Caleb Schaff's Story :: Bob Jones University Alumni and Friends
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A Lifelong Passion for Camp Ministry

Caleb Schaaf's Story

It’s hard for Caleb Schaaf to remember a time before he was involved in camp ministry.
As a boy, Caleb would pile in the van with his parents and seven siblings every summer and drive nine hours to a small Baptist camp where his mom served as the camp cook, and his dad taught horsemanship, counseled, and sometimes served as the camp speaker.

Igniting Spiritual Growth in the West

Nestled in the breathtaking mountains of Utah, Camp Utibaca (Utah Independent Baptist Camp) was Caleb’s home away from home, and many of the most important moments of his life took place on the campgrounds. 

“My favorite memory about camp is that it’s where I finally got my salvation squared away in my mind,” says Caleb. “I can’t remember a time when I didn’t believe what the Bible said about sin and salvation. I loved reading the Bible and memorizing verses.” 

But like many teenagers, Caleb began wrestling with doubts about his salvation. At the age of 15, while serving on the grounds crew at camp, Caleb knew he needed to settle the issue. After one of the chapel services, he pulled aside his friend Jeff and admitted that he was struggling. 

Jeff told him, “Caleb, there’s nothing I can tell you that you don’t already know. Jesus saving you is all about Jesus saving you. It’s not about you doing something. It’s of the Lord.” Caleb settled his doubts then and there. 

“It was a culmination of all the years of teaching I had at camp,” says Caleb. “All the things that happened there and the way the program was designed—they all pointed me to Christ.”   

Today, Caleb is the director of Camp Utibaca, and he credits his years of service there with pointing him toward a life of ministry.

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Camp Ministry in the Heart of Mormon Country

Camp Utibaca serves churches and families across the Intermountain West region by hosting junior camps, teen camps, family camps, horsemanship camps, and various retreats every summer. Their location in the heart of Mormon country has also opened unique doors of opportunity to share the gospel with their closest neighbors. To learn more about Camp Utibaca visit utibaca.org

“It can be difficult to talk to Mormons about the gospel because they have many of the same values and use much of the same language that we do,” says Caleb. “But their theology is very different. We may be using the same words, but we aren’t talking about the same thing. My goal is to point them back to the Word of God and show them how their theology of God the Father flows through everything else the Bible has to say.”

BJU: An Unconventional College Choice

Since the age of seven, Caleb has had a heart for serving God in a ministry role. He preached his first sermon as a teenager and went on mission trips every chance he got. 

So it wasn’t surprising that when it came time to enroll in college, Caleb felt certain that he should study to be a pastor. Just about every Christian friend he had was heading off to Northland International University that fall, and that seemed like the logical college choice. 

But God had another plan in mind. 

Caleb’s family has always had close ties to Bob Jones University. His grandfather was saved at the school and became friends with Dr. Bob III, who was his classmate. He encouraged all of his children and grandchildren to attend BJU for at least one year. And it was Dr. Bob, while on a guided hunt at the family’s hunting ranch, who convinced Caleb’s dad to return to school and finish his degree after a stint in the Navy. 

Caleb’s father and grandfather both encouraged him to consider BJU for his schooling, but the pull to attend Northland with his friends was strong. 

“One afternoon I was sitting on the couch, and I had both BJU’s and Northland’s application pages open on my laptop,” recalls Caleb. “I prayed, ‘Lord, I don’t know how this is going to work out.’ And as I was praying, the phone rang. After a few moments, my little brother, John, ran in and handed me the phone. It was Bob Jones University.” 

After the call, Caleb knew exactly where God wanted him to go. That fall, he packed his bags and headed to South Carolina.

The most valuable thing I learned at BJU was to pursue a dogged loyalty to the text of God’s Word, letting the text speak for itself and not allowing my preconceived notions to influence the way I understood the passage.

Greek, Hebrew, and Shakespeare

While at BJU, Caleb wanted to take advantage of every educational opportunity that he possibly could. But he knew that his time was limited, so he decided to study something he couldn’t teach himself: ancient languages. 

“Once you get a taste for education, you just want to take everything,” Caleb says. “There are many things you can learn from a book, but languages are not among those things. So I decided to study Greek and Hebrew.”  

But BJU had much more to offer than just a classroom education.

“Because my family was close to the Joneses, I had the opportunity to hear a lot of their history,” says Caleb. “I knew that Dr. Bob, Jr. originally started the Classic Players as a way for preachers to learn how to speak in public with confidence. I made an effort to get involved in theater for that reason. And I loved it. That’s something I wouldn’t have gotten at other schools I considered.”

Caleb credits his experience on stage at BJU with helping him learn how to memorize, use different methods of delivery, and engage with an audience. Even more importantly, though, Caleb’s professors taught him to approach the Bible consistently and to be rigorously faithful to the text. 

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The Second Best Thing In My Life Happened at Camp

After Caleb’s freshman year at BJU, he headed back out west for another summer of service at Camp Utibaca. He didn’t know it then, but he was about to experience the second most important event in his life, after his salvation: meeting his future wife, Rachel. 

“Rachel was counseling at camp, but our paths didn’t cross much until just a few days before the end of the summer. I was stacking logs, preparing the camp to be winterized. Rachel walked by and saw me, and she said ‘Caleb, why are you doing this by yourself?’ Before I could answer, she was stacking logs too.”

Caleb knew Rachel was special and their friendship soon blossomed into a relationship. They dated long distance while attending different colleges, and the next summer, at a beautiful waterfall tucked away on a hiking trail at camp, Caleb asked Rachel to marry him.

Provision and Preparation

Caleb and Rachel were married the summer before Caleb’s senior year at BJU, but he knew he still needed some additional training, so he enrolled in grad school. Working on campus was no longer the best option for supporting his fledgling family, so Caleb took a part-time job at TD Bank answering the phones. 

It wasn’t long before Caleb was promoted to manager, where he worked for about two years. Then, an opening in the governance department became available, and Caleb found himself jumping five job levels and receiving an accompanying increase in salary. He started the job the week Rachel’s first medical bill was due for their first child. 

“Working at TD Bank taught me how executives think,” says Caleb. “My whole life before BJU was blue collar. Suddenly I was thrust into a white-collar world, and it was an invaluable opportunity to talk to people at the highest levels of the organization. That job was part of the Lord’s preparation for what I’m doing now as director of Camp Utibaca.”

Coming Back Home

In the summer of 2017, Camp Utibaca’s leadership reached out to Caleb about becoming the new director of the camp. As a parachurch ministry, the camp seeks to support local churches in their efforts to reach people and shepherd their members. Caleb’s role would be to oversee the transition into a new season of ministry with an ultimate goal of being open year round. 

In May of 2018, Caleb and Rachel moved their young family back to where it all started. It was like coming home again. 

“Camp Utibaca is the oldest and longest-running Baptist camp in Utah,” says Caleb. “We have a beautiful mountain setting, and we offer horsemanship camps and lots of other activities that campers look forward to all year long.”

Most importantly, however, the leadership at Camp Utibaca wants to develop young people. They intentionally emphasize the spiritual growth of their summer staff, because they have a whole summer to invest in them and point them to the Lord. Many of the camp staff say their best friends are those they met at camp because they don’t have opportunities very often to interact with other Christian teens in their hometowns. 

In addition to serving as camp director, Caleb is also the assistant pastor at his home church, a role which has given him an even greater burden for supporting the ministry that is already taking place in churches across the West.

“Our goal is to work with pastors and churches and help them in any way we can,” says Caleb. “Our training program philosophy is built around equipping our staff members to love the Lord and continue to serve him through their whole lives.”

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