our 2016 sower projects: an attitude of service
Project ten: The cove
There is no question that the Billy Graham Training Center (“The Cove”) in Asheville, NC, has been blessed. Established to train and equip evangelists, and to humbly commemorate the accomplishments of Billy Graham, this retreat center is a sanctified spa for the soul -- a place for spiritual relaxation, renewal, and encouragement. Its beautifully manicured 1500-acre campus rests quietly in a gorgeous Appalachian mountain valley. The quiet and winding walkways wonderfully complement the stone-and-timber architecture -- it reminds me of a walk through Vail, Co. The woodsy architecture is only the wrapper, however. The music, teachers, leaders, and speakers who come here are the best in the world. The Cove is capably staffed by one of the most giving groups of people you are ever likely to meet; you can see Christ in every person here. From hospitality to housing, teaching to transformation, everything at The Cove is God honoring. Here, there are no distractions from worship.
In addition to the Training Center facility, there is a Chapel, an impressive administration building, two inns, and several support buildings. The property is also known for the seasonal youth retreat, “Camp Cedar Cliff,” the radio station, “106.9 The Light,” and five remote but very well-appointed log cabins for use by special guests who seek seclusion and private time to recharge their batteries. Individuals come to find refreshment through personal Biblical study. Groups come to participate in faith-building conferences and seminars. And it was affirming and fun to notice in the Visitor Center a picture of Skip Heitzig, my pastor at Calvary of Albuquerque years ago.
We were on this project with one other SOWER unit, Larry and Mimi from Bozeman, Montana. There were also three couples from CoM (“Campers on Mission”), Alan and Mary Grace from Georgia, Marc and Joyce from Tennessee, and Bill and Linda from Alabama. As SOWERs, we expect to be working pretty hard during our assignments. At The Cove, the pace is significantly relaxed -- this is the first time that we have been on a project where I did not pick up a tool, or put on work clothes. I split my time between the Chapel where I directed visitors and started their tour, and the Administrative Building where I helped the Programs Department with seminar follow-up. Deb spent most of her time on the fourth floor of the Chapel; this floor is exclusively for prayer. The Prayer Room is the highest room on the campus and is located directly beneath the chapel's steeple. Deb was able to pray with visitors, intercede over daily Prayer Cards and simply be present in this most special place.
We often shared morning devotions with staff at The Cove, which (when he was in town) included Will Graham, grandson of Ruth and Billy. The selfless staff is ever quick to pray corporately for concerns as they arise (this was a campus-wide event on election day), which included us. We had the opportunity to attend a powerful conference session with Billy Graham’s pastor, the Rev. Dr. Donald J. Wilton, which was both confirming and challenging. And, while on an afternoon hike, it was a Holy experience for us to discover Ruth and Billy Graham’s altar in the woods. Built in 1972, the Graham's rolled stones together to prepare a makeshift place to pray for guidance on the possible purchase of the land that would become The Cove. Our visit here was certainly inspirational.
SOWERs is a behind-the-scenes, hands-and-feet ministry. There is a great level of validation that we get when working at a place that covets and applies our skills -- where the work the volunteers are able to accomplish can make meaningful Kingdom differences for the facility. On each previous SOWER assignment we have been fulfilled by making intentional, grateful contributions to the Lord through our service. The ethos at The Cove was going to be slightly different for us.
This was, at first, difficult for me to accept. I was uncomfortable that I was not being asked to work very hard. We wanted to serve in the “usual SOWER way” and apply deliberate, fruitful stewardship of our Spiritual Gifts. But then it dawned on us -- though we arrived expecting to be challenged by using our Gifts, the Lord provided for Deb and me a more refreshing work-schedule on this project in order that we may, as well, be refreshed with time for relaxation, renewal, and encouragement. “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for His name in serving … as you still do” (HEBREWS 6:10). As The Cove has been blessed, we have been blessed, and we may now further bless others (PROVERBS 11:25). This has been the most Fulfilling (with a capital “F”) project for us so far, as a result. Amen.
Epilogue: While we were at The Cove, Billy Graham celebrated his 98th birthday. Will Graham shared that Billy had a wonderful day at his mountain-top home in Montreat which included Billy's favorite meal, cold pork and beans with biscuits. Though limited to his wheelchair and bed, Will says his grandfather still likes staying at his cabin home. He is under the care of 24-hour nursing. His best description of his grandfather: "He's just getting real old and acting like really old people act." The Montreat home is a short drive to the east of The Cove. In addition, while we were at The Cove,Cliff Barrowspassed away. Cliff was Billy's long-time music director and traveled with Billy on his crusades. A memorial was set up in the Chapel at The Cove. He joinsRuth Bell Graham andGeorge Beverly Shea in heaven. It was exciting for us to get the opportunity to hear some of the stories about Barrows and Shea on those amazing crusade trips. Billy Graham is the last survivor of this original Crusade Team.
our ninth project- Camp bethel, VA
[Ken 10/28/2016] They are the kind of people that you just want to be around. Jackie and King were our group leaders at CampBethel near Wise, Virginia, for the month of October. They have well over one-hundred SOWER projects under their belts and are still going strong. From South Carolina, they knew this camp very well. They had been at Camp Bethel each summer for five straight years; this summer they were here for a five-month stretch. We loved the way that they enthusiastically embraced both work and life while still taking time to appreciate God’s presence.
Camp Bethel is tucked into a 650-acre ridge-and-valley setting of the Appalachian Mountains. The camp is largely a full-featured summer camp (high ropes, boating, lake swimming, crafts, paint ball, a skate park, lots of hiking trails, etc.), though they do offer a winter program for the southwest Virginia community. Camp Bethel has a couple of small ponds which are the only lakes in the Wise area. It is entertaining to listen to Jeff Rolen (Camp Director) share stories of "un-permissioned" swimmers and skinny-dippers that he has caught. Most unique, however, is that the camp buildings are log cabins – real log cabins with logs and chinking. Even the dining hall and the gymnasium are log cabins. We were at the camp just as the Fall colors made their display and the dozens of cabins were so pretty against the setting of the high, autumn-colored ridges that surround the camp.
King had been tasked with building a small, 700sf cottage for one of the camp staff. He has had other SOWERs come through to help him, but it turns out that we got to be here to help him finally finish the home. The laundry and bathroom were the only rooms left to do, so we went after them with full energy. After plumbing and electrical, we hung some sheetrock and did the remaining mud work. There was paint and trim to be done. Baseboard. And then the fixtures: lights, toilet, shower, and vanity. In the main part of the house, we touched up paint, hung blinds, installed appliances, and made sure there were no leaks in any of the plumbing. In the end, I am sure that King felt great that he was finally able to complete such a long project (it was a lot for just one person to do). We also had some time to set concrete pads, fix a ball-valve in the septic tank, and do other repairs around camp.
