By Hannah Fleming, Message Staff Writer
WOODWORTH – “We’re hoping we’ll have boys come here who don’t have a relationship with Christ and through our services, missionaries and Bible studies they will get to the point where they will be ready to accept Him.”
Those are lofty expectations but according to Mike Collie, Royal Ambassadors camp director of Louisiana for campers, very achievable.
Collie, who has been director for 25 years and travels the state to numerous conferences and camps such as the RA Congress and Survival Man Camp, believes camps such as the recent RA Camp held at Tall Timbers can help campers obtain those expectations.
RA Camp is a week-long camp to help train first through sixth grade boys to become spiritual leaders in this world.
At the start and end of each day, campers meet at the flag pole for the raising and lowering of the flag followed by breakfast in the morning, lunch and supper in the evening. In between they attend six sessions filled with Bible study, worship and worship music and mission work.
“We want to give them the opportunity to be around Christian men and show them that we all mess up but we can still have fun,” said Collie. “I think the world tries to make these kids think they are something different.”
The theme for the week is ‘Be Transformed’ and each Bible study digs deeper into that meaning using Romans 3:23.
Carey Long, the camp’s pastor, starts off by leading them in a celebratory worship service and bible study (three sessions before lunch and three afterwards) and each night leads them in a more detailed worship service.
Long, who has his own evangelical ministry for youth camps and conferences and helps in parenting events as well, began his ministry in 2001 and in 2010 started doing youth evangelism. He recently began pastoring a small church in Slidell.
At the start of the week, Long teaches students who God is which leads into who they are as God’s creations and on the following day he presented the story of the prodigal son where he preached about God’s acceptance and forgiveness.
“We’ve all have those times where we either run to God or run away from God,” said Long, who mentions how everyone is like the prodigal son because everyone sins. “When we decide to go back to God He allows us to be a part of His family.”
After each session, camp leaders and counselors go back and talk to the campers about what they have learned.
This allows the campers to ask questions, to think about and understand what God might have laid on their hearts.
Following Tuesday night’s service several students expressed an interest in a relationship with God and went with counselors to separate rooms to talk more. By the end of the evening, 13 students had accepted Christ.
“It’s amazing how many people you find who have felt called to missions or who given their life to Christ at RA Camp,” said Collie, who says he is constantly meeting people in his travels who have been with him at RA Camp.
“I really feel the boys can start revival among the churches,” said Long. “If revival starts with them as kids, it will last for years.”
Worship and Bible study, though, isn’t all campers are allowed to do.
They get to enjoy playing bazooka ball, climb the high ropes course, swim, shoot a sling shot or BB gun and practice archery.
By mid-week, some of the boys are already showing the impact the week has had on them.
“God’s alive not dead,” said 12-year-old Charlie Dupree. “He’s with us always even if we try to run away from Him.”
This is Dupree’s second time at camp and also last because he will be moving on to older camps and events next summer.
When asked his favorite part of camp, “Everything. I love RA Camp,” Dupree said, “except for the archery. I’m not very good but I had fun doing everything else.”