SBC day camp teaches missions, cares for kids of messengers

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)--Jonathan Blair, a 17-year-old from Mississippi, has decided to be a missionary.

It's also a decision that was partially due to the years he attended the Southern Baptist Convention's annual day camp for children. The camp is operated as a service to messengers attending the SBC annual meeting.

"I especially remember being able to see missionaries in person and seeing what they did," Blair said. "I've seen how God uses missions to change lives and I want to be part of it."

Blair has not only learned about missions in his eight-plus years attending the camp. He has also learned of missions service to children firsthand as a junior counselor for the past two years.

Duane Ortego, camp director and North American Mission Board missionary, told the story of a slightly autistic child who had been enrolled in the camp and would need special attention. He did not have enough counselors to work with the children but ran into Jonathan before one of the sessions.

"What are you doing this week?" he asked the youth.

"Just sitting with my parents," Jonathan replied.

Ortego said the exchange was a divine appointment, and both Jonathan and the autistic child were blessed from the meeting. What had started as a tough week with an unruly child had resulted in a changed life and a child who didn't want to go home.

"It was just overwhelming what God did," said Ortego. "I'm getting goose bumps just thinking about it."

The annual day camp, a one-and-a-half-day missions and adventure experience, is sponsored by NAMB in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention meeting June 13-14 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. During the camp, children not only played games and worked with crafts, they actively participated in missions projects and heard stories of missionaries and missionary children.

They put together mission kits for migrants and homeless people in the Miami area. The kits included toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, shampoo and deodorant. The kits also contained evangelistic tracts in Spanish, as well as personal notes from the children who learned the phrase, "Ore' por usted hoy," which means, "I prayed for you today."

Ortego said that while the day camp is a way for children to have something to do while their parents are busy with convention business, it is also an intentional missions experience for children.

"If we don't introduce missions to these children early in life and inform them of how God uses missions through his people, I think it's more difficult for them to be tuned into him," Ortega said. "The older they get, the more difficult it is to reach them with missions-mindedness."

Ortego said the day camp has the capacity to impact hundreds of lives with the gospel of Christ. It is a ministry that should not be taken lightly.

"Who knows -- out of these 130-something kids today -- which one's going to be a missionary," he said.

Jonathan Blair knows of at least one.

Download Story