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Salkehatchie Summer Service
Huntersville Camp 2012
Notes from the Camp Director

Jerry Kita was born in Welland, Ontario, Canada and has lived in Huntersville, NC since July 1997 with his wife Mona and their three children, Ben, Nathan and Natalia. The Kita family are members of Huntersville United Methodist Church. In 2000 Jerry and Mona led a group of eight youth to a Salkehatchie Summer Service Camp in Camden, South Carolina. This year Jerry and Mona are running their 10th camp in Huntersville.


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Saturday July 21, 2012 - First day of Camp
Sunday July 22, 2012
Monday July 23, 2012
Tuesday July 24, 2012
Wednesday July 25, 2012
Thursday July 26, 2012
Friday July 27, 2012
Saturday July 28, 2012 - Last day of Camp

July 21, 2012 - 8:00am

It's pretty quiet here at the church. That will change in a few hours. Today's the first day of our 10th camp and we're ready to go. This scene has played out much the same as it has the past 9 years. I arrive very early, check out the facilities, go over my own preparations, print out a few things and then just quietly wait for the guests to arrive.

About this time campers from Durham NC, Beaufort SC, Charleston SC, Shelby NC and Columbia SC are packing up their cars, trucks and church vans and heading towards Huntersville NC. The "official" arrival time is 1:30pm but I know that a number of them will show up as early as 11:00am. Salkehatchie is like that. They are ready to go. And I'm ready to go.

Everything is ready to greet the campers

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July 21, 2012

It seemed that I spent most of Saturday catching up. At least that's the way it felt to me. When we fall off our schedule I tend to feel a bit out of synch.

By about 2:00pm everyone had arrived with the exception of two churches. I wasn't necessarily worried about them since they've been here in the past. However, as 3pm (start of orientation) approached I decided to make some calls. Both churches had experienced some delays and we're going to be about 30 minutes late. I made some quick calls to the homeowners to let them know we'd be late.

Once everyone had arrived we quickly went through our orientation and headed out for our tour of homes. It was mostly uneventful except that at the last stop the Beulah UMC bus decided to shutdown. Of course, we were at the furthest point from our home base. We found some jumper cables and within 30 minutes we were back on the road.

Despite the setbacks we were back to the church and were on time for dinner.

Entering the Harvell home

During the evening program I announced formally that this year's camp would be our last camp. After 10 years we will be closing up. Our decision was largely because the SC Conference of UMC would no longer support camps outside of South Carolina. Although we do have the option of continuing without the support of the conference we have decided that this would our last camp.

I showed a presentation that summarized the first nine years of our existence. It was great to see the pictures and seeing the youth we had known in the early days of our camp grow into young adults.

Perry Brittain and Karen Anzola provided the music and worship for the evening. They did a wonderful job. Perry also put together a presentation that described what had been accomplished at the camp over the past 9 years. It was clear that this was going to be an emotional week. It always is, but this week was going to be different.

Karen Anzola and Perry Brittain

At the adults meeting we got down to the business of placing the youths on their teams. The youths had had the opportunity to rate the homes in order of preference. We use that as a guide as we build the teams. As always, the adult meeting is fun. Most of these adults have attended the camp for years. It makes my job quite easy.

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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sunday has always been an easy day for the Camp Director during the week of Salkehatchie. The teams have been formed and posted and all camp activities are centered around the site teams.

The campers "sleep-in" on Sundays which is to say they don't have to get up until 7:30am. Breakfast is served at 8:00am and when 9:00am rolls around it is time for the teams to meet with their homeowner. The meeting is meant to be a short one but it can set the tone for the remainder of the week. The meeting usually opens with the site leader sharing a devotion with the team and the family. What follows is a discussion regarding the priorities for the week ahead. It is also the very first time that the homeowner will be meeting the team that will spend the next five days working on their home.

The team then heads back to church for the worship service at 10:30am. Since we're all wearing our camp T-shirts it's kinda cool to see us all sitting together in one part of the church.

For Sunday lunch this year, Ann Gibert, invite the church congregation to share a pot-luck lunch with the Salkehatchie Campers. I wasn't sure how it was going to turn out but it was a great success. Lots of great food with a lot of variety.

