Men's Retreatby Jim Trebilcox, guest columnist

For years the Salvation Army in the Southern California division held an annual men’s retreat weekend.  We followed a traditional script: men getting together for “fellowship” with sessions on “How to be a happy Christian husband for your happy Christian wife in your happy Christian home.”  These were valuable sessions with good speakers, but attendance at the camps was dwindling every year.  It became so bad that the church was ready to discontinue the men’s retreats.

So this year we tried something new.

The Salvation Army has two campgrounds in the Santa Monica Mountains that were desperate for repairs.  So we converted our annual men’s retreat into a “Men’s Work Camp”. Pre-registration was unbelievably high. In fact, more men pre-registered than had attended in any of the previous years.

The weekend of November 2-4, 2007 arrived along with 180 men eager to “build the kingdom” in a very tangible way.  The Friday evening started with a rally and an emotional presentation of what the summer camp for inner city kids really means. Two-thousand less fortunate kids had enjoyed the campgrounds the previous summer.  It was a life changing experience for kids who never would have had such an opportunity without the camp. Many of these youngsters met Jesus Christ at the camp.

Saturday morning began with devotions and breakfast. The men worked for 2 1?2 hours, took a small break, and put in 2 more hours before lunch.  After lunch they worked an additional 2 hours.  The camp was a beehive of activity with chain saws clearing brush, hammers pounding nails and men rejoicing.

Our centerpiece building project was a new fountain and waterfall.  A team of nine men dug out a 4 1?2 foot pond, carried large rocks and created the oasis under the supervision of a contractor. This professional builder estimated that the project would have taken a crew of five men 3 days to build the structure (at a cost of $17,000). Our volunteers did the job in a day.

As the “retreat” drew to a close, many of the projects were not completed, so the men went back on their own to finish what they had started.  Some of the men wanted to return the following Saturday to finish their projects and to start new ones.

Sunday morning was a time of rejoicing as the Divisional Commander Paul Bollwahn thanked the men and gave the credit to our Lord Jesus Christ.  Thanks to the “Men In Church” leadership, no one surrendered to Christ, but instead we acknowledged him as our “Commander in Chief”.

The bottom line was that on one Saturday, 180 men did between $70,000 and $80,000 worth of work and looked forward to another opportunity to serve our Lord.