From the Advocate: Why I chose to volunteer at the Skye Farm Camp & Retreat Center
May 4, 2016 / By BJ Stewart
For the first 15 years of our marriage, I heard countless stories about the Skye Farm Camp & Retreat Center; my husband attended throughout his childhood and loved it. Then he had the opportunity to volunteer; he started out as a counselor and then transitioned to directing audio-visual – first photography and then branching to more AV, including computer use. Time marched on, until an Annual Conference session one year when I stood in line for lunch and Harold Shippey suggested that I should direct an EMS camp the following year. I thought he was joking until that fall, when he called to ask what week I wanted to do it.
My life was transformed.
Bringing teenagers together to learn how to tend to the ill and injured, to be in mission to those in need, it was more than I could have dreamed of. Harold also got me involved in doing relief in the health lodge on the nurse’s day off. I was able to be involved in all the things I loved – children of all ages, emergency care, and nursing – while spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ through my actions and words.
Time progressed, and the love for the young people and the staff caused us to spend all our free time volunteering. Bill was a counselor and worked in maintenance, working wherever he was needed.
We enjoyed watching the young ones become relaxed, becoming open in their conversation, being changed in their interaction with each other. Phrases like, “I don’t get hit for saying something wrong,” and, “People really do care about me here,” brought tears and joy.
Perhaps I can best sum up our feelings through the following words I shared at the end of camp 2015 – my last evening as a staff member at Skye Farm – ones that a new generation will hopefully build upon and make their own story, their own memories:
The words Paul spoke to the people of Philippi course through my mind, “Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart.” I would not have traded these years at Skye Farm for anything – except maybe a younger body and mind so I could spend more years here. The years have, of course, had their share of frustrations and disappointments, but all so greatly outweighed by those who walk with us, who show love and concern for not only our campers and their families, but also for those who work side by side with them, going the extra mile when a counselor, life guard, or kitchen worker is tired, sick, or just plain discouraged, people jumping into action without being asked to do anything, people who have heard and respond to God’s call to love one another, to lift one another, to consider the needs of another.
Through our summers, we have learned lessons and gained memories. May they go with you, may you bring new ways of loving and caring for others into a world so hurting to know the love of God. Be the hands, the feet, the eyes, the ears, the mouth of God, bringing peace and joy. And through it all, remember to pray for each other, to give thanks for the people in your lives, the ones who walk with you daily and the ones who have walked with you. And friends, you will always be in our prayers and thoughts. We love you! May each of you continue to be filled with love and care and compassion. Be blessed, be a blessing. And so, in closing this chapter as I travel down I-88 heading south, I say, “May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind always be at your back. May the sunshine warm upon your face, and rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.” Peace!