Baptist youth participating in the 2014 Baptist State Convention’s summer youth program at Caswell met a major milestone regarding efforts to provide meals in Haiti.
During the closing hours of July 30, participants of Youth Week 7, the last week of summer camp, packaged the one-millionth meal.
This was the fourth summer youth attending the summer camp sessions have packed the meals; they packed 300,000 meals this summer alone. The four-year total came to 1,000,225 meals.
A total of 6,573 young people – more than 1,000 youth and leaders most weeks – attended seven one-week sessions this year during the summer, part of the BeDoTell ministry led by Baptist State Convention of North Carolina staffer, Merrie Johnson.
Campers came from 264 churches.
The summer youth weeks have long been one of the convention’s most successful ministries offering blended Bible-based discipleship teaching, personal quiet times, innovative worship/celebration times and contemporary Christian music along with sports, beach activities and other recreation unique to the N.C. Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell on Oak Island.
BSC photo by Mike Creswell.
The BeDoTell team prays over the final box of meals bound for Haiti. This summer, youth filled more than 300,000 packs of food. The four-year total came to 1,000,225 meals. See photo gallery at BRnow.org/Photo-Gallery.
Of the 6,573 attending, 487 professed faith in Christ for the first time and 3,267 rededicated their lives to Christ.
Young people cheered and balloons rained down during the closing Wednesday night worship session of the final week when Johnson told them about the millionth meal.
Buying the food to fill 300,000 packets called for $75,000 to be raised over the summer through offerings received during the camps, plus several more thousand to ship it to Haiti and pay import fees and other costs, and the total amount raised over the summer came to $86,066.66.
“Pretty cool to see how much impact it has had,” said Russell McBride, a BeDoTell staff member. McBride recently graduated from the University of Tennessee and is studying at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest.
In each packing room large posters headed with “Millionth Meal Summer” were autographed by thousands of Baptist youth who helped pack the meals.
Periodically youth leader Doug Bryant of Providence Baptist Church in Hickory, signaled his youth for quiet as they gathered round a box of food they just packed and prayed for those who would receive it.
Along with the printed word, “Hope,” each box carried the handwritten words, “Jezi renmen ou” (Jesus loves you) and “priye pou ou” (praying for you).
As Change This World staffers counted off the boxes that afternoon, excitement grew among the packers. “Just 30 boxes to go,” one announced. As the final packet and box were packed, Johnson gathered her summer staff around to pose for photos and then to have a prayer. She asked for God to let the Haitians know that, “… yes, You will provide for their physical needs, but also for their spiritual needs.”
Johnson said it was four years ago that she began looking for a way to involve youth in some kind of ministry that would both meet physical needs and help the gospel be proclaimed.
Then at a missions conference she heard about a ministry called Change This World, headquartered in Altamonte Springs, Fla., near Orlando, which is based around packing food on location. She talked with the ministry’s representatives, telling them, “The only way we’ll do it is if God will be honored and the gospel would be presented as well.”
Two weeks later, they called her to say an opportunity in Haiti had just been found: the House of Abraham, an orphanage in Jacmel, Haiti, a city about three hours from Port-au-Prince. The food will be distributed among 300 orphanages and schools in and around Jacmel.
Change This World staffer Andrew Neal said the organization stresses they do not just distribute food, but want to use food as a way to bring hope and the gospel to people. He said they work with groups across the country to collect funds, buy food and get it shipped to Haiti, Honduras or Burundi – their three partner countries.
“Food changes everything. It changes opportunities,” Neal said. “Parents who have never sent their kids to school will send them if food is provided,” he said.
Each food packet contains rice, soy, dried vegetables and vitamins, said Cogan Blackmon, a Change This World summer intern from Anderson, Ind.
Because of the food partnership, One of the two summer interns with Change This Word was Murphy Johnson, Merrie Johnson’s son.
Murphy has worked with the summer program for years. He said he concentrated on tracking the numbers of packets and filling the shipping containers.
Often the kids at Caswell at first were less than happy about taking an hour from their week to pack food parcels, Murphy said. But as they learned more about the program through video and talking to staffers like him, their attitudes changed.
“By the end it’s cool to see them with a smile on their face and knowing they’ve done something bigger than themselves,” he said. And the work has not gotten tiresome for him, he said.
That’s partly because he was able to visit Jacmel, Haiti, and see the food packed at Caswell actually given to hungry kids. During one prayer time, he saw one of the Haitian kids lift his plate of food up to the sky as he gave thanks.
“I’d see kids eat four bites and say they were taking the rest to their mom because she hasn’t eaten in a week. It’s humbling to see how much Americans take for granted,” he said.