Deb came alongside Jackie to help with cleaning cabins, guest rooms, bathrooms and doing the resulting laundry. The summer help was gone and with a only a skeleton crew, the cleaning was left to the willing volunteers. Jackie surely appreciated the help because she had been the only one in housekeeping during the month of September. Deb learned some tips for bed making and there is always a new cleaning tip to tuck away. It was evident that she provided relief for Jackie from cleaning toilets and showers. The last week the lady SOWERs were able to paint the bathroom and laundry room in the new cottage. Painting was a welcome diversion. THEN they were charged with cleaning up the construction dust. All-in-all our charge this month was just to help wherever needed. And Deb was blessed to work beside such a gentle soul as Jackie who beams thankfulness and joy.
We stayed at Camp Bethel more than a full month (September 23rd to October 28th) – the longest we had stayed in one place since we left Colorado in 2015. It was fully green when we arrived, and mostly without leaf when we left (well ... the leaves were all on the ground, actually). It has been a beautiful place to enjoy the Fall – serene and peaceful, in spite of the WoodBooger sightings (think, Big Foot or Sasquatch). I guess if we had been able to get TV reception that I may have missed seeing some of the fantastic Fall colors. Maybe a month without television has turned out to be a pretty good thing, after all? I wonder how Jeb Bush is doing in his run for the presidency?
sower 8: summit grove christian conference center
[Ken 09/20/2016] As far as SOWER projects go, Summit Grove Christian Conference Center ("Summit Grove") was one of the most fun. I imagine that we feel this way because the camp trusted us with very meaningful work, that we had fantastic camp hosts, and that there was a great park next door (once again -- WOOHOO) for us to run/walk/bicycle at the end of each day. And the late-summer weather was glorious! The camp is nestled in a park-like setting on the south end of New Freedom Borough, PA. Founded as a Methodist revival camp 141 years ago, Summit Grove once had its own train station -- the Northern Central Railroad runs along the eastern property line of the camp. That rail line is now a county recreation area, the York County Heritage Rail Trail.
The center of worship at Summit Grove is a large outdoor pavillion in the shape of a 160 foot wide octagon. On one side is a raised stage. They call this structure the "Tabernacle." Every group that comes through Summit Grove uses the Tabernacle as their central meeting place.
It is easy to understand why properly working lighting in the Tabernacle is so important to the camp. But one-by-one, over the course of about a year, the light circuits/fixtures started to fail. It was a privilege for me to get picked to help them understand and mitigate this problem. As Deb and I looked over the building, it was clear to us that this was the most important challenge on the campus. We were uplifted that the camp trusted us to help them in this way, but we had our hands full, for sure!
My diagnosis of the situation was quick (and obvious). Foremost, the cloth insulation on the aging wiring was rotting. In addition, the raccoons, squirrels, and mice (etc) were finding the insulation quite tasty. Secondmost, since it is humid here, and since the Tabernacle is an open-air structure, humidity was starting to take its toll on many of the electrical components. The camp had prepared to replace all of the wiring, and much of the lighting, so my proposal was an easy sell. The next day we made a lengthy trip to HomeDepot to get supplies.
Jonathan (one of the camp staff) and I installed a new sub-panel and worked to run new conduit and wire across oak timbers that were 15 feet off the floor (and higher). In reality, the work was exhilarating, and I had a legitimate excuse to climb around like a monkey for a while. We finished the project with one day to spare! Whew!
Although Deb's contributions at Summit Grove may not have been as noticeable, she came capably alongside the house-keeping staff to relieve some of their monumental burden of preparing rooms for guests of the camp. The Lodge is one of the buildings used to house attendees. It consists of 32 rooms with 4 bunk beds in each room. And a bathroom.
When guests leave, the mounds of laundry that form are just that: mounds. All the blankets, sheets, and towels get washed and then the beds are made again, and the bathrooms cleaned and re-stocked. The rooms are dusted and vacuumed. It takes hours and hours, days and days. She cleaned 24 bathrooms in two weeks and even learned how to fold fitted bed sheets! In a time when the camp's late-season skeleton crew was hard-pressed to get the job done, Deb was a welcome helper.
God uses us in all kinds of ways at these projects -- we have no idea HOW, actually. Nor do we know WHERE God wants to use us. Sometimes the contributions we make are momentous and formative. Sometimes they are unpretentious and everyday. Sometimes the work we are asked to do changes from one day to the next. And sometimes it is not the actual work, at all, it is the side-by-side encouragement and conversation with other SOWERs or staff members that is the real Purpose of our stay. Whatever the Kingdom objective, Deb and I are certainly blessed to have been able to represent the SOWER organization and to have served at Summit Grove Conference Center with Andy Brokopp and his team for the past three weeks. WooHoo!
number seven: lighthouse christian camp on lake ontario!
[Ken 08/19/2016] The name sounds familiar, doesn’t it? We were at a Lighthouse Christian Camp in Smithville, TN, earlier this year. Now we are at Lighthouse Christian Camp in Barker, NY. Among the many differences between the two camps is their illumination -- this ‘Lighthouse Christian Camp’ is adjacent to an actual lighthouse. The other Lighthouse Christian Camp is not. There is no affiliation.
We were on this August project with one other SOWER unit, Tommy and Louise from Gainesville, Florida. Tommy is a humorist and you could count on just about everything coming out of his mouth to include some level of wittiness. He kept us laughing, for sure. I tried to dish it back, but I was no match; I was simply not in the same league.
When it comes to making, building, and fixing stuff (and the other kinds of things that SOWERs like to do), this camp’s operations team is in a rebuilding year. The Building & Grounds-keeper was a new hire in May. The General Manager joined the LCCNY team in January. And the maintenance position is being staffed by an interim, full-time volunteer who is actually a SOWER taking the year off from travel.
Lighthouse Christian Camp was busy with groups coming-and-going the entire time that we were there. Small groups, large groups,old groups and younger groups, too. Some stayed a day or two. Some stayed for a whole week. But when you combine a very new ops team with a very busy camp you can imagine that a lot of attention needed to be given to last-minute, unanticipated, and/or overlooked details. It was our pleasure to help, where possible. Wow!
We helped the Building & Groundskeeper as much as we could. In addition to making sure the grounds were clean, watered, and mowed, he was responsible for getting things set up for each successive group’s arrival ... and then torn-down at their departure. He was scrambling the whole time we were there. In between, the men worked hard to get things done on the project list. What we did not get done was back-filled by others at LCCNY, or will be handled by the SOWERs who are coming here next.