We all sat together in church on Sunday morning

After lunch on Sunday's we take our Camp Photo as well as the individual team photos. Over the past couple of years the teams have made a tradition of bringing some creativity into the process. Each team puts their own unique stamp on their photo. Check out Sunday's pictures in the 2012 Photo Gallery.

The campers decided to add a few twists to this year's event. In honor of our 10th camp they formed the word "TEN" on the driveway. It actually turned out rather well.

In the afternoon, Allison Cook, lead everyone in some team building games. She's done a great job of this the past three years. I was in my office doing a few things while the team building took place. The laughing and shouting that I could hear suggested that everyone was having a good time.

After the team building we went bowling. Most of the campers bowled while others just relaxed. Based on what I saw I'm happy that we are here to participate in a mission camp rather than a bowling tournament.

After dinner we had our evening program which included our commissioning service. I opened the program by introducing four guests for the evening. They were Billy & Vicki Rintz, Vance Lowe and Tresca McSwain. Over the course of our 10 years of operation we've been blessed to have four individuals play the role of spiritual leader during the camp. They were Billy, Vance, Tresca and presently Mike Goode. It was appropriate to have them present at our 10th and final Commissioning Service.

Perry Brittain and Karen Anzola once again lead us in song and did another wonderful job.

Mike Goode delivered the message and introduced the theme of fire. It was followed by our commissioning service. The commissioning service has always been my opportunity to address each of the campers individually and present them with a necklace. This year's necklace was the UMC fire and cross. The commissioning has always been an emotional experience but this one was especially so. There are many people who have been part of this camp for so many years. We've been down this road together so many times. The realization that this was the final time in Huntersville made the event that much more emotional. Mona could barely get through it.

We're all looking forward to an awesome week.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Everyone was excited this morning. It's Monday morning at Salkehatchie there's a lot of energy. It always seems so familiar. A couple of the youth take water coolers out to their vans. The site leaders are making sure they know where their people are and there's a lot of laughing. Always a lot of laughing. They are ready to go.

It's the last Monday ever for this camp but I'm really not thinking about that. Just hoping that all the planning comes together. If anything is going to fall off the rails I'll find out about it on Monday morning.

The teams head out and it's suddenly quiet in the church. The kitchen staff is cleaning up. Other than that it's quiet. It's only about 6:50am. Not much to do except hang out for a few hours.

This year we are fortunate to have Jonathan Kittrell with us. Jonathan is 17 years old and a budding film maker. He's volunteered to make videos for the camp as well as produce them. You can see his work in the Video Gallery. We are very glad to have him. He's doing a great job. I'm just hoping he gets enough sleep since he's up late producing his videos.

For me the morning was quiet. I called "A Sani-Can" at 8:00am to make sure the porto-potties were being delivered .... and they were. Beth, like she always does called me at 9:00am to ask about the whereabouts of the porto-potties and I was able to tell her they were on the way!

In the morning I was able to visit the Bost, Harvell and McKeithan homes. Because the homes are more spread-out than they have been in the past it's difficult to get to all the homes in a 1/2 day.

The team has made a lot of progress on the roof in a very short time

Lunch was at the church. The teams seemed excited when they got back. A lot of the first timers were both excited and overwhelmed. The teams don't waste time tearing stuff out.

I was able to see all the sites in the afternoon. For me it was an uneventful day. Not much to do except take pictures and drive Jonathan around. My phone hardly rang at all. That is always a good sign. Frank's only concern at the McKeithan site was that there was a construction crew on his street. This was the day the city had scheduled to pave the street. Lots of dust and noise but otherwise no disruptions.

During the Monday evening program the awesome Alec Landry lead us in music and Mike continued the theme of Fire for the camp.

For the adult meeting the adults decided we'd meed in my office rather than our regular meeting room. They decided it was better to sit on the comfy couches than on the hard chairs. It worked for me.

Alec Landry

A good first day. The site leaders are very positive about they accomplished today. From what I was able to see the teams are doing great.

