Shelby Mission Camp Dedicated: Send volunteers!by Mike Creswell
Shelby Mission Camp was dedicated and pronounced open for ministry in an April 29 service attended by hundreds of volunteers and supporters.
Operated by NC Baptist Men, the camp will become the home base for thousands of volunteers to work from as they minister across Cleveland County and beyond in coming years. This will follow the pattern set by the Red Springs Mission Camp, opened in 2008 in Robeson County, from which several thousand volunteers worked in 2011.
Operation of the two camps is funded by North Carolina Baptists through their support of the North Carolina Missions Offering, the same offering that supports NC Baptist Men. The offering's 2012 goal is $2.1 million.
The 45-acre Shelby Mission Camp (SMC) is located just off the U.S. 74 by-pass inside Shelby's city limits. The complex includes a 16,000 sq. ft building housing an administrative section, dining room and bunk house, which can house and feed up to 200 volunteers at a time, plus a separate 9,000 sq. ft. warehouse and other buildings.
Volunteers who gave time and money toward the SMC's completion were honored during the Sunday afternoon dedication service.
"When you do work for the Lord, He puts a lot of people in your pathway. God has put some special people in our pathway and we want to recognize those people today," said Eddie Williams, who with his wife, Martha, serves as mission camp director.
The two have coordinated the three-year site development and construction of the SMC. Earlier they got the Red Springs Mission Camp established and functioning in a renovated textile factory and before then led the massive relief effort of some 40,000 North Carolina Baptist volunteers to Gulfport, Miss., after Hurricane Katrina. That three-year effort resulted in the construction of 715 houses.
Williams singled out volunteer Tony Howell, a member of Massapoag Baptist Church in Lincolnton, who worked on plumbing; Rick Conard, a member of Starnes Cove Baptist Church in Asheville, who worked on the SMC's electrical system over the past three years; and Bobby Suggs, "the best Methodist friend a Baptist could have," who has worked 200 days at the Shelby camp. Suggs is a member of St. Lukes United Methodist Church in Hickory.
In the dedication service Williams cited Colossians 3:23, which says "whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men," explaining, "To me, that means 100 percent and not 90 percent or 95 percent. We're working for the Lord. If it's a mission camp or witnessing or whatever we're doing, we should do it for the Lord at 100 percent."
NC Baptist Men staffer Tom Beam announced that Tabor City Baptist Church has named a Royal Ambassador Lads chapter after the Williamses. The boys did yard work to raise money for a set of flags to be displayed at the SMC.
Dana Hall, president of NC Baptist Men, recalled visiting the SMC the first time.
He said the mission camp will function like he thinks the church should be, "not as a place where we all gather once a week and enjoy each other's company and leave for the rest of the week and go about our business, but a place where people come to roll up their sleeves and get to work, go out in the community to work with the poor, the outcasts and the overlooked and build relationships with these people and bring them to the table."
"This place is to the glory of God, because God is the one who has done this," declared Richard Brunson, executive director of NC Baptist Men. He called attention to Ephesians 3:20 which says God "is able to do more than all we ask or imagine."
He also cited 1 Peter 2:12 which calls for good conduct by believers among unbelievers. This verse was a key one when NC Baptist Men team members were evaluating the cost and time which the mission camps would require.
"It's not so much what we say; it's what we do," Brunson said. "They will know we are Christians by our love."
Brunson conceived the idea of a mission camp, an innovative approach to missions work, as a way to capitalize on the equipment and experience North Carolina Baptists gained in the Gulfport response.
The new mission camp "is an expression of the mission of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, to assist the local church in fulfilling its mission," said Brian Davis, citing Acts 1:8. Davis is the Convention's executive leader for administration and convention relations.
"We want the churches to utilize this camp to help them fulfill their mission strategy of taking the gospel anywhere and everywhere the Lord Jesus would call them to," Davis said, praising the cooperative relationships between individuals, churches, associations, the Baptist State Convention and NC Baptist Men involved to get the camp constructed.
"This is just the beginning," he reminded those present, "because it's not finished until volunteers are filling up the place and are working in the area."
Shelby Mayor Stan Anthony attended the dedication service. Williams later praised the good cooperation he has had on the camp's development from local authorities, who he said are eager to see the camp become fully operational.
Chuck Register announced that a plaque in memory of Sidney Williams and David Holland had been moved from Gulfport, Miss., to the SMC's new prayer garden. Sidney Williams, granddaughter of Eddie and Martha Williams, died while they served in Gulfport. David Holland, son of Gary and Edith Holland, died while they served in Gulfport.
Register, pastor of First Baptist Church in Gulfport when Katrina struck in 2005, said his members expected the two couples to return home following the deaths.
"Both couples returned home to love on their families, but before long they had repacked their suitcases and they were back down in Gulfport. They had their hands to the plow. They were being obedient to their Father, fulfilling the calling God had placed on their hearts and lives," he said.
"When God calls you to a task, even in the face of great sacrifice, we are called to fulfill that task to the very end," Register said.
First Baptist had a plaque installed in a prayer garden at the National Guard armory which had served as an operational base for North Carolina volunteers. But Register got permission from Gulfport's mayor to move the plaque to the SMC's prayer garden. Register now serves as executive leader for the Baptist State Convention's Church Planting and Missions Development section.
The Shelby Mission Camp's warehouse was named for electrical engineer Howard Wacaster, who worked long hours on the camp's electrical wiring, right up to the time leukemia claimed his life.
"Working at the mission camp became a therapy for Howard Wacaster," said Shane Kirby, pastor of Flint Hill Baptist Church in Shelby where Wacaster was a member. A plaque commemorating Wacaster's contribution has been placed in the camp's warehouse.
Kathryn Hamrick presented a plaque to Brenda Clary, daughter of the late Thelda Hendrick, for whom the camp's dining hall was named. Kim Humphries, granddaughter of Hendrick and resident of Columbia, S.C., also attended.
Hamrick said she was Hendrick's friend and financial advisor. Hamrick worked as a waitress for 38 years at a Shelby barbecue restaurant, saving all her tips, so that at her death at age 81 in 2007 she was able to leave some $60,000 to NC Baptist Men.
She wanted to support NC Baptist Men because she had seen the volunteers respond to a 1994 tornado which struck the area, and also because she had been impressed with the Baptist volunteers she served at the restaurant. Hamrick, a member of Boiling Springs Baptist Church, said she affirmed the decision to support Baptist Men because she herself had eaten meals prepared by NC Baptist Men after the same tornado took the roof off her house and did other damage.
Rit Varriale, pastor of Elizabeth Baptist Church in Shelby, talked about the late Lee Scism, one of his church members who worked on the mission camp site preparation both as contractor and volunteer. The prayer garden was named for Scism, who died before seeing the mission camp completed. Varriale praised Scism's strong work ethic.
Keith Dixon, director of missions for Greater Cleveland Baptist Association, led in prayer. Dixon said he, the association's other staff members and area churches are all feeling quite positive about the mission camp's opening.
"We look forward to what the volunteers are going to do in Cleveland County and beyond in coming years," he said later.
The program included music by Teresa Edmonson, music director, and David Costner, pastor of Westwood Heights Baptist Church, Shelby; and Doreen Wacaster, music director for Flint Hill Baptist Church, Shelby.
To sign up for missions projects or get more information on the Shelby Mission Camp, contact Mary Mountz at the NC Baptist Men's office: [email protected], call (800) 395-5102, ext. 5606, or go to the NCBM website