TBE Week Four

This was our last week at Texas Baptist Encampment.  The guys finished digging trenches, laying conduit and mounting outdoor light fixtures.  Then they moved on to installing several switched outlets in the Tabernacle.  Some of the men installed dehumidifiers in several dorm buildings and continued replacing lights with LEDs.  They fixed a few toilets and did several other minor repair jobs

The women applied sealer to more outdoor benches.  They also cleaned out a dorm building that had been used as a woodshop during the winter and was filled with sawdust.  A little touch up painting was done, corner guards were installed in Thibodeaux, and the storage room and behind the stage in the Tabernacle were emptied out and swept.  They removed duct tape and its sticky residue from the stage floor and from electrical cords, organized the paint room shelves and sorted the old light bulbs and ballasts that the guys had replaced.

We had a last social gathering Wednesday night.  We played two games of Molkky.  After a lot of back and forth scoring, the guys won that game.  During the second game nobody was doing well and we finally decided that the first person to hit any peg was the winner!  The evening ended with a trip to the Dairy Queen drive through.  Since indoor seating was closed due to the coronavirus, we had a tailgate ice cream party!

After our last morning of work Thursday, we were treated to a delicious seafood dinner in the dining hall prepared by the camp director and his staff of four young men.  We got packed up and ready to go in the afternoon, filled up the truck with gas, checked for bread at the grocery store, met with the camp director and did our paperwork for headquarters.  We had a final ‘circle-up’ with our team for prayer and good-byes after supper.  Once again, we will miss this crew and hope to work with them again somewhere down the road.  We left early in the morning Friday and drove 12 hours, 600 miles and half-way home.  Since most campgrounds are closed due to covid-19, we stayed overnight in a Walmart parking lot in Kingfisher, Oklahoma.  We were awake early in the morning on Saturday so got on the road before 3:30 a.m.  Another 600 miles brought us home.  It is great to be home even if we have to self-quarantine for two weeks!  God is good!

TBE Week Three

Our work from last week continued.  The women painted a second coat in the two Thibodeaux bathrooms.  Their next project was to put two coats of polyurethane on the boards that had been stained, sanding between the coats.  We loved working with a view of the bay and watching the pelicans fly by.  The dolphins, however, remained elusive.  The women also wire brushed two large circular benches and put a sealer on them.

The men completed the hydration hut roof and continued to work on installing new LED  lighting.  New push and pull plates were installed in the dining hall to replace doorknobs.  The men needed to dig trenches and lay conduit to bring electricity to each new light pole.  They even wired and hung a light on a palm tree!  Benches were constructed using the boards prepared by the women.

Our social Tuesday night fell on St. Patrick’s Day, so a green potluck supper was planned.  It was also a celebration of the anniversaries of Tim & Donna and Guy & Jeanenne.  Delicious food and fine fellowship were enjoyed by all.

Bible study Wednesday night was led by Brittney, a staff member here at camp.  Released from prison just one year ago, she told her story and how God used the tragic events in her life to bring her close to Jesus.

Our tour options on Friday were quite limited due to COVID-19 closures.  We began with a take-out lunch from The Point.  We had to say ‘good-bye’ to one of our couples who felt they should go home now because of COVID-19.  Michael and Gracie will be missed!  The Matagorda beach was going to be closed beginning Monday, so that’s where the rest of us went.  The guys played a free round of mini-golf with Tim’s putter and golf balls since the visitor’s center was closed.  We all enjoyed a walk on the boardwalk and beach observing dive-bombing pelicans, numerous blue jellyfish and a group of teens out of school surfboarding.  This beautiful day ended with a stop at Dairy Queen where we enjoyed their last day of indoor dining, and a stop at Walmart in Bay City.

Again, our personal exploring options on Saturday were quite limited, so we just hung around camp relaxing and catching up on chores.  Jeanenne suggested a potluck soup supper and games, and we enjoyed the fellowship.  Today, with churches closed, we were grateful for the live streaming of our home church services.  It was also a nice day for a walk on the seawall.  We have one more week of work here and the Lord willing, we will begin our journey home on Friday.

