The Central Pennsylvania Bible Conference almost came to an end last year after 90 perpetual summer conferences.
Lewis Makin of Altoona did not want to see the demise of the annual conference so he took on the challenge of organizing the event.
His efforts made it possible for the weeklong event to continue, and the 91st gathering will be held Aug. 1 to 8 at Grace Bible Church in Hollidaysburg.
A decision to dissolve the conference was made by its board last year because of a decline in attendance and the need for more organizers to keep it going.
After years of helping with the conference, Zen Steele stepped down as president last summer. Although board members pleaded for someone to take charge, no one seemed interested.
"Many of the people who supported the Bible conference are no longer here. There were not as many members on the board. The men who were president and secretaries weren't physically or mentally able to carry on. We almost dissolved," board member Robert Leidy said.
If you go
What: Annual Central Pennsylvania Bible Conference
When: 6 p.m. Aug. 1; 2 and 7 p.m. Aug. 2 to 6; 7 p.m. Aug. 7; and 6 p.m. Aug. 8
Where: Grace Bible Church, 164 Laurel Lane, Hollidaysburg
Attending the conference for many years, Makin couldn't bear to see it end.
"I just felt that God wanted me to take it over," he said.
The conference began in 1920 at the old Casino at Lakemont Park, but conference-goers cannot agree as to whether last year, which was observed as the 90th, or 2010 is the 90th conference.
Special books are available designating 2010 as the 90th year.
It originated a way for local people to get together and learn about the Bible.
The conference was so important that most churches in the area closed for the week.
"They were originally a group of church people that were interested in getting people to know the Bible better. They brought in good teachers," Leidy said.
In the early years, pastors and preachers came from across the United States and as far away as England. It was a big deal at that time.
Leidy remembers his mother, who was a Sunday school teacher, eagerly attending the conference every year.
"She always felt the week we had the Bible conference was like a vacation for her. She didn't do any house cleaning that week," Leidy said.
He remembers all the kids gathering in a large tent behind the Casino.
"In those days, families were very very important and you all came together," Leidy said.
As the old Casino began to deteriorate, the conference moved to the park in Martinsburg, then to Grace Bible Church when it was in Lakemont, then to the larger building in Hollidaysburg where it is held today.
Although it has provided accommodations for years, Grace Bible does not sponsor the conference.
In the past, many people from out of town attended the Bible-based meetings and stayed with people in Blair County.
Leidy remembers housing them.
"It became very famous and people came from out of town just to attend the Bible conference," Leidy said.
Although the conference no longer attracts the crowd it once did, Makin hopes to increase attendance by spreading the word through brochures and the media.
About 150 people attended last year. Makin hopes this number will increase to 250 for the afternoon sessions and possibly 400 for the evening sessions.
"I've been praying and we have a lot of people backing us in prayer," Makin said. "It's such a joy to sit down in fellowship and sing songs in glory to God. You are gathering with all your Christian friends."
To save money, local pastors and preachers will speak.
Among the speakers will be Grace Bible Pastor Daren Ritchey, who will preach about "God's Amazing Grace" to open the conference.
"It provides an opportunity to teach the Bible," Ritchey said. "It's a good thing for people who really do appreciate good biblical preaching and Christian fellowship."
Other speakers are the Rev. Gary Dull of Faith Baptist Church, evangelist Eddie Piper, the Rev. Robert Wharton of Juniata Church of the Brethren, John Pine of Tipton Baptist Church, DJ Ritchey of Pennwood Bible Church, Everett, and Barry Yingling of Faith Baptist. Lead pianist is Esther Wharton.
Free meals will be provided by Granny's Restaurant each afternoon from Monday through Friday.