A Story by Shara Johnson
This summer, Angie and I drove seven of our Illumin8 kids (from McKinney Housing Authority) to Golden, Missouri for Kids Across America Kamp. This is a Kanakuk camp geared towards kids living in inner-city environments. I had no clue what we were in for as this was my first KAA Kamp. Our eight hour, two car trek began on a Sunday morning. I had Dre, one of our campers, as my co-pilot. He was our oldest camper, and while only 13, he’s almost a head taller than me. After asking if he was excited about camp, he gestured with his hand that he was kind of excited, kind of not. I understood. Those were always my thoughts heading to youth camp as a student. They were even my thoughts for this week of camp. The rest of the drive Dre talked about how the clouds looked, and took photos of the scenic mountains he’d never seen. I got to know more about Dre’s family and his life.
Fast forward to Wednesday night. Our kids were all sitting in what they call CrossTalk. On that night, all the campers watched their counselors act out a drama. The drama switched back and forth from modern day (that resonates with their life back home) to the crucifixion of Christ. To say it was a powerful night is an understatement. At the end of the night, Angie and I went forward, for our kids to come to us if they made the decision to accept Christ. This was not set up to be an emotional decision on their part, but because they had seen the truth and were accountable for what they had heard. Quickly, Dre and another one of our boys came straight to me. I asked Dre why he had come forward and he told me “I want to spend eternity in Heaven with Jesus.” I spent time talking with Dre about that decision and what it meant for him, and I prayed for him.
Ringing of the Bell
The following morning, the traditional Bell Ringing ceremony took place. All campers who made a decision to follow Christ had the chance to walk through the crowd and ring the bell. Baptism is a public declaration of accepting Christ, but this ringing of the bell had the same connotation. It took courage for these kids to walk past all the other campers, not knowing what they were thinking. However, as soon as each new believer rang the bell, cheers and applause broke out. As I watched, I couldn’t help but think of the celebration happening in Heaven with each strike of the bell. It’s easy to make a decision to follow Christ privately but Dre stepped forward and rang the bell. I knew he was firm in his decision.
After the Bell Ringing ceremony, I met with our three oldest campers to talk more about CrossTalk. I asked Dre what happened during CrossTalk that led him to accept Christ. He told me that seeing what he’d only read or been told about changed everything. It came to life for the first time, and he was able to realize what Christ had done for him.
Mighty In Strength
I know Dre had a great experience at camp. Dre changed the direction of his life, and also received a special award. He received the “Mighty in Strength” award. This boy who towers over me, is definitely the strong, silent type. I pray God uses his mighty strength on the football field this school year and off, in how he interacts with his peers, and with his family.
None of this would have been possible without the amazing donors who covered the cost of camp. They provided all the essentials for Dre and our six other campers, who also had an incredible week of camp. I can’t wait to see how God uses KAA Kamp next year to move in the hearts of these kids!
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