The ladies turned out to be quite busy with painting projects. They killed-off a five-gallon bucket of white paint and got well into a second bucket before our project time was done. The most fun part for them was painting a pavilion that hugged the shoreline of Lake Ontario. All you could hear were waves lapping at the rocks below as they worked tediously on each of the banisters, beams, and rails. After that, they repainted doors and trim all over the campus -- EVERYthing was being painted white, it seemed. It was quite a change-up for them when they had to paint new railings on the “wedding stage” the color gray, instead of white. Gray, not white. Confusing at first, but they figured it out, LOL.
The men were most proud of the work that we did on the patio at the front of the Commons Building. Neither Tommy nor I had built a patio with pavers before. We had some good coaching, however, and in the end believe that we had a pretty darn good patio under our feet. We will need to come back in a year or two to check on it just to be sure!
LCCNY is a wholly different kind of “camp” than any other place we have been as SOWERs. In my words, it would best be described as a Christian Village. The campus is a few modest community buildings surrounded by a hundred or so private lots. Each lot is either equipped with connections to park an RV, or is a building-site for an 800-900 square foot cottage. The lanes within the village are narrow and lined with mature shade trees. It has that blend of New England and boating that is so jig-saw puzzle quaint. There are lots of over-flowing flower boxes and pride of ownership is evident.
Throughout the seven months of the year that this campus is open (it is closed for the winter), LCCNY is a retreat center for families, empty-nesters, and “keenagers” (seniors) who visit here to get away for a weekend or week-long break to focus on the Lord and “get your batteries recharged.” There are also some permanent residents. The facility was busy with activities for one/some/all of these groups nearly every day that we were there, including a prom for everyone from kiddos to great-grandmothers. We were also invited to a Hawaiian Pig Roast on one evening. They have built a wonderfully fun, God-honoring summer-community here. WooHoo!
This is another project that will be hard to leave. We really enjoyed the folksy community, cool breezes, activities (we finally got a chance to play Pickle Ball!), scenery, and sunsets that are common in this part of upstate NY. Of course, we also enjoyed helping them cross off many of the things on their To Do List.
As an ‘Ops Guy’ at heart, I am also interested to see how, Jim, the new GM here (also an ‘Ops Guy’ at heart) effects his plans and improvements at the facility. He has BIG ideas! It will be exciting to see!
sower project six! oakdale christian academy
[Ken 06/15/2016] Oakdale Christian Academy (“OCA”) is located near Jackson, in eastern Kentucky, in the heart of the Cumberland Plateau of the Appalachian Mountains. Though in a downturn, the primary industry in the area is coal mining. As a crow flies, Jackson is about 75 miles from four states -- Ohio to the north, West Virginia to the northeast, Virginia to the southeast, Tennessee to the south. We are in the middle of nowhere -- so remote that we had no cellphone service while at OCA.
OCA is a highly credentialed college prep school for youth in grades 7 through 12 who are seeking an academic lifestyle balanced between learning, serving, and Christ. The school also emphasizes leadership development. Oakdale has cultivated an awesome, inspirited, door-always-open biblical community. The combination of a Christian, family environment that is focused on the development of the "whole youth" with an advanced curriculum boarding school has earned the Academy international respect. Parents will enroll their kids at OCA from corners of the world as far away as (in alphabetical order) China, Columbia, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, France, Haiti, India, Italy, Lebanon, Liberia, Mexico, Nigeria, Puerto Rico, Russia, Senegal, and South Korea. There are also students from the USA.
The first thing that I noticed about OCA was how well manicured the campus is. The trees are large and healthy and provide welcome afternoon shade. At every building entryway there are flower beds bursting with color. The most well-mannered children are playing in the greenspaces. Cut firewood is stacked neatly adjacent to each campfire ring. A small stream flows along one side of the property. Bird feeders are full and families of Cardinals and Goldfinches know it!
The second thing that I noticed is that most of the staff (and their families) lived on campus. With that, I noticed that they were much younger than Deb and me (i.e., they had no grey hair). I am used to schools where the professors and instructors are older than me, I guess. The youthfulness of the staff, however, provided a lot of energy around the school, which I really enjoyed. And my advanced age seemed to earn me a little respect – the staff was very considerate of Deb’s and my "senior citizen status."
On the first day we reviewed a lengthy SOWER Project Job List. The OCA team abjectly suggested that we didn’t really need to get EVERYthing on the list done, and if we got tired or winded, that it was OK to take extra rest breaks if needed. We assured them that [although we were the obvious oldsters on campus] we would be fine with any/all of the work on The List. In the end, however, they insisted that we focus on the jobs that we find most enjoyable, and that it would be OK if Deb and I worked together to keep each other company. And we did. This was the first SOWER project where we were offered such accommodation.
In addition, this was the first assignment where Deb and I were the only SOWER unit (though there was also a volunteer group from a church in Michigan during one of the weeks we were at OCA). We worked on our List, but also tried to be available wherever needed. We helped clear furniture from the dining hall so the floor could be waxed, we painted several walls in some of the staff housing, framed some closets in Odermann Hall (currently being expanded/remodeled to become the new Boys' dormitory), did sheetrock work and painted said closets, installed hurricane ties in the new dorm, framed two windows, installed sheetrock, built/finish/trimmed three bookcases and closets in the new dorm, built a stair case, and moved/installed three electrical outlets. In addition, Deb had a couple opportunities to work in the administrative office preparing a direct mailing and snipping Campbell Soup labels to earn a rebate for the school. She also got to make her very first dado cuts on one of the table saws in the woodshop. WooHoo!
The highlight of the project was the school's cordial and engaging community. Though Deb and I were to be on the campus for just a short time, we were welcomed as if we were long-time friends of the Academy. With instructors, administrators, Directors, the maintenance team, kitchen crew, and all of the rest of the staff, there was instant and open fraternity. We were invited into people's on-campus homes for games, for dinner, or just for an evening of lively conversation. We were graciously asked to share meals with them in the dining hall. We felt brother-to-sister companionable with the staff (and them with us, I hope). Facilitating warmhearted and fun friendship is clearly a virtue of Oakdale Christian Academy. It is very obvious that this school desires to honor God.
For admittedly selfish reasons, I confess that the school’s fully equipped woodshop was also a highlight for me. Every chance that I got I would find myself in the shop powering up one of the big tools. On one occasion, I used a six-foot table saw just to quick-trim the edge on a small board that would be used as a closet shelf. Cool!
