Just to be perfectly clear — Campers on Mission are not part-time help looking for a summer job, said Linda King of Woodburn, Kentucky.
“We don’t come in as part-time helpers. We come in to take the load off of the staff for just a little while and to walk alongside them and be like the people who helped Moses raise up his staff,” she affirmed.
“We help get things done that might have been delayed for a while,” added King, who participates with her husband, John, in the Alabama chapter of Campers on Mission.
RELATED: Check out another story on how Campers on Mission are making an impact in their neck of the woods.
Kevin Perrigan, manager of Carson Springs Baptist Conference Center in Newport, is a strong proponent of Campers on Mission, especially teams from Alabama and Tennessee.
“We are very grateful for Alabama Campers on Mission. For several years they have volunteered their time to travel to East Tennessee to take lead in many of the renovations at Carson Springs. Many of the COMers come back year after year,” he said.
“This has given my staff the opportunity to build some deep relationships that they have maintained year-round. We consider them part of our family. This is the same with our own Tennessee Campers On Mission as well,” he added.
Perrigan noted that most of the renovations done at both Carson Springs and Linden Valley Baptist Conference Center in Linden “can only be completed by volunteers like Campers On Mission. My staff and I always look forward to them arriving in their RVs.”
This year, the Alabama group has taken the lead in beginning the renovation of Maple Lodge. Alabama Campers on Mission worked for several weeks in August and September on the renovations.
Tennessee Campers on Mission joined the effort in early October, picking up where the Alabama team left off. Some of the Alabama group plans to return in November to continue the renovation effort.
We are hoping to have Maple Lodge fully renovated by May 2024 to be used during summer camp,” Perrigan said.
King’s sister, Jackie Merrell and her husband, Greg, are longtime volunteers at Carson Springs who invited them to join them in Newport. They are all part of the Alabama group.
The Merrells, who live in Elkton, Tennessee, near the Alabama line, came to Carson Springs the first time several years ago when a project they originally were going to do was canceled at the last minute. They learned of some needs at Carson Springs and went there instead.
“When we came through the gates, we knew this is where God wanted us,” she said, noting that she and Greg have been back 20–25 times over the last five years.
“They always have the door open and a project list ready,” she laughed.
Jim and Rhonda Barton of Dalton, Georgia, also have become members of Alabama COM and are frequent volunteers at Carson Springs. He noted the camp staff and the Campers on Mission have developed a strong trust level. “They know we are here to work,” he said.
He praised the Carson Springs staff. “They are super and they do more for you than you could ask for,” Barton said. “As long as they let us, we will keep coming back. It is our favorite place.
The camaraderie among the volunteers keeps them trying to work with each other whenever possible. “We are all family,” affirmed Linda King.
“We get along so well,” agreed Kay Moran of Toney, Ala. “We have fun. We laugh, we cry, we talk, we pray and we shop,” she laughed.
Furthering the gospel
While the women usually are involved in whatever their husbands are doing, Carson Springs offers an opportunity for them to sometimes use their time for mission projects.
The women bring their sewing machines and material and set up in Carson Hall, the former dining hall, as a work station. This past summer they sewed more than 120 pillow case dresses and “peasant blouses” for women in Papuu, New Guinea.
“We try to help do things that further the gospel for organizations,” King said.
The Tennessee Baptist conference center staff are appreciative of all the volunteers.
Tennessee Campers on Mission were not only at Carson Springs last week, they normally serve at least once each year at Linden Valley.
“They generally help us get ready for camp season,” said Jimmy Tucker, manager at Linden Valley. “They generally help paint, spruce up the grounds and whatever is needed.
“We appreciate their help to get things done we couldn’t get done otherwise. We have built relationships with them and look forward to seeing them each year,” Tucker said.
Ed Sandidge, a member of First Baptist Church, Kingsport, and East Tennessee coordinator of the Tennessee chapter of Campers on Mission, noted that Tennessee COM holds two rallies each year followed by a work week and other work weeks as needs arise.
They have enjoyed working with the conference centers, Sandidge said. “They feed us well and treat us nicely and they always have meaningful things for us to do.”
Maple Lodge is the second building Tennessee COM have worked on, Sandidge said. They assisted with the renovation of Ginn Lodge a few years ago.
Perrigan has observed in the past that Campers on Mission make an eternal impact on people’s lives and this year is no different with the work they have done this summer.
“There have been hundreds of people that have stayed in Maple Lodge over the years. Many have had significant times with the Lord in each of the rooms. I know that the fingerprints of each of the volunteers on the building will make a lasting impact on the lives of people for years to come,” he said
Campers on Mission is a national organization of Christian campers with several state chapters. For more information, visit campersonmission.org. In Tennessee, visit tncom.org.
To read full story, click here.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Lonnie Wilkey and originally published by Baptist and Reflector.