This month we want to spotlight one of our retired volunteers, Bill Oakleaf, from Minnesota. Bill has been travelling in an RV from camp to camp across the country since joining the S.O.W.E.R. (Servants On Wheels Ever Ready) volunteer group in 1996. He spends his time serving each camp he visits by assisting in construction projects or providing his artistic talents for any creative needs. Tejas is, as it is for many of our retiree volunteers, one of Bill’s favorite camps to visit each year. He says, “I have to be honest, we come back to Camp Tejas more than any other place because we really enjoy it here…I just really appreciate the administration here, the people here, the community, and the camp itself. It’s just been a real blessing to our lives.” Bill has used his gifts as an artist to create the Camp Tejas signs at 77 and the front gate, as well as to paint a beautiful life-size nativity scene displayed at Lights of Tejas. He truly believes that his artistic talent comes from the Lord, and strives to honor God by using it in ways that can assist the Christian ministries that he visits. His most recent project has been 600 hours in the making: a beautiful 20-ft long mural now hanging in the Tejas dining hall. The mural depicts different animals and people in a natural, wildflower-filled environment, with a replica of Tejas’ own Martin Chapel at the top of a grassy hill. Bill was able to oversee the installation of the mural in the dining hall this month as renovation projects made way for the two 10-ft pieces to be hung on the wall by the serving line. A dedication to Bill for his years of camp service will be displayed beside the painting.
While sharing his testimony with Tejas staff, Bill recalls his struggle with Christianity as a teenager, and how that still affects his acceptance of all of the tremendous blessings God has given him: “I say, ‘Why me, Lord? Why are you doing all this for me? Me who, five years of my life, I just stiff-armed you and just kept you out of my life- I didn’t want you. But you didn’t give up on me.'” Bill firmly believes in the power of Christian camps as a way to reach young people with the Gospel in their formative years. Perhaps he sees his own seeking, teenager self in the teens that now filter through Tejas each summer day and retreat weekend. Perhaps in 50 years, God might even have plans to send some of these campers back to Tejas to help care for the ministry that meant so much to them when it mattered most. We can never know his plan for sure, but, in the words of Bill Oakleaf, “God is good and He is worth serving.”