Building for life at camp
By Holly McCray
Illness almost took his life at age 9. It did distort his body, and Ed Lusk became "the kid everybody picked on," he said. Then he attended a church youth camp at age 13. And everything changed.
The prognosis was truly grim for Lusk when he developed nephritis, an inflammation of the kidneys. Although he survived, the 9-year-old could not walk for months. One eye turned inward, normal body development was noticeably impaired, and adolescent peers were cruel. "I was funny-looking," Lusk said.
His opinion of himself was a poor one when the teen arrived at Camp Egan in the summer of 1946. A week at camp cost $7.50, and someone else covered his fee. Irving Smith, a pastor newly returned from the mission field, was featured speaker. The schedule included private devotional time every morning.
Lusk chose a large rock in the creek for his study spot. That week, on that rock, the seventh-grader made the decision to give himself full-time to Christ.
His spirit and his body were transformed.
"When I committed my life to Christ, my eye straightened out, my body filled out, and I grew 5-7 inches in that one year," Lusk marveled. "I got so interested in youth work and church camp that I went home and began loading hay to make money to go."
He went on to attend three camps at Egan each summer as a teen. In adulthood, he became a benefactor for the campground precious to him. Now Lusk Lodge will honor that support.
"God straightened my physical body out," said Lusk, now age 77. "I thoroughly believe it was because the first thing in my life, from age 13 on, has been the Church and youth work. I give credit to Camp Egan and United Methodist Camping for the ability to understand I really was all right."
He offered, "I’ll show you the rock. It’s still there."
As a youngster, Lusk attended Muskogee-First UMC, where Jim Egan was a leading adult member. (In 1945, Egan’s donation had established the Methodist campground.)
At 16, Lusk became worship leader for the youth services at Muskogee-First. At 17, he wrote the Easter service for the congregation. He also embraced youth leadership roles at other Church levels. As a General Conference youth delegate at age 18, he helped set denominational policies for youth ministries. A confident 19-year-old entered the U.S. Marine Corps.
Lusk’s career work has centered on construction—projects from homes to hospitals to massive jobs such as the Lake Eufaula dam—as well as the natural gas industry. Steeped in those skills, he has helped build ministries of the Church—especially at Camp Egan.
Love Circle. Creekside. The manager’s residence. Most recently, McSpadden Cabin. The latter is more than 60 years old, and "it needed the most love," said Camp Egan’s manager, Dave Perrin. "We needed to have a facility where people would want to stay."
Lusk steered a total renovation of the cabin during 13 intense weeks last spring. "We finished at 3 a.m. on the first Monday of the (summer) camping season. Campers were coming in 12 hours later," Perrin said.
The building that apparently first served as a mule barn now includes restrooms with showers, a meeting room to easily accommodate more than 100 people, kitchenette, and 15 bunk beds, Perrin described. Sewer, water, and electrical systems were replaced. Also new are wood laminate floors, indirect lighting, and a central air system. Some 150 gallons of paint were used.
The cabin’s massive support beams had sunken 2 ½ inches. After the jack work, additional wood beams, secured with 360 lag bolts, reinforced the clean-span, rough-sawn oak trusses, which are 40 feet long.
"It’s good for another 25-30 years," Lusk said. "It was worn out. The Holy Spirit impressed me to fix it."
Concurrent with the McSpadden project, Leslie Lusk began updating the Sharum Cabin, previously converted by her into a small museum at Camp Egan. Ed’s wife has an avid interest in antiques and experience in decorating.
That cabin was originally the Sharum family home in the late 1800s, Perrin said, and then a fishing camp. Thanks to Leslie Lusk’s efforts, the rooms reflect life in that era. A new porch is part of the recent refurbishing.
Perrin said some church groups, individual volunteers, and paid professionals joined the Lusks in the recent work. Married 51 years, the couple worshipped at Wagoner-First from 1972 to 2006, when they moved to Tulsa. They now are members at Tulsa-Asbury UMC.
After retiring, "I decided to put all my effort into my local church except for specialized things I wanted to do," Ed Lusk said.
Camps ministry leaders are glad Egan is one of those. The board voted to rename McSpadden Cabin to recognize the Lusks’ many contributions.
"We didn’t do it for that," Lusk said. "We did it because God told us to do it. It’s all God’s money; everything we own is His."
Ceremony Feb. 19
The renovated cabin will officially be renamed Lusk Lodge in a public ceremony, set for 11 a.m. Feb. 19 at Camp Egan, to honor the contributions to the camp made over the years by Ed and Leslie Lusk.