By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
WOODWORTH – As Steve Horn was talking to more than 330 young men and adults, a 10-foot robot entered the Tall Timbers conference center and made his way through an aisle of eager campers touching and high-fiving the machine.
A few minutes later, Gigamaxx – the white robot that resembles what one might see in a motion picture – came face-to-face with Horn, who began sharing what he told the Royal Ambassadors moments earlier – the message of transformation through salvation in Jesus Christ.
Horn, who is pastor of First Baptist Lafayette and Louisiana Baptist Convention president, said for transformation to take place, the boys must believe Jesus died on the cross for their sins, make a commitment to Him and continue to surround themselves with things of God.
“There are other boys your age, folks at your school, people you play soccer and baseball with and even some adults that want to conform you in what they want you to be,” Horn told the youngsters attending RA Congress. “And it may not be anything at all like what God wants you to be.
“You will have a lot of opportunities growing up to conform,” he continued. “What that means is to be more like the world than like God. God wants to transform you.”
Horn’s message and the appearance of Gigamaxx shared his message based on Romans 12:1-2 and the conference theme – “Be Transformed.”
Held at Tall Timbers Conference Center in Woodworth, RA Congress drew 211 RAs from 17 churches. Of those RAs in attendance, 41 accepted Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.
The two-day conference featured a missions offering collected to go toward the construction of the Georgia Barnette Conference Center on the Tall Timbers property and competitions such as archery, BB guns, obstacle course, rope craft and log-sawing.
RA Congress also included derby car and Soap Box car races. Participants competed in a series of heats with a goal of placing first in their respective grade level.
The champion from each grade then advanced to the overall finals to determine the top three overall winners. The overall derby car winners were Gavin Beasley, First Baptist Baker, first place; Connor Gwatney, First Baptist Lafayette, second place; and Brady Beasley, First Baptist Baker, third place.
In addition to the various competitions the weekend also featured testimonies from Louisiana Baptist missionaries, including David Smith of Baton Rouge, retired International Mission Board missionary; Christine Gill of Lafayette, who previously served for two years in Botswana, Africa; and Mike Houston of Ruston, who served in central Asia.
Hearing from missionaries was a highlight of the weekend for Jeff Vann, a sixth grader from First Baptist Lafayette.
“The special guests they had reminded us about how great Jesus is and how we should enjoy what God has made,” Vann said. “Each time we come here it seems like they are finding ways to tell us about Jesus while having some fun stuff too.”
Competing in archery was one of the favorite activities of the weekend for Daniel Rose, a fifth grader from Ouachita Baptist Church in West Monroe.
“I’ve been doing archery here for several years and am getting really good at it,” Rose said. “We have a lot of fun coming here every year learning about God and doing some really fun activities. This year was a bonus with the robot. I might even get to talk to him.”
Mike Collie said RA Congress is an important time for the boys to spend with their dads.
“Most boys are growing up wanting to be a hero, but dads, you already are a hero to your son,” said Collie, an RA consultant. “This weekend allows the boys to spend some quality time with their dads.
“But we also have an evangelistic moment where the boys meet real life missionaries from the field,” he continued. “And some of those missionaries will plant a seed in the boys in the hopes that one day maybe one of them will be a missionary.”