A Job Well Done
Jim Daly recently reflected on his career in Camp & Retreat Ministries during an airport layover. He and Anita were enjoying some time away after his retirement and their move to a new home. The plane ticket, by the way, was a freebie after being stuck for 12 hours with mechanical trouble on their way home from the National Camp Leaders’ Gathering last January.
Jim was serving in child care with the Red Bird Missionary Conference when he received a call back home from someone connected to his wife’s family asking if he would be interested in coming to camp. That call came in the spring of 1980 and began a career in Camp & Retreat Ministries that would last for 36 years.
In 1980, Jim found himself serving as Manager of Lake Louise United Methodist Camp, a facility belonging to the Western Michigan and Detroit Conferences. He served at Lake Louise until the winter of 1989, when he moved to Western New York taking on the dual role as Conference Camping Director and Director of Camp Asbury in Silver Lake. In the fall of 1998, Jim became the Conference Camping Director of the former Central Pennsylvania Conference, serving in that role until the fall of 2007. Early in 2008, Jim went to Michigamme United Methodist Institute, a district-owned site, to serve as Director; and subsequently joined the newly formed Upper New York Annual Conference in the spring of 2013 as Director of Skye Farm Camp & Retreat Center in Warrensburg, NY.
One of the significant changes in Camp & Retreat Ministries Jim reflected on was how the efforts of the National Camp Committee, as the group began to organize in the early days, brought a standard product to the ministry. Jim experienced the transition from the old manager-style position to the director style which offered more of a career track for people. Now, he observed, young people are aiming towards it. “The organization…has found a common voice, so to speak; but at the same time, we reflect the changes of the United Methodist connection as a whole. As the connection struggles with various social issues, our camping ministries have begun to do that too,” Daly said.
The biggest life-changing part of being involved in Camp & Retreat Ministries for Jim personally was being a graduate of the first Certification class for United Methodist Camp & Retreat Ministries. In fact, Jim was part of the test group before director certification was officially offered to the camping community.
He reflected on the life-changing impact Camp & Retreat Ministries has had on both campers and staff, where lives were pointed in a new direction or individuals received special care from staff that showed the love of God. Knowing that he has left behind in a couple of places a project or two that is still functioning and doing what it was designed to do is a source of satisfaction for him. Jim stated that in those cases, people don’t necessarily even know he was involved. He never liked to be in the limelight, preferring to serve in the background.
When Jim served as director of Camp Asbury in the Western New York Conference, a young kid came for a week of summer camp with some very troubling and disruptive behavior issues. Jim asked the staff, “Is he going to make it for the whole week?” The staff responded, “We’ve already figured that out. He’s going to succeed.” As Jim walked into the dining hall one day, he heard the most beautiful piano music, and realized it was the young kid playing. Needless to say, he had a successful time and stayed for the entire week.
Jim has also enjoyed being a ham radio operator on occasion, and shared that communicating with people in that way allows one to get to know someone without ever seeing them or knowing what they look like. At a ham radio event, he heard a voice that he just knew was a woman he had been talking to. Never before having had the opportunity to meet her in person, he found her there in a wheelchair – a brittle diabetic. She said to him, “You convinced my son Joey to go to camp!” Jim then remembered challenging Joey over the radio by saying “Joey, I dare you to come to camp.” Joey did come to camp, and he came back the next year as well. Because Joey came from a dysfunctional family and he was convinced that his mother was going to die while he was at camp, Jim and the staff made it possible for Joey to talk with his mother every night on the ham radio.
If Jim could pass a few words of wisdom on to other camp and retreat leaders, they would be, “Don’t burn your bridges behind you” and “Learn to be a better listener”.
In retirement Jim is looking forward to having more free time to spend with Anita doing activities they both love, including visiting with grandkids.
Thank you, Jim, for your years of service and for a job well done.