TBE Week Two

The women began the week painting in the Thibodeaux conference building.  They gave a second coat to the lower walls below the chair rails.  Next they moved on to the bathrooms, painting them ‘tantalizing teal’.  A second coat would have to wait until next week as a group of campers will be using the building the rest of this week.  Their next jobs were in the dining hall.  They organized the food pantry and cleaned the outside wall of the walk-in freezer and refrigerator and mopped the floors inside the walk-ins.  The next job was to help the Campers On Mission women stain nearly 100 boards to be used for building benches.

The guys installed the new lights on the outdoor poles that were stripped last week.  Now they are installing lights around the soccer field.  They covered the hydration hut with metal roofing.

For our social on Tuesday night we played two games of Molkky.  The first game was played individually with Sandie being the grand champ.  The second game was men verses women.  That was a fun contest with the scores going up and down several times.  We had to finish the game with flashlights, but the men emerged victorious.  We ended the night with a campfire and puffed wheat Canadian treats.  Yen Tran came to our Bible study Wednesday night.  She told her life story of how she and her family escaped from Vietnam as it was being overrun by Communists in 1975 when she was 12 years old.  She fled in a small boat, to a ship, to a refugee camp in Guam, to Florida, Iowa and eventually Palacios.  Here she and her husband run The Point, a convenience store and restaurant serving Vietnamese and Mexican food.  It was an interesting and inspiring story.

Our tour destination on Friday was the Varner-Hogg Plantation State Historic Site in West Columbia.  The home and grounds tell the intriguing story of three owners:  colonist Martin Varner who was a land grantee of Stephen F. Austin, sugarcane mogul Columbus Patton, and Texas Governor James S. Hogg.  The plantation hosted sugarcane production, rum distilling and oil drilling as it transitioned through these families.  Originally the plantation encased 4,428 acres.  Mexican General Santa Anna was held prisoner on the plantation for a short period following the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836.  During the ownership of Patton, over 100 slaves lived on the plantation.  They hand-made the bricks used to construct the house, smokehouse, sugar mill and their own quarters.  In 1849, the plantation produced 275,000 pounds of sugar and 22,000 gallons of molasses. Following the Civil War, black convicts were used as free labor but treated cruelly.   Oil was discovered on the land during the ownership of the Hogg children, making them very wealthy.  After exploring the Visitor’s Center, we toured the plantation house, walked the grounds to view the ruins of the sugar mill, the barn, Miss Ima Hogg’s cottage and Governor Hogg’s outdoor bathtub which is a rectangular brick lined hole fed by an artesian well.  A tasty lunch was enjoyed at Elmo’s Grill in West Columbia.


Saturday was a relaxing day for the two of us.  We took a trip to the Matagorda Nature Park.  There we checked out the Nature Center displays, walked the boardwalk and beach along the Gulf Coast and had a picnic lunch.  A stop at Dairy Queen on the way home topped off the day.  Due to the coronavirus panic, church was cancelled today.  We worshiped with our home church via live stream and spent the day relaxing.

TBE Week One

We got off to a good start this week.  The women cleaned and disinfected two deep freezers, a refrigerator and an ice machine Monday morning.   A toothbrush and a plastic fork were just the tools we needed to get in all the grooves and corners.  Beginning with Monday supper and continuing through the week with three meals a day, the women helped serve a group of 300 ACE homeschoolers here for a week at camp.  Of course, the team got to enjoy eating the meals as well.

The men began Monday by helping move two new large and heavy Boom Ball games.  Then they moved on to greater heights.  They worked on roofing a new hydration hut and replacing fluorescent bulbs with LEDs in the dining hall ceiling.   Two guys worked on outside lighting.  They took out all the overhead power lines and light fixtures, stripping the light poles.  Then they ran conduit up three of the poles for new LED lights.

