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Camp week fosters unity among youth

LYNCHBURG, Va. (BP)–Jason Freer has taken students to camp for 12 years, but when he took 90 youth to Studentz Camp this summer, he marveled at what happened.

“Christ truly moved in all of the kids,” said Freer, youth pastor at Deep Creek Baptist Church in Chesapeake, Va. “I saw God move in a way that really united our group as a family.”

When Freer joined Deep Creek two and a half years ago as middle school pastor, he noticed a difficult dynamic.

“The high school ministry was really struggling, and because of that the middle school ministry was struggling,” Freer said. “We started rebuilding from the bottom up, and the high school pastor eventually was asked to leave the staff.

“He had been there for 10 years, so you had students who had become attached to him. When you lose someone close to you like that, many times a spiritual apathy sets in,” Freer said. “When I came on board, the youth group was like a shattered mirror, little pieces all over the place, all in their own pockets, not really united.”

Freer soon became youth pastor to both middle and high school students, and he and other leaders prayed earnestly for God to move among the youth. At Studentz Camp, God proved Himself faithful.

About 800 middle and high school students gathered on the campus of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., for the annual youth camp of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia. Freer was this year’s emcee, introducing the campers to messages from evangelist Ken Freeman and worship led by Bluetree, a contemporary Christian band.

Throughout the week, students were challenged to make commitments to Christ. By the end of the week, more than 100 students had prayed to receive Christ and 50 students rededicated their lives.

Among the Deep Creek youth, Freer witnessed something he had never seen before.

“We’ve seen unity when kids come back from camp or they have these little pockets of God moments, but this was just something where God was moving through a large group of kids,” Freer said. “It wasn’t two or three driving this movement. It was really God working in all of them.

“On Wednesday night, during the time when our church got together as a group of 90, I had come in late, and when I walked in, there were kids not just sharing camp experiences but sharing God moments and experiences,” he said. “Some of them said they wanted to be baptized. Students were praying with other students, encouraging each other.”

In their rooms late at night, students were studying the Bible and leading their friends to Jesus.

“I’m blown away by middle schoolers leading their friends to Christ, showing them what it means to be a Christ-follower. I’ve never seen it in that magnitude of God moving all at once,” Freer said. “It was not just a camp experience but God harnessing our group and preparing them to do something great.”

God moving the way He did among the Deep Creek youth is more remarkable because of where the group was prior to camp.

“We have some kids who have lost family members, some kids who are going through divorce situations in their homes. We have black kids and we have white kids and we have oriental kids. They were all in these little pockets, but at camp, they all joined together,” Freer said.

Jeff Ginn, executive director of the SBCV, said he has seen firsthand the touch of God upon Studentz Camp.

“The lives of students were changed for time and eternity. For its spiritual impact, quality of venue and affordability, it is unsurpassed nationally,” Ginn said.

Students were not the only ones impacted by a week at camp. Freer shared with SBCV staff that one of his goals at camp is to invite adult leaders who he can disciple and ignite a passion in their lives to serve youth and see how they can be used by God. In need of more adult leaders, Freer asked several men in the church to consider helping at camp. Because of work conflicts, nearly everyone declined his offer — except one.

“I had just finished preaching one Sunday,” Freer said, when “one guy came up to me and asked, ‘How’s camp coming along?'” Not expecting the man to accept his offer, Freer invited him to join them at camp. With a week of unused vacation left, the man gladly accepted the offer, and his week at camp changed his life.

“He was a blessing to our team and kids,” Freer said, adding that the man realized he needed to live for Christ every day so his family, church and coworkers could see Jesus in him.

Next year’s Studentz Camp will be July 11-15 at Liberty University. Evangelist Tony Nolan and the contemporary Christian band BarlowGirl are slated for the week.

“It’s so amazing to see students when they have real God moments, not just camp moments, but a connection with the One who created them. It’s those God moments that change the heart and direction of someone’s life forever,” Freer said.
Stacey Billger is a writer in Texas, and Brandon Pickett is director of media services for the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia. Baptist Press staff writer Erin Roach contributed to this story.

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