The lowlight of the project was our failed bicycle car-rack. As we made the last turn before first arriving at OCA I noticed in Faith’s side mirror that the bicycles on the back of our towed Jeep did not look “right.” After pulling over, we discovered that a small part on the bike rack had broken some time before which allowed Deb’s bike to partially fall to the ground and be dragged down the highway as we drove. We don’t know how long we had been driving and grinding down the rear wheel, but the rim, tire, and tube no longer formed a circle -- now resembling a pizza with two slices missing. Kudos to Yakima, however. They replaced the failed bike rack in less than a week at no cost to us.
This project has been so enjoyable that it will be hard to leave. I have always had a soft spot for academic institutions. Learning is a life-long requirement. In fact, I believe that you should always be trying to learn new things – when you stop learning, you die. With learning, OCA does not ignore the significance of the development of the young Christian leader. Oakdale Christian Academy has raised the bar for High School education. The education and values that are taught here are the highest quality and are presented to their scholars at the pinnacle of their learning years. This school is making a remarkable contribution to the Kingdom. I am so proud that we have had the opportunity to get so close to the staff at OCA and serve at their amazing school.
THE ONLY WAY I WAS BOARD AT OAKDALE CHRISTIAN ACADEMY!
lighthouse christian camp: our fifth sower project!
Generously founded by Ben and Ermeda Chapman, “…Lighthouse Christian Camp was … born out of the heart of God for the fatherless, the helpless, the orphan, the poor, the needy, and the widow….” Originally a 450 acre Tennessee gentle-man’s farm which Ben and Ermeda purchased in 1965, the property began its conversion to this impactful ministry in 1982.
Lighthouse is celebrating its 35th anniversary this summer. And while we were serving there, Ben Chapman celebrated his 80th birthday! "Like Caleb," he says, "I still have the strength I did 40 years ago." And his work and work-ethic around the property demonstrated that! It was nothing to see him out mending barbed wire or baling hay.
Brother Ben Chapman talks passionately about the ministry, “Many of the children who come to Camp come from seemingly hopeless situations. By the end of the first summer of camp in 1982, it had become heartbreakingly clear that some of the children who had attended camp that summer had no real home to return to. Some had been abandoned by their parents, some were staying with relatives who could no longer take care of them, and others were in situations where they would soon be placed in Child Services through the court system.” God provided wisdom to Ben Chapman to expand the camp by building a Boys Ranch for abandoned, abused, and neglected children. Today, there is a beautiful Girls Ranch home, as well.
[Ken 05/18/2016] Lighthouse Christian Ministries is fully four separate ministries sharing a single, heavily wooded, hilly parcel of land on the western shore of Center Hill Lake in central Tennessee. The facility includes the “Sing for Joy” widows home, the Lighthouse Boys and Girls Ranch, and the Pastors Retreat. And seasonally, there is Lighthouse Christian Camp.
The first three of these ministries operate year-around. The Camp is only offered during the summer. We had just one month to wake this camp from its long winter sleep and get it ready for the kids who would be coming in June. Just one month.
Thirty-five years later, thousands and thousands of children have been able to come to this abundant campus free of charge and have the opportunity to do all of the fun things that kids get to do at a camp, in addition to being introduced to the love of Jesus Christ. Everybody will get the chance to experience some extraordinary events in their life, perhaps more than just a few, even. But everybody gets the chance to experience such a heart-changing event as starting a relationship with Jesus, only once. The dedicated stewards of Lighthouse Christian Camp want to make sure these children do not miss out on that opportunity.
Did I mention that there are two (2) separate camps? Lighthouse Christian Camp is two completely separate camps -- Camp One is on the south side of the property and Camp Two is on the north end of the property. Staff housing, the Ministry Office, and the RV park sit in a central location on the campus. We spent a lot of time moving from one end of the property to the other. Much of the grazing land for the cattle as well as the horse barns sit in the central part of the camp, as well. It was not unusual for us to be laying in bed, falling asleep to the sounds of cattle grazing in the hills below.
With the help of countless donors and hundreds of volunteers every year, this camp was built and has been very well maintained. To help the staff to get the camp ready for a busy summer, we cleaned and repaired/repainted the pavilion at Camp One, moving three trailers and one U-Haul truck-loaded with donated furniture and equipment from a Nashville mansion in order to get a home set up for a young missionary family from Zimbabwe who will be the Camp One Directors this year.
We also cleaned and set up the swimming pools for the summer, painted some of the rooms in the Boys Ranch House, did trouble-shooting of electrical problems in a several of the facilities, repaired and refinished two vanities in the pool house at Camp Two, repaired/pulled barbed wire fence and built a new cattle gate, and, cleaned and prepped the camp’s new pontoon boat for its summer season. The cabins and their bunkbeds and mattresses needed cleaned, as you can imagine. A gazebo got new stain and the pews in the outdoor chapel got new stain. The camp even received the donation of a very nice fifth-wheel RV while we were there. The camp wished to use it as guest accommodations so we towed it to the Camp, got it all set up, checked-out, and cleaned it up for use.
The Boys’ and Girls’ Ranches share some facilities with the Camp. There are around 100 head of cattle, horses, two swimming pools, a gymnasium, dining hall, and a pontoon boat that are shared by the different ministries. The Camp will host about 120 kids per week throughout the summer, bringing the ministries' weekly occupancy to about 250 kids.
What is remarkable about this Camp is that it is fully funded by donations and staffed by volunteers. None of the children who come to camp pay anything for the adventure. At the end of camp, they will leave with memories of a great week at camp, and some will leave with new clothing and bedding that is necessary for them to take back to their homes.
We were at the camp this month with three other SOWER units. Mike and Janice are full-time RV'ers who originate in California. Kent and Fran are from Michigan. And our Team Leaders, Don and MaryLou are also from Michigan. Don and MaryLou worked with us at Camp Baldwin, as well. This is the first time that we have had "repeat SOWERs" on a project. They are quite fun and we enjoyed our second project with them as much as we did our first. WooHoo!
We got a lot of exercise at Lighthouse; this place gets the award in our books for being the largest and hilliest project that Deb and I have visited, so far. They worked us very hard here. It is unfortunate that I came down with a bad cold in the last week that prevented me from being very useful. But my body DID appreciate the extra bed rest!
alabama: project four!
[Ken 04/22/2016] There were three SOWER units at Baldwin Baptist Camp in April. Our Team Leads were Don and MaryLou from Michigan -- this was their 16th project. We were tickled to be joined by energetic newbies, Bill and Julie -- full-timers who originate from Oregon (they were a hoot to work with on their first ever SOWER project). Almost from the first day it seemed like we were old friends (actually ... it was pouring down rain the day that we arrived at camp and we were all pretty focused on making sure our RVs did not float off into the Gulf of Mexico!). We were joined by non-Sowers, Russ and MaryAlice, volunteers from Iowa on their finale project, and Ed and Janine who are with the ministry "Campers On Mission" from upstate Alabama. In spite of the rainy weather this month, it was very enjoyable project with a really fun group of people.