Since there were no empty rooms available due to the camp going on this week, our first social was a campfire by our RVs.  We played “Name that Tune” for a bit and just enjoyed fellowship time together.  Wednesday night we had Bible study led by Rob Kessler, the camp director.  He showed a video about mission work in a third world village and told about some of the mission trips he had been on.  He also encouraged us by reminding us that kids come to Christ at camp because of what we do here.  What better reason could we have for doing what we do!


Our tour on Friday was a local tour.  We started at The City By the Sea Museum in Palacois.  There we learned all about the La Belle, a small French ship that was part of an expedition led by Sieur de La Salle.  Attempting to establish a colony at the mouth of the Mississippi, La Salle mistakenly landed at Matagorda Bay.  There the La Belle sank in 1686. It remained undisturbed for over 300 years until its discovery in 1995.  The  excavation headquarters was in Palacios.  La Belle has been one of the most important wrecks in the western hemisphere.  Besides being one of the oldest wrecks ever found and belonging to such a noteworthy explorer, the mud of the bay preserved many materials that normally would have decayed (including brain matter inside a skeleton’s skull).  Over a million artifacts were discovered.  Our next stop was the harbor at Palacios.  There we saw La Petite Belle, a fully functioning half-scale replica of the La Belle.  Also located at the harbor is the Fishermen’s Memorial.  Palacios is called ‘The Shrimp Capital of Texas’, so it was also interesting to see the dozens of shrimp boats in the harbor.  Our tour was topped off with lunch at The Point, a local Vietnamese and Mexican restaurant – and a late afternoon run to Dairy Queen to make it official!

Our own exploration on Saturday brought us to the San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge.  More than 400 species of wildlife make this refuge their home.  We hiked a couple of peaceful, beautiful trails and took the Moccasin Pond car loop.  We saw several kinds of water birds, a couple of raccoons, a possum, crayfish mounds, and three alligators.  One hike took us to the largest live oak tree in Texas.  It was a great day in God’s awesome creation!

After worship at First Baptist today, we returned to the Bayside for another delicious shrimp and catfish dinner.  It is a beautiful sunny day in the lower 70’s, and I hear a seawall walk calling!

From Tejas to TBE

Monday and Tuesday were our last days of work at Tejas.  The men continued working in the Fishermen’s Cove cabins installing horizontal boards above the wainscoting.  They came close to finishing, but the final boards will have to be placed by someone else.  The fence was completed by two of the guys.  The women primed additional boards for the men, and washed windows in the Dining Hall.

The team enjoyed a last gathering Tuesday night for a rousing game of ‘Seven’.  Afterwards we ‘circled up’ for our final ‘good-byes’ and prayer for safe travels for our team.  We have enjoyed our time at this unique camp.  We worked and played with great people and we will miss them.  Our prayer is that God will bless this camp and use our efforts to assist the camp in its mission to “set the stage for Jesus to transform lives”.

Wednesday morning we headed out for our next project.  120 miles brought us to Texas Baptist Encampment in Palacios along the shore of Tres Palacios Bay on the Gulf Coast.  We worked at this beautiful camp last year in February and look forward to our month here this year.  In existence since 1902, TBE is the oldest camp west of the Mississippi River.  It can accommodate up to 800 people.  It is a place where “fun, fellowship, and a focus on God take priority” as lives are impacted for eternity.

On Thursday we met with Rob, the camp director, to discuss our stay here and the projects to be done.  In the afternoon we welcomed the rest of our team.  We have a total of five couples here, two of whom are new to us, and we are looking forward to working with them all.  We had our “Popcorn Meeting” Thursday evening to get acquainted and to discuss our project here.  Friday we took the team on a walking tour of camp.

We had plenty of relaxing time on the weekend and enjoyed a few walks along the seawall in this beautiful part of God’s creation.  Until today, which is cloudy and a bit rainy, the weather has been great with sunshine and temperatures around 70 degrees.  We all went to the First Baptist Church here in town on Sunday and then to Bayside Seafood for a delicious lunch.  We’re ready to get to work on Monday!

