The words I heard included awesome, fun, interesting and inspiring. These words were spoken by eight precious children, between the ages of 8 and 12, and the kids were talking about a two-day camp they just experienced.

My wife and I had the honor and privilege of opening up our home to these kids, grades three through six, this past weekend for the second annual Camp Gary. (My pastor kidded me about coming up with such an awesome, unique name for a camp. Yeah, right.)

So many of you know me as the “newspaper guy” or the “man with the camera” or the “guy that is at sporting events,” etc…but while I have been in the newspaper industry for over 35 years, I have been a minister of music longer than that. I currently serve at Siberton Baptist Church just across the county line in Attalla.

This was an opportunity to give these children a chance to worship in a setting outside the church, and to go to a place they have never been. (Ann-Marie and I live in Riverside, which is 40 miles from where they all live). We had four new campers this year.

The Bible study centered on the Fruits of the Spirit, found in Galatians 5:22-23. There are nine of them – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

It was very important for these children, who come from all walks of life and backgrounds, to understand just how valuable it is to have all these characteristics in their lives.

In just a few short weeks, they all we be headed back to various schools. Using these Fruits of the Spirit can and will make them better people and closer to Jesus. If all the children throughout the world lived by these fruits, think of how much better this world would be in which to live.

While our Bible study time was the most important thing we did during the two days, the children also had a chance to play games, hike to the backwater of the Coosa River, watch movies, do arts & crafts, swim and eat.

The camp was a great success, and there were so many people who helped make it so.

First, my wife Ann-Marie, who opened up her heart and our home and made sure all eight children felt loved and cared for.

Linda, also known as Grandma, came with her grandson, and spent the night to help chaperone.

Rodney and Polly were our cooks Friday, and we are grateful for that.

Richard and Jannie were in charge of the arts & crafts, and we appreciate the birdhouses they brought for the campers to paint and take home.

Norman and Carolyn came by for a visit -- they had a grandchild camping – and brought some wonderful ears of corn to eat.

And last, but not least, I thank the parents who allowed Alicia, John Thomas, Bryli, Anna Kate, Ayden, Gracie, Sasha and Ashley to visit our home.

Ann-Marie and I are already planning for next year’s camp.

Gary Hanner is associate editor of the St. Clair Times. He can be reached at