Baldwin Baptist Camp ("Camp Baldwin") is a busy, year-round youth and adult conference center. Many guest groups came and went while we were there. It is the first project where we have had to coordinate our work schedule around the comings-and-goings of visiting groups who would be staying in the same lodges where we were doing our work. It was good to see the camps active and being being used; we do not always get to see the camps "alive with guests" on our projects.
Instead of dorms or cabins, this camp features lodges. Each lodge is set up like a motel – rows of rooms facing outside courtyards and anchored by large conference rooms at each end. Our SOWER team was asked to remove the thirty-three exterior doors on Magnolia Lodge and repaint them. But before we were even able to strip the paint off the first door, we were asked to do all the doors on Cypress Lodge, as well. Forty-five doors in all. So that’s what we set out to do!
Working together, the men and women pulled down each room's door one-by-one, removed the hardware, carried the door to a work area, scraped and sanded, vacuumed, dusted, and primed each door so that they could be re-hung in time for the next group's use. In every case, it meant moving each door at least four (4) times to/from the sanding/painting area and it's room, and then re-hanging it in the room for it to dry after the primer was applied but before the final paint.
And the next day (and/or after the visiting conferees left), pulling it back down in order to move the door to the final paint area for final sanding and the finishing touches. The door then went back to the room to be [re]hung for hard drying. Zowie, that is a lot of door carrying! After final inspection and touch-up, the room numbers were added and we moved on to the next room. Some of the doors needed work on both sides, and that added time to the process, as well.
For recreation, one day, Deb and I took our kayaks into one of the estuaries across Wolf Bay from the camp – what a beautiful paddle trip that was. On another afternoon, Deb and I took one of the camp’s canoes out on the lake. As my luck with canoes would go, I lost my yellow camera to the fishes and then flipped Deb into the water. Fortunately, we were able to laugh the whole thing off because the accident was the canoe’s fault.
The off-and-on intense rain could not dampen the spirit at this camp. This is one of those places where you can “feel” generosity and love; the Director and resident staff welcomes you as one of their own. They even provided each weekend’s meals for us in their Dining Hall. Their pampering actually made me feel a little uncomfortable -- SOWERs prefer to stay in the shadows and not seek any kind of recognition. The Director, David Payne, says they are blessed to have us here to help out in all of the ways that SOWERs have filled-in over the past 21 years. To the SOWERs, however, we are the ones who feel the blessing.
Camp Baldwin is a warm and beautiful camp in a beautiful bay-side setting. Combine that with the great hospitality, fellowship, and the fun work, and (rain storms notwithstanding) you get a camp destination that will surely become a Repeat Project for us sometime down-the-road.
project 3! victory camp!
The project description indicated that our SOWER team would be asked to help restore a train at this camp. That’s all the further that I read in the Project Summary. My pulse perked up! I was agog with anticipation! I was ebullient with enthusiasm. One of my childhood dreams was coming true, I thought! I couldn’t wait to get to this camp! As we pulled through the gates the 24" gauge tracks were clearly visible running along the border of the property. “There they are again, cutting across the east side of the lake…,” I needed to take a deep breath. “They really have a train,” I thought!
Unfortunately, we would soon discover that the SOWER team who was at Living Stones Church's Victory Camp last month was able to finish 99% of the work on their railroad <SAD FACE>. I was impressed, however, that a church camp could have not one (or two) working trains, but ten coaches and three working locomotives! In a peripheral way, we did get to help a little bit when they needed to drop the Continental 4-banger gas engine back into “Old Smokey.” And we got to take a couple laps in the train pulled by “Blue Bell” (I got to blow the whistle). This camp, in the extreme suburbs of Houston (it’s actually closer to Galveston), appeals to the city kids who are looking for faith-based entertainment during the summer months. The trains are a genuine novelty for the area.
[Ken 03/24/2016] We were on this project with two other SOWER units. Dave and Marilyn are from a suburb of Indianapolis. John and Connie are full-time RV’ers originally from Illinois; John was our Team Lead on the project. It was John and Connie’s sixth SOWER project. For Dave and Marilyn, this was their very first SOWER project! This youthful group of SOWERs were all in their first year with the ministry! Our collective newbie-status presented many opportunities for us to make up a lot of the rules, where rules had never before been. My "faves" were, “The ladies need to make cappuccinos for the men each morning,” and, “At the completion of the successful project, the team gets to throw the Team Leader into the lake.” Dave and I agreed on these rule mods much to the chagrin of the Team Lead. John was learning just how ornery a newbie group of SOWERs can be!
John and Connie are “Salty Strings Ministry.” They are a traveling "folk" band (they actually play all kinds of music). We got to hear some of their zesty, down-to-earth harmonies on several occasions and it wasn’t enough. On the evening of St Patrick’s Day, they put on an concert in the Camp’s event center. They presented an energetic hour of Irish tunes on combinations of mandolin, bouzouki, mountain dulcimer, accordion, guitar, keyboard, and bodhran drum. They are amazingly talented. On another night, they offered to do a show featuring traditional American folk songs. Their music took me back to times when my dad would break into spontaneous song, usually on our various road trips around the country. It’s funny how music can so easily take your mind back to places and times like that!
The SOWER men started the project working on the engines in nine of the camp’s go-karts. All of the gas tanks had been contaminated at the end of last season by a faulty fuel filter in the camp’s main gas storage tank. We had to pull all of the go-kart tanks and clean them, blow-out the fuel lines, then pull all of the carburetors and clean them. We degreased the engines and air filters (as best we could) and then put all of the pieces back together. My shoes smelled like a machine shop for most of a week. The fun part was the [hours of] fun we had test driving the repaired karts to make sure that the work we did was satisfactory! This was very important work for the ministry. BTW, you learn a lot about a fellow when you get on a race track with him.
Most of then men's project time, however, was spent re-modeling the bathrooms in three of the Camp’s four dormitories. The rooms were pretty ho-hum, and the camp staff wanted to introduce a full western theme. Since Deb and I had just come from a western theme camp at Deer Creek, we had a lot of good bathroom ideas to contribute. It was a lot of carpentry work and I enjoy that. We had hoped to get all four dorms done, but had to be satisfied with most of just three, and then part of the fourth. We simply ran out of time to get them all done. We were also privileged to do various odd jobs and repairs for the camp, such as to picnic tables and a broken underground sewer line (that makes me three-for-three in digging muddy holes at Texas’ church camps in order to repair underground plumbing problems!).
