GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–The Centrifuge camp began with a bang -– literally.
Thunder shook the mountains surrounding the LifeWay Glorieta Conference Center near Santa Fe, N.M., as students, chaperones and leaders ventured into the rain, sloshing and splashing their way to Aspen Auditorium for the camp’s opening night.
Soggy sneakers, however, were quickly forgotten as camp worship leaders — the Trae Castles Band — began a passionate time of praise and worship.
Some 600 campers from throughout the western United States and as far away as Louisiana gathered for activities, fellowship, worship and lessons based upon the theme, “Kilimanjaro: Kingdom Secrets.”
“This week, I want to invite you to go on an adventure that just might change your life,” camp pastor Jason Young said in opening the July 14-19 Centrifuge session. “This is a risky adventure. This is camp and it’s a safe environment, but this could be an adventure that will change your life.”
Young challenged the students to consider what it means to be a true Christ-follower.
“A lot of us want the perks of being a Christian, but we don’t want to pay the price,” Young said, introducing his sermon topic for the week on the costs and tools of being a Christian. “I want you to pay the price. What does it take to really follow Jesus?”
Young said later that his main goal during the week was to connect with the students of the Millennial Generation in a way that would cause them to think about familiar stories and ideas in new ways, which would lead to action and life-change.
“I don’t think this generation necessarily needs to hear anything new,” Young said. “They may just need to be reminded. If we can get them to think…. [T]hinking eventually leads to action and that leads to life-change.”
After just a one day of camp, Jonathan Hughes, a rising 10th-grader from Lake Ridge Bible Church in Mesquite, Texas, understood the weight of Young’s message.
“This is about leaving behind the burdens, but that’s hard because the burdens seem good,” Hughes said, noting that giving in to sin is often the easy way out.
Hughes, who was spending his first week at a Fuge camp, said he came because he felt the Lord telling him to come, though he wasn’t exactly certain as to why.
“Camp isn’t just the same old thing,” Hughes said. “It throws you out of the rhythm. It gets you excited and motivated. I hope to go home redirected and sent down a new path.”
Throughout the week, students took part in Bible study sessions with others from their churches as well as inter-church Bible study sessions organized under African country team names, in addition to full-scale worship services with singing and a sermon.
Centrifuge, however, is about more than Bible study. For many of the students, it is an opportunity to bond with others in their youth group as well as those beyond that group.
“I came because I wanted to become a deeper Christian,” said Jennifer Griffin, a seventh-grader from the Lake Ridge Church. “But I’m also learning how to meet new friends and then encourage them.”
Much of the fellowship time occurred on the recreation field during rousing games of rubber chicken baseball and other quirky activities, or during meals and free times.
Judy Stice, a chaperone with First Baptist Church in Uvalde, Texas, came with a group of 36 campers and noticed the benefits early in the week.
“It’s obvious this staff cares about kids,” Stice said, adding that she had seen staff members’ impact on students before even two days had passed. “I want them [students] to go home having grown closer to God and with a better sense of focus as they get ready to start school.
“I love the intensity of the program and the lack of distractions.”
This summer marked the 30th anniversary of the Centrifuge program, which is now a series of student camps operated by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Fuge began as a single camp concept but has since expanded to feature its original format as well as other camps such as CentriKid, a camp for third- through sixth-graders, and M-Fuge, a camp that incorporates mission work into the camp experience.
“This is an historic summer,” said Hal Hill, director of the Glorieta conference center, where multiple sessions of Fuge were held throughout the summer. “Our desire is to make this a place without distraction.”
After three decades in operation, some chaperones and campers have logged multi-year attendance at Fuge camps, but that doesn’t mean they were any less excited this year.
Baileigh Beasley, a rising ninth-grader from First Baptist in Uvalde, was attending Fuge for the second time, but this one was different.
“This time, I’m really getting to grow in my relationship with Christ and with my youth group,” Beasley said, adding that coming to camp was a way for her to escape the stress of beginning high school in the fall. She said she would use the tools mastered at camp at her new school.
“I want to take the Word of God with me,” Beasley said. “I want to step out of my comfort zone and learn how to share Christ with [new classmates].”
Beasley’s reaction to the lessons taught at camp seemed to be exactly what Young hoped to accomplish.
“I’m building toward an ultimate goal,” Young said. “I want to equip these students and say, ‘Take your story, and go share it.’
“Camp is the catalyst,” he said. “The Centrifuge tagline ‘life-changing camps and events’ … I’ve seen that.”
Brooklyn Noel is a corporate communications specialist with LifeWay Christian Resources. For more information about LifeWay’s Fuge camp program, visit www.lifeway.com/fuge.