Their Jumper Cables Reach Heaven
What if you could hang out with four people whose jumper cables reach heaven?
O.A. and Charlotte Fish answered the call to build a Christian Camp north of Bostic in 1974. Since 1998 Steve and Jennifer Collins have been on that same team.
Now faced with one of the biggest challenges of their careers, the camp will not be hosting campers this summer. But the ministry will go on.
Collins said live-stream videos of chapel services, games both indoor and outdoor and crafts will be offered for campers to do at home. Several people who would have been paid staff will be working with the online camp as volunteers.
The beat goes on, but it will be very different.
And finances are an immediate challenge. Donor funds are continuing to come in and can be given through the group's webpage at Southmountainchristiancamp.org or mailed to P.O. Box 9, Bostic, 28018. But the ministry faces an immediate shortfall due to campers getting refunds on their fees.
Although the camp gave camping families the option of holding over fees until next year or donating the fees, 90 percent have requested a refund.
"I don't blame people for that," Collins said. "Some of those people will be buying groceries during these trying times with that money."
Hopefully long-time and maybe some new donors will step forward to help during the shortfall.
Who are these people? What are they doing? Why does it matter?
What are the stories they tell of being certain they were doing God's will, offering the love of Jesus to children, many of whom come out of poverty and dysfunctional families?
For Jennifer the pivotal moment came pushing her daughter on a big wheel. As they walked along, a kid named Buddy, a big kid, started running along beside the daughter.
"He had such a joy on his face; and she had such joy on hers. It just meant so much to me." Jen, as she is known, came to camp with her husband in 1998, but spent the first few years attending to her young children. When the youngest went to kindergarten, she headed for the camp office as a volunteer and has been doing whatever was needed since.
She said about the experience, "We feel so blessed to be part of what God is doing here in this little spot on earth. What an exciting life to live! I've told my kids they grew up with the best backyard ever."
Charlotte Fish has been pivotal to the work her husband and Steve and Jennifer do along with their employees, volunteers and those they serve. Her most telling moment came when she was reading a Campus Crusade For Christ booklet to their daughter, Kim. "I was going through the steps to making a commitment to Christ; and she had to interrupt me three times before I finally got the message."
Kim didn't want to hear about making a commitment. She wanted to make a commitment; and she did after having to interrupt her mother to get the opportunity.
O.A., a former Eastern Airlines Pilot, said his most compelling story, although for him there are so many, was hearing the voice of God while reading his Bible at Luke 18:16, when Jesus says, "Let the little children come unto me."
"I had bought 87 acres of land for a retirement home. I got a real good deal on it. And I heard that voice say, 'You know that cheap land you bought? I've got plans for it.'" And that began a journey that has seen many events that can only be described as miracles touch the camp and the campers.
Steve tells so many stories of young people, many of whom are emotionally and even physically damaged, being brought to understand that the love of Jesus is the most powerful force in the universe.
"Tyrell may be the best example. I've never seen anything like it. We were about to send him home because his behavior was so bad for the safety of the other kids. But I talked with him and told him I loved him and Jesus loved him; and it was a complete, total, 180 turnaround. He didn't need more discipline. He needed to know he was loved. By the end of camp, he was leading a worship song. He had gone from being one of our worst behavior challenges to leading worship," Steve said with the amazement of the event echoing in his voice and facial expressions.
O.A. also bragged on Jonathan Thomas, a former camper and cabin leader, who is now working in the St. Louis area.
"He started out in Indianapolis, but moved to Ferguson when the trouble started there. He is doing ministry as are many of our former campers. Of the original 35 boys I camped with, five became pastors," O.A. said giving God all the credit for how things have worked at South Mountain.
He said a number of former campers are working in national and international ministries. "We're just a small camp, but we've touched the world."
What began as an 87-acre investment in some cheap land is now over 250 acres with many cabins, a cafeteria, a large swimming pool, where thousands of children have been baptized, housing for non camp activities during the off season, a frisbee golf course and more than three miles of hiking trails.
Both O.A. and Steve have published books about their miracle stories which can be obtained for free from the camp or at Washburn Store not far from the camp. O.A. estimates he has given away 40,000 copies of his Fingerprints Of God since 1991, while Steve's Footsteps of Faith is hot off the press and he's only been able to give away the first thousand copies so far. Both books tell story after story of miracles that have sustained the ministry for 46 years. Steve's book is particularly inspiring around the issues of convincing kids, many of whom are desperate for a jumper cable of love, that they are worthy of that love from the most powerful force in the universe.
For a free copy of either book, go to Southmountainchristiancamp.org or write to Box 9, Bostic, NC, 28018. That's also the way to send donations.