The most interesting odd job was the repair John and I made to one of the camp’s bridges. A plank had worked its way loose and snapped in two. To fix it, one of us had to work from the top and one of us had to climb under the foot bridge and stand in the creek below with the crawdads. I was elected to be the one to get wet. The repair took about ninety foot-soaking, shin-deep-in-cold-water minutes. I only had to shake-off a couple of curious crawdads. They were small ones. They cling to your shoe laces. Like vice grips. Just as I was climbing back up the shore to inspect the finished repair, the Camp’s regular maintenance man drove up in his ATV. He complimented us on the repair but was curious how I was able to avoid being bit by the water moccasins while standing in the creek. My jaw dropped open! “Water moccasins?!?,” I yelled, “…There are poisonous snakes down there?!?” Geeez. I’m glad I didn’t know that BEFORE I was asked to get into the water. Bonus points for Ken, I guess.
Twice we were able to visit Ralph and Joyce, SOWERS working a project about 15 miles away at Gulf Coast Foursquare Church. Ralph has rebuilt a Ford F-1 panel truck to use as his toad <COOL>. Aside from the great fellowship and abundance of wonderful home-cooked food that they provided, we got to meet the pastor there, John Elliot. John blessed us with endless stories about his two-and-a-half-year mission to serve the communities in southern Mississippi and Alabama that were devastated by Hurricane Katrina. John and his small team from Hitchcock, Texas, were instrumental in starting and cultivating “God’s Kitchen,” also known as “God’s Katrina Kitchen,” which was well publicized during the clean-up and recovery of the area. Stories of how it got started with one person, and how food was provided, tents were provided, foundations of destroyed buildings were re-purposed, for the provision of showers, and even how children were re-united with their parents, tell of the miracles that thousands and thousands of Christian workers witnessed as they provided humanitarian relief to the area. And it started with one man from a small church in small Hitchcock, Texas. John's stories were captivating and Awe-inspiring.
This is our third SOWER camp project; they have each been very different kinds of camps. Their culture, the kind of ownership, the focal-point, the clientele, the way they staff their camp, the geography, and the outreach. I have been interested in learning about the financial and business-side of the camps, obviously. All three have had very different business strategies. I am fascinated by the varieties of ways that God uses these camps. Fundamentally, they are all the same and have the same mission. But the way that God goes about it is as different as night and day. At this project the work was not the objective, I was slow to self-discover. What I learned about people, their recovery from life circumstances, their loving spirit, and God’s unending care for them was the take-away for me.
Author's Comment: At Loma De Vida, the camp had thousands of Red-Tailed Hawks. At Deer creek Camp there were the chickens. At Victory Camp there were a million(!) CRAWDADS. They build these mud mounds all over camp, even through the cracks in concrete. I don't like crawdads. ICK!
you want me to sew...
"Yes, please take 10 inches off these 136-inch round tablecloths...
...Oh, and by the way, there are twelve of them!"
[Deb 03/24/2016] At our first project there were five seamstresses with fancy sewing machines and experience to match. At that camp I was only trusted with cutting out the patterns. Now at this project I am the only SOWER with a sewing machine. It’s just a hobby machine with straight stitch and zig zag. And even the zig zag binds up and breaks the thread every couple of inches. So, I guess it’s just a straight stitch machine.
I reached out to a couple of my seamstress friends to get tips on hemming circle table cloths. They both sent me to the internet. No first-hand knowledge or tips to be had. I did find the information I needed on Pinterest (usually my go-to spot for anything creative).
I was a bit overwhelmed to say the least. It was a big assignment. But as God would have it, my other SOWER-mates were able to help me execute the cutting and ironing. The sewing part was up to me. I could only sew three inches of material at a time because I was folding under the hem as I went. I stopped at one point to pray over the sewing machine because the thread kept breaking. One tablecloth took 45 minutes to sew. I calculate 24 hours of actual work time from the start of the tablecloth project to the finish.
My SOWER-mates were painting bathroom stalls (lucky them) while I was sewing. That meant I had about three hours a day by myself sewing. It wasn’t as bad as it seems and I even made up a song called “The Tablecloth Goes Round and Round,” sung to the tune of the “The Wheels on the Bus.” I had about eight verses by the time I was done!
Isn’t that God’s way? We get overwhelmed by circumstances, He sends help, He guides us and even has us singing a song by the time we get through!
project number two: deer creek adventure camp
[Ken 02/28/2016] Our SOWER's team was at Deer Creek Camp (near Medina, pronounced "meh - dee - na") until February 28th. This was a gorgeous camp; the cabins and lodges are made of rough-cut baton-on-board wood plank and trimmed-out in native stone and/or ashe juniper logs. Except for the playing fields, the property is fully treed in cedar, mesquite, and deep-cut maple. The camp is home to quite a few deer, a dozen (or so) cattle, and a couple of very stealth, miniature donkeys.
There is a high-adventure ropes course that weaves its way through the camp’s many cabins and lodges. The clear waters of the Medina River run along the northeast side of the acreage. The sage in bloom is like perfume. The chickens (and three roosters) run wild through the camp. The camp is situated in a valley surrounded on all sides by the hill country of central Texas. This is a beautifully rugged part of Texas; the rolling hills northwest of San Antonio are a engaging surprise in a state that is otherwise expansively flat. GrandPa Ken would love the “scenic vistorama” and Old West features of this Christian adventure camp.
We were there with two other SOWER units. Roger and Char were the Team Leads. They are full-timers from Grand Rapids, Michigan, with 99 projects under their belts. Dave and Barb are Winter Texans from Kenosha, Wisconsin; they have completed 110 projects. We also enjoyed working with Wayne and Van, retired SOWERs who live in the area and who stopped by to help us on parts of the project.
I was a bit humbled working with all of with them (Deb and I are only on our second project). Roger is one of the hardest working men I have ever met, and I will remember Dave for keeping the worksite lite and energized with endless funny quips and stories. Before we left, we made sure that all had signed the SOWER wall-of-fame in the High Hopes Lodge.
Our projects at this camp were each a lot of fun – partly because of the fellowship, fantastic scenery, and ideal weather (even in the winter months) in this peaceful valley – but also because I was focused on carpentry and electrical challenges (two of my favorites!). Unlike my work at Camp Loma de Vida where we were building a brand new camp, our goal this month was to help prepare the existing camp for its busy summer season by building, repairing, or upgrading some of the features of the camp’s lodges and cabins.
