FROM THE STATES: Ga., Okla., Fla. evangelism/missions news; 'It's like you have a real special gift that you want to share with everyone'
Today's From the States features items from:
The Christian Index (Georgia)
The Baptist Messenger (Oklahoma)
Florida Baptist Convention
Ga. camp staffers pour
into next generation
By Joe Westbury
CLAYTON, Ga. (Christian Index) -- On a warm July afternoon a line of young girls walk single-file across the campus at Camp Pinnacle. They weave here and there, dodge the hot sun and seeking the cool shade when possible.
When they get to the lake, some take a seat on the ground, others in the swing or the picnic table. Morgan Benefield, camp staffer/counselor/cabin leader/jack-of-all–trades begins a Bible study.
Her young wards for the week fidget a little but soon become engrossed in her storytelling. Before long they listen to every word and quickly raise their hands with answers to her questions.
Earlier that day 2A Cabin leaders Manzhen Chen and Bukky Subulade led another long line of campers to a wooded area behind the swimming pool. Soon the shade parted and the girls walked into a bright clearing where bows and arrows were lined up.
For the next half hour or so the girls became archers, some pulling the bows tightly and letting an arrow fly through the air for the first time. Some hit the target, others didn't come close. But it was all about fun in a Christian environment and learning lessons about hitting the mark in life.
Later that afternoon Keyanna Imgrund walked yet another line of campers through the woods to a setting that looked like a deserted village of sorts. A village of worn tents with clothes hanging outside to dry and sparsely furnished within.
A depressing village of worn tents
As Imgrund taught, the girls learned what it would be like to be a refugee, leave their home, and live in tents for years at a time. They learned about the biblical admonition about loving immigrants, refugees, and displaced people.
The women are only three of the 27 staffers who served this summer at the summer camp operated by Georgia Baptist Women's Missionary Union. And they are only 27 of the hundreds spanning seven decades who have poured themselves into the young lives of the next generation.
The staffers are the unsung heroes of summer camp, the women who, only a year or two removed, were campers themselves. As they grew and matured they came to realize the dedication of those who were their selfless mentors and wanted to walk in their shoes.
One by one the women tell stories of how summer at Pinnacle changed their lives by making the Bible become real. That, in turn, leads to a deeper spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ.
What makes Pinnacle different from other summer camps is its distinctive Southern Baptist emphasis. While others do just as good of a job teaching scripture, campers at the North Georgia site regularly hear from missionaries supported through the Cooperative Program.
That, in turn, ingrains an appreciation for those individuals and the economic process of sacrificial giving which keeps those missionaries on the field. There is also an added dimension. Sometimes their mentor answers the call to missions, serves a short-term assignment, and returns to share those personal experiences the next summer.
Missions in action
It's missions in action.
Imgrund, a junior at Valdosta State University, says she has always loved missions and learned about the Cooperative Program through friends at her school's BCM.
"I learned so much about Southern Baptist missionaries through my group and they were always talking about being involved in missions. I know that God will reveal himself to those who have never heard of Him but that does not absolve us from going and sharing our faith like it says in the Great Commission," she says.
"It's like you have a real special gift that you want to share with everyone. That's what I am enjoying teaching the girls this summer."
The member of Valdosta's Perimeter Road Baptist Church says she wants to be part of that team of staffers who are "raising up the next generation of women who fear God and love Him. I have had many such women in my life who taught me to be a godly woman. I felt this strong responsibility to place myself in this role in the lives of these young girls," she added.
The theme of mentorship surfaces almost like clockwork when the staffers explain why they want to reinvest themselves in the lives of those who are coming behind them. Some receive a stipend for their work, others return as volunteers for a week or two.
Kaytlyn Malia spent a week each for two summers at Camp Pinnacle because her parents financially invested in her spiritual future. Then she returned for five summers as a staffer, mentoring young girls and earning a little money for her college years.
Last year she returned as a volunteer as a gesture of appreciation for the camp's role in shaping her into a godly woman.
Alumni association creates bond among former staffers
Malia is one of more than 30 former staffers who joined the Camp Pinnacle Alumni Association since it was launched in 2013. As word spreads about the fellowship, its numbers continue to grow.
"As a camper I felt like this was a place where the Spirit dwells, where God calls people to serve or into a deeper walk with Him," the Macon resident explains.
She says she is grateful for the GAs program at Tom's Creek Baptist Church, which introduced her to the camp.
