Caulking, landscaping, painting, building, repairing, and cleaning, there is no job too big or too small for Campers on Mission.
PINEVILLE – Caulking, landscaping, painting, building, repairing, and cleaning, there is no job too big or too small for Campers on Mission.
Why they’re even willing to do windows, if asked.
They travel the state year round helping to care for the different Baptist camps – Tall Timbers, Acadiana Baptist Center, Dry Creek, Harris Baptist Camp, Living Waters and Seeker Springs Baptist Camp, as well as the New Orleans Seamans Center, Holly Beach Christian Resort and Louisiana College.
Last week – just two weeks before school begins – more than 60 campers from across the state of Louisiana just happened to be on the LC campus busily taking care of a laundry list of jobs.
COM, which is 40 years old, has been coming to LC for more than 20 years. But Louisiana College is just one of many stops for the campers during the course of a year’s time.
“While we do hit all of the Baptist Camps in the state, we’ll do anything that needs doing,” COM President Warren Hopkins said. “We’ve remodeled parsonages, built churches, and worked on a variety of different projects – we are ready, willing, and able to do whatever project that has a need.”
They are a welcome asset to any project.
For those who have benefitted from their assistance, such as Dry Creek Baptist Camp or Acadiana Baptist Center they have been called a “Godsend” or a “true blessing.”
Depending on the amount of work needed at the different sites, COM can save a facility (if one figures just on minimum wage) between $15,000 to $20,000. Considering most of the jobs performed by campers are skilled labor, those figures could skyrocket four to five times.
“People tend to forget many of us are skilled in our respected craft,” COM vice president Tom Church said. “What’s the going rate for a skilled laborer, a plumber, an electrician, or a painter these days? It is probably more than these places can afford.”
“Having the Campers on Mission here is truly wonderful,” Dry Creek director Todd Burnaman said. “They not only provide us a significant financial saving, but are just a joy to be around.
“If we didn’t have them here, we’d either have to use internal camp people, which would mean something else wouldn’t get done, or we’d have to hire someone from off site to do the work, and that would be so expensive,” Burnaman said in an earlier interview.
Campers on Mission not only brings a wealth of knowledge to a job, but a working spirit that belies their average age of 70 years old.
“We’re just a bunch of dedicated Christian folks who can do just about anything that needs to be done,” volunteer Tim Himel, a retired electrician, said.
“I guess you could say I’m one of the younger ones,” he chuckled. “Our age, though, doesn’t slow us down or deter us.”
But it is not all work for Campers on Mission, who get as much as they give out of a project. The work is hard, but the fellowship and Bible study makes it worthwhile.
“As you might have noticed, we pay our on way to these different places, so we travel in our own motor coaches (there were 17 at LC),” Hopkins said. “A lot of us came in here on Sunday, but there are a few who will join us from around the area.
“Our day begins around 7 a.m. with breakfast,” Hopkins said. “And we usually have devotion around 7:45 a.m. We take a break at 10, have lunch at noon, and break again at 3 p.m. We usually quit around 4:30 in the afternoon and eat supper around 5 p.m.”
The group is provided three meals and two snacks every day so they don’t have to use any of their own people to cook.
“Our sole purpose when we come to a location is to work,” Hopkins said. “We want to utilize our time as much as possible. If we had to stop to cook and clean up afterwards, it would take us away from why we are there.”
The site will fill out work orders and campers will put down which job they want to help on. A foreman is assigned to each job, and the workers can pick up supplies or tools provided by the site or use their own equipment.
A large group such as the one at LC allows for a number of people to work on a number of different jobs, which included among other things painting dorm rooms in Cottingham dormitory, fixing the plumbing in several buildings, building shelves, doing landscaping and sewing costumes for LC’s Follow the Star presentation.
“It really helps the time pass when you have more than two or three people on a job,” Himel said. “The job gets finished quicker, and you have someone to talk with as you work.”
After 5 p.m., the campers’ time is their own, but most can be found in Bible study or listening to speakers or special music provided by whatever place they are working.
“We have really been blessed this week by the great speakers and music LC has provided for us,” Mattie Lemoine said. “The worship services and music have especially been wonderful.”
And later in the evening many will gather around the motorhomes for fellowship or a little entertainment.
Eighty-one- year-old Vanda Graunke has earned the nickname “Minnie Pearl” because of her uncanny ability to mimic the famous country & western comedian/singer.
With so much to do statewide, Hopkins is forever looking to recruit new campers.
“Usually we recruit through word of mouth, whatever publicity we can get, or through the respective churches,” Hopkins said. “We also have a booth at the state convention.
“Except for the places where we work, a lot of people don’t even realize we exist,” Hopkins said. “We have a mission emphasis and we would encourage more people to join us. There is always plenty of work to go around.”
Anyone interested in joining Campers on Mission can call Hopkins on his cell phone at 318.341.1309.