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Reflecting on Salkehatchie Summer Service

by Hillary Wagstaff

Hillary Wagstaff is from Durham NC and she has attended many Salkehatchie Camps over the past 5 years. In this article shares her experience during the 2006 Wateree Camp in Camden S.C. Hillary will be attending N.C. State this fall


Larry Hawkey asked me to write a little something about Salkehatchie, but honestly I'm not exactly sure where to start. First of all, there is nothing little about Salkehatchie. A few weeks ago I went to Camden, South Carolina for the fifth year and my seventh camp. Maybe that's why he asked me to write something, but I'm still not positive. Listening to the sermon today (July 9, 2006) I realized how much that related to Salkehatchie - "It's not about you." Salkehatchie isn't about any individual that comes to camp or any skill that they have; it's about those individuals doing God's work for his people.

On the Ramsey roof

We often lose sight of what we are truly there for sometimes because we get so caught up in the work that we don't open our eyes and see the Lord in the things we are doing and the people we are helping. This year, before the tour, I didn't feel right. Something had changed in me and honestly I can't even begin to tell you what because I'm not sure, but I know (I) didn't like it. As we went on the tour I debated about picking a house or just saying put me where you need me, but then we got to the fourth house, Mrs. Haggins. The very first thing she said was "this is your house this week, not mine. I'm giving it to you." After meeting her and just seeing her warm face and the rough conditions of her house, I knew I wanted to work on it. I had to or else I knew I wouldn't feel complete at the end of the week. I only made one mark on my paper and that was a one next to her house. I thought about it all day and talked to people, telling them how sweet she was and how much I wanted that house. I had never felt so drawn to a homeowner in all my life. I woke up Sunday morning and God must have heard me and I think he wanted me there too because I ended up working on her house that week.

"The very first thing she said was "(T)his is your house this week, not mine. I'm giving it to you." After meeting her and just seeing her warm face and the rough conditions of her house, I knew I wanted to work on it."

Hillary Wagstaff

Larry always makes fun of me because I say Salkehatchie is fun, but to me it is. Maybe a different kind of fun, but enjoyable nonetheless. Salkehatchie is a really hard thing to describe to anyone that has not experienced it for him or herself though, so fun just comes to mind for me because everyone can relate to the word fun. Although you go to the same church, same general area and usually know most of the same people, every camp is different. This year especially hit me hard. Usually on the first day on the site, Monday, everyone doesn't 'click' and bond right away, but my house was different; it was special. I truly believe we came together because of Mrs. Haggins and her love for us, and our love for her. She welcomed us not into her house as guests, but as her family. Even after day one, she told me how much she was going to miss us after we left at the end of the week. We made our own family that week at her little house down the dirt road.

Pounding a nail into the subfloor at the Grier home

She doesn't have much in a materialistic world, but she has more riches of God's love, hope and care than any person I've ever met. She hugged me at least twice everyday and cared more about our family and our safety than herself and her house. Her house was one of those that could easily use 6 weeks of work, or better yet, just complete demolition and start from scratch, but it was her home and had memories and joys in it, so we fixed it for her. I have honestly never imagined a house in such bad condition though. To top it off though, after the first day, we had taken down her whole front wall and just left it open assuming she would sleep at her daughter's house next door, but no, she slept there that night! She stayed in her house every night and showed us her support and her faith in us.

Often she would stay up at night and sweep or pick up trash so we wouldn't have to in the morning. I'm going to be honest with you this woman was not exactly young or outgoing. She was very shy, and one night we ordered food to eat there and share with her and we had to ask several times before she would even come outside. The day we left, her heart was just as torn as ours were. It was like separating a mother from her children because she became our mother that week and still feels like one today for me. She also had a beautiful grandson and caring daughter that came every day to see her. Just imagine how you would feel if your grandmother was living in a termite infested house with no insulation that fell off its foundation 10 years ago and hasn't had running water since. It broke my heart, but at the same time it made me faithfully stronger than I have felt in a really long time. Because of her I can say I've witnessed a miracle. Because of her I can say I have truly felt God's love wrap his arms not only around me but also my Salkehatchie family that week. And because of her I can agree with Jesse and say that it's not about me, or you, but about God's work for us and His love. By being concerned about God, we are concerned about others. Those that we've known all our lives, those that we have just met and those that we have yet to meet in the future. You may have all the riches in the world, but if you can't love another brother or sister in Christ after just your first encounter like she did with us, you have nothing at all. Love makes us who we are and who we belong to. Learn to love and you will find out what I mean when I say I have "fun" at Salkehatchie.