By Caitlin Russell
With both praise teams and power tools, nearly 50 Salkehatchie service camps across the state have spent the summer repairing homes, warming hearts and inspiring young and old.
Since 1977, Salkehatchie has been known for seeming to work miracles in a week s time, but a lot of hard labor goes into those transformations.
As the Rev. Neil Flowers of the Pee Dee Camp said, God never calls us to easy work, but it ll go well because God planned it.
For instance, at the North Augusta Camp, one of the houses had been condemned, and Salkehatchie was tasked with bringing it up to code by the end of the week. One site at the Lancaster Camp repaired the houses of two elderly sisters whose homes were originally built by their father. On another site, Lancaster workers roofed and made handicap-accessible a house for a man and his son. The Lowcountry Camp in Jasper County fixed the siding of one house in addition to installing plumbing in another and repairing a leaky roof, which allowed the homeowner to continue living in the house. At the Rivertown Camp in Conway, all six houses were given new roofs, as well as other repairs. Both houses at the Clover Salkehatchie Camp also required roofs, while the North Augusta Camp workers replaced three floors, two roofs and did exterior repairs.
While these efforts required much time and effort, their success doesn t fully tell the true purpose behind Salkehatchie: showing God s love.
Susan Hagins, from the Lancaster Camp, said of one homeowner, As the week went on, the man told the kids that since his house looked so good, he d decided to go on living a few more years. Demonstrations of God s love were also evident at the Summerville Camp, which gave a blanket made by children at Bethel UMC s vacation Bible school to each homeowner, and at the West Metro Camp, where community demand called for the camp to be re-opened this year.
A camper at the Lancaster Camp with cerebral palsy spoke to his peers about how Salkehatchie made his life more complete and allowed him to do things he never thought he could do.
Not only does Christ show up for our homeowners, he becomes more personal and real to our kids, said the Rev. Chris Snelgrove from the Spartanburg Camp.
Salkehatchie camps hold worship every night that allows participants to reflect on their experiences. Hagins said that at the Lancaster Camp, worship is adult-directed but camper-led, as they share testimony about their day “ and about their lives with Christ. Jim Dennis, the North Augusta director, described worship as half about worship, half about minds, souls and hearts.
Worship varies between camps, but the Salkehatchie spirit is always present. The Lowcountry Camp had a police canine unit come for a demonstration one evening, and a conservationist another night.
It was really kind of (great) to embrace the community to have them come in and share about the life of the community, said Marie Wells, Lowcountry Camp director.
The Lancaster Camp took a field trip to local batting cages as a way of showing God s protection.
In a similar athletic spirit, the worship at the Summerville Salkehatchie issued a fan or follower challenge for people to decide if they were fans of Christ or his followers. Flowers, at the Pee Dee Camp, focused worship around witnessing.
Every person that has come to Salkehatchie in some way or another had been witnessed to, Flowers said. Someone had to tell them about it, and then they had to make the decision to come.
Witnessing to others about Salkehatchie was emphasized at the North Augusta Camp, where a youth team led worship and Salkehatchie founder the Rev. John Culp visited to deliver a message one night.
With only 25 people attending for the first year of the North Augusta Camp, organizers were initially worried that the camp might not be able to happen, but they are now optimistic about years to come.
With a 36-year legacy, years to come look promising for Salkehatchie camps. They hold a special place in the hearts of those who attend, who know how truly special God s work is to everyone involved.
Salkehatchie really doesn t exist as a place, Snelgrove said. It appears wherever God s people show up and become available for God to act in response to faith-filled expectancy. In other words, Salkehatchie is us. It is not a program, but a movement of the Holy Spirit.