“How do you know where you’re going, Daddy,” asked Drake as we walked through the woods of Kids Camp. This was his first time to anything that involves outdoor adventure. The Shiell family’s idea of camping usually comes with air conditioning. This month was his first chance to experience camping of any sort. He tagged along with Kelly and me as we participated in the second annual First Baptist Kids Camp. (Pictured L to R: Jackson Snodgrass, David Lethco, Jim Mabe, and Mark Coffield)
Readers of this blog will remember last year’s report. We began a unique effort of producing a children's camp with youth taking key roles as leaders. This year, Michael McEntyre, Susan Tatum joined by Anissa Hudson led our students to teach and train future generations. The youth led, and 3-5th graders followed. Once again, this year has gone above and beyond our imaginations. Forty-seven of us traveled to the end of Happy Hollow Road in Sevier County to do what churches do best. We train people in the character of Christ. In this case, “we” were 7-12th graders, along with college, young adults, and parents leading Bible studies, sleeping in bunk beds, eating a lot of bacon, singing music, jumping around, and showing students how to jump into faith in Christ. I had the privilege of teaching in the morning and evening services. This year was especially meaningful to me. My entire family participated; and Mark Coffield, David Lethco and I went to Children's Camp together my first summer in Knoxville....except Mark and David were campers. Today they are leaders.
The children were church to each other. We watched as students who fell down and scraped knees were assisted by other children who ran to get band-aids without being prompted. We saw students who came from 12 different elementary schools across Knox and Sevier Counties form a small community in just a few hours. We listened as children poured their hearts out to each other and were comforted by caring adults and friends who set examples through their lives and witness.
The pre-teen years are so vital for us as First Baptist. I have a vested interest in this group. Parker is one of the rising 5th graders. Our church family must be vigilant and intentional in these formative years. The gods of our society are pretty jealous about time and commitment. Weeks like these, however, give us a chance not to only say as a church, “Jesus is Lord,” but to re-commit to these students as they mature and grow. We back that confession with action and transformation. With our "home grown" talent, children are motivated to bring friends. With the spiritual prayers and direction from staff and volunteers, the event becomes an incredible, quality offering to the Lord.
Thank you for investing in this ministry. Thank you to the adults who sacrificed their time to begin preparations weeks ago and to share with these children a piece of their lives. And if you’re like Drake and occasionally wonder where we’re going, just watch these students. They’re ready to hold our hands through the forest as a “little child” leads the way.