentation.
Batchelor of Granite Bay, a suburb of Sacramento, Calif., is senior pastor at Granite Bay Church and the president of Amazing Facts ministry, which involves a television program, "Amazing Facts Presents," and the "Bible Answers Live," a radio broadcast.
Tapped as major speaker
He was tapped as the major weeklong speaker at the camp meeting, which started June 8 and ends today. Batchelor was the speaker each evening from Tuesday to Friday, and will lead worship tonight at 7 p.m.
"Our camp meetings are a tradition that have been very popular for years," said Tamyra Horst, camp meeting communications director. "This first weekend we had 1,500 adults and 200 children (in programs oriented for Spanish-speaking participants), and Friday and Saturday we will have close to 3,000 people."
She said there are about 11,000 members in the Pennsylvania Conference, but in addition, there are two other conferences in the state, Allegheny West and East.
"We draw most of our people from Pennsylvania and neighboring states, although some come from much farther," she said. "Families attend to learn, worship, participate in seminars and recreational activities or to simply retreat and have reunions. Many have been coming to the camp meetings for decades."
Horst said people stay in dorms, tents and cabins at the sprawling 725-acre Blue Mountain Academy campus along Mountain Road near the scenic Blue Mountains, or opt for nearby hotels or smaller bed and breakfasts.
As the host site, Blue Mountain Academy, a high school of about 110 students in grades nine through 12, is part of the Seventh-day Adventist parochial education program, the second-largest parochial school system in the nation after the Roman Catholic, Horst said..
Supporting health care systems
Adventists also are known for being involved and supporting major health care systems across the country.
For those attending the camp meeting, Batchelor may serve as the poster adult for the amazing journey of embracing Christianity in his youth, but not before he was a rebellious child, an antisocial drug user and alcohol abuser and a thief and burglar, who spent time in jail, hitchhiked across the country, panhandled and wound up living in a cave in the mountains above Palm Springs.
"I was a tumultuous teen, running away from home at age 13, getting into drugs, breaking and entering places," Batchelor said. "You know the old Schlitz beer commercial about you only go around once in life and you got to get all the gusto you can. That was me. I was living kind of crazy."
At the root of Batchelor's young mania was a broken home, his parents divorcing when he was 3 years old, and his parents tugging him in two different directions.
"My dad was an aviation entrepreneur and an alcoholic, and my mom was a show business writer and film critic in Beverly Hills, sometimes indulging in drugs," he said. "They were as different as two people can be: my dad was a backsliding Baptist who was not particularly religious after serving in World War II, and my mother was Jewish culturally, but kind of atheistic."
Materially successful family
Money was never a problem in his wealthy and materially successful family that boasted a yacht, a jet and a Rolls Royce.
Batchelor was in 14 schools during his childhood, Catholic, Jewish, military academies and more liberal free-thinking institutions, all of them in some ways either mirroring the conservative discipline of his father or the more liberal laxity of his mother.
"When you have parents with a drive to succeed in their businesses or careers, sometimes kids will feel left out," Batchelor said. " I was in a boarding school at age 5."
With an older brother who suffered with cystic fibrosis, Batchelor also felt a lack of attention in his younger years.
"When I was getting in trouble, I think I was looking for that attention," he said.
Admittedly confused in his young life, Batchelor said he generally felt life had no purpose.
Even so, he constantly struggled to find meaning while at the same time indulging in self-destructive behavior and entertaining thoughts of suicide.
Living in a cave
After hitchhiking across the country, at this point estranged from his family, Batchelor wound up living in a cave when he was 16 years old where, among old pots and pans used by those who were apparently previously homeless, he found a Bible.
And he read it, even though, up to this point he was highly cynical about Christianity.
"The more I read the Bible the more I felt that much in it lined up with my experience," he said. "I began to agree with the Christian author, C.S. Lewis, who said that Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic or Lord.
"I couldn't believe Jesus was a liar because what he said resonated with truth. And I just couldn't see him as a crazy person or deceptive, for what did he have to gain?"
At age 17, Batchelor said he was reaching a turning point, making a change in his life based on his reading, meditations and thinking.
Surrendering to God
"This surrendering to God and finding meaning in Christianity didn't come to me in some vision," he said. " I didn't change overnight."
Batchelor said he gave up alcohol at age 20, and that was ironically a year before he was legally able to drink.
Over time, other bad behaviors fell by the wayside, and he wound up studying religion at Southwestern Adventist University, Keene, Texas. He went on to missionary work in New Mexico with the Navajo Native Americans and worked as a pastor at several churches, ultimately receiving academic degrees including an honorary doctorate in religion primarily because of his service and experiences.
This week, Batchelor spoke each evening on the topic "The Days of Elijah" highlighting parallels between the life of the Biblical prophet and what is happening in the world today.
He said his main purpose as an evangelist at this camp meeting is to inspire others to entrust their lives to the Lord.
"My hope is that people always become transformed by the Word and that they find peace and faith," he said.
Contact Bruce R. Posten: firstname.lastname@example.org.