In the first half of the project, I spent much of my time behind the compound miter and table saws cutting pieces for various [re]builds around the camp. We made a ball court (the game is called Ga-Ga Ball). We also replaced/enlarged a stairway at one of the cabins: BIG project! All of the exterior doors around the dining hall needed trued from blowing shut by year-after-year of Texas’ famously gusty wind storms. We built a S’mores serving table at the east campfire ring. I spent about 950 deck screws in securing the wrap-around deck at the camp store. I also made a repair to the stringers leading up to the camp's main office. Just for fun, we also built and repaired several ping-pong tables for the campers to use this summer. The list of completed projects went on-and-on.
In addition to carpentry, Ken also got to use some of his electrical skills - even some that he learned at the CLDV project the previous month. One of the Deer Creek cabins had lost power, and a second cabin (one of the older ones on the property) had too little power. In the second and third weeks, Ken was entrusted to diagnose and design appropriate solutions for these projects. The team then worked together to install conduit and distribute power within the cabins. Ken was also able to clean up the wiring in a couple of the breaker boxes there.
One of the projects NOT on our list was to repair a water line that had broken in the irrigation system on the ranch the night before. We were able to locate the leak (it was right below a "pond" that was not there the previous day). The work was muddy, but I was honored to be chosen to be the one to get inside the hole and make the repair. The contactors on the pump's control board had become pitted as a result of over-cycling the pump; I got to repair/replace those, as well.
The pump room was pretty small. To replace the contactors I had to kneel into the space and lean forward with my feet behind me and sticking outside of the door. It was a 220v circuit so I was pretty focused on getting all of the connections clean and tight. All of a sudden, an unexpected and massive force thumped me from behind. Ooomph! My heart stopped as I knew that nobody was on this part of the ranch but me.
Scared to no end, I about jumped out-of-my-skin. From a kneeling position, I somehow bolted up and out-the-door in one awkward aerial flip backwards (the pump room was too small to move away from the force). Somewhere in the middle of my double-twist reverse gainer I caught a glimpse below me of the curious and friendly face of a quite stunned donkey. He was clearly confused about my aerobic levitation over the top of him. The whole incident lasted about two seconds, I think. Hyperbole aside, it is safe to say that both of us were quite surprised by the sequence of events. We apologized to one another, hugged, laughed about it a bit, and all was well. He told me that he would never sneak up on me again.
This part of Texas is home to three famously large ranches: the King Ranch, the Kennedy Ranch, and the Star Ranch. Deer Creek Ranch is on land that was once part of the Kennedy Ranch empire – the present-day Deer Creek Camp area was portioned off as a retreat center for Kennedy family and friends.
When the last of the Kennedy’s passed, the property was [eventually] sold to Jim and Pam, full-blooded Texans who have deep-rooted faith and talk confidently about the miracle God has created in this camp. The camp area appears to be not quite as large as Camp Loma de Vida (our January 2016 project) but is designed to challenge 120 kids each week of a twelve-week summer with an adventure camp theme (eg., a water slide into the Medina River, a high-ropes course, a climbing wall, kayaking, and many, many other challenges). If I was a kid, this is certainly the kind of camp that I would want to attend. WooHoo!
The theme of the camp is "I am Third" as God and others always come before. The staff prays for a fruitful class of "Carpet Christians" each summer. The video to the right is one of the camp's promo pieces for 2016. It tells the story of Deer Creek much better than I can.
Jim and Pam are well-respected by the campers and are lovingly known here as Papa Bear and Mama Bear. God has blessed the camp with a great reputation; the camp sells out each year mostly by word-of-mouth. In addition to the programs at Deer Creek Camp, the staff at the camp eagerly participates in local youth activities in and around the town of Medina.
Deer Creek Camp is one of those places where you can feel the presence of God; He is working there. Mama Bear and Papa Bear endlessly shared camp stories of the great things they have experienced. The list of work that they gave us to do was long, and (personally) I wish that I had more time on some of the tasks (some of it was rushed work, unfortunately). We did, however (with a little extra time on Friday) get everything done. I was enriched during our time there – I learned a lot as Papa Bear is a strong Christian leader, an eclectic communicator, and a refreshingly transparent, effective businessman.
Our time there was certainly meaningful!
common ground -- fellowship with sowers
[Ken 02/17/2016] Our Deer Creek Camp SOWER’s group had the pleasure of hosting a dinner for a group of SOWERs who are concurrently working a project down the road in Comfort, Texas. Deb and I are still newbie SOWERs, so we are eager to meet as many new friends as possible. Just like the group we met in Lindale, and the SOWER dinner we attended in the Rio Grande Valley, this Deer Creek dining hall exploded with high-energy, humorous, hard-working, loving people. These are qualities you cannot assess about a ministry by researching it on the Internet.
The two SOWER teams enjoyed a plentiful dinner together, enthusiastically chatting about projects, people, great travel stops, and even where the best local eateries are on our nation’s highways. It is captivating to talk to so many people from all corners of our country who are interested in exactly the same things that we are (no chain restaurants, please!). The SOWER groups mesh instantly, having in common our Faith, love for travel and RV’ing, our grand-children “back home,” and (of course) servant volunteerism. There was a point in our lives where ducking into a WalMart parking lot for an overnight nap was considered a kind of ill-acceptable idea, for example. At this dinner we each considered "Wally Docking" a natural and convenient option for those in this mobile lifestyle who are simply trying to get from ‘Point A’ to ‘Point B’ as quickly and inexpensively as possible (thank you, WalMart, for all of the conveniences that you offer!).
Oh, and one other thing: Where two or more SOWERs are gathered, board games show up! We have met for game night with other SOWERs one night every week we have been at a project.
As we start to think about our third project, Deb and I reflect on how impressed we have been with the quality of each of the SOWER personalities we have met; an informal count comes to about twenty-three SOWER units -- each of them sharing a fascinating testimony. Having so much fun with such great people, and being enabled to make such meaningful contributions, Deb and I are very happy with the Ministry group decision that we have made. WooHoo!
our first sower project!
Camp Loma de Vida (Edinburg, TX) is maxxed out. The largest Christian camp and Christian conference center in the Rio Grande Valley (the “RGV”) is located in the central valley north of Edinburg. It is booked to capacity during the summer months. There is much work required here to prepare the camp for what will become an exciting summer 2016 season. [Ken 01/2016] Though it was our first SOWER’s project, it was not the first time CLDV had been host to a group from SOWERs; there is ample evidence around CLDV of SOWER’s projects from many years past. Three SOWER units (a “unit” is a husband and wife team traveling in an RV) had been assigned here for the month, but one unit was unable to make it due to health reasons. We were camped in their on-site RV Park near the northern boundary of CLDV. The SOWER’s Team Leaders camped adjacent to us; they are John and Mary from California (but who travel as full-timers with Indiana plates). John and Mary have been serving in the SOWERs Ministry for a remarkable seventeen years and, “…eighty-some odd projects.” This was their third visit to Camp Loma de Vida.
