Campers on Mission gather for 'Old Time Camp Meeting'by Mike Creswell
More than 500 people took part in an "Old Time Camp Meeting" event sponsored by NC Campers on Mission that included Southern Gospel music, train rides and preaching by evangelist Jonathan Lotz, grandson of Billy Graham and son of Anne Graham Lotz.
The event was held April 19-22 at Denton Farm Park, a sprawling camping and meeting facility near Denton, which features restored buildings, a church and a full-size steam train. How-to conferences ranging from RV refrigeration to bead craft were offered.
Despite the "old time" theme, only a few people set up tents. Most campers were in sparkling RVs with satellite TV dishes and other comforts.
"When I look at the cross of Jesus Christ, I am reminded of His mercy for me, a sinner," Lotz said in his Friday night message. "Mercy is the exercise of God's compassion in your life."
Lotz preached on the healing of the blind beggar as recorded in Luke 18 and told how the beggar cried out for mercy from Jesus. "The blind beggar came to the right source for healing," he said, adding, "When you seek God's mercy, you'll receive more than you expect."
He told how he personally cried out for mercy when he was 8 years old and accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior, then again when he was 28 years old and was diagnosed with cancer.
As he and his evangelist mother prayed in his hospital room, Lotz said God promised to carry him through the struggle, though there was no assurance his cancer would not return.
Although the mostly older church people did not respond to the evangelistic invitation, dozens lingered after the message to meet Lotz, a popular preacher, and ask for prayer.
The "Old Time Camp Meeting" event was the first of its kind for Campers on Mission (COM), said Pete Butler, state leader of the organization which includes some 300 families across the state. "We want to equip campers to witness and share the gospel," he said.
Each year Campers on Mission camp near public events across the state to witness. But their biggest annual project is at the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh, where several hundred volunteers prepare food and provide services for fair workers, hold worship and music services and reach out to people attending the fair.
More than 20 Campers on Mission families from South Carolina also attended the Denton event, said Butler, who lives in Rocky Mount.
COM was started by the North American Mission Board, though now chapters relate more to state Baptist conventions, said Larry Davis, who coordinates COM in five southeastern states. Davis came from his home near Monticello, Fla., to see if the Denton event might be good for Campers on Mission in other states to visit.
He said COM has around 5,000 participants and some 40 chapters nationwide; although the organization has mostly Baptist members, other evangelicals are also welcome to take part.
Campers on Mission maintains close ties to the North American Mission Board, he said, because the campers are interested in missions service and are a good group for the board to enlist for projects. "If you will sign up, I'll personally pay your dues for life," Davis said with a grin before explaining that COM has no dues.
Because of the weak economy and high fuel prices, COM participants have been looking for missions opportunities closer to home in recent years, Davis said. He told of one volunteer who maintains the electrical systems of 73 churches and another man who worked on a church building addition just four blocks from his home.
"There are all sorts of missions opportunities if people will just avail themselves of them," Davis said.
Jimmy and Peggy Cain of Bladenboro said they have been in COM for 10 years, because they enjoy camping and because COM allows them to share their faith and witness. Mrs. Cain often sings in COM worship services and provides blood pressure checks in campgrounds as a way to contact other campers and tell them about Jesus.
Jimmy Cain spends two or three weeks each year serving at the Red Springs Mission Camp in Robeson County, a ministry of NC Baptist Men which enabled several thousand volunteers to serve in Robeson and surrounding counties last year. NC Baptist Men and Red Springs are funded through the North Carolina Mission Offering.
Groups which sang for the camp meeting included The Hinshaw Family from Bahama, N.C.; Redeemed Resonance from Apex, N.C.; The Methodaires from Cary, N.C.; the Littles from Monroe, N.C.; and the Joyful Sounds from Moravian Falls, N.C.
Those interested in learning more about mission opportunities through Campers on Mission can contact Pete Butler at (252) 972-7828, by email at [email protected] or online at http://www.nccampersonmission.org.