Tejas Week Three

This week the guys continued cutting and installing the primed boards above the wainscoting in the bunk houses.  It is looking great!  Some of the guys took down an old fence and began building a new one.

The women washed the last of the painted boards and then moved on to a new project that was a first for us. We painted several pieces of furniture and then “distressed” them by sanding so they would fit in with the rest of the decor of this camp.  Each piece was then given a protective wax coat.  It’s always fun to learn new skills!

We had our social on Tuesday night.  Since ‘someone’ didn’t really want her birthday recognized, we had an un-birthday party complete with Valentines plates, fall decorations, an Easter cake, and an amusing original story read by Nancy.  It was topped off with a rendition of  “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”.  We have quite a creative, fun  group here!  We also presented our SOWER couple with a certificate naming them “honorary RVICS members”.  Evan and Jackie have been great to work with.  It was an unforgettable evening!


Bible study Wednesday night was led by Ryan, a camp staff member.  We had a good discussion about how we can stay close to God.  Thursday morning we joined the camp staff at chapel again and heard a great message about being exiles here on earth.  That afternoon, all the volunteers were invited to a “Volunteer Appreciation” event complete with desserts and our choice of one item each from the gift shop.  We are enjoying new Tejas shirts.

Friday’s tour brought us to the tiny town of Burton.  We had an intriguing tour of the Texas Cotton Gin Museum.  We learned much about cotton and cotton picking in the museum and then walked out to the cotton gin.  This 1914 gin is home to the 1925 16 ton diesel oil engine “Lady B”.   Though only used to gin and bale a few times a year, it is the largest internal combustion engine of its vintage still in operation in America.  It was fascinating to see how a gin works.  Lunch followed at Lone Pines BBQ in Giddings.

Since we have no down time between projects, we decided to just hang around camp Saturday.  We took a couple of walks on a mild and sunny day.  In mid afternoon the team had a visit from fellow RVICS, Steve and Diane.  It was great to see them again.  We all had supper together at the Dining Hall and then played games in the Barn.  Sunday morning we had to say ‘good-bye’ to Brian and Nancy as they left for their next project where they will be first-time leaders.  We will miss them!  We attended First Baptist in LaGrange and had a relaxing day back at camp.


Tejas Week Two

It was a rainy beginning to the week, so once again we were grateful for indoor work.  Some of the women completed painting the walls of four bunk rooms black.  Two of the women helped in the kitchen because there was a big conference going on here this week.  It was the Christian Camp & Conference Association or CCCA.  About 250 camp directors and staff are meeting here.  Fabulous meals were served!  Later in the week we washed more boards for the guys to use in the bunk rooms and helped with laundry after the CCCA conference so the camp could get ready for weekend guests.

The men covered up our newly painted black walls in the four bunk rooms with the boards scrubbed by the women last week.  Those went on the lower wall.  After priming 16 foot boards, the men installed them horizontally above the painted board wainscoting and chair rail.  The primed boards will be painted later. It looks amazing, and it’s so nice to see the end results of our labors.

On Tuesday in place of Bible study, we joined the CCCA for their evening session.  Games were played, songs sung, and an inspirational message was given.  Our social Wednesday was a delicious Mexican Fiesta meal topped off with caramel apple sundaes and great fellowship.

We took a walk around camp Thursday afternoon and explored more of the buildings on campus.  Once more we were impressed with the creativity displayed in this unique place!

Tour day an Friday began with a delicious Valentine’s Day lunch at Murphy’s Steakhouse in tiny Winchester.

