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Youth leaders pampered, honored at new X-Fuge camp on beach

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (BP)–Eddie Zachary spent his days in Panama City Beach soaking up the July sun, attending concerts by popular Christian recording artists, growing in his walk with Christ, playing golf and just otherwise relaxing.

You’d never guess that he brought 10 youth to the beach with him.

Zachary, youth minister at Callahan Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., accompanied 10 of his youth to LifeWay’s inaugural week of X-Fuge, a Centrifuge-like camp with extreme features such as concerts by major Christian recording artists, professional staging, world-class speakers and luxurious accommodations on the Florida Panhandle coast.

While the camp offered plenty of material to entice and encourage the students, X-Fuge coordinator Jason Ellerbrook said the focus placed on caring for youth ministers sets X-Fuge apart from other summer camps.

“It’s a whole new camp concept,” Ellerbrook said. “We really wanted to encourage youth ministers.”

X-Fuge was a new experience for Zachary, but he isn’t a stranger to the Centrifuge system; this trip to Edgewater Beach Resort marked at least his seventh venture to a Fuge camp.

“So far, I think this is the best,” Zachary said on the third day of X-Fuge. “I’m wondering if I’ll ever go back to another camp.”

Part of what made the experience so rewarding, Zachary said, was the extent to which his personal growth and needs were considered along with those of his students.

“I always feel ministered to [at camp],” he said. “But it just seems like I’m receiving a personal word from the speakers. I feel like I’m being ministered to as well as the kids.”

Every day youth leaders met for morning prayer and a session with Jeff Eaton, a speaker who attended camp with the sole purpose of ministering to leaders.

“God has anointed us to be ambassadors,” said Eaton, who serves as pastor of Hope Community Church in Frankfort, Ky. “The most important place to be is where you are [as youth ministers].”

Lance Bernard, a youth pastor at First Baptist Church, Butler, Ga., said he feels it’s often difficult for churches to minister to youth pastors, and he almost felt guilty for receiving so much encouragement during a camp geared toward his students.

“They’ve done a good job of lovin’ on us,” Bernard said of the staff at X-Fuge. “Mission trips and camps are usually exhausting, but I’ve noticed that I’ve been more laid back [at X-Fuge].”

Bernard, who grew up attending Centrifuge camps, had time during X-Fuge to play a game of golf as well as spend some quality time with the 14 students who accompanied him to the beach. He said X-Fuge was unique among Fuge camps because it focused on individual youth groups.

Zachary agreed, saying that while he had some much-needed time to relax, he and his students had a nearly two-hour devotion time “unlike anything we’ve ever had.”

“Camp has brought some unity,” he said.

Youth leaders received royal treatment throughout the week, but the X-treme party on camp’s final night put them fully in the spotlight. Dressed in varying degrees of formal garb, youth leaders acted as the guests of honor at a VIP Gold Awards Show where their students got to actively show their support.

The party that began with cheers and standing ovations eventually gave way to quiet clusters as students gathered around their leaders to pray specifically for them.

“I’m sure I’ll go away from here and I will have grown,” Bernard said. “It’s just been great.”

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  • Brooklyn Noel