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Dennis can’t dampen teens’ spirits at X-Fuge

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (BP)–LifeWay Christian Resources designed the new X-Fuge summer camp to be a Centrifuge-style experience with such “extreme” features as popular Christian recording artists, world-class speakers, professional staging and lighting and a location and accommodations resembling a vacation in paradise.

Extreme weather, however, wasn’t part of the X-Fuge package.

But when Hurricane Dennis turned its course toward the Florida Panhandle where more than 1,600 campers and their leaders were staying in Panama City Beach’s Edgewater Beach Resort, the schedule for the July 6-10 camp changed dramatically. On Friday morning, camp organizers gave youth leaders the news that all Edgewater guests had to evacuate before the resort shut down at 9 a.m. Saturday.

With the hurricane still more than 48 hours away, however, X-Fuge staff continued through that day of camp and wrapped up the first X-Fuge session with Friday evening’s X-treme Party, a “VIP Gold Awards Show.” Groups then had the choice to leave for home around 11 p.m. Friday or wait until early Saturday morning, only missing one day of camp.

“If the Lord had more intended for the week, there would not be a hurricane coming,” said Tyra Lokey of Signart Ministries, who performed dramatic sign language for campers during X-Fuge. “I think everyone got out of this exactly what they needed.”

While camp staff scurried to prepare for the grand finale originally scheduled for Saturday night, campers packed their belongings and soaked up as much beach time as possible during a beautiful day deceptively masking a dangerous storm over the Gulf of Mexico.

The knowledge that a storm might interrupt her camp experience didn’t stop 11th-grader Anna Pruitt from enjoying her trip to X-Fuge. “I had a great time,” said Pruitt, who came to camp with other youth from George’s Creek Baptist Church in Easley, S.C. “I grew closer in my personal relationship with God.”

Throughout the week, campers learned about being salt and light through lessons delivered by freelance student minister Bryan Currie, Lokey’s sign language performances, worship led by contemporary Christian artist Tree63 and the skits of Ryan O’Quinn and Chris Woolsey who used various pop culture references, including mimicking characters from “Napoleon Dynamite” to drive home spiritual truths.

The structure of X-Fuge purposely allowed individual youth groups plenty of time to bond. Each day consisted of morning Bible studies, individual small groups, evening worship times led by Tree63 where students and leaders packed the conference center auditorium at Edgewater -– and plenty of free time each afternoon.

Each night ended with an X-treme Party, which featured concerts by Tree63 and Casting Crowns. The final X-treme Party honored youth leaders with an awards show complete with gaudy formal attire and confetti.

“I don’t have to worry about all the temptations of the world [at camp],” said Leah Robison from Poplar Spring Baptist Church in Murray, Ky. “You can just be here with other Christians.”

While the students obviously enjoyed their free time, their attitudes and participation in worship services proved X-Fuge was more than just a trip to the beach. Each evening, more than 1,600 voices cut through the fog and stage lights as students raised their hands, not to the popular band on stage, but in worship to God.

“It’s a rejuvenating thing since summers are lazy,” said Matthew Beeco from George’s Creek Baptist. “It’s a jumpstart for your walk, but for non-believers, it shows the more exciting side of being a Christian.”

X-Fuge coordinator Jason Ellerbrook said he was pleased with LifeWay’s first week of X-Fuge in spite of Hurricane Dennis. “I’ve been in things a lot less devastating than this [hurricane] at camp that have caused me a lot more stress. The week has been the most extraordinary camp week of my life.”

LifeWay originally planned to offer only one session of X-Fuge during this inaugural year, but unexpectedly high response prompted a second session to be scheduled for July 11-15. More than 3,100 campers signed up to attend X-Fuge this year, and Ellerbrook said as many as 10,000 are expected to participate next year when LifeWay offers more X-Fuge sessions and an additional location in San Diego, Calif.

Hurricane Dennis also shortened the second session of X-Fuge this year. Students arrived at Edgewater on Tuesday, July 12, instead of Monday, July 11, as originally planned. Centrifuge at Endless Summer Camp in Panama City Beach and Crosspoint at Judson College also postponed registration until Tuesday, July 12. LifeWay canceled the July 9-14 session of Centrifuge at Gulfshore Baptist Assembly.
For hurricane-related updates and information about future X-Fuge camps, visit www.fuge.com.

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  • Brooklyn Noel