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Camp aims to be ‘a place where it is easy for people to be saved&#821

SILOAM SPRINGS, Ark. (BP)–His knuckles turned white as he gripped the pew in front of him. His faced showed the evidence of the conviction he was under. Still he did not move.
“Monday night at the service, I could see that everything was getting to him,” said Lynn Wilson of her 15-year-old son, Bo.
Though he did not make a decision that night, Bo could not escape the Holy Spirit because that Monday night service only began his week at the Arkansas Baptist Assembly at Siloam Springs. Bo, from Temple Baptist Church in Searcy, was surrounded by the gospel message not only in worship, but throughout the day.
Bo went forward to make a public profession of faith the following night, but it didn’t end there. His 12-year-old sister, Dawn, also made a commitment to Christ during the Wednesday night children’s service.
“The church has prayed for Bo for quite a while, and I was beginning to think it wasn’t going to happen,” said his mother. “Dawn,” she explained, “was a complete surprise.”
Lynn Wilson went to church camp expecting to grow spiritually and have a relaxing week. However, because of the salvation environment of the camp, Wilson left with two new Christian children.
“I am happy that now all of my children are saved,” she said.
Testimonies such as that of the Wilson family are the goal for Siloam Springs assembly. Pat Batchelor, camp director for six years, explained in organizing Siloam Springs he worked to create an environment that continually shows Jesus.
“This camp is very specific. Our goal here is to make it a place where it is easy for people to be saved,” Batchelor said.
Lonnie Latham, executive director for the Tulsa Metro Baptist Association in Oklahoma and one of the camp’s pastors this summer, shared Batchelor’s vision of a salvation environment at camp.
“This is a tremendous environment. It is a very open environment for sharing the gospel,” said Latham, who attributed that environment to the attitudes of the staffers, dorm supervisors and the campers.
Pointing out that the camp’s evangelistic thrust entails more than its evening worship services, Batchelor said, “Everything we do here points toward salvation experiences for lost kids.”
“Everything” includes nightly church group meetings, recreation time, evening worship services and camp-wide Bible classes, as well as dorm time, mealtime and even free time. Youth and children can be saved during all of those activities through what Batchelor calls “relational evangelism.”
“Everything we do here is designed to promote building relationships, and one of those relationships is the one with the Father,” Batchelor said.
With more than 700 children and youth making a commitment to Christ during 10 weeks this summer, it seems relational evangelism works well for the camp.
Perhaps the best relationship building time and undoubtedly the most fun time is recreation. Groups are challenged to scale a sheer wall, walk a ropes course and build a human pyramid, all of which requires teamwork.
Viewing recreation as a time to teach as well as develop relationships, Brian Crump, youth minister at First Cullendale Baptist Church in Camden, said spiritual application can be drawn from all recreation activities.
“Recreation takes Scripture off the pages and brings it to your life,” Crump explained.
But the youth are not the only campers engaging in fun activities. The children’s park for kids in grades four through six keeps campers busy with classes, crafts and games.
“We do a lot of things to get wet and messy, and the kids love it,” said children’s park staffer Jennifer Loftin.
Loftin, a junior at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, explained the children’s park is organized similar to the youth camp, but it is tailored for children. Sermons are filled with illustrations and hands-on activities.
The children’s park averages 200 kids in a week, except for children-only week, when more than 1,000 kids come for camp. Loftin said many professions of faith are made at the park.
“In children’s camp, you can see a lot of that childlike faith being demonstrated, and that is amazing,” said Loftin, one of about 20 college students who spend their summer ministering to the campers at Siloam Springs.
Christian Overton, an 18-year-old freshman at Ouachita Baptist University, explained staffers have a big responsibility because their attitude effects the environment of the entire camp.
“The way we act toward the kids is a form of evangelism,” Overton said. “We can make camp. We have to hold each other accountable because if we are not right with God, the kids can tell.”
Siloam Springs is not only about seeing people saved. Many campers, such as Caleb Hicks, come every year because the environment allows them to draw closer to God and others.
Hicks, who has attended camp for eight years, explained he continues to come because each year he is challenged to learn more.
“Camp has opened my eyes to things I would not have learned on my own,” he said.
Josh Sawyer, a second-year camper from North Crossett Baptist Church in Crossett, said he was saved at camp last summer and came back because he “wanted to bring kids to camp and see them be saved.”
Sawyer also said he enjoyed the music and sermons at the worship services, with Batchelor noting there are no themes or guidelines to follow. Rather, the services are guided by the Holy Spirit. During one service when Latham spoke, 32 young people were saved, and those youth began filling the altar even before he began his sermon.
When the Holy Spirit moves in such a way as that, Batchelor said, he “just marvels at what God does.”

Raines is a student at Ouachita Baptist University and an intern with the Arkansas Baptist Newsmagazine.

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  • Rachel Raines