Early History of Alabama Campers on Mission

In 1971 the Sunday School & Home Mission Boards, led by Joel Land, did a study on RV'ing.  He wrote articles for the Baptist newspapers of several states including our Alabama Baptist newspaper.  The articles invited people with campers to an organizational meeting of the National Campers on Mission on May 19-21, 1972 in Kentucky. 

 

The stated objective of the national organizational meeting was “to bear witness to the saving power of Jesus Christ, to communicate through word and deed to the good life in Christ, and to be genuine and sensitive in our relations with other people."  The initial ministries were resort/campground ministries, lending a helping hand in setting up camp, doing day camps, backyard Bible Clubs, VBS, and etc.  Construction was not on the radar screen.

 

One hundred one families from across the country attended the Kentucky meeting.  The camping fee, including electricity, was an astronomical $2.25 per day!  When the state roll call was made, Gordon (Evelyn) Conway stood up and yelled "War Eagle" and Wintford (Martha) Haynes immediately replied "Roll Tide".  Rhoy and Glendean Swearingen also attended.  All three couples heard about the meeting through The Alabama Baptist article.

 

The three couples met in Kentucky and discussed a plan to commence an Alabama Chapter.  They wrote a letter to every Director of Missions in the state and also ran an article in The Alabama Baptist.  The initial meeting was held Oct. 20-23, 1972 at Wind Creek State Park.  When they arrived, the three couples were apprehensive; they had no idea if anyone would attend.  They set up around a large campfire on a cool October day and 19 families attended! 

 

The next meeting occurred the following spring and was also at Wind Creek.  They continued to promote the idea and attendance doubled!  Officers were elected with Wintford Haynes agreeing to serve as President, a position he held through 1978.  He was succeeded by Gordon Conway who served as President until 1982.  Rhoy Swearingen was the initial Treasurer and Tom McGuire was elected Corresponding Secretary.  A hat was passed and the 19 couples generously contributed $20.00 to go toward general expenses.  And in the spring of 1973, they had met, ett and passed the hat and thus Alabama COM became one of the early state chapters officially organized.

 

The first mission trip was planned for the summer of 1973 which was a Back Yard Bible Club at the City Park, in Onarga, IL.  Onarga is about 100 miles south of Chicago.   It would be 1978, five years later, before the first church construction trip was scheduled to Ladoga, IN.

 

The Knowltons, a family from Montgomery, joined COM in 1974. They were not only the first retired couple but they also were the first members that owned a motor home!  In 1975 the Knowltons and Jimmy & Colleen Dobbs went on their first COM trip just up the road to South Dakota.  In Tennessee the Dobbs wrecked their pop-up, purchased a new one and continued on.  On site in South Dakota, both the Haynes and Dobbs lived in their pop-up campers while others had a cab-over! 

Jimmy Dobbs soon became a Project Leader and led many COM projects serving deep into the 1990's

 

By 1978, Alabama COM membership passed 50 families and they were doing three or four projects a year.  In fact, through most of the 1980's the norm was just a few projects.  An annual project at Shocco Springs became a staple; otherwise most projects were out of state.  Projects were scheduled out of state because membership primarily consisted of working families and the projects were scheduled around family vacations. 

 

It would be 9/21/1996, twenty five years after ALCOM's inception, during Harvey Hastings tenure as President of Alabama COM, before formal by-laws were adopted.

 

 

Winford  Haynes                              1972 – 1978

Gordon  Conway                             1978 – 1982

LW Riderhour                                    ???? - ????

Jimmy Dobbs                                   ????  - 1990

Ray Danner                                       1990 - 1992  ( Could Have Served 2 Terms)

Herman Reed                                    1994 – 1996

Furman Tony                                    1996   Resigned to go to fulltime mission field

Harvey Hastings                              1996 – 1998

O*Neal Robinson                             1998 – 2000

Wilton Whigham                               2000 – 2002

Glenn Whiddon                                2002 – 2004

Don Standridge                                2004 – 2006

Walt Miller                                         2006 – 2008

Pete McKnight                                  2009 – 2012

Ray Vanslyke                                    2012 - 2014

Ron McMonagle                               2014 – 2016

Bill Foster                                         2016 -  2018

Nora Thompson                               2018 -  2020