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Students at FUGE camps relish each year’s missions infusion

RICHMOND, Va. (BP) — More than $11 million. That’s the amount of money given to missions at LifeWay camps since 1984.

“It’s incredible,” said Mark Robbins, FUGE camps coordinator for LifeWay Christian Resources. “Just incredible.”

The collection is, indeed, incredible especially considering the offerings come from students ranging from third grade through high school.

Summer 2014 will mark the 35th anniversary of the FUGE mission offering. Centrifuge, now called FUGE, is a summer camp for seventh- to 12th-grade students which began in 1979. Campers gave their first offering for missions in 1980. Since then, LifeWay has divided the offerings between the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board.

LifeWay campers — 100,000 this summer — donated more than $600,000 to missions. For the North American Mission Board, the offerings will fund missions efforts in the Bronx and in Canada.

For the IMB, 2013 donations will help meet needs of orphans in East Asia through a project called One Child, in a new focus on age-appropriate projects, said Jeremy Echols, who leads LifeWay’s CentriKid team.

Meanwhile, the 2013 CentriKid partnership (grades three through six) provided $65,009 to orphans in East Asia living in isolated and difficult conditions, reported Tobias Jones*, an IMB student strategist in the region. In an environment where $10 will feed a child for a month, and $30 will provide clothing and thermal underwear to keep kids warm throughout the long winters, the offering literally changes lives.

“Many of these kids were orphaned because their mothers died during labor or their parents died because they didn’t have basic medical care,” Jones said. “Spiritually, these kids have almost zero opportunity to hear about Jesus. They need to see His love and hear His love.”

Christian workers among the orphans are praying for more opportunities to show God’s love, such as meeting their most basic needs, Jones said.

“FUGE has partnered with IMB for years and years,” Echols said. “Sometimes the projects like True Love Waits and HIV awareness were a better fit for teens than for kids. It’s been great this year for CentriKid to focus on meeting the physical needs of kids in an orphanage in East Asia.”

When CentriKid began in 2001, LifeWay combined the FUGE and CentriKid offerings and gave them to support student projects through IMB’s International World Changers (IWC). In 2006, LifeWay and IMB also began identifying specific projects that allowed students to “pray, give and go” to a specific people group.

“The ‘pray, give, go’ tag keeps kids from getting confused with the details,” Echols said. “Praying is something they can all do. Giving is something they can all do, and they can go now or go later.”

In 2014, CentriKid campers will help provide clean drinking water to villagers in India. Although access to water is a luxury in many villages, providing clean water may be as simple as replacing a broken pump handle or other equipment for existing water resources. Through an IMB project called One Cup of Water, Christian workers in India hope to repair broken pumps or provide new ones in 1,200 villages.

A solid foundation

While CentriKid’s kid-friendly partnerships are just getting started, FUGE and IWC have worked together for more than 15 years. A portion of the FUGE offering provides ministry funds so IWC’s student teams can work alongside career missionaries on short-term projects. In addition, FUGE currently is teaming with IMB workers in sub-Saharan Africa, its second people group-specific initiative since 2006. The first five-year FUGE project involved the Roma people of Eastern Europe.

The value of these relationships to IMB’s global mission is significant, said Kurt Holiday, an IMB strategy leader in sub-Saharan Africa.

“Knowing that 50,000 partners are joining with us to shatter the silence in sub-Saharan Africa is tremendously encouraging,” Holiday said. “The prayers offered [by campers] give us strength and the offerings provided … have enabled us to dream.”

Since the FUGE partnership with sub-Saharan Africa began, campers have provided prayer support and funds for a high school sports ministry in Cape Town, South Africa; helped refurbish a hospital in Sanyati, Zimbabwe; and supported a project to rescue abandoned babies in Johannesburg and Soweto, South Africa.

In 2013, the partnership embraced the Karamojong people of northern Uganda. The Karamojong are an unreached people group, Holiday explained: Of the 696,000 Karamojong people, very few are followers of Jesus. There are virtually no evangelical churches and until recently no one was actively sharing the Gospel among them. FUGE campers gave $230,850.60 to support efforts to serve the Karamojong, to meet vital ministry needs in sub-Saharan Africa and to subsidize IWC student teams around the world.

“Next summer, FUGE will send our first group of staffers to work among the Karamojong,” Robbins said, noting that IMB has provided opportunities for FUGE staff trips for several years. “Just as they did with the Roma and in other parts of Africa, FUGE staffers will work alongside IMB missionaries.”

FUGE staffers, through these opportunities to serve, gain real stories to share, bringing the Karamojong to life for campers. Working together with IMB student mobilizers, FUGE also has developed opportunities for campers to work with the Karamojong through IWC projects.

This natural progression of missions education, giving and involvement for campers has been vital to the success of both FUGE and CentriKid, Robbins said.

“I can’t imagine camp without a missions emphasis,” he said. “Taking missions education out of camp would be like taking the sugar out of the cake.”

Other ways students’ FUGE gifts have impacted lives:

* Home care kits for those with HIV/AIDS

* Water filters for patients in a hospital in Tanzania

* Clinic visits for street children in Nairobi

* One month of food and housing for street children in Nairobi

* Training or subsidizing youth on mission events for African student missionaries in Kenya, Ghana, Botswana, South Africa, Togo and Benin

* Leadership camps for youth in South Africa
Tess Rivers is an IMB writer. For more information on IMB student opportunities, visit imbstudents.org. For more information on IMB projects such as One Child and One Cup of Water, visit onelifematters.org. For videos and additional information on FUGE’s partnership with sub-Saharan Africa, visit fugeforafrica.org. For information about CentriKid camps, visit centrikid.com.

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  • Tess Rivers