"At Pinnacle we learn to live the Great Commission, both as campers and as staff. A week at camp can really make an eternal difference in a young girls' life," she adds.
Malia says the camp, located just outside of this north Georgia town at the foot of Mount Pinnacle, "is a refreshing, renewing place to spend your week or your summer. It has such an incredible legacy … Georgia Woman's Missionary Union and the Georgia Baptist Mission Board have prayed over it for years and created a legacy you can sense just by walking across the campus."
Others staffers this summer readily agreed.
Benefield is one of those previous campers who returned this year to "pay back" the Pinnacle blessings in her life. She spent 8 years as a camper and the past 2 on the staff, serving as counselor and spiritual guide for her wards.
"God does a lot here every summer," she says during a break. I was saved here during my first summer," she says.
Not only did I accept Christ here but a few years later received my call to international missions on a February retreat. It happened right over there in the chapel where I was also saved," Benefield says as she points to the historic white building.
She is the only believer in her family and is grateful she was brought to Pinnacle by the GAs leader at the church she was attending. Today she serves on the leadership staff at the University of North Georgia BCM.
A few weeks ago, Elizabeth Glass took a minute to rest after pulling kayaks out of the lake with fellow staffer Imgrund. The morning free time was over and the lake surface had settled into a natural calm after being beaten by numerous paddles with campers with energy to spare.
The Albany woman enjoyed a decade as a camper before returning this year as a staff member.
It doesn't take long for her to say why she was giving this summer to Camp Pinnacle.
"I wanted to give back to the next generation what had been poured into me through all those years. Camp Pinnacle has played a huge role in developing my relationship with Jesus, and I will be forever grateful for that. It was in the Vespers Garden that Jesus called me to be His Friend and follow him.
"I was already saved but that was a moment of spiritual renewal for me … a realization of how much I needed to be totally surrendered to Him and not just see my faith as a weekend experience."
This article appeared in The Christian Index (christianindex.org), newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention. Joe Westbury is managing editor of The Christian Index.
Okla. campers make spiritual
decisions across campus
By Chris Doyle
DAVIS, Okla. (Baptist Messenger) -- It is true. Spiritual decisions are made by campers at different locations at CrossTimbers Children's Mission Adventure Camp. According to Camp Program Director Charlie Gatton, 30-40 percent of decisions are made outside of the evening worship services, including the camp's target sports.
"(One night, Session 8) camp pastor Justin Ford (of Oakdale Baptist Church in Edmond, Okla.) gave the analogy of missing the mark," Gatton said. "In archery, when you miss the mark it's called 'sin.' That's the literal term in archery when you miss the mark.
"(Ford) used the analogy, if you miss the mark in life with sin, then you are separated from God forever. Every time we go down to target sports, we get to shoot slingshots, BB guns, archery, paintballs, and there's a spiritual application for all of those. All of our staff members have their own spiritual application to share with each target sport."
All CrossTimbers campers, 3rd-6th grade, participate in target sports during each four-day session. They rotate through the different sports, then after completing the rotation, CrossTimbers staff members gather the campers to give a spiritual application applied to the target sports.
"With the BB guns, they talk about how they are missing the target," Gatton said. "Archery is really a simple application because it is 'sin' when you miss the mark."
Staff members like Stormi Wilson and Brett Oliver share about Jesus paying the penalty for sin, overcoming the failures of "missing the mark" in daily living.
"We talk about hitting the bullseye, hitting the target before us," said Wilson, who is in her second summer of working at CrossTimbers. "We use that as an opportunity to tell that, with God, we can't really hit the target unless He's there to help us. We have to make a decision for God to come into our heart. With using our area (target sports) they get to see a visual of it, and it becomes clear to them."
Oliver oversees the slingshot section of target sports. He makes the application using a rock that a camper would fling with a slingshot.
"What I relate it to is we're like the rocks," Oliver said. "On your own, all by yourself, it doesn't do anything. But suddenly, when teamed up with the slingshot, things change. You've got a new power you didn't have before.
"If we're the rock, then God is the slingshot, and we're open to whole new opportunities we've never dreamed of. We tie that back to Scripture like John 15:5, 'I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.'"
Gatton spoke highly of all CrossTimbers summer staff members, regarding their willingness, even eagerness, to share the Gospel with campers.
"Our staff is expectant that God is going to move," he said, "and the Gospel they share is never done in vain. It always has fruit. But our staff, they are so fired up about sharing the Gospel. They will take advantage of every opportunity they get."
