Posted on : Friday August 23, 2019

By Sharon Mager

MIDDLETOWN, Md. — Middle School students from Christian Liberty Church and The Garden Church, in Baltimore, and First Baptist Church of Capitol Heights, in Maryland, got an opportunity to take a step out of their current environment and enjoy a 3-day camp at Skycroft Conference Center in Middletown, Maryland, on Aug. 18-21.

Students learned about creation, the fall and restoration and what it means to be made in the image of God

Sponsored by the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, the students had a blast playing basketball and bazooka ball, swimming, and sitting around a campfire. Church leaders led the kids in singing and praying and taught them about’ God’s plan of redemption. They also focused on academic responsibilities and God’s design for human sexuality.

“Our focus was to go through creation, fall and restoration and what it means to be made in the image of God, what happened in the fall, and restoration where Jesus will everything right,” explained Stephanie Laferriere, who serves with ONE HOPE, a ministry of The Garden Church as a life coach. “Also, we wanted to have them discover what those three things mean personally in their lives right now.”

The teaching was bold — not sugar-coated. Laferriere said, “Montrel (Haygood, assistant pastor of the Garden Church) was discussing the fall and sharing that we are all in need of God’s grace. None are innocent. They’re never too young to die or to think about the reality of hell. He asked them, “What is the reality of you hearing gunshots every day?” All the kids raised their hands.”

The kids enjoyed games throughout the retreat – basketball, swimming, and more.

Joel Kurz, the lead pastor of The Garden Church, discussed restoration, using the book of Hosea. “Joel showed how God pursues us when we were not pursuable. God has sought us out. The kids can identify that God created the world — we ruined it and that God sent Christ to restore it.”

Reflecting on the creation, each student drew one of the most beautiful things’ they’ve ever seen. In the discussions, Laferriere said students responded that they learned that God doesn’t make mistakes. They’ weren’t mistakes; they were part of’ God’s plan.

Taking what they learned, and applying it to their imminent return to school, Laferriere said they focused on issues such as peer pressure, drinking, sexuality and making good choices. They also emphasized mutual respect and discipline.

Christian Liberty Church member and Baltimore City School Teacher Wanda Parks, “One thing I really like is that we got to take kids out of Baltimore City and bring them to a new setting and show them the love of Jesus.”

For many of the students, this was their first time at a summer camp.

Parks said most middle schoolers do not know who they are or who they were created to be. “As a result, they make poor choices. When we can teach them about God and…how they are created in the image of God, it will help them to think differently about themselves, about how they treat others. It will help them think differently about what their goals and dreams can be.”

As part of the back to school preparation, Parks said they hoped to encourage proper attitudes and skills, and help them understand how to act in a learning environment. “We talked about how to be responsible and be proud, and something as simple as making sure you bring your supplies every day and do your homework. We also discussed being respectful to one another.’ We’re hoping that’ they’ll remember that in two weeks,” she chuckled.

Laferriere said, “Teachers are excited and ready to teach. We wanted to create a platform where students are ready to listen.”

First Baptist Church of Capitol Heights church member and chaperone Joyce Segura said she enjoyed seeing how the kids interacted together. “They had great questions. They asked if God knew that Adam was going to eat the fruit, why did he put the tree in the garden? They had friends who got killed, and wanted to know if they would see them again, and would they know who they are? They asked questions some adults want to ask, but the kids are more honest and open and speak what they feel,” she said.

“It was good to get them out of the city and enjoy the outdoors. Many have issues going on at home, and there they didn’t have to think about those issues. It was a time to relax,” Segura said.

Students said they had fun. One tween girl, when asked about her favorite part of the camp said it was the macaroni and cheese. Another, Kayla, said, “I liked working together in groups.” Charlie said, “I like that we can have fun with each other and socialize more and that we have our phones put away.” Parks laughed and said, “She’s right; she brought me her phone.”

Laferriere enjoyed the unity, how the students from the three churches blended so easily. “They loved interacting, role-playing, the campfire, going for walks, and being outside. A lot of them had not been to a camp like that – an hour and a half away. Nature really worked well. We were talking about creation, and we could see the thunder at night. It was fun.”