Next we had a guided tour of a painted church, St. Paul’s Lutheran, in Serbin.  Our guide told the interesting history of the Wendish people, who were Slavic immigrants from Germany, and their arrival in Texas from 1849 to 1854.  The church was built in 1867.  It has 30″ wide red sandstone walls that rise to a height of 24 feet.  The interior includes a balcony that extends all around the church and a pulpit above the altar at balcony level.  The chandeliers, pews, and ornate baptismal font are all original.  The wooden pillars had designs painted on them with feathers to give the illusion of marble.  The 1904 pipe organ still has the original handpump blower.  Our guide treated us with playing two hymns on it.

Afterwards we went to the nearby Wendish Heritage Museum where we learned more of the history of this group of people.  Our day was topped off by the RVICS traditional Dairy Queen stop.  It was a great day!

On Saturday, the two of us explored the intriguing George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum  on the Texas A&M University campus in College Station.  Beginning with details about his parents, the well-done exhibits continued through George’s early years, his role as a WWII Navy pilot, marriage to Barbara, his success in the oil business, entering politics, his roles as director of the CIA and ambassador to the UN, his accomplishments as the 41st president, including Dessert Storm, and life after the presidency.  It was an interesting day!

Today we returned to First Baptist in LaGrange.  Now after a home grilled dinner, it’s time to enjoy this balmy day with a walk.  Rumor has it that there will be a campfire tonight for the team to enjoy.  God is good!

Tejas Week One

This month we have a SOWERS couple joining us on some of our projects and fun times. We had a variety of weather this week and indoor/outdoor jobs to match!  Monday and Tuesday we enjoyed perfect weather outdoors as the guys cut and installed 22 foot pieces of “weathered” corrugated tin to the underside of a 90 foot long porch roof on the Dining Hall.  This involved the use of scaffolding and a scissors lift.

The women began scrubbing hundreds of painted boards that were dirty from being stored for several years.  These boards will be used for a project in the Andrew Cabin later in the month.

Wednesday and Thursday were cold (but not Iowa cold) and rainy.  The men worked mostly indoors in a bunk house.  They installed more rusty tin on the ceiling.

The women were able to take a break from board scrubbing to work indoors.  They cleaned all the inside windows in the huge Dining Hall and swept the floor on Wednesday.  Thursday the women began painting the inside of two bunk rooms in the Andrew Cabin black in preparation for installation of the boards we were scrubbing.

Bible study Tuesday night was led by a 21 year old intern here at camp.  Sarah presented  her very moving testimony.  After having been abused several times as a young child, enduring bullying at school and several suicide attempts, she explained how Jesus revealed himself to her and completely changed her outlook and her reactions to life’s situations.  God is using her mightily in his kingdom!  On Thursday morning, we were invited to join the camp staff for chapel.

Our social on Wednesday night was a game night.  We played the fun games of Pyramid and Quiddler.  Of course, delicious snacks were also enjoyed by all!


Friday was a day to explore on our own.  It was a beautiful sunny day in the upper 60’s. We took our leaders-in-training along and made our first stop at the Blue Bell Creamery in Brenham.  We explored the museum and watched the interesting production process from the observation deck.  They produce 27,000 gallons of ice cream per machine every week!  We had to cap off the tour with a dish of delicious Blue Bell ice cream.

Driving on down the road, our final destination was Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site.  The town of Washington was the location of the convention that formed the Republic of Texas.  After the Visitors Center and a picnic lunch, we walked to the Barrington Living History Farm.  This was the home of Dr. Anson Jones.  He served one year as President of the Texas Republic until Texas became the 28th state of the Union in 1845.  We explored the farm house, kitchen outbuilding, smokehouse, chicken coop, corn and cotton crib, barn, hog pen, gardens and slave quarters.  An interesting fact we learned is that oxen are not a separate species, but are simply mature steers of any breed that have been trained to work.  A visit to the Star of the Republic Museum was our last stop at the park.  There we observed fascinating displays on Texas history and life during the 1800’s.

After doing laundry on Saturday, we walked around camp to see what the teens who are staying here for the weekend were doing.  They were having lots of fun getting dirty in the mud pit, building milk crate stacks, zip lining and braving the three person high swing.

