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10/9/97 Hunger funds help camp reach youth from homeless families

JARRETSVILLE, Md. (BP)–For more than 80 youngsters from homeless shelters in northern Virginia, it was a reprieve from the crowded confines of their urban quarters to a more rural and hopeful setting.
The Mt. Vernon Baptist Association, just outside Washington, sponsored a four-day rustic camp in Jarretsville, Md., this summer for children from homeless families living in transitional housing.
Fairfax County, where most of the youth live, has the highest median income of any county in the United States but also one of the highest costs of living, leaving many area families in desperate financial straits.
Expecting about 30 to 35 children, Sanford Beckett, director of education and ministries for the association, was overwhelmed when just 10 days prior to the camp 95 children were signed up and 25 more applications were in hand.
“We did not have enough counselors, resources or anything else for that many kids,” Beckett said. “But God provided in that last week as 10 more counselors volunteered.”
Traditionally, because of unstable home situations about one-fourth of the children who sign up do not come. But this year that didn’t happen. When camp day arrived, the final count was 85 children and 40 counselors.
Buoyed by funds given by Virginia Southern Baptists for hunger needs and with financial help from the local association, the youngsters’ needs were met and six professions of faith were recorded.
Without Southern Baptists’ giving to hunger relief, the camp would not have been held, Beckett said. “Because of the enlargement of the camp this year, every dime was needed. We could not have done the camp without the funds.”
Living on the edge of society, the children were unaccustomed to receiving three solid meals per day and such an outpouring of love from a staff that understood the week as a unique ministry opportunity.
“Without the camp, some of the children would miss out on hearing the gospel presented in a way they can understand,” Beckett said. “I took one boy to the hospital and he did not know his address,” Beckett said. “He could name any major league player of any sport but did not know where he was staying. He was 9. He didn’t know where his family was staying because they had recently been in a shelter and did not know when they might move.”
Beckett spoke excitedly of one 17-year-old in the camp’s history: “Larry came as a grade school kid to one of our first camps and placed his faith in Christ. To see him return and share how this camp changed his life had major impact on these kids. He told the kids how a lot of the young people he knows are doing drugs, but he doesn’t need that because he’s got Jesus.” Larry’s dad had been into the drug scene, Beckett said, noting the young man didn’t turn to drugs even though they were part of his family environment. “Coming to Christ had kept him from it. He even went to his dad and told him, ‘This is wrong.” While many of the young people only come to one camp due to their family’s transient nature, Larry was the exception. “But after two camps we lost track of him again; that is very typical of these kids.”
Even though the ministry has very few repeat campers, Beckett said the ministry is nevertheless very valuable.
“I think it’s important for the kids and for the families to have a hope and realize that someone cares about them,” he said. “I also believe it is important for our churches to show that we care and at times do ministry without knowing if we are going to get anything in return.”

    About the Author

  • Steven S. Nelson