JENNESS PARK, Calif. (BP)–Leaving a comfortable position in a growing California church for Christian camping, Rod Goodmon stepped out on faith when he accepted a position as guest services coordinator at Jenness Park, a camp facility owned by the California Southern Baptist Convention.
Preparation for the transition from preschool minister at Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield to Jenness Park began when Goodmon and his wife, Shelly, volunteered at Hume Lake, a Christian camp located in central California. Early in their marriage, the couple worked in the kitchen serving food during spare weekends.
“Every time we left Hume, we would say, ‘Wouldn’t it be neat to raise our family in a camp environment?'” Goodmon said. “And now that I look back, God was calling us at that point. It was clear that we were moving toward that.”
While serving as preschool minister at Valley Baptist for a year and a half, Goodmon said the quest for God’s will intensified.
“I loved the kids. I loved the ministry. And I loved the pastoral care part of the ministry, but I felt like God was calling us elsewhere,” Goodmon said. “I just wasn’t at peace.”
While journaling in his office one afternoon, Goodmon said the Lord released him from his anxiety.
“God said, ‘You don’t have to do this anymore,'” Goodmon remembered, also expressing respect for Valley Baptist. “It was fast-paced, but it a wonderful church and was a wonderful experience.”
As Goodmon shared his convictions with Shelly, he was shocked to discover the Lord was speaking to her as well.
“We were sitting at a Mexican food restaurant, and she said, ‘You know, I’ve felt this way for six months, but I wasn’t going to say anything to you,'” Goodmon said. “We both felt like we should go back into camping.”
As the couple, now with three children, began to pray for divine guidance, Shelly suggested Goodmon contact Jenness Park.
“She had come up for a pastors’ wives retreat and was very impressed with the camp director,” Goodmon said. “She said, ‘You would probably like working for him, so call him up.'”
Goodmon filled out an application and, after an initial weekend-long interview, was asked to serve at Jenness.
“I wouldn’t think a second about making a change in our lives without us spiritually being on the same plane,” Goodmon said, referring to the role his wife played through encouragement.
Shelly also played a crucial role in Goodmon’s spiritual development as well.
“The first few years of our marriage, I went to church with her, but I didn’t understand what was available. She encouraged me to go to Sunday School, and I know she prayed for me a lot,” he said. “Finally I said I would go, but I sat on the very back row, left early and didn’t interact with the people.
“After a short period of time, our Sunday School teacher brought us from the back row to the front row in the class through his love and presenting the Word each week,” he said.
Soon, the couple found themselves leading the class in prayer and praise requests and then began to teach a young marrieds class in the church.
“My pastor taught me how to teach Sunday School. We would meet every week for lunch, and he would walk me through it,” Goodmon said. “God just called us and our family to the ministry over a year and a half.”
Because of the impact the church made in his spiritual walk, Goodmon said his vision for Jenness Park is for the camp to facilitate the ministries of the local church.
“I see the camp supporting the local church, especially in California,” he said. “I want to see the people involved at the local level. My life was changed because I got involved in a church, so my burden is to help people do that.
“The Lord will change your life if you get out of the pew and take a chance,” Goodmon said. “When they asked me to teach Sunday School, I said, ‘You are crazy!’ I had no desire to be in front of people, but God was calling me to do it. That’s what we need to do as believers — to step out like that. It will change our churches.”