By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
BATON ROUGE – Churches from the Baptist Association of Greater Baton Rouge are trying to change the area’s inner-city youth, one summer camp at a time.
Held at Judson Baptist Retreat Center in St. Francisville, Camp Beyond gives middle and high school students a weekend of recreation and Bible study. Since the first camp was held in 2010, about 600 students have participated in an experience that Director of Missions Tommy Middleton says allows the youngsters to “go beyond” spiritual barriers in their lives to find God and follow His will for them.
“Crossroads” is the theme for this year’s camps.
“They are at a crossroads in their life and we are teaching them about making the right decisions,” Middleton said. “The inner city is all these kids have ever known, so we expose them to a rural setting in a loving and supportive environment.”
During its first five years of existence, the camp was offered for middle school students. Last year, a high school component was added.
Seventy youth attended the middle school tract, June 23-26, and the high school camp is set for the final weekend of this month. Middleton is hoping they double last year’s high school attendance of 25 campers.
Associational leadership is even considering adding a camp for second through fifth graders next year.
Cedric Murphy, pastor of Providence No. 1 Baptist Church in Ethel, has served as a camp counselor for three years. He can testify to the change he has seen in the life of his own church as a result of the camp.
“I’ve seen my family and some key leaders of our church grow as they are used by God during this camp as counselors,” Murphy said. “We have seen many kids accept Christ and many kids discover the love of God that helps them get through some tough living arrangements they’ve not been able to escape from.
“Camp Beyond provides that retreat and escape they need to get saved, feel loved, learn manners and experience Christian mentorship and guidance,” he continued. “I see a fresh move of God at Camp Beyond every year. I thank Brother Tommy for his fresh vision for our youth that lead me into this camp experience.”
While many of those serving as counselors are pastors and members of the association’s black churches, some are former campers, signifying fruit from seeds planted when they were just participants.
“This year our junior counselors stepped up and led the middle school camp,” Middleton said. “They got it. They were there to help those children to grow in their faith and know Christ. They weren’t there just to have fun with them but to help them grow.
“We had kids on stage leading this year who were reluctant junior campers five years ago, and now they are leading,” he continued. “What we are doing is raising a generation of leaders through the camp. It’s not just recreation but re-creation.”
For more information, including how to financially sponsor a camper, contact the Baptist Association of Greater Baton Rouge, 225.296.3943.