NOMADS: The Hands and Feet of Jesus Arriving by RV

For Brownsburg, IN, residents Mike and Carol
Johnson, members at Avon UMC, it all started with a Google search. They hoped to travel in their RV when they retired. Yet as they discussed future plans, they felt God calling them to give to others with what God had blessed them. They sat down at the computer and searched “Christian work campers” and found the NOMADS, like-minded Methodists who retire with purpose and demonstrate God’s love.

NOMADS is an acronym for “Nomads On a Mission Active in Divine Service, though some joke that it stands for “Nice Older Methodists Avoiding Deep Snow.” From California to Maine, and even in Alaska and Mexico, NOMADS usually follow the sun as they fulfill projects across the United States.

Each year, the Johnsons and hundreds of other NOMADS, mostly retirees, live their faith by traveling in their RVs and doing service projects. With the vision of “fulfilling needs through Christ’s love” and a mission of *rebuilding lives, homes, and facilities with God’s love and our hands,” NOMADS provides volunteer labor. They assist United Methodist churches, children’s homes, colleges, and camps-and work with outreach ministries and disaster rebuilding projects.

Currently, there are 800+ NOMADS who take part in approximately 175 projects each year. About 40% are full-time, while others do 1-2 projects a year.

After retiring, Larry and Carol Ewing, members at Taylor Chapel UMC, were visiting their son in Latayette, IN. when they met a congregant who was part of NOMADS.

As former teachers in the trades and home education, they were excited about the possibility of using their skills to serve in retirement. When a NOMADS crew arrives to serve, they do anything and everything: electrical, plumbing, sewing, cleaning, dry-wall, and more. It was a perfect fit for the Ewings.

Each year, NOMADS from across the country gather for an Annual Meeting. In 2021, they met in Elkhart, IN, for workshops, community, and business. Of the
189 NOMADS present, 40 were new to the organization.

In true NOMADS spirit, their gathering included a mission project. This year, NOMADS worked with Bashor Children’s Home collecting and assembling welcome baskets for new residents.

Workshops are a highlight of the Annual Meeting for Larry. Many NOMADS join with no previous experience or skill in construction. As a former trades teacher. a personal joy of his is seeing others equipped with the tools they need to serve.

Two days of the Annual Meeting include workshops that teach necessary skills like reading blueprints and building

Mike reflected on the Annual Meeting, saying the best part is “getting to see friends from over the vears.”

Echoing his sentiments, Larry added, *When you work alongside someone, it really develops the relationship. Seeing friends from around the country who you’ve worked with is a highlight.”

NOMADS holds five service projects in Indiana almost every year. Four are focused on the Indiana Conference campgrounds (rotating between them) and the other is for Bashor Children’s Home.

“One thing that really impresses me about NOMADS is that you have this group of individuals, and they’re doing all this at their own expense. They provide their own meals. Then you come to these Annual Meetings and you see how much more people are willing to give,” said Mike, referring to the Love Auction that takes place every vear.

Executive Director Carla Kinsey explained that many of the auction items are created and donated by NOMADS, such as quilts, stained glass, rocking chairs, oil or watercolor paintings, finely-crafted wooden items. baked or canned goods. and more.

NOMADS Wayne and Edie Mahan, professional
alictioneers. oad the ove Arction and have been
serving NOMADS in this capacity for over 20 years.
Items up for bid, such as a modest grill, will be sold for two or three times its retail value, while watermelons have been auctioned for $200/each.

Truly, NOMADS live generously, and the Love Auction builds on that foundation. This year, we raised $54,000, which is a fantastic outpouring!” says Kinsey. The money raised goes toward project materials and grants, which “helps the neediest of our agency partners accomplish the work we do for them,” she said.

A life of mission has no age restrictions, and God continues to call more and more to be part of NOMADS. Within Indiana, there are currently 37 active NOMADS and 10 alumni.

For the Ewings, being part of NOMADS is what we do to give back. We’ve been fortunate, and we see a lot of people who aren’t.

The door is always open for more who want to give back in their golden years. No previous handy skills are required. just a desire to follow Chnst’s call to love and serve others in need wherever God leads in an RV.