BRENTWOOD, Tenn. – This summer, as thousands of kids, students and chaperones at Lifeway camps developed a greater understanding of missions and a heart for missionaries, they gave generously, entrusting their gifts for Great Commission purposes.
As a result of this generosity, Ben Mandrell, president and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources, presented checks totaling $587,484.97 to International Mission Board (IMB) President Paul Chitwood and North American Mission Board (NAMB) President Kevin Ezell on Monday, Sept. 18, during the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee trustee meeting.
“Every year, one of my favorite moments is presenting the checks to NAMB and IMB from thousands of campers from across the country who have put their money together to support Southern Baptist missions efforts,” Mandrell said. “I love missions, and our team at Lifeway is honored to help support our Southern Baptist missionaries.”
This summer, as Lifeway hosted more than 111,000 kids and students at camps across the nation, representing more than 4,000 churches, it continued its partnership with the IMB and NAMB, providing missions discipleship and promoting missional giving among kids and students attending Lifeway camps.
“One thing people may not realize is the amount of missions education we do at our Lifeway camps every summer,” Mandrell told SBC EC members. “Students who attend camp learn about a church planter who serves through NAMB and a people group we are praying for and trying to reach with the gospel through the work of IMB missionaries.”
“Tomorrow’s missionaries, pastors and ministry leaders are in our churches today. And we must do everything we can to invest in them and raise them up so they are ready to answer the call,” Ezell said. “Specifically, to this year’s campers and their leaders, I want to say thank you for your generosity.”
FUGE Camps, CentriKid, Student Life Camp and Student Life Kids Camp all emphasized international missions partners through the IMB. Kids and students gave to the IMB through Lifeway camps, knowing their gifts would help fund efforts to reach unreached people groups, specifically supporting the work of missionaries serving in Panama working with the Emberá people.
The Emberá people of Panama are one of more than 300 unreached people groups in the Americas. They live in remote river communities in the vast jungle between Panama and Colombia. Throughout the week, students learned about the Emberá people and culture and how IMB missionaries Kenny and Cheryl share the Gospel with them. And through daily videos at camp, they met some Emberá who have come to know Jesus, including Cenaida and her son Santiago.
“We have formed a missionary team of local believers who have a heart to reach the Emberá for Christ,” Cheryl explained in a video that played each week at CentriKid and Student Life Kids Camp. “Teams like this are the reason people like Santiago know Jesus.”
Through the missions emphasis in videos, teaching and prayer, Lifeway camps challenged students to consider how the Emberá could know and love God if no one told them, if they didn’t have access to the Gospel. By giving to the missions offering, these students are helping reach the lost for Jesus as God uses these gifts to change lives for eternity.
North American missions
Alongside this international focus, FUGE Camps and CentriKid also had a North American missions emphasis for kids and students each week at camp. Throughout the week, campers learned how missionaries Vergil and Kelsey Brown, along with their family, are planting a church in Portland, Ore.
“The Lord made it clear to us that there were other communities in Portland that needed a new, healthy church,” Vergil explained in a video for campers.
So, their family moved to Portland.
“We wanted to be a role model of when the Lord asks you to go, you go,” Kelsey said.
As campers heard the Browns’s story of faithfulness through daily missions videos, they were able to associate the faces of a specific family with the offerings they would be giving—offerings that will help more families like the Browns plant more churches in more places to reach more people with the Gospel.
Giving for Gospel impact
“Providing an opportunity to give at camp allows kids to learn they can be a part of the work God is doing all around the world,” Henry Dutton, CentriKid manager said. “Giving allows them to engage with God.”
At the end of each week of camp, kids and students had the opportunity to give to the missions offering.
“This partnership affords us a strategic opportunity to invest in the next generation of missionaries,” said Andy Pettigrew, IMB’s NextGen mobilization manager. “We know camp is one of the most important experiences in the life of a teenager. It is incredibly exciting to know that international missions is in front of them day by day to help them catch God’s vision for His purposes around the world.”
This week, the IMB and NAMB reaped the financial fruit of this summer’s weekly offerings.
“I hope students left camp knowing God is at work in their lives and at work all around the world,” said Justin McDowell, Student Life Camp event specialist. “Whether it be in their local communities today or in a mission field one day, I hope students’ hearts were moved to love others and share the Gospel.”
These students were inspired to give because of the stories they heard of faithful missionaries and redeemed souls. Not only do these stories give students a vision for giving to missions but also a vision for going on mission.
“I can’t imagine how many seeds are planted of future church planters, missionaries and church leaders who will one day start a brand-new Gospel work because they saw it demonstrated at camp,” Mandrell said.