PUEBLO, Colo. (BP)–Going on vacation can’t keep some people from sharing the Gospel. In fact, that’s the reason some people vacation in the first place.
More than 400 Campers on Missions (COM) members came together June 9-11 at the Colorado State Fair and Exposition Center in Pueblo, Colo., for fellowship, worship, testimonies, a mission and craft fair and a series of mission-oriented workshops. The workshops included witnessing to the cowboy culture and Mormons, working with children in missions, preparing for construction trips and using dry-walling techniques. Workshop leaders included individuals from North American Mission Board and LifeWay Christian Resources and COM leaders locally from Colorado and from as far away as Florida.
Sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board, Campers on Missions (COM) encompasses individuals and families reaching the lost and ministering to people in need as they vacation across the United States. COM members help with construction projects, facilitate Vacation Bible Schools and other special events in the areas where they vacation.
Texan Iva Petz taught a group about quilting ministry. Petz and others make quilts for abused women and children shelters, nursing home residents and others. The quilts, which Petz said can be done at any time and any place, have a Scripture tag sewn into them. The ministry is both a means of fulfilling needs, she said, and “of passing on the Gospel.”
With approximately 6,000 COM members nationwide, finding mission assignments is facilitated by The Bridge, an online service through NAMB that matches ministry opportunities to people willing to serve.
COM national coordinators Wintford and Martha Haynes have been using their vacations as mission opportunities since 1973 when they first learned about Christian campers organizing in an article in The Alabama Baptist. They loaded up with their three daughters and their “tent on wheels” and headed for a rally in Kentucky.
Since then they’ve been an on-mission family. “We’d give up our vacation every summer to do ministry,” Martha said. The Hayneses have missed only one year of camping since 1974, but they made up for it the following year with two trips. Last year they spent eight months on the road doing COM work.
Wintford said the love of God and the call on their lives’ to share Him with others is what compels them to continue camping on mission. “Martha and I thought years back that if God was good enough to give us 52 weeks a year, we could certainly give a few weeks back.”
The Hayneses on-mission lifestyle has continued in their daughters’ lives. One daughter with her husband who is stationed in Germany still takes camping trips and advantage of ministry opportunities. Another daughter, Miranda LeCroy, was the piano player for the worship services at this year’s COM gathering in Pueblo.
LeCroy remembered the camping trips as always being fun. As kids, she and other COM children would help mow yards, clean up after the construction crews and take water to the volunteers. When she was older, LeCroy would help with Backyard Bible Clubs and games for the other children.
The best part of the trips for LeCroy was going to places where people didn’t have a place to worship or had never heard of Jesus. “Where I grew up there was a church on every corner,” she recounted.
Frances Peggram of Wiggins, Colo., became active in COM as a result of seeing others volunteer their time for something she cared greatly about: her church. “We have been on the receiving side. Most of our building has been done by volunteers,” she noted.
A college group from Mississippi came to help build Summit Baptist Church building in Wiggins for three years in a row. “When the community sees 10 to 12 trailers pull in and all these volunteers,” Peggram said, “it makes a real impression.” She said she feels Colorado churches have been on the receiving end of missions for too long. “We’d like to be examples” in reaching out beyond the state, she said.
Setting the example for other COM groups, this year’s honor chapter, North Carolina, donated the most service hours with 13,151 and participated in 60 different ministry projects. They recorded 73 professions on faith and three other decisions made. Seventy-eight percent of the North Carolina chapter’s members are actively on mission.
Overall, this year COM volunteers gave 315,520 hours to ministry and counted 580 people who made professions of faith.
Brooke Veigl is a semester missionary with the Colorado Baptist General Convention.