Suwannee Democrat

February 21, 2013

Campers on Mission-More than just building churches

Joyce Marie Taylor
Suwannee Democrat

Mayo — On State Road 51 in Mayo, just a short distance south of the Hal Adams Bridge, there is a sight you can’t miss; a large tract of land in the midst of a beautiful pine tree forest where the future home of New Hope Baptist Church is under construction.

The contractor for the job is Karl Weiss Construction out of Perry and from the outside the building looks fairly completed. Step inside, however, and you will see there is a lot of work yet to be done. It started out as a metal building and then Campers on Mission arrived on Nov. 12 to begin construction of the church’s interior. Much of the framing and drywall has already been completed. Some of the construction, such as air conditioning, flooring and the fire alarm system is being subcontracted out.

Campers on Mission is a national fellowship of Christian campers who volunteer to share faith and love of Jesus Christ while participating in mission activities. Membership is free and open to Christians of all denominations. Their motto is “As We Go” and their emblem is a compass and the Christian symbol of the fish, spreading the Word in all directions.

“Being a camper on mission brought me to Mayo because my husband and I worked on so many churches in this area,” said Betsy Suber.

She and her husband Billy live in Mayo now and since 2006 they have been members of Campers on Mission. They used to live in Wildwood, Fla. but since they were gone more than six months out of the year working on projects in Mayo and the surrounding areas they decided it was foolish to pay taxes and insurance on their Wildwood home, so they sold it and built a small home in Mayo.

The mission campers, Suber said, consist of single people, married couples, retirees and entire families. The average age of the group members is 70, she said, and many of them agree that “a body in motion stays in motion,” which is why they like to stay so active in their retirement years. The group working on the church are from a variety of places in Florida, Georgia, Connecticut, Alabama and North Carolina.

Howard and Nellie Newberry are the project coordinators of the group and Suber had many positive things to say about both of them, especially Howard. She said she’d “work under him in a skinny minute.”

“He’s wonderful,” Suber said. “We don’t ever want to take a job away from one of the men, but we (the women) mud, we clean, we do a little bit of everything.”

Campers on Mission was first organized in 1971 through the cooperation of the Home Mission Board and Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Since 1977 they have been under the umbrella of the North American Mission Board.

Suber said there are groups in all 50 states, as well as Canada. The state of Florida is divided into nine regions and each region is presided over by a Wagon Master who serves as the organizer of the group. In April and October they hold statewide rallies and once a year they hold a national rally.

Camp members at these rallies can participate in classes on RV maintenance and construction tips. They also discuss future project possibilities.

Other projects the campers participate in, aside from building churches, are working fairs and festivals, youth camps and helping seafarers, doing whatever they can to assist while ministering the Word of God.

The Sweat Shop

The women campers affectionately call it the “sweat shop”. It is a small room inside Mayo Baptist Church where they have set up their sewing machines to work on different projects. Betsy Suber said Campers on Mission helped to build Mayo Baptist Church years ago.

“New Hope didn’t have an area for us to have a sewing room, and sewing in our campers makes it kind of tight,” Suber said. “Then we had to clean up when our husbands came back from work, so we set up an area at Mayo Baptist. We have cranked out over 461 items.”

Many of the women in the group really enjoy sewing and they have taken on numerous projects for nursing homes, hospitals and daycare centers, as well as the needy.

“They make hats, walker bags, lap robes, pillows or any need that is asked of them,” said Suber. “In one project they made shorts and jumpers for children in South America.”

They have also made bibs for a nursing home, reversible dresses and boys shorts that went to needy families in Haiti, as well as hair bows, walker bags and wheelchair bags.

“Then they designed and made these aprons that are for stroke victims,” said Suber. “The girls looked them up online, Marilyn (Webb) designed them, and then we all had a part in the sewing.”

These ladies may jokingly call it a “sweat shop”, but it is clear each one of them enjoys what they do.