RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–Fred and Lovisa Bryant weren’t thrilled about being cooped up in Bernie’s Cafe until 11 p.m. They would rather have been working outside with their hands.
But that’s the breaks when you’re on a mission for God.
“We don’t get to bed until about midnight, and we’re old,” said Fred Bryant of South Daytona, Fla. “But this is where they needed us this summer, and this is where we are.”
As Campers on Mission volunteers, Fred and Lovisa served ice cream and pizza over the counter at Ridgecrest (N.C.) Baptist Conference Center’s Bernie’s Cafe. They arrived at Ridgecrest in mid June in their 19-foot Scotty camper and plan to stay until October, “Lord willing.”
“We’re just retired people who want to spend our retirement in the Lord’s work,” Lovisa Bryant said.
Last year as participants in the volunteer program, the Bryants tidied up the grounds at Ridgecrest. They and others painted, built shelves, made curtains and performed other needed chores. Campers on Missions is operated through the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board.
“These people have servant hearts and they are encouragers to us,” said Sandra Boone, administrative manager of personnel services at Ridgecrest, which includes managing summer staffers and volunteer employment programs.
She said about 50-60 retiree volunteers are currently working at Ridgecrest, and more are needed. Paid summer staff number about 144.
“Many of them are like moms and dads to us,” added Matt Black, summer staff director. “They have great attitudes and they have made a big, big difference in our staff. They are Spirit-filled.”
Retired volunteers Ed and Wanda Lyons coordinate the volunteer program for Ridgecrest. The Hopkinsville, Ky., couple pulled into the Ridgecrest campground in their 32-foot Winnebago in February and plan to leave in a 34-foot slide-out Itasco in November.
“We’ll pick up the new camper this week,” Wanda Lyons said in early July.
The Lyonses decided to trade their home and furnishings back in Hopkinsville for an extra two feet of camper space and the slide-out dining room because they hope to be volunteers as long as God will have them.
“Five years ago, I would have never thought about selling my home and everything in it to be a full-time volunteer, but the this is what the Lord has led us to do,” Wanda said.
The couple even sold a practically new living room set when they went back to Hopkinsville to unload their worldly goods, Wanda said.
“Well, it was blue, and who knows, if we ever buy a house again, the new colors might be chartreuse,” Wanda joked.
Interestingly enough, they aren’t the only couple at Ridgecrest who sold a home and furniture to volunteer for the Lord.
Ann and Ned Scruggs, formerly of Nashville, Tenn., gave up their home and furniture two years ago because their neighbor’s mother-in-law said she wanted to buy it.
“We weren’t even looking to sell. They just came over and asked us how much we would take, and we gave them a figure. They took it,” Ned said.
“Next thing we knew,” Ann said,” we were standing in our kitchen asking each other what the Lord must have in mind for us.”
Volunteer service was apparently the answer.
After visiting children and traveling, the Scruggses, who are not part of Campers on Mission or any official volunteer program, wound up near Ridgecrest to visit a friend.
“I thought I would just stop by the conference center and see if they had any openings, and they did,” Ned said.
The couple was given a room with kitchenette last November and they’ve been working for event services area since.
“Home is wherever we are,” Ann said.
“God is so good to us,” Ned added. “There is life after work.”
“A lot of people have the mind-set that volunteer missions is carpentry and painting, but that’s just part of it,” Wanda Lyons said. “We need people to dip ice cream, serve popcorn, greet people, any type of small tasks. Plus, it’s nice for these younger staffers and guests to have an older influence around.”
At Glorieta (N.M.) Baptist Conference Center, Campers on Mission will provide a minimum of four volunteers every week for day-to-day operation of the campground from May through September this year. In early May, 40 volunteers worked for a week completing more than 30 tasks to ready the campground and other areas of the conference center for the summer season.
Another 34 volunteers who are not a part of Campers on Mission are working this summer from a minimum of six weeks to several months, according to Billie Koller, manager of administration and support at Glorieta. They work as greeters, receptionists, groundskeepers, information assistants, office staff, food service staff, hosts and drivers for guest transportation.
Retirees who would like information or an application form to volunteer for service at Ridgecrest or Glorieta, may write to Sandra Boone at Box 128, Ridgecrest, N.C. 28770 or to Billie Koller at Box 8, Glorieta, N.M. 87535.
Charles Willis contributed to this story.