The adults hung out in my office till it was time for lights out. I've known most of the folks for a lot of years. We had a few newcomers among us ... William & Robin Thompson, Norm Jones, Keith Walker and Erin Dabbs. Erin has been around the camp for five years but this is the first time that she's been part of the adult team. There was a lot of laughing going on as we traded various Salkehatchie and construction related stories. I'll miss these impromptu meetings.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tuesday started out as a normal day. Up at 5:30am, printing off messages, having breakfast then settling into my desk to publish pictures from the previous day.

At 8:00am I received a call from Mona saying that Jonathan, our video guy was sick, and needed to get back to the church. He was extremely nauseous. I rode out to Mona's site, the Henderson home, and picked up Jonathan. He wasn't looking very good. After we spoke I learned that some of the youth were fooling around with one of those compressed air containers that are used to clean electronic equipment. Someone had accidently hit Jonathan in the face around his mouth. I looked at the container and it said ... "If ingested seek immediate medical attention". To make a long story short Jonathan was fine and his symptoms were unrelated to the compressed air container. But we learned that only after a trip to a local Urgent Care that in turn directed us to a hospital Emergency Room.

By noon, Jonathan was back at the church and ready to head out to the sites. As a result I wasn't able to check on the progress of any of the homes.

Ethan and Corey pulling out the bathroom

In the afternoon I was able to visit all the homes. All the sites continued to make great progress.

In the evening we went to the local community pool in our housing development. After two days of high humidity and high temperatures it was a welcome relief.

It's on to Wednesday ... always the toughest day of the week.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I have this thing about Wednesdays during the camp. Back in 2003 when we held our first camp Wednesday was the day that everything went off the rails. Between some building issues and personnel issues it was a very tough day. I was thankful for the presence of people like Billy Rintz and Richard Hagins who helped get me through the day.

Ever since I've always been rather wary of Wednesday.

Today, the weather report didn't look good. In fact, it seemed there would be some big storms coming through in the morning. We still had three roofs that were vulnerable. Although the teams had secured the roofs for the previous evening there's not much defence against a violent storm. The teams left the church somewhat apprehensive.

The weather report does not look good for Huntersville

The Bost team left the church about 45 minutes ahead of everyone else. Because of the intense heat during the afternoons the Bost team decided they would leave the church early every morning and call it a day about 4pm. It would prove to be a good strategy.

Weatherwise, we seemed to dodge a bullet. Although there were some violent storms in the area they avoided both the Bost and Henderson homes. Some light rain fell but the teams (and especially their roofs) weren't disrupted.

Despite the worries that come with Wednesdays it was mostly a routine day. The teams continued to make good progress on their projects. Usually by Wednesday, a clear picture emerges regarding which homes will be completed and which ones might need work after the week is over. At this point it looked like everyone was finish up on time. If that were to be the case then it would be the first time in 10 years where we didn't have a significant project to complete.

The early morning rain turned out to be a mixed blessing. The temperatures in the early part of the day were in the 70's which gave the teams a boost. However, as the clouds cleared the afternoon continued to get very hot and now very humid. By the end of the day the conditions were brutal.

There were a couple of injuries to report during the day. Taylor Jones had a minor puncture wound and Carl Duncan confused his index finger with a nail. It didn't look pretty

The roofing crew at the Bost home

I had my own misadaventure in the afternoon when visiting the Bost home. Because the driveway was filled with cars I parked on the front lawn. When I was ready to leave I opened the car door and then stepped into a nest of fire ants. Fire ants really hate it when you step and them. Since I was wearing sandals they quickly covered my left foot and started stinging. I brushed them off as quickly as possible. After a brief initial stinging the pain mostly subsided. It was irritating but it didn't seem to be that bad.

At the start of the evening program there was a surprise appearance by enigmatic Myron Yankovic. We had first met Myron during the 2005 camp when we were at Uncle Phil's Diner. We didn't know much about him but he played a mean accordion. He'd made a few appearances at subsequent camps but we really hadn't seen him since 2007. We last saw at that time heading out of town in his El Camino. Where he'd been since then no one really new. There were occasional reports of him playing in a seaside bar in Barbados they were never really substantiated.

When Myron heard that we were hosting our final camp he asked to make one final appearance. We were glad to have him. He was a little older and perhaps his fingers had slowed down a bit but it was still Myron. The campers who were here in the early days were glad to see him. It was a great way to start the evening.

After several years absence Myron Yankovic made one final appearance.

