SHELBY, NC — Howard Wacaster pulls a heavy electrical cable and then mounts a ladder to make a connection.
He is at the Shelby Mission Camp, helping finish off the interior of the camp’s administration/housing/food station building.
The mission camp is situated on a 43-acre site just off the 74 Bypass in Shelby. It will be a work center for thousands of NC Baptist volunteers to work in and around Shelby. Camp coordinator Eddie Williams is depending on volunteers like Wacaster to get as much of the final finishing work done as possible.
Wacaster (say WAY-caster) has been working at the Shelby Mission Camp off and on for months. “He has become a great friend to Martha and myself,” said camp director Eddie Williams of Wacaster. (Martha is Eddie’s wife, who helps him coordinate the Shelby camp.)
Wacaster has contributed the equivalent of thousands of dollars of electrical contracting to the camp. He still climbs ladders quickly for a 68-year-old.
But that’s only half his story.
Wacaster has been fighting leukemia since 2005. He has kept the disease at bay with intensive chemotherapy treatments, which leave him exhausted and ill.
But on good days, as his energy picks up, he heads over to the mission camp and starts to work.
Why not stay home and rest, people ask him.
“Well, you know, if you’re sitting at home in a chair, you have a lot of time to think. And over here, I have a lot of things that take my mind off of it,” he said.
In fact, he said work at the mission camp has been a “God-send” to him, allowing him to put his certified electrician skills to work for Kingdom purposes.
Missions work is nothing new for Wacaster. He recalls working long hours in eastern North Carolina, cleaning up after Hurricane Floyd, which struck in 1999. He made many other mission trips after that.
A member of Flint Hill Baptist Church in Shelby for 48 years, he says he has served on every committee possible and still serves as Baptist Men director. He retired from his job with an airplane parts manufacturer in 2005 because of the leukemia; he left Flint Hill’s deacon board in 2008 for the same reason.
Yet Wacaster is not bitter.
“If you love God and you love the Lord Jesus the way you should, you need to give back. I’m just trying to give back,” he said.
Recently Wacaster’s condition took a turn for the worse: He was diagnosed with acute lymphoma, an even more dangerous blood cancer which could be fatal. He faces intense chemo treatments for the next six to eight weeks.
Wacaster sees the life-or-death options of his illness through Christian eyes. “I am a winner either way,” he told Williams.
“He smiled, waved and drove out the gate. What a testimony!” Williams said of his friend.