We were blessed to be sharing CLDV with five units from another service ministry called RVICS (Roaming Volunteers In Christ’s Service) and a couple from Indiana who had come "just to help out." The group of fourteen (plus two) shared the work and functioned as one team for the month. This gave us great opportunity to meet and get to know many more new friends. The RVICS were guided by John and Barb from Kansas. Their team included Gary and Janet from Pennsylvania, Darrell and Liz from Nebraska, Jon and Jane are from Missouri who are full-timers traveling with South Dakota plates (they are both looking great at 81 years young!), and Wayne and Lois from Alberta, Canada. Wayne and Lois have come to the RGV for the past 3 years and on each visit have made multiple trips across the border to hand out thousands and thousands of pieces of Christian literature to the Mexican peoples – they told many fascinating stories of their work there and how welcomed they are on those evangelical trips.
Before our arrival at CLDV, we had heard multiple rumors of what we may be asked to do, so we truly had no idea what to be prepared for until, on our first day, we met with Jason Mendoza, CLDV Program Director. After a little shuffling, I was asked to work on John’s team for the month. John is a retired electrician. While we spent a little time on a wide variety of tasks, the primary focus for us was installing some of the electrical infrastructure on a 100 acre parcel of land about five miles from CLDV. This acreage was purchased in 2010 by the Mendoza family so that it could be developed into an even larger Christian camp to serve the RGV (it will eventually replace the current camp). Previous SOWER teams had installed several wells and completed a lodge on the new land, but nothing had power. John and I worked on the electric service.
It was terrific experience for me to get to work with John. He is a real pro and an accomplished electrician who was eager (and patient) to take me under his wing. I had worked with AC electricity before, but never with the section between the pole transformer and the service panel where the meter and the circuit breakers are. "These are where the BIG wires go...," he cautioned!
The new camp’s land is rough and remains native and unimproved. This created some challenges that I was not prepared for when it came time to dig the holes necessary to set the power poles and trench for underground wiring. While the land is largely rolling hills covered in tall Texas' grasses, varieties of cactus, and mesquite trees, what is unseen are large implants of underground limestone that we had to work around. In the end, we were able to install several 200 amp panels and three meter bases. This will set the new camp up with about 800 amps of service in those areas -- enough for the lodge, three cabins, three wells, with room to spare for next year’s planned expansion of additional cabins, a chapel, and a dining hall. Working so closely with John gave me experience that I am sure that I will be able to leverage on future projects. He is a thoughtful teacher who graciously taught me a number of tricks-of-the-trade that I will never forget.
Random pictures of Ken and Deb (and many others) "in action" at the old and new Camps...
Deb spent her time at the existing camp helping to prepare the kitchen for the 2016 camp season. Along with Mary, they did a complete inventory of pots and plates as well as furniture and fixtures -- everything in the kitchen. Each year the camp will fill to capacity with hundreds of local kids and teens, as well as children from Mexico who get sponsored to attend. The campers LOVE home-made desserts; Deb and Mary made over 500 cupcakes and about 2000 cookies all in eight days. They developed a great system and on their best day cranked-out 34 dozen cookies. The freezer was filled. The campers will be happy, but Deb is now pretty tired of chocolate chip cookies. She spent the last week at CLDV painting and sprucing up several of the cabins. . It is difficult for me to articulate how much fun this project was. We enjoyed every minute. Each day started with a devotion led by one of the team. Following, was a brief business meeting to make sure that we all knew what we needed to get done that day. Then we each headed off to our various projects, usually in not less than teams of two. There were quite a few assignments that ranged from cooking to sewing to painting to general maintenance/repair to sealing roofs to installing flooring to cabinetry to razing an old cabin and using heavy equipment to move debris, grade, and trench certain areas. I mentioned before that John and I did electrical work; the other teams seemed to be working on many different kinds of things but John and I pretty much stayed focused on setting electric boxes and installing wiring. There were days when we did not see any of the other teams at all, as we were working in different parts of two different camps.
Our work day was complete by 4:00, usually. But in the off-hours there were opportunities to fellowship with the other SOWERs and RVICS. One night we had banana splits. One night we watched a movie (“The War Room"). We had opportunities to take tours to different parts of the RGV together and attend church as a group. We went out to eat together about once a week – enjoying some of the authentic Mexican food that abounds here in very southern Texas. One night we enjoyed dinner with SOWERs’ units from other, concurrent projects in the RGV – there were 28 of us total at the table (it was great to meet so many high-energy, loving, giving people from the same Ministry as us). Back at CLDV, we met together one night a week for Bible Study. And, as you might expect in such a close group, there was plenty of rejoicing, singing, and even a few tears.
By the end of the month at CLDV, the expanded group of sixteen had accomplished almost all of the work from four different Project Lists. We also completed quite a few “change orders” that were not on the original lists but that were important for the Camp to get wrapped-up. John and Mary were great Team Leaders for us. And the Mendoza’s were amazed at how much the expanded team of sixteen was able to get done for them; it is absolutely true that many hands do make light work. There is no way to calculate all of the man-hours or the number of things that the Teams were collectively able to complete. All I know is that we were all pretty tired by the end of the workday (my FitBit recorded well over 12,000 steps every workday). Fortunately for my old body, our work week was Monday through Thursday, so a three-day weekend was always available for us to rest up and/or to explore the area.
John Mendoza is the Camp Director. His brother, Jason, is the Camp Program Director. Their father, Noë, and two brothers, James ("Jim") and Jeremy, are pastors at Iglesia Bautista Betania near Mission, TX. The family has a huge heart for the Lord and have tremendous impact for the Gospel across the RGV. The church has just expanded their ministry to serve the English speaking population. We were blessed to have been invited to attend this growing church on two Sundays and were impressed that God is blessing it so wonderfully. All of the Mendoza brothers have remarkable spirits. It was a joy to work with them for the month and a great honor for Deb and me to be able to help them in a small way to expand their big ministry in the RGV. Our work and time at Camp Loma de Vida (and at the new camp) were certainly meaningful.
We had a campfire on our last night in their RV Park. There were songs and stories. There was also earnest prayer for one another. It was hard for us to say good-bye. There is a special kind of community that forms when brothers and sisters in Christ come together in One Purpose. The bond is tight. And the bond is not temporary. We will see everybody again, I am confident.
While some units in the group are staying at CLDV for an additional month in order to wrap-up some of the projects that we did not quite get finished in January, Deb and I are heading north to start on our second project at Deer Creek Christian Camp.... On to Medina!