As he had on Monday evening, Alec Landry lead us in song. He was awesome. Despite the fatigue that was beginning to set in he was able to get everyone up and singing.

Sometimes the best things are unplanned. Earlier in the week Frank Greene had shared with Pastor Mike Goode a story about his experience as a voluntary fire fighter and its impact on him. He related it to the story of Betty Patterson. We had planned to work on Betty's home this camp but on May 16th Betty's house burnt down. Mona, Frank, Ann Gibert and I have spun up another project which is being chronicled in a blog called Building Betty a House. Frank told a story of renewal and hope.

Following Frank, Cody Shores had an opportunity to speak. Anyone who has attended this camp or has followed this website over the years knows Cody. Cody attended our first camp in 2003 as a 14 year old. In 2004 he was joined by his brother Kyle. Cody and Kyle would attend our camps every year for the next 7 years. About three years ago I made Cody a site leader. Throughout the years he has exhibited a very competent and quiet leadership that was admired by others.

Due to his work schedule Cody wasn't able to commit to our camp. However, he did call me a few weeks ago and asked if he could attend on Tuesday & Wednesday. Of course, we were glad to have him. He also asked if he could address the camp one evening. Cody had faced a number of personal struggles over the past few years and has been on the road to recovery. He talked very openly about his continuing struggles and how his faith carrying him though it. It was one of the best moments we've experienced during our camp.

Alec closed the evening with a powerful song. Meredith Walker, who has attended our camp every year since 2004, performed an impromptu liturgical dance during Alec's closing song. It only added to what had been a powerful evening.

I had woken up this morning dreading Wednesday. It was a phenomenal day.

Late in the evening Dr Carlos Anzola dropped by the church. Carlos and his wife Karen are personal friends. Carlos had agreed to be our camp doctor and would make house calls in the evening to check on any scrapes or bruises. He took a look a Carl's finger, the one he mistook for a nail and helped Carl drain the blood under the fingernail. It wasn't any fun for Carl but the rest of us observers found it amusing. Carl did concede that the finger felt better but the experience wasn't any fun.

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Not a fun day.

The day unfortunately began shortly after midnight. One of the youth had begun throwing up during the previous evening. We weren't sure what was the cause but the same youth got up shortly after midnight complaining of shivering. After some questioning we realized that she hadn't been drinking much water during the previous three days. That was all I needed to hear and we were off to the hospital. The effects of dehydration accumulate over time and if you are not drinking enough fluids you might feel fine for a few days but it will eventually catch up with you. And that's what was happening.

After being checked out in the hospital and given some fluids we went back to the church. It was about 3:30am.

I slept in. My phone had completely lost its charge while I was at the hospital and though I recharged it during the evening I had not turned it back on. At about 6:30am I was awakened by the noise in the hallway. I'm usually one of the first up during the camp. Not this time.

I felt I needed to catch up on my sleep so I stayed around the church and slept until about 9:00am. I fell behind in my pictures and decided that the only way to catch up was to take fewer pictures during the rest of the week. I also decided not to provide website updates for each of the individual homes. Between the pictures and videos I think everyone was able to keep track of what was going on.

The Camp Director stepped into a nest of fire ants. His foot is not doing well. It would get worse as the day wore on.

Over the past 12 hours my foot had begun to react badly to the fire ant bites. I hadn't really noticed it aside from some itching. However it was now both swelling and blistering. About 9:30am Meredith Walker and Baker Ratliff came by the church to pick up some things. When Baker saw my foot he suggested, strongly, that I seek medical attention. A trip to Urgent Care confirmed what I was already learning ... I don't react well to fire ant bites. I've lived in the south for about 16 years. I've seen plenty of fire ant nests but had never had the misfortune to step in one. The doctor prescribed some steroids to combat the swelling & blistering as well as something to combat what seemed like an infection.