And this applies to all activities during camp, not just target sports. But how do they record the decisions made beyond the invitation times after the worship services?
"We train the sponsors and the staff to use a response card that the BGCO (Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma) puts out," Gatton said. "It has a tear-off part, so the kids get half to share, 'I've made this decision' with the date on it.
The response cards are turned in to the camp office, and Gatton said they give each church group a packet of all the decisions that were made by their respective campers that session. "We want (the churches) to follow up with (the campers) as soon as they get home," he said.
Gatton said they celebrate in staff meetings every day the kids who have made decisions. He mentioned that some staff members were hesitant to share before camp started this summer, but it did not take long for confidence to grow among the staff.
This also carried over to many church sponsors. "I had one senior adult lady who was a sponsor who got to lead a kid to Christ," Gatton shared, "and she looked at me and said, 'It's been a really long time since I've led somebody to Christ.'"
Gatton said a dad led his twin boys to make professions of faith in Christ. Many parents, he said, have the opportunity to lead their kids to Christ.
"I think that's a tremendous opportunity when parents can come with their kids, invest in their kids, and since they are away from all the other stuff, this is just the place where they are able to freely commit," he said.
"There's been many decisions made, and it's great to see. It's fantastic," Oliver said.
This article appeared in The Baptist Messenger (www.baptistmessenger.com), newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Chris Doyle is associate editor of The Baptist Messenger.
Fla. Super Summer camp impacts
students from around the state
By Keila Diaz
LEESBURG, Fla. (Florida Baptist Witness) -- Florida Baptist youth spent a week of fun and discipleship at Lake Yale Baptist Conference Center for the annual Super Summer camp July 9-13.
"Super Summer Florida 2018 was a very powerful spiritual week with a clear Gospel focus. The engagement of leadership from the 30 plus churches was incredible. The highlight of the week was the fifty plus students who were saved," said Tommy Green, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention.
Thirty churches sent their 6th-12th-grade students totaling more than 700 individuals. Pre-registration for Super Summer 2019 is already up to 400. Churches reported 52 first time salvation decisions for Christ during worship, small group Bible studies and church group time and 109 students recommitted their lives to Christ.
Carlos Finale, youth pastor at Iglesia Bautista Northside in Hialeah, was overjoyed with the effect Super Summer had on the youth that he leads.
"God used the preachers to bring back two of our most rebellious youth," he said adding that those two particular boys said they needed and wanted to come to church more and learn more about God.
Laura Storm, volunteer youth leader at Turning Point Baptist Church in Newberry, brought five girls to camp, three of which made salvation decisions for Christ, reported Billy Young, Next Generation Ministries lead catalyst.
"Camp provides a safe place for youth away from their comfort zone and with their peers whom they can bare their souls to because they share a faith and similar experiences," said Storm.
Young was excited about the Florida Baptist church participation at Super Summer.
"Super Summer Florida is a student ministry camp for Florida Baptists, by Florida Baptists; it exists to serve Florida Baptist churches and to come alongside churches and supplement the work the local churches are already doing," he said.
Green preached the afternoon worship services and helped Young lead the adult leader meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons.
"The quality of every feature of Super Summer reflected the level of prayer, planning, and preparation that preceded the event," said Green.
Other special speakers at the camp included Eddie Gilley and Nathan Schneider of the Baptist Collegiate Ministries at University of Florida and University of South Florida respectively.
"[Gilley and Schneider] came to Super Summer on Wednesday to speak to our 62 college freshmen about college ministry," said Young, helping them make the jump into college life while still tethered to Christ.
Super Summer 2019 will be July 8-12 at Lake Yale. Check back for registration information.
This article appeared on the website of the Florida Baptist Convention (flbaptist.org). Keila Diaz writes for the Florida Baptist Convention.
EDITOR'S NOTE: From the States, published each Tuesday by Baptist Press, relays news and feature stories from state Baptist papers and other publications on initiatives by Baptist churches, associations and state conventions in evangelism, church planting and Great Commission outreach, including partnership missions. Reports about churches, associations and state conventions responding to the International Mission Board's call to embrace the world's unengaged, unreached people groups also are included in From the States, along with reports about church, associational and state convention initiatives in conjunction with the North American Mission Board's call to Southern Baptist churches to broaden their efforts in starting new churches and satellite campuses. Except for minor style, security, formatting and grammatical changes, the items appear in Baptist Press as originally published.