Their looming RVs lumber across the American frontiers, sometimes headed to rallies of Christian RVers. They’ll sing songs like “I’m Not Perfect, but I Can Say I Am Saved.”
They’ll bear campground Christian witness to fellow wanderers. They caution RVers to “drive carefully and prayerfully and not faster than your angel can fly.”
They’re members of Campers for Christ Ministries, with the motto “camping in the shadow of the cross.” Their international president is Pastor Charles Shockley, an 81-year-old, nondenominational, born-again preacher from Branson, Mo., who, with his wife, Linda, is spending the winter at Superstition Buttes Mobile Home Park in Apache Junction.
“Many of our members are ‘full-timers.’ They don’t have a home anywhere else, and, as a result of that, they don’t have a church home,” said Shockley, a wide-smiling, white-haired pastor with a storytelling gift. “So Campers for Christ is a place of fellowship, and it’s a place where we can minister to them.”
Shockley, a retired railroad union workers representative, never went to seminary, but has a couple of ordination certificates from nondenominational churches.
“My training was by the Holy Spirit and the word of God,” he explained. He labels himself “charismatic,” but Linda said, “I would call him Pentecostal.”
He started out doing evangelist preaching 46 years ago, including working with small churches in Missouri.
For seven years, until 1995, he was a chaplain for Valley Lutheran Hospital, now Banner Baywood Medical Center in Mesa. Through Easter, he preaches at 10 a.m. each Sunday at the Superstition Buttes’ Chapel of Joy.
Shockley has put more than 50,000 miles on his seventh RV, a 37-foot, diesel-fueled Country Star home he bought new in 2002. The groups from Campers for Christ gather all over. The Exodus chapter of Arizona members will have its rally March 2-8 in Benson, while the Promised Land chapter of California will rally the following week. The Genesis, Trinity and several Seed Sowers chapters will gather later this year.
In his latest message, Shockley told how “the Lord has given me a plan to reach the baby boomers,” who are now retiring. His plan: Assemble a gift package about Campers for Christ “with amusing and practical RV tips” and ask sales managers of recreational vehicle dealerships to give them out..
He found this mission field in 1980 when he was vacationing in Florida and met a leader of the Canadian Campers for Christ Caravan Club. Five years later, with 14 people, he founded Campers for Christ, which now has 16 chapters in the United States and Canada. Each chapter sends campers to the international rally, which lasts nine days. The next will be Oct. 11-19 at Murchison, Texas.
“These are people who love to travel, love to see this beautiful country,” Shockley said. But many of the former RV travelers have gotten too old to roam and have sold their rigs and settled down permanently in mobile home parks, he said.
“But they still like the RV lifestyle and the fellowship with RVers,” he said. They are welcome, too.
“People on the road get hungry for the word and the fellowship, and they have no place, so this serves them,” Linda Shockley said. “Campers for Christ — we are like family. We become very close, and we delight in having the rallies, getting together and sharing what is going on.”
Shockley said he likes the nondenominational nature of Campers for Christ. “We bring the Word of God, as led by the spirit of God.” His message to campers addresses their health and personal problems “in their walk with the Lord — and giving them what God says about how to live.”
“The main thrust of my message is who we are in Christ. That is a subject that you can’t exhaust,” he said.
When he was a hospital chaplain in Mesa, Shockley wore a clerical collar. Because it was a Lutheran-affiliated hospital, patients incorrectly assumed he was a Lutheran minister. One day a female patient asked him to pray for her. Afterward she told him, “You don’t pray like a Lutheran.” Shockley never informed her that he wasn’t.
“If you tell people you are a certain denomination, it will close the door to others,” the pastor said. “So I tell people I am just a New Testament Christian.” He said he tries to resist people trying “to put a label on me, so you can file me away.”
Shockley said the Lord told him just what to do with a ministry “many, many years ago.”
“So I got through life and I don’t ask for great wealth or great fame. As I go through life, let me help people along the way. The ones I can’t help, keep me from hurting them.”
Shockley said he has baptized people in cold Missouri creeks during the winter. “People always talk about it, ‘Oh, it was so cold when I was baptized,’ ” Shockley said. “I say, ‘What do you think about the poor preacher? He was in the water with you, you know.’ ”
Shockley gives God credit for healing miracles in which he has participated. In one case, he said, a woman named Marcella had part of her shoulder badly damaged from a shotgun blast during a drug buy.
Shockley prayed to God for her to take her arm from the sling and raise it.
“As a result, there were 10 of her relatives who came to the Lord during our revival,” he said.
In another case, he prayed for a man blinded at 6 years old during a scissors accident. As a result, he said, the man could see in that eye for the first time in 38 years. “It was totally the work of the Lord,” Shockley said. “I can’t heal anybody. I am not a healer, just an instrument. That’s all.”
During RV rallies, participants share their family and personal prayer concerns, and they are published in “The Campground Witness.” A few samples: “Darrell needs a restoration of health. Donna has a badly infected finger. They need the Lord’s will concerning the sale or not of their home in Show Low.”
The Shockleys, who were both widowed, met in Campers for Christ about 25 years ago and were married in 2001. They join each morning for their devotions and to pray for campers’ concerns. Then they confer with God separately.
“With the Lord, we do our praying individually because we each have a unique relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ,” Shockley said “We just feed on the word.”