The recent pandemic forced Arkansas Baptist associations to cancel their annual summer camps for students and children. This, coupled with the cancellation of Vacation Bible School, meant that two of the most effective evangelism tools were no longer available to help these associations reach the lost. In spite of all of the obstacles, associational leaders remained committed and faithful to plan and prepare for the day when camps would return.
Thankfully, association camps were able to return in full force in 2022. Many students were impacted, and lives were changed as God moved in powerful ways this summer. The following stories illustrate the impact and importance of association camps in the lives of Arkansas Baptist students and children.
During the week of June 13, 2022, the Caroline Baptist Association attended church camp at Baptist Vista Camp north of Ozark, Arkansas. There were 154 campers representing nine churches. It was a week of fun laced with worship and discipleship that led to 27 decisions. There were 18 decisions for salvation, 7 rededications, 2 requests for baptism. Most of the decisions were made after evening worship while having their nightly cabin devotions.
Several pastors from the association’s churches led the teaching and devotions. The praise team from Cocklebur Baptist Church led worship and set the mood for the teaching the pastors brought to the camp.
This was the largest number of campers and decisions the association has experienced since the COVID outbreak.
Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Cabot brought 22 youth and children and 100% of them made a spiritual decision. Pastor Calvin King baptized 16 on one Sunday in July and will baptize two more soon. One student went home and shared his decision with his parents, both of whom came forward to request baptism. Pleasant Hill’s congregation runs three vans each Sunday and Wednesday to bring students from several miles away and will continue to disciple these new believers.
Clear Creek Association
Baptist Vista 2022 was a camp that was full of fun, music and most importantly, Jesus! When we arrived on Monday, there was a block party for the kids that included blow ups, games, gaga ball, sno cones and many other exciting activities to welcome the kids to the camp and help break the ice between campers, pastors, and volunteers.
After the party, it was time to get serious. We welcomed Bro. C.W. Blood and Bro. Ben Larimore for the tabernacle services. All week the two camp pastors presented the Gospel in a way their respective age groups would both find enjoyable and soak in the greatest message ever told. Tuesday through Thursday looked a bit different as we began with music, lessons and missionary time during the morning followed by swimming, crafts, and recreation in the afternoon. The younger groups enjoyed recreation with their leaders while the youth enjoyed trying to win the coveted rock through competition all week. After dinner it was time for more music and preaching at the tabernacles along with devotions at the individual cabins. Then bedtime, in which no one sleeps.
Friday, we woke up, said goodbye, and drove away feeling much closer to God than when we arrived. It is a wonderful time that many of us look forward to each and every year. This year we had 32 salvations, 24 rededications and 5 who surrendered to ministry. This was a good year!
Current –Gaines Baptist Association
Current-Gaines Baptist Association held two camps this summer at Cedar Glade Baptist Encampment. As always, God showed up in big ways. At youth camp, just over 80 students and adults heard a message from Pastor Brady Morris. Several students rededicated their lives to Christ and one surrendered to the mission field.
During our children’s camp, Pastor Billy Beech led over 150 children and adults each evening on being a light for Jesus, resulting in at least 11 salvations! We had 13 of our 24 churches send children to our camp this year plus a church from outside our association. This was another great camp year where God never fails to move in the lives of everyone on campus during camp week! We can’t wait til next year!!
Each July, Liberty Baptist Association holds a week of Kid’s Camp for third through sixth graders at our association-owned Beech Springs Camp. We love camp and welcome churches from both within and outside of our association to participate! This year we had 165 campers and chaperones in attendance from eight different churches.
Our theme for the week focused on treasuring God’s Word and hiding it in our hearts. When kids were not busy horseback riding, canoeing, swimming, conquering the ropes course and zipline, or playing gaga ball, speaker Randy Williamson from Scripture Memory Fellowship spent four days teaching different skills, tips, and tricks to memorize Scripture more effectively.
We did not keep a record of decisions made as we left that up to individual churches, however many churches and campers have been attending our camp for several years and we love getting to see how they have grown in their faith year to year! Camp is a special time for our churches, allowing students and chaperones time not only to build meaningful relationships through recreation and corporate worship but also to step away from everyday life and truly turn their attention toward the Lord.
Little Red River Association
We had a great week of camp June 27 – July 3 at Stoneridge Camp in Smithville. A total of 145 children and youth, grades 3-12 from nine churches were in attendance. Our camp pastors were Thomas Guinee (youth) who works with the Baptist Collegiate Ministry on the campus of the University of Arkansas and Will Russell (children) who is the pastor of Bono Baptist Church in Greenbrier. They both did an outstanding job preaching in our evening worship services and teaching during our morning Bible Study time.
Our camp worship leader was Elliott Andrews who serves as the worship pastor at First Baptist Church in Batesville. He did a wonderful job leading us in worship throughout the week. The Lord blessed and did a great work in the lives of many of our campers. We had a total of 12 salvations, 3 rededications, and 4 who surrendered to special ministry! We thank the Lord for the way He blessed us with His presence and power!
Rocky Bayou Association
I am Don Robbins, Pastor of New Hope Church in Hardy and had the privilege of being the Children’s Camp Pastor for Rocky Bayou Baptist Association this year at Cedar Glade Camp in Imboden. We were blessed to see lives changed by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ as well as have a lot of fun. We have camp committees for each of our three camps and the children’s camp committee chose the theme “Follow.” Our lessons, devotions, and messages all followed this theme, and we started planning around nine months in advance.
More important than planning, though, is prayer. We began to pray and were blessed with 180 people, which is the most we have had in several years. At camp, I was leaving in our church van one day to get some ice and a group of kids and their counselor stopped me and prayed for me and the services that night. We had 23 salvations, 6 rededications, 1 surrender to ministry and many, including myself, that grew closer to the Lord that week.
These are more than just numbers. They represent lives changed for the kingdom! These kids and adults go back to their churches in the association and make an impact there. And all the glory goes to Jesus, who is the one we all should follow!
Washington Madison Association
Washington Madison Baptist Association held its annual summer Children & Youth Camp at Baptist Vista in Cass, AR, on July 11-15. We had 130 total at this year’s ROCK Camp. 60 were on the children’s side and 70 were on the youth side. We run two camps at the same location, same week, with two schedules. We recorded at least seven salvation decisions this year plus two surrendered to missions. Ryan Scantling was our Youth Camp speaker and Heath Clower was our Children’s Camp speaker.
One reason we do this each year is because many of our churches cannot afford the larger camps. Another reason we enjoy going to Cass is because the camp is literally “out there.” There is not the world noise, loud music, lights, or anything to distract the young people from sitting and listening to God speak into their lives. We are small enough to allow counselors to connect with the young people one-on-one. We ask our churches to send counselors with their campers so that whatever the campers hear and study at camp, they can take that back to their churches and go further.