I hadn't been out to any of the homes in the morning. I made a visit to Lowes about 11:30am to check out our account and then headed towards Meadowlake Presbyterian for lunch. Thursday lunch was scheduled for 1:00pm. At 12:45pm I received a call from Sharon Hilliard. She's on Mona's team at the Henderson site. Sharon's message was short and crisp .... "Ethan has fainted while on a ladder and we've called 911". Ethan would ultimately be OK but there were a few scary moments. Ethan had climbed on a step ladder at a corner of the house where no one else was working. He passed out and fell into some bushes. As the team was loading up the van they noticed that Ethan was missing. While searching the property Ethan was found unconscious in the bushes. When the ambulance arrived Ethan had been revived and was able to walk 200 feet under his own power to the vehicle. When I arrived about 5 minutes later he was back to old self with a lot of scratches on his left side. The paramedics declared him OK but to get a clean bill of health we needed to take him to a hospital. Norm Jones, his youth leader, and I took Ethan to the ER after lunch. They released him about 4:00pm declaring him fit go back to the site. We got him there about 4:30pm.

I had spent far too many hours at Urgent Care and the ER on this day. There wouldn't be a lot of pictures taken this day.

Ethan has had a long day

On Thursday evenings we don't have a formal program planned. This gives the teams an opportunity to work late if they choose and since Thursdays can be chaotic we feel it's better to give the teams an open evening. I connected with the site leaders to get a handle on where they were with their budgets and projects. So far so good. Everyone was saying that they would finish on time. The only issue was going to be that the cabinets for the Bost and Harvell kitchens would not be complete. The boxes would be done and would be ready for installation but doors and drawers might need to be done after the camp.

The campers decided to have an impromptu talent contest in the evening. It was fun with the highlight being an awesome 3 point shot made by Joshua.

Despite the medication my foot was getting a lot worse before it got better. It was very swollen and covered with blisters. Baker had all the youth come over and see it. They were simultaneously amused and grossed out. Mona was returning to the church after running an errand. About eight youths greeted her at the door and told her, "You have to go see Jerry's foot!". Yes, it was gross. It was also a good time to put in a call to Dr Carlos. Carlos brought some Benydrl cream and pills to go along with the medication I was already taken. By this time, I was surrounded by other campers who thought that watching blisters being drained would be great fun. Any excuse for a party I guess.

This had been a long day. Too much time spent dealing with medical issues. However, everyone is fine and healthy and we look forward to a big Friday.

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Friday, July 27, 2012

I have caught up on my sleep. I called it a night about 11:30pm and was able to sleep to about 5:30am. I am feeling a whole lot better.

The teams seemed quiet at breakfast and on the way to the job sites. That's not good or bad but I did notice it. The Bost team was out about 45 minutes before anyone else as had been their practice all week. All the teams seemed to be ready to finish up today.

On Fridays I try to complete my rounds before lunch. After lunch I generally stay away from the sites. The site leaders have enough things to do without the Camp Director hanging around. Everyone is trying to get done on time. They really don't need me around.

As my made my rounds on Friday morning it was apparent that everyone was going to get done. The teams have done a wonderful job.

Lunch was provided for the 10th year in row by the good people at New Friendship Presbyterian Church. Always the best lunch of the week.

Lunch on Friday was at New Friendship Presbyterian Church. New Friendship is a small African-American congregation in the middle of Huntersville. At our first camp in 2003 we worked on the homes of two of their congregation members. Partly because of this they provided our campers with a lunch during that first camp. New Friendship has gone on to provide with a lunch every year since then. It is without question the lunch that the campers look most forward to. The fried chicken, mac & cheese and green beans are awesome and we are treated like family. I doubt that anyone in camp can actually name any of the churches that provide us with lunch. They are all appreciated to be sure but it's only New Friendship that they can really remember. It is always one of the highlights of the week.

After lunch I took Jonathan back to the church where he could start on the closing video.

I didn't do too much except prepare for the evening program and stay close to my phone. Teams started coming back to the church about 3:00pm. All teams were back by 4:30pm. When everyone was showered we started the final tour.

The weather was threatening. While waiting for everyone to get out of the showers Mona and I would occasionally poke our heads outside and check out the sky. There was some thunder in the distance and it was difficult to pinpoint which way the storm was headed. We could see rain in the distance. I don't recall ever doing a final tour in the rain. Hopefully, we'd be OK.

On the tour, the homes looked spectacular. The teams had done a great job. Outside of some cabinet work that would need to be completed all the projects were complete. It was a great way to finish out the work week. As for the rain, it seemed to follow us but it never caught us. While we were at the McKeithan house, the furthest point from the church, the weather was fine. It was pouring however at the church.

