Inner City kids, teenagers from four churches, and few adults trying to keep it all running smoothly; triple digit temperatures, bugs, and no air conditioning; what is it I am describing? Free Camp: Columbus, Georgia – July 7-12 in FD Roosevelt State Campground. Children arrived in awe of the campgrounds and kids who wept because their youth leader brought them to such a primitive site and in the heat no less. There were kids who were scared because they were away – way away – from Mom for the first time to kids who were excited about being away from home again. Youth who rode up in a chartered bus to kids who arrived in a van with no air conditioning and needing a quart of oil just to make it another hundred miles. Free Camp is a remarkable tool of evangelism and leadership training ground that crosses social, racial, and economic barriers.
Free Camp in Columbus was an event we have been working on with Pastor Guillermo Rivera to reach children in the “PJ” (Project Housing). Pastor Guillermo did a great job of setting things up with a small crew of folks. Free Camp was honored to work with such an insightful and energetic man committed to making a difference in his community, not just build a church.
There were folks from the following conferences working together for this event: Acts2Day; Cornerstone, Georgia, Great Plains, and North Carolina Conferences. Having folks from so many cultural, economical, and racial backgrounds working together is very inspiring. You know the Holy Spirit is at work when you see the love of God flow through common people to touch hurting people.
Pastor Keith O’Neal of Life Center Church, St. Pauls, NC, along with Pastor Josh Brown from Stanley IPHC, Stanley, NC, did an outstanding job in preparing the teenagers to minister to the 62 little children coming two days later. National Camp Directors, Jake and Chelsea Bunn, led their first camp with great success. To watch teenagers cross over the line to hold little ones of different races and socio-economic groups was almost breathtaking. Pastor John Howard from The First Church in Goldsboro, NC, led a team of teenagers as our music ministry team.
National Commander of the Royal Rangers, David Moore, brought canoes and archery supplies with a team to train and minister to the kids through fun they had never experienced before. There are no canoes or no place to shoot a bow and arrow in “PJ” housing.
It is necessary to teach these children life skills, eternal values, and how to live for Christ, but let’s get real, how much and how far can you take them in four days and three nights? How much can they really ‘learn’ in an environment that is so strange with people they do not even know? It is our opinion we assume way too much in our ministry efforts in order to make ‘us’ feel good. Free Camp never counts ‘salvations’ or tries to make big brags, but what we do claim we take to its fullest…these kids had an encounter with a power they had never experienced. They felt the Holy Spirit by the love they received from human beings, teenagers, and adults. If you could only see the tears of love that were shared, as they were held in teenagers’ arms for up to an hour and a half just loving and being loved. Teenagers had the joy of being Jesus to these little ones and received the love of Jesus in return. “When you do it to the least of these, you have done it unto me.”
We are anxiously awaiting the news on the follow-up ministry that Pastor Rivera and his team is doing. We truly believe we rocked some families with the powerful love of Jesus in Columbus, GA. Now we await July 27th when we will pull together another team in Amarillo, TX, to host their 20th Annual Free Camp, and then follow on August 18-21 in Petersburg, VA for their third Free Camp.
Gary and Carolyn Burd and the team from Amarillo, TX, were blessed to be involved and marvel at what God is doing through a twenty year old dream. Thanks to all for the support and prayer for Free Camp.