God’s mission is all encompassing.
It involves everyone and everything. It happens every day and everywhere.
A youth weeks group prays over packaged meals. This summer, youth packed 250,000 meals that will be deliever to Haiti.
Students from all across North Carolina learned about those truths and how they apply to their lives all summer long during the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) summer youth weeks held at the N.C. Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell located on Oak Island. This year’s theme was “Every One, Every Thing, Every Day, Every Where: Living on Mission” based on 1 Peter 2:9.
This year, more than 6,500 middle and high school students representing 277 churches attended one of the seven youth week camps held from June 13 to Aug. 6 at Caswell.
Each week of camp featured powerful worship, messages focused on the camp theme and a hands-on missions experience. Youth weeks also included intentional discipleship that emphasized the importance of consistently spending time in God’s Word through daily quiet times and church and small group devotions.
Campers also enjoyed drama, skits, games and recreational activities, all at a beautiful oceanfront setting near the southeastern tip of North Carolina. But youth weeks are designed to be a lot more than just a summer getaway with fun in the sun.
“Camp is not just about them coming to the beach and playing,” said Merrie Johnson, the BSC’s youth evangelism and discipleship consultant who has coordinated summer camps at Caswell for 15 years. “Youth weeks are designed to give students an opportunity to listen to God speak to them and understand what it means to have a real and vibrant relationship with Christ.”
Throughout the summer, Johnson, along with camp staffers, youth leaders and chaperones from the churches in attendance, saw God move in the lives of the youth who attended. Johnson said that over the course of the seven youth weeks, 297 attendees made a first-time decision for Christ, 948 rededicated their lives to Him and 334 more answered a call to vocational ministry.
“I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that I find my identity in Christ, and I need to put my trust in Him because He’s going to be there every step of the way,” said Gracelyn Williams, a first-time camp attendee from Penn Memorial Baptist Church in Reidsville. “I would love to come back next year because it’s a really great place to learn more about the gospel.”
Afshin Ziafat, lead pastor of Providence Church in Frisco, Texas, served as the worship service proclaimer during one of the seven youth weeks. During his series of messages throughout the week, Ziafat shared with campers how the youth weeks’ theme relates to the themes of creation, fall, redemption and restoration that form the grand narrative of the Bible. Ziafat emphasized that being a committed follower of Christ means living a life on mission for God.
“When you get the gospel, repent and become a follower (of Jesus), you immediately become a missionary,” Ziafat said during one of his messages. “You cannot divorce your being saved to your being sent on this mission. Every one of us is called to be on this mission.”
Matt Coble, a high school student from Monroe who was attending youth weeks for the fifth consecutive summer, said Ziafat’s messages helped him understand how everything that happens in life is a part of God’s plan and purposes. Coble said this year’s camp has challenged him to live out his faith more at home, at school and in his community.
“Every year, God speaks to me in a different way and leads me in a different direction than He did the year before,” Coble said of his youth week experiences. “This year, God is teaching me that everything has a purpose for His glory. Even though it doesn’t look like it sometimes, it’s going to be for His glory and not always what we want. I’m looking forward to sharing about Him with everyone I come in contact with.”
Youth weeks also gave attendees a chance to participate in a hands-on mission project while at Caswell. Each week, campers spent time each day packing meals that will be delivered to Haiti. Through an ongoing partnership with Change This World – a faith-based hunger relief organization that recently merged with a similar organization and is now known as Feeding Children Everywhere – meals packed at Caswell will be distributed to an orphanage and surrounding community in Jacmel, Haiti.
This past summer, campers packed 250,000 meals that will be delivered to Haiti later this year. Campers also gave more than $67,000 in offerings throughout youth weeks, which will be used to help pay for the delivery and distribution of the meals in Haiti. This summer marked the sixth year that campers had packed meals for Haiti, bringing the total number of meals packed and delivered to 1.5 million. With each meal that is delivered, the gospel is also shared.
“I think this is an awesome thing campers get to do because they get to be involved in missions while they are here,” said Sam Stone, who has served as a youth weeks staff member for two years. “Since our theme is being on mission, this really helps to focus in on the theme.
“We try to stress, however, that living on mission doesn’t mean you have to get on a plane and fly somewhere to share the gospel. Living on mission is sharing the gospel every day and living the gospel in every single moment of your life. Living on mission can be done every single day.”
This year, to help equip students to live on mission, Johnson expanded the training she offers for youth pastors and leaders at camp by making some sessions available to campers. The new “Youth Ministry University” gave adults and students alike the opportunity to attend classes and training sessions on topics such as how to study the Bible, world religions and starting a student-led ministry at their school.
“We wanted to conduct leadership training for adults and students but without requiring them to attend a separate event,” Johnson said.
Justin Baucom, a youth pastor at Roanoke Baptist Church in Monroe, said he witnessed God at work in the lives of his students during their week at Caswell. He said many are understanding what it means to live on mission and the importance of it.
“We want to help them understand that being a Christian is not just on Sunday, and it’s not just on Wednesday night,” Baucom said.
“It’s every day. The gospel is not just for you to hear once. The gospel is something we should hear all the time. It should be a daily reminder of what we’ve been called to do and how we should live.”