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Centri-KID counselor finds calling through camp experience

LYNCHBURG, Va. (BP)-–Jeremy Sandefur sits on the floor surrounded by 10 pre-teens in a room with posters announcing the name of their group –- “Moldy Pizza.” For the rambunctious 11-year-olds in his care, this is their week at camp. For Sandefur, this is his ninth. He admits he’s tired, but his face and energy level say otherwise to the kids.

“This is Week 1 for them –- it wouldn’t be fair for me to act tired,” the Samford University sophomore says, displaying a well-worn grin he’s had a lot of practice using over the last two and a half months. He and the rest of his Centri-KID summer team have served campers for the last nine weeks in several different states and locations.

Sandefur attended Centri-KID for the first time last year as a sponsor with his church in Macon, Ga. This year he’s part of the summer staff, being a friend, teacher and coach for the camp designed for 8 to 12-year-olds and offered by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

When he’s in school he serves as a youth intern at Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala.

“This age has overwhelming joy,” Sandefur said. “They’re not afraid to seek the truth. They’re very moldable.”

One of his most memorable experiences, he said, was the opportunity to lead a young third-grade boy to Christ after an invitation call in one of the nightly worship services.

“I talked to him and he prayed the prayer in his own words and when he opened his eyes, he had the biggest smile on his face that I’ve ever seen on a little kid,” Sandefur said. “It was all God.”

He’s seen God work in his own life as well. An education major, Sandefur came into contact with several campers with special needs, a direction he feels God may be leading him.

One little boy, eight years old and debilitated by multiple sclerosis, was confined to a wheelchair, unable to talk or move. The young college guys on staff weren’t sure how they could connect with the third-grader. Almost by accident during the first day of free time, Sandefur visited the little boy’s cabin. Picking him up out of his wheelchair, the little boy’s sponsors placed him on the couch next to Sandefur, who started talking with him. Before long, the little boy was laughing so hard he was crying.

“I was really convicted right then, seeing this little boy unable to talk or move but still able to have joy,” he said. He hung out with him all week.

“I really feel like God’s calling me to teach special education,” said Sandefur, who added that the last week of camp he had a little boy with severe autism in his group. “God’s putting these kids in my path for a reason. It’s not me at all, I know that.”

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  • Sara Horn