BCF students answer call to help at West Virginia children's camp
Aug 26, 2014
By MARGARET DEMPSEY-COLSON
Florida Baptist Convention
CAMP ECHO, W.Va. (FLBaptist)—More than 30 children in West Virginia enjoyed their summer just a little bit more and learned more about God and His love for them because of a group of five Baptist College of Florida (BCF) students.
|RECREATION Kids from West Virginia play games with Baptist College of Florida students who journeyed to the state when counselors could not be found to staff the annual Camp Echo. Courtesy photo|
For the past 20-plus years, Potomac Highland Baptist Association in West Virginia has hosted a summer camp for youngsters who have completed grades three through six. Because of financial constraints and other family challenges, many of these children might otherwise be unable to attend such an overnight camping experience.
This year, the camp was on the associational calendar; the county-owned campsite was reserved and children were eagerly planning to attend, but there was one big problem. Camp director Dan Howard, pastor of Old Fields Baptist Church in West Virginia, had no counselors.
“If I couldn’t find counselors, we couldn’t have camp,” he explained matter-of-factly.
Just a few prayers, conversations, phone calls and emails later, his problem was solved.
Since 2001, Florida Baptists have had a partnership with West Virginia Baptists, helping the smaller convention reach its state for Christ.
“You can replace the word ‘partnership’ with ‘relationship,’ ” according to Craig Culbreth, Florida Baptists’ lead strategist for the missional support group.
“It’s all about people working together to produce more Kingdom impact than they can by themselves,” he explained.
Through the partnership, Howard and Culbreth had developed a relationship with one another.
Shortly after sharing his problem with Culbreth, who was conducting a revival in Potomac Highland Association, pastor Howard was told that five Baptist College of Florida students would soon be on their way to West Virginia to serve as camp counselors.
“It was a chance to see partnership work at its finest,” said Culbreth.
At the camp the college students were called on to lead worship, serve as “cabin parents,” counsel, serve food, play games, plan campfire songs and skits, lead in recreation and more.
“When God asked us to go, we had no idea we would be shining such bright lights into the lives of the children, many of whom came from completely broken homes and needed love,” said BCF student Breanna Clark, who served as team leader for the volunteer counselors.
“Knowing that our visit impacted the children in mighty ways made every moment worth it,” she added.
Fellow counselor and BCF student Melissa Chambers, who had been on a partnership mission trip to Cuba just weeks earlier, confesses that she was tempted to “turn down this opportunity actually.”
Legally blind, the college senior said she had already deleted several email mission opportunities from her inbox because, unable to drive, she didn’t know how she would be able to arrange transportation to the place of service.
This time, Florida Baptists provided airplane tickets to Baltimore, where pastor Howard met the team of counselors. Again, because of the partnership, another problem was solved.
“I’m so thankful the Lord is persistent!” she said.
“The moment we landed in Baltimore was potent!” she continued.
“I felt the sweetness of going where the Lord called me rush over me.”
Describing the camp as “amazing,” the young woman recalled, “The Lord gave me several opportunities to share the Gospel message, to testify what He has done and to talk about what it means to be a new creation in Christ!”
Just as the young campers’ lives were changed, the five counselors experienced life change as well as a result of their service.
Coming together as a team to serve the young campers, the five college students developed a new appreciation for the Florida Baptist and West Virginia Baptist partnership.
“We are called to rally together in pursuit of one goal: reaching the lost with the Good News,” according to Chambers.
Clark agreed. “It’s important for Christians to partner together in sharing the Good News because Christ calls us to work together as the body of Christ.”
Culbreth and Howard are grateful for the willingness of the college students to give a week of their time to serve the campers.
“That tells me what kind of students we have at BCF,” said Culbreth.
The two are also encouraged as the young Florida Baptists learn a firsthand lesson about the benefits of partnerships.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about people,” emphasized Culbreth.
More than anything else, for Howard, the partnership is an answered prayer.
“I look at the partnership with Florida Baptists the way I look at the Cooperative Program,” said Howard. “Together, we were able to do something we couldn’t do alone.”
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