SPIRIT OF UNITY, SERVANTHOOD EVIDENT DURING MISSION TRIP
Editor's Note: Many people contributed to reconstruction at the Happy T Ranch in Rumney, NH, including Carpenter's Hands Ministry. To learn more about this work from another perspective, read Mobilizing for a Resurrection.
The Spirit of God is truly at work in New England in general, and we just experienced this work specifically in Rumney, NH. During the third week of June, God brought together 82 of His children from 8 states (North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, Nebraska, New York, Vermont and New Hampshire) for the seventh annual White Mountain Servants’ Camp, a week of rebuilding and repairing at the Rumney Bible Conference Center. This week always reminds me of Acts 2:42-47 as we gather daily to live in a community where all share everything and God gets the glory.
Starting on Father’s Day, parents and grandparents, children and grandchildren, all gathered together from across many miles and denominations for the sake of Kingdom work. Every day the men gathered at 6:00 a.m. for morning prayer and devotional time, followed by breakfast and working on the camp’s facilities. Projects included scraping and painting, installing new metal roofs, marking and mulching hiking trails, installing handicap ramps, renovating existing buildings, building a new dock at the lake, landscaping and more. We then had a hearty lunch followed by a devotion given by one of the mission team members before going back to work on projects until late afternoon. Following a delicious dinner, every day culminated in a worship service in the old tabernacle where so many saints have prayed and heard God’s Word for decades. Pastors that attended the week from around the country opened God’s Word and shared their hearts with us to challenge and encourage us to become more intentional servants of the Most High God. On Wednesday, work ended at noon so we could enjoy God’s beautiful creation. Some went to Maine for the seacoast and lobster while others stayed in the area and tubed down the Baker River, spent time at Stinson Lake or just relaxed in the beautiful setting God has provided for us.
Nestled in the beautiful White Mountains of New Hampshire, the Rumney Bible Conference Center is a God-inspired vision given to Joel Wright in 1897. God brought Joel and his family to the property in 1897, and the ministry quickly grew into First Fruit Harvesters. Buildings were erected and people gathered to hear God’s Word taught. In the 1930s, Francis and Edith Schaeffer served here, while in the 1940s and 50s, Billy Graham, Jack Wyrtzen, Vance Havner and many others spoke here. (Read more about the history at www.rumneybibleconference.org.)
The late 1990s and early 2000s were not favorable to the conference center, as much of the property needed to be repaired and brought up to current state codes. This caused great financial hardship on the camp, and it became difficult to maintain infrastructure as needed. By 2010 the needs were great, and the workers few. Camp attendance was down to well below 1000 for the 10 weeks of summer. At the time, I was pastor of a small church in Crownsville, Md., where the adults had never been on a mission trip. The youth would go and serve annually, then return and report with such excitement that finally the adults asked me to put together a mission trip. We raised $5000 in the spring of 2010, and 24 of us descended upon Rumney that summer. We cleaned cabins, recaptured the prayer chapel that was being used as a storage building, installed a drop ceiling, did some much-needed electrical upgrading in two buildings and stripped a damaged roof off the Snack Shack. All this was done to help prepare for the youth God was bringing that summer. We prayed hard over every cabin, and more than 50 youth made a decision for Christ that summer.
About that time, God called my wife and me to shepherd a small flock in Washington, Vt. Thinking the mission trip was a one-time event, we settled into our new environment and started building relationships with the folks in Washington and surrounding areas. When we started talking about what we had done in Rumney the previous summer, many folks told us they had gone there as children during the summer and had even accepted Jesus there. Their excitement about bringing their children to a place that had been so important to them, in addition to the phone calls we received the following January from folks in Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina, convinced us that God was not finished with this work.
Over the past seven years, God has used this week of true servanthood to rebuild more than a dozen cabins, erect a new cabin that sleeps 24, build a pavilion for campers to gather under during inclement weather, recapture a ropes course that was lost amid forest growth, upgrade electrical and plumbing, cover the camp with prayer through daily prayer walks and more. Last year more than 2000 campers came to enjoy the resurrected facility. Over 400 made a decision for Christ, and more campers (and prayerfully more decisions) are expected this summer. More than a dozen people who have attended Servants' Camp have been baptized during these weeks. Not only are buildings being constructed, repaired and restored, but God is rebuilding relationships and granting salvations as well!
This year Servants' Camp surpassed $100,000 in donations for material costs to help rebuild the camp. Everyone shares the cost, and we do not receive any huge donations. There is no overhead cost for the project, and all donations go directly for cost of material to be used during this week. The cost of the week is $150.00 per person, which includes accommodations in the lodge or a cabin, 16 meals and material cost. There is not another camp around where multiple generations can come and serve side-by-side for that cost. Several groups have returned year after year and continue to bring friends with them. With no brochure, website or other means of advertising, this has strictly been a word of mouth ministry.
We serve a miraculous God who continually opens His storehouses in heaven to flood us with blessings if we will choose to be obedient to His call upon our lives. Just to see the faces of the campers every year when they return to see what new things have been built for God’s use is worth it all. Even the parents are excited to see what is happening. If you have any questions about this ministry opportunity please contact Russ and Julie Rathier at firstname.lastname@example.org. One week a year makes such a difference to the Kingdom of God if it is in obedience to His calling.
Russ Rathier is pastor of Washington Baptist Church in Washington, Vt.