June 30, 1999

Pineywoods honors 'Pot' Mercer
for 45 years working with boys

___By Ken Camp
___Texas Baptist Communications
___NACOGDOCHES--When boys from around East Texas gather at Pineywoods Encampment this summer for Royal Ambassador Camp, "Pot" Mercer will be there to teach them, just as he has for nearly a half-century.
___"Pineywoods is my second home," said Mercer, a member of Fredonia Hills Baptist Church in Nacogdoches, and a worker at the Pineywoods RA Camp for more than 45 years.
___In May, the encampment recognized Mercer's years of service by dedicating a cabin in his honor, according to manager Eric Small. Other cabins will be named in memory of the late Texas Baptist Men Camp Builder R.C. Blackstock of Van, Campers on Mission Builder Sid Posey of Teague and longtime Girls in Action leader Gladys McCurley of Lufkin. A first aid station will be named for former encampment manager L.C. Hester.
___"Pot Mercer has taught hunting safety, canoeing, everything you can teach to RAs through the years," Small said. "For half a century, all the boys have known and loved Pot."
___An uncle gave Mercer his unusual nickname at age 4, and it stuck. "If Jesus don't holler 'Pot' at the Rapture, he'll just have to come and get me," he quipped.
___Mercer became a Christian as a teenager during a citywide revival, and he started working with RA boys soon afterward. When he married, he made an agreement with his wife: One week every year, they could take a vacation together anywhere in the United States she wanted to visit. The other week of his vacation, he was going to work with the boys at Pineywoods.
___Since he retired from the Postal Service as a letter carrier seven years ago, Mercer has backed away from week-to-week involvement in the RA program. But he still is actively involved in leading canoe trips, camps and other outdoor activities.
___In addition to teaching campcraft and other skills to the boys, Mercer said he has been able to talk to them, giving responsible answers to their questions about everything from sex to salvation.
___"I stole their daddy's blessing," he said.
___Whatever the topic, Mercer said he always brings the conversation around to Jesus. ?
___"Royal Ambassadors has got any other boys' program beat all to pieces, because Jesus Christ is at the center of the program," he said. "I've always told counselors, 'If you can't bring Jesus Christ into what you're trying to do, just don't do it.'"
___Mercer estimates at least 100 of his former RAs are serving local churches as deacons or Sunday School teachers, about a dozen are in vocational ministry and two are international missonaries.


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