The team describes what they have done during the week

We went back to the church for a chili dinner, all feeling very good about the week. We had survived some brutal temperatures despite some scary moments.

The communion and symbol service followed in the evening. Perry Brittain was back to lead us in song. He had been part of just about every camp. It was great that he could be us again. The Friday evening service can be emotional at times. For those who've been with us many years it was especially so. We'd been through a lot together.

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Saturday, July 28, 2012 - It's a Wrap!

On Friday nights we relax the curfew. The youth have worked hard all week, have renewed some friendships and made some new friends. We let them stay up late as long as they don't prevent those who would like to sleep from sleeping.

Most years I would be up through most of the night preparing a closing Powerpoint presentation. This year, however, Jonathan would create a video. That gave me time to work on my closing remarks for Saturday morning.

Every year a few of the youth vow to stay up all night. Most of the times they crash about 3am. This year there were a persistent few who were still up when I called it a night at 5:00am. One of them was Jonathan who was waiting for his finished presentation to compile. It finally completed its processing about 6:30am.

I woke up about 7:00am and got the Youth Lounge ready for the 9am presentation. About 8:30am I was rewiring the A/V system so that we could play the video from Jonathan's laptop. Add that to the list of things I don't do well on two hours sleep. About 8:50am I got it working.

I had spent most of the night writing down my closing comments. Writing it down helped me organize my thoughts since I knew my brain wouldn't be functioning very well in the morning.

Closing Comments - Saturday July 28, 2012

In 2006 Mona and I were preparing for our 4th Salkehatchie Camp. Starting in January of each year registration is open for Salkehatchie. The Conference office in South Carolina has a website whereby camp directors can check on who has registered for their camps. So I would, every few weeks or so, check on who was coming to camp. I would check out the list and see who was coming … it was kinda fun … you would go down the list and say “Great, so-and-so is coming back” … You would also look for the names of people you didn’t know.

In that year, McMannen United Methodist Church in Durham was sending 14 youth to our camp. Included in that list were three girls who would be attending the camp for the first time. Their names were Elizabeth Hilliard, Lauren Carlton and Nicole Sager.

Elizabeth and Lauren have attended every camp since 2006 and for the last two years have been part of the adult leadership team. Between them they have done all the jobs that can be done at Salkehatchie.

Let me tell you about the third girl … Nicole Sager. During her first camp in 2006 Nicole worked on the Hicks home and learned a lot about roofing and tearing out bathrooms. She attended our 2007 camp and was on the Mobley home. Mona was her site leader. Other members of that adult team included Cody Shores and Neal Carlton. She did a number of things but the pictures I remember the most were of Nicole tearing out the bathroom.

In some ways Nicole was like the other youth who attended our camp. She may have been invited by a friend, she may have wanted to do mission work or perhaps she’d heard stories told by other members of her youth group. But, like others, she found something in the hot difficult work that was meaningful to her.

But she was also a unique child of God. When she wasn’t hanging around Elizabeth or Lauren she was making friends with many different people in the camp. She was always smiling and she had a beautiful smile that could light up a room.

Not surprisingly Nicole was registered again to attend our camp in 2008. However, on April 27th that year, two days after her 17th birthday, Nicole was driving home from a youth group meeting. On a wet road Nicole was coming around a curve and loss control of her vehicle. She went off the road, struck a tree and was killed instantly.

Since that time we have, every year, recognized the camper who best exemplifies Christ through service in this mission. This was never meant to be a contest but really just an opportunity for the members of this camp to identify those individuals who have had a special impact on them.

Last evening Pastor Mike asked you to write down the name of person in who you saw Jesus Christ during this week. This year, you have chosen to recognize Frank Greene for his contribution to this camp.

Whether this has been your first camp or your 10th God has used this opportunity as a way to prepare you. For what? I have no idea and neither do you. I’ll try to describe what I mean by that.

When Mona and I were first married we lived in Toronto. At that time Toronto was going through a housing boom. We decided that we could become real-estate millionaires by buying and selling homes. What that forced us to do was become do-it-yourself renovators. We taught ourselves framing, wiring, plumbing, dry-walling and all the other skills necessary to renovate our own home. We figured that there wasn’t anything that we could screw up so badly that a professional couldn’t fix it. And we learned.