Our group tour took place Saturday evening.  We had supper at El Mexicano Restaurant in Smithville and then attended a gospel quartet concert at the RVICS Village.  The Living Water Quartet presented an excellent program.

We attended First Baptist Church in Giddings on Sunday, had a tasty dinner at Golden Chick with another RVICS couple, and are now enjoying a quiet day at the camper.  We’re ready for week two at Tejas!

Off to Texas

On Saturday, January 25, a cold winter morning in Iowa, we began our 1,100 mile journey to two RVICS projects in Texas.  We chose a hotel in McPherson, Kansas for our first night on the road.  The second night found us camped at Hapgood RV Park in Henrietta, Texas. It was wonderful to sit outside in sunny 65 degree weather!  On Monday we arrived at the RVICS headquarters and enjoyed seeing “old” friends, meeting the couple who will be shadowing us as leaders-in-training on our first project, playing games, visiting and going out for some Texas BBQ.  We stocked up on groceries, washed our filthy camper and made preparations for our projects.

We arrived at Tejas Camp and Retreat on Wednesday, January 29.  Located centrally between Austin, Houston and San Antonio, Tejas is “committed to proclaiming God’s Word in a fun, unique and hospitable setting”.  Last year the camp served 30,000 guests through retreats, summer camps and the Lights of Tejas Christmas celebration.  It is indeed a unique place with colorful and rustic decor throughout the buildings.  Ceiling tiles are painted in a multitude of colors, re-purposed boards and rusted corrugated tin find places in their buildings, and bunk rooms are painted and decorated to match months of the year or the seven continents.  What fun to explore this huge, unique place!

After settling in Wednesday, we met with the camp directors.  Next was a trip to LaGrange with our leaders-in-training to locate the hospital, the church the team will attend the first Sunday and to try out the selected restaurant for the team’s Sunday dinner.  It passed!  Thursday morning the women met with another camp director to discuss our work details.  The guys put out the RVICS directional signs to the campground.  After getting all the information together that the team will need, we welcomed another team couple coming in.  The last two team couples arrived on Friday and Saturday.  We are invited to eat at the dining hall whenever the camp is serving meals which is most of the days we are here.  We checked it out for supper Friday and discovered they have a terrific chef here!  It is a fair distance to walk to the dining hall, but after meals like that, we need the exercise!  Saturday the whole team enjoyed lunch at the dining hall and then had a guided tour of this large camp.  Following that we held our team ‘Popcorn Meeting’.

On Sunday our team worshipped together at First Baptist Church in LaGrange.  We had a delicious lunch at Sealand Seafood and Steak House.  The two of us enjoyed a long walk around this 145 acre camp in sunny, mid-seventy degree weather.  One of our team members hooked his computer up to a large TV screen in order to watch the Superbowl, so I guess we’ll join the party for awhile!  We are looking forward to our work here and pray it will bring glory to God.


Camp Barnabas Week Four

Our last week was a short one, with just two days of work.  The women began a thorough cleaning of a large ranch style house with a finished basement  The goal was to make it ready for winter retreats and summer directors.  The men finished installing the built-in work counters and shelves for two offices and repaired all the decks on the boys’ cabins.

Monday after work Matthew gave us a tour of the Wellhouse.  This beautiful structure is the medical building for the camp.  Besides meeting daily medical needs, nurses and a doctor stay here during camping season as well as the more fragile campers who need overnight care.  Inside is the ‘tree’ created by Extreme Home Makeover with wood cutouts of many campers’ hands or feet hanging from it.

We had a bit of excitement Tuesday when Steve ran into an overhang and knocked himself down.  He has a large gash on his forehead, but no stitches were required.  God is good!  Tuesday night we went out for supper for the last time with this team.  This time it was a Chinese buffet at the Happy House.  It was a great team to work with for a very productive month at Camp Barnabas.  Tomorrow morning we will head for Iowa.  We are looking forward to being home again.