By Karen L. Willoughby, Managing Editor
WOODWORTH – During their recent workweek at Tall Timbers, Campers on Mission members voted to host the 2012 Campers on Mission national rally.
Louisiana-based Mission Service Corps self-funded missionaries, and Baptist Builders, all volunteers, will be asked to help with the logistics of the rally, set for July 16-20, 2012, at the city-owned Rayne RV Campground in Rayne.
Mission Service Corps and Baptist Builders from across the nation will be invited to participate in the national volunteers rally.
[img_assist|nid=7123|title=COM National Rally|desc=More than 300 Campers on Mission representing 27 state COM Chapters met at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds in Du Quoin, Ill., last June. The 307 participants joined together to celebrate the work of COM volunteers, to share together in worship, and to participate in classes where they honed their skills for ministry and evangelism. Louisiana’s COM has voted to host the 2012 national rally.|link=none|align=left|width=640|height=427]“We’re going to promote the national rally as a partnership and invite the others in,” said Jeff Woodrich, COM strategist as part of his responsibilities as Baptist Builders strategist.
The SBC-affiliated Campers on Mission was started in 1973 to mobilize Southern Baptists frequenting national and private campgrounds in the then-emerging trend of RV camping – fueled by Winnebago in 1967 with its line of mass-produced and hence affordable recreational vehicles.
In the beginning, Campers on Mission’s focus was on providing Bible-based activities for children, and for their parents. Over time, Campers on Mission also began doing service projects at Baptist camps. This today is Louisiana’s main emphasis.
“I was looking for some place to serve in that capacity,” said Bill Austin, president of the Louisiana Chapter of Campers on Mission since January, COM member since he retired three years ago, and a member of Temple Baptist Church in Ruston. “I’m a carpenter, building houses early on, and I retired as a plumber. … I have an ability to do a lot of things.
“Before I retired I took vacation time and went with my church on construction missions, but now I have more time,” Austin said. Perhaps 90 percent of the people in the Louisiana COM chapter are retired, he added, because of “the time we spend away from home.”
About once a month, some of the 200 or more active Louisiana COM members work one week at one of the state’s Baptist camps, Louisiana College, and this year the Louisiana Baptist Childrens Home has asked for the group’s help in maintenance projects around its Monroe campus.
“They know we’re coming and they have a list for us,” Austin said. “We had 72 people working at Tall Timbers.” Among projects they completed there: cleaning flower beds, pruning trees, plumbing repair all over the campus, painting, and beginning the process of retrofitting cabin doors to bring them up to the state’s current building code.
Participants in the 2012 national COM rally will be able to participate in workshops in several kinds of maintenance/repair as well as a slew of other topics. There also will be evening worship, morning Bible studies, and time to explore the area.
Rayne is less than two hours from New Iberia and McIlhenny Co., makers of Tobasco brand pepper sauces; from New Orleans and all that’s available there; from Baton Rouge and the state capitol; from Fort Hudson and its Civil War history; and Rayne is in the heart of Louisiana’s rich Cajun country.
“It’s the best part of the state for an event like this, because there’s something interesting to see and do in every direction,” Austin said. “Coming or going, or while you’re here, it’s ‘Let the good times roll’ in Louisiana.”[img_assist|nid=7124|title=State COM Banquet|desc=More than 160 people participated in the annual Louisiana volunteers banquet at Tall Timbers on Feb. 13.|link=none|align=right|width=640|height=480]
The Rayne RV campground is the largest facility of its type in the state, Austin added, plenty large enough for the 600 or more RVs expected, with nearby hotel rooms for those who don’t bring their own living quarters with them.
About 160 people participated in the Feb. 13 annual Louisiana volunteers banquet at Tall Timbers. It was probably triple the size of the 2009 event, in part because Campers on Mission, Baptist Builders and Mission Service Corps personnel participated, Woodrich said.
“It was a very general conference in which everybody was honored,” Woodrich said. “While we had them all there, we challenged them to share their wisdom. This is a five-year challenge, not just a theme for this year.”
Captain John Lewis with the Bayou Dorchee Correctional Facility was keynote speaker. A quartet from Judson Baptist Church in Walker brought special music.
“The banquet was triple what I’d expected,” Woodrich said. “No paid people except for the LBC staff. They’re out there working for the Lord for nothing. That’s an awesome testimony.”