Missionary, Mohler are testaments to ripple effects of mission camps
Aug 12, 2014
By BARBARA DENMAN
Florida Baptist Convention
How does one judge the value of Florida Baptist mission camps? Is it through the number of those in attendance; the number of professions of faith at the camp; or the number of lives dedicated to Christian ministry?
Or is it best measured by those former campers who are serving faithfully in Christian ministry, touching souls for the Kingdom exponentially, much like ripples from a drop of water in a pond?
Florida Baptist mission camps held in priors years still are making an eternal difference worldwide in the Kingdom today.
Courtney Dobson, her husband, Chris, and children serve Christ in a Middle Eastern city of 20 million people, a place so dangerous her real name cannot be used. In recent years that city has been consumed by violence. Yet the family with small children has stood firm in their commitment to tell others about Christ in the region, a calling she confirmed while serving as a GA camp counselor.
As a youngster Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, felt God’s hand on him while attending Royal Ambassador camp at then called Lake Yale Baptist Assembly. His ripples of influence now stretch worldwide.
Others serving the Lord can also point to camps as the life-altering event in their lives where God called them out to live vocationally for Him.
In fact, at one time 70 percent of Southern Baptist career missionaries responded to the call of missions while attending a mission camp.
Dobson, who grew up in the Florida Panhandle, remembers the time when “being a GA gave me my first glimpse into the world of missions.”
Participating in weekly meetings, as well as attending GA camp and other special events, “I had the chance to learn about the people all around the world who need Jesus, and the missionaries who are seeking to make Him known. It was something I never got over.”
At age 8, participating in a GA event, Dobson first began to wonder if God was calling her to be a missionary. Later, when she was 18 and serving as a camp counselor, “He confirmed that He was calling me overseas,” a call that led her to the Middle East, where she has served as a Southern Baptist missionary for the past eight years.
“I thank God for the precious women who helped open my heart to the mission of God by faithfully teaching me in GAs each week. Because of their commitment to teach girls like me, people in dark places are hearing the Gospel today. I thank God for GAs!”
|MEN OF GOD Southern Baptist Theological President Al Mohler (right), pictured with Billy Graham, attended Royal Ambassador camp at Lake Yale as a child. Forty-plus years later, Mohler has vivid memories of the impact the camp had on his life. Courtesy photo|
As SBTS president, Mohler—one of the most notable Southern Baptists of this generation—leads the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world. He has been recognized by such influential publications as Time and Christianity Today as a leader among American evangelicals.
The Lakeland native who attended Southside Baptist Church recalled the time as a youngster when he “desperately wanted to go to Lake Yale,” after hearing the big kids tell him how much fun camp was.
“I just couldn’t wait to get there. I was actually baptized on the Sunday before we went to camp, having come to a saving knowledge of Christ and making a public profession of faith in Christ during vacation Bible school.”
He remembers swimming in the lake—where he watched closely for alligators—sleeping in the squeaky bunk beds, and the multiple crafts projects. The Bible teaching and his “first exposure to missions directed to boys my age” are permanently etched in his mind, he said.
He recalls one morning that changed his life and—through the ripple effect in the lives of generations to come—countless others.
“There was one particular experience that I remember more than any other. It was a conversation with a camp counselor. I do not remember how it came about, whether I had asked a question.
“But I can still remember that we sat down at a picnic table and he took out a sheet of paper and drew some diagrams about the meaning of the cross,” he recalled.
“The fact that 40-plus years later I can remember a 19-year-old sitting down with me when I was 10 and answering questions, sitting down at a picnic table at Lake Yale, tells me something really right happened in that place.”
A commitment ceremony was held on the last day of camp. “When the call for a response to Christian service was given, I responded. I checked-off the box that said ‘preacher’ or ‘pastor,’ ” Mohler remembered.
On the way home he recalled being self-conscience about that decision, “thinking I was just too young to