Posted on : Wednesday July 27, 2016

By Sharon Mager

HEDGESVILLE, W.Va.—Eleven youth were baptized at the Western Baptist Association’s 70th annual summer camp at Camp Frame 4-H Camp in Hedgesville, W.Va. last week including Megan Miller, the great-grand daughter of Tom Hunt who was one of the first camp directors.WBA Camp

Over 80 campers, ranging in age from fourth grade through high school, met early each morning for the raising of the flag and prayer before breakfast, then a day of games, crafts, mission and Bible studies, talent shows, Bible drills and worship around the campfire.

Jim Jeffries, pastor of LaVale Baptist Church, was senior camp pastor, serving alongside Keith Aguila, pastor of Grace Baptist Church, Mark Weeks, associate pastor of Pleasant View Baptist Church and Doug Sandy, interim pastor of Second Baptist Church.

“The Lord’s Spirit was upon the camp,” said Jeffries. “God allowed the kids to be receptive to the Word. They were ‘tuned in.’ “The seeds were falling on good soil.”

Though every year youth make commitments of faith, or recommit their lives, last year was the first time in at least 25 years that there was an actual baptism at the camp. Dee Lockard, camp director, said students who make commitments at camp usually go back to their home churches to be baptized. Last year, one girl specifically asked to be baptized at the camp, so adults and youth gathered around the pool for a baptismal service.

This year, Jeffries and the other camp pastors baptized 11 people.

Twenty-year-old Edward McGreevy III, known by friends as “E.J.,” from Grace Baptist Church, Cumberland, born and raised Catholic, volunteered to help at camp alongside his girlfriend Elizabeth Fontenault, a Grace Baptist Church member. While advising a few younger boys about an issue they were having, he began to talk to them about God. “I started to wonder, ‘do I believe what I’m saying?” he admitted. As he heard the Gospel explained and expounded, God began to move on McGreevy’s heart. As the week progressed, he asked to be baptized.

“I never thought I’d be baptized again, but I wanted to make my own decision, with my newfound understanding,” he said.

Keith Aguila has volunteered at the camp for five years. The baptism service was especially meaningful to Aguila because he baptized his 17-year-old son, Abraham.

“Last year it was a great camp and we thought, ‘we can’t top that!’ But we did! Every year, more and more kids seem to be going from having emotional experiences to more making commitments and growing.”

After the baptisms, Jeffries asked the youth who made confessions of faith at last year’s camp if they had any prayer needs or praises. One older teen shared that he had struggled and asked his fellow campers to pray for him to stay committed and not falter. Jeffries said that through the week, many campers were open and honest, sharing their hearts.

Western Baptist Association Director of Missions Kenny Heath takes on the beloved role of “Coober” each year, a fun kooky character who lives in the dumpster. He has a lot of fun clowning with the kids and at the end, Camp Director Dee Lockard, a member of Second Baptist Church, tries to give a reluctant “Coober” a bar of soap and all the students laugh uproariously. At least one young man said “Coober” was one of his favorite parts of camp.

“Coober” emcees the camp talent shows. This year, kids took turns singing, though some years there are more skits, Heath said. The audience sang with them, swayed together, and cheered them on. And the group really sang out! They were freely expressing themselves as eleven-year-old “Mikey” Goad, from Baker Heights Baptist Church, sang the song, “I am not Ashamed,” and the whole crowd joined in loudly and boldly. They also joined in as Jim Jeffries sang, “I saw the Light.” There was a mix of new contemporary songs, and the kids sang to all of them.

The campers were also serious about their Bible drills. They quickly turned to Bible passages, completed Bible verses and answered questions. And the crowd, once again, was engaged and supportive of all.

The youth camp has been a treasured memory of generations of WBA members and friends.

Connie Brantner, a retired nurse, and member of Second Baptist Church, served this year as camp nurse, taking care of sunburned faces, spider bites, cuts and scrapes, stomach and headaches and other camp ills. She’s a longtime volunteer, working in the past as a cabin leader. When asked why she helps at camp, Brantner smiled and said, “I was a camper as a young girl in 1959. It was at Deep Creek then,” Brantner said. “I have lots of good memories.”

Ray and Kim Lehman, also members of Second Baptist Church, began attending camp with their children and stayed. They now have three grandchildren. Kim is the camp treasurer. She also oversees registration and runs daily errands. Ray is the camp sports director, as well as the safety and compliance officer and he builds the nightly campfires.

Troy Knippenberger, a member of Second Baptist Church, started camp as a young boy, just finishing fourth grade. He recently graduated from Frostburg State University and works at ATK in Short Gap, WV.  “Troy has not missed a year of camp since his first year. He is now a staff member and has a way with connecting with young people,” Lockard said.

Jim Yutzy is another regular camp helper who attended as a child in the early 70’s. Yutzy’s mother Lucy was also a camper.

Some campers even met their spouses at the WBA camp including Eric and Kimmie Walker who very recently had their first child. Bill and Kyler Clise also met at camp, and now send their children, Allison and Hunter.

Mike Moran, a retired Marine and member of LaVale Baptist Church, affectionately known as “Sarge,” said he’s seen many youth return as helpers and that’s something they’re always encouraging. Moran was a cabin leader and he oversaw the daily flag ceremony.

Jeffries said many of the kids like “Sarge” and respect him. Some, who don’t have strong father figures in their lives, especially look up to Moran and one young man, influenced by Moran, recently decided to become a Marine.

“We have many dedicated people,” Dee Lockard said. She assumed the camp director’s role in 2005 and formed a team that works together to plan the camp experience.

A retired nurse, Lockard admits to being exhausted at the end, but she loves camp and looks forward to it each year.

She jokes and laughs with the youth, leads Bible drills and urges campers to drink more water so they don’t get dehydrated—kind of like a camp mom.

Keith Aguila said the camp is a great opportunity for churches in the association to work together and be the body of Christ. “We can’t do it by ourselves, but together it’s the optimal picture of what it means to be an association working together,” he said.

Participating churches were: LaVale Baptist Church

Cumberland Community Church; Grace Baptist Church, Cumberland; Graceland Baptist, Ridgley, W.Va.; Oldtown Baptist Church; Pleasant View Baptist Church, Oakland; Second Baptist, Cumberland; Stoney Run Baptist Church, Westernport, and Zion Community Church.

Campers also came from Baker Heights Baptist Church, Martinsburg, a member of West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists’ Tri-County Association. This was their first time at the WBA camp. Tri-County Association’s Associational Missionary, Don Chandler, has visited the WBA camp in years past as a mission speaker.

Campers from the New River Baptist Association in Jacksonville, N.C., also participated.

Volunteers manned the kitchen, rising at 5 a.m. Others served as cabin leaders, helped with maintenance and cleanup, oversaw sports, music, missions lessons and crafts. The camp is run on a “shoestring” budget, Lockard said. They keep the cost as low as they can for the students. Less than $70 covers each camper’s expenses including food and lodging as well as a camp T-shirt. Food is simple—pancakes and eggs, chicken and biscuits, and spaghetti. They had a pizza night party on Thursday evening after their last campfire.

For more information about the camp, or to volunteer or help provide support, contact Lockard,

“It’s been a tremendous blessing through the years. I don’t see myself quitting any time soon,” she said.