Published Jan 02, 2018
A stroll through the grounds of Jenness Park Christian Camp, nestled in the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Sonora, is like walking in a cathedral of God’s artistry. Towering pine trees lift their faces heavenward in praise to the Creator. Flowers proclaim God’s love of vibrant color while waterfalls whisper His glory. In the midst of this beauty, thousands of campers play in the grassy fields, hike the hills or simply sit in a shady spot to enjoy the wonder and magnificence of God’s handiwork.
God has given mankind nature’s beauty, but much of it must be carefully maintained. At Jenness Park, God has provided an unparalleled maintenance crew through the RV missionaries who volunteer at the camp for one to four months each summer.
Two such couples dedicated to keeping the camp beautiful are Duane and Ginger Wehunt and Don and Mary Hoepker.
The Wehunts worked as permanent staff at JP for well over a decade doing a variety of tasks, mostly indoors. But when they retired three years ago, they became volunteers with flexible hours, the freedom to work at their own pace and the opportunity to pursue their love of gardening. They drive from their home in nearby Columbia several times a week to groom the flowerbeds and shrubbery around the chapel, store and dining hall. They have a passion for planting and caring for the flowers that give color to the grounds, and have added many hanging flower baskets that add beauty to the dining deck. In addition, they keep the flowerbeds weeded and well watered, which often requires Duane’s skill at repairing sprinklers.
When asked why they volunteer, Ginger replied, “We enjoy talking to campers, making JP look nice, meeting pastors and their families, working with JP staff, summer staff and other volunteers.
“But most of all, we are excited to see the lost receive salvation and people turning their lives over to Jesus.”
After volunteering at another camp for 12 years, Don and Mary Hoepker have served at Jenness Park since 2006 when they learned about volunteer opportunities through their church, First Baptist in Atwater.
Retired from 20 years in the Air Force, Don continued his career as an aircraft mechanic and instructor while Mary worked on an assembly line and in a cannery. At JP, they work tirelessly to beautify the grounds.
They report their only struggle is “old age,” but these octogenarians do not use that as an excuse to slack when there is work to be done. They can be seen daily working on the sprinkler system, planting and watering new plants, making benches and other woodworking projects for the grounds, cutting back the undergrowth of shrubs and grasses, and creating their own projects such as a newly completed prayer garden along the river.
Always energetic and ready to meet a challenge, they bring joy to all who meet them. Their stewardship of nature also includes collecting and redeeming recyclables around the camp. They enjoy getting out of the Valley’s summer heat and thrill to the sound of the bell ringing the last day of each camp when those who have trusted Jesus as Savior get to proclaim their salvation by ringing JP’s special bell.
Don and Mary believe they are blessed “to be part of a team to accomplish God’s calling.”
Volunteers at Jenness Park represent a broad range of age, background and skill. There is always a job suited to each volunteer. Being an RV missionary is a wonderful way to invest one’s life in serving the Lord, meeting and helping others, and just having a good time. To view pictures and video of the beauty of Jenness Park, visit www.jennesspark.com. For information about becoming a volunteer, contact Camp Director Barry Lloyd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209-965-3735, ext. 120.
(Second in a series about volunteer opportunities at Jenness Park. Young is a regular volunteer there and a member of Trinity Southern Baptist Church in Fresno.