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Teens wrestle with God’s call during Ecuador missions camp

QUITO, Ecuador (BP)–Missionary David Blanton gazes across Quito’s Alameida Park, a Yankees baseball cap shading his face from the intense equatorial sunlight.
Nearby, Ecuadorian children chase each other around a circle of friends seated on the ground. It’s recreation time during Vacation Bible School at the neighborhood’s Central Baptist Church. Several Southern Baptist teens — including Blanton’s 14-year-old daughter, Meghan — are leading the activities.
This VBS is a ministry segment of M-fuge Ecuador, an on-the-field missions training camp for Southern Baptist youth. About 100 teens from the United States, about 15 teen-age “missionary kids” (MKs) from Ecuador and around 50 adult leaders of youth are participating.
Sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources and the International Mission Board, the event at La Merced Baptist Camp near Quito was the first international version of an M-fuge camp begun by LifeWay in the United States in 1995.
“We wanted these young people to go home with a new worldview,” says Vickie Polnac, an IMB staffer who helped dream up M-fuge Ecuador. “We wanted them to begin wrestling with the question, ‘How am I supposed to be a part of God’s global purpose?'”
Southern Baptist teens confronted that question daily during M-fuge activities.
During an experiential learning game called “Stay Alive,” campers labeled as Third World citizens rush around the camp’s soccer field, searching for food and shelter. Meanwhile, other “First World” campers hoard their resources. One camper playing the role of a missionary freely gives away food.
Once a day, teens attend worship services called “The Exchange,” a time of “give-and-take” with their Creator. Camp pastor Moses Ceasar challenges the youth to place everything they have — including “your one-inch and two-inch curling irons” — at the foot of the cross.
“Are you willing to give up everything for the gospel of Jesus Christ?” asks Ceasar, a campus minister at University of Mobile in Alabama.
At night, small devotional groups gather so members can share their experiences from the day’s ministry projects in and around Quito. The projects — set up through Ecuadorian Baptist churches — include Vacation Bible Schools, construction and outreach through sports and creative arts.
During a devotion for youth from First Baptist Church, Gallatin, Tenn., two teens say they feel God may be calling them to missions.
In another devotional time, teens from Grace Community Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., tell what God is teaching them during M-fuge.
“I felt really overwhelmed by the time we finished today,’ says Kathyrn Holloway, 17, who taught VBS in inner-city Quito. “But I’m becoming more flexible. It’s like I already can bend over and touch my knees, but I’m having to learn to touch my toes.”
“I can’t see myself going to an office job to try to make a bunch of money for my family, then going home at night and watching TV,” adds camper Jeremy Nelson, a 19-year-old MK from Venezuela who now attends Charleston (S.C.) Southern University. “I think God’s calling me to be a missionary.”
If comments like these are any indication, M-fuge Ecuador made a lasting difference.
“These youth could be tomorrow’s missionaries,” says missionary Mark Robbins, co-coordinator of M-Fuge Ecuador with David Blanton. Robbins is from Pensacola, Fla., Blanton from Fort Worth, Texas.
“Our prayer is that one day some of these young people will look back on their time in Ecuador and say, ‘That’s when God began to call me to missions,'” adds Blanton, “These young people are the ones who will carry the gospel around the world into the next century. We feel privileged to see them take their first steps in missions.”

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  • Mary E. Speidel