A couple of years ago I mentioned to Mona that at times I couldn’t believe that we went through all that. We had two small children, rather busy lives and we were trying to renovate the home we were living in. It was all very disruptive. Mona responded by saying that if we hadn’t done that we’d never have done Salkehatchie. She was right. We were being prepared, but not to be real-estate millionaires.

Our home renovating experiences gave us the confidence to take 8 HUMC youth to a Salkehatchie Camp in Camden SC. That was in 2000. In 2001 the Camp Director in Camden, Richard Hagins suggested that we run a camp in Huntersville. It was to be the first camp ever outside of the State of South Carolina. We had been prepared.

When Mona and I first started planning for this camp we wanted to create an experience whereby campers would come back year after year. I think we’ve been successful. 249 different people have registered for the camp. There are 30 people (including Mona and myself) who have attended 5 or more camps. There are 68 people (including Mona and myself) who have attended 3 or more camps. Many of you brought your family members. It tells us we were doing something right.

When you see the same folks year after year they become family. In 2004, our second camp we were primarily supported by four churches, McMannen in Durham, Lafayette Street in Shelby, First UMC China Grove and St Andrews Parish, SC. We will be forever grateful to those churches for entrusting us with their youth in those first couple of years. Add to that mix Baker, John Ballentine and Robert Motley and you had a family.

As for other stats …. Over the 10 years we’ve worked with 46 homeowners in Charlotte, Huntersville, Cornelius and Davidson. Our overall spend was about $180,000. Being a Camp Director I see on a yearly basis what other camps finances look like. Our camp consistently spends a greater percentage of its dollars towards homeowners …. Something like 95%. We also consistent have the highest expense/homeowner.

As for Mona and I it’s been a blessing. Not only was it a way to serve … it was a way to serve together doing something we loved. Then again, we had been prepared.

What I’ve learned is that people have a great capacity to give of themselves and give willingly when presented with an opportunity to do so. We were happy to provide the opportunity.

There are people in this room I count as my very best friends. Met them all through Salkehatchie. I told the adults last night that one of my favorite parts of this week is on the first Saturday when I see friends who I may not have seen in quite sometime roll up in the parking lot.

So now what? Earlier this week Frank Greene shared with you the story of Betty Patterson. Betty was going to be one of our homeowners this year. But on May 16 her house burned down. What Frank pointed out is that she didn’t lose her soul, her faith or her family. Sure she lost material possessions but she had the things that were most important.

This camp is coming to a close. But this camp is a physical thing. You won’t lose your memories or what you learned. The things you’ve learned, including the things you learned about yourself will be taken with you. Your friendships from camp will remain intact. You can take the experiences from here and use them elsewhere. Like Betty Patterson you are keeping the most important parts. You just have to keep that fire burning. You’ve been prepared.

We’ve been through a lot together. We’ve worshipped together, we’ve laughed together, we’ve cried, we’ve witnessed our share of miracles and we’ve mourned the loss of a friend. We’ve been on roofs and under houses and everywhere in between. And through it all we’ve managed to bring out the very best in each other.

God has been good to us. About 10 years ago he lit a fire and we’ve all shared in the responsibility to keep it burning. And as we leave this place today you can keep it burning …. Because you’ve been prepared.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

End of Closing Comments

My closing comments were followed by Jonathan's video. It was great. You can view it here.

We expected that the closing might be emotional. I managed to get through my part of the closing without too much difficulty. However, what happened next was something I wasn't prepared for. As the video finished Tresca McSwain, who dropped by for the final presentation, announced that there were a few folks that wanted to join us. With that 35-40 people came into the room ... all of them folks who had attended our camp during the past 10 years. There were a number who I hadn't seen in 4 or 5 years. It was great to see so many old friends. Many of them had driven more than 3 hours to be there this morning. It was a great gift for Mona and me.

Mona and I were presented with a picture featuring all the camp photos for the previous nine years, a book of letters from campers past and present and a wall hanging created by Tammy Duncan. It was all a bit overwhelming but we loved it.

After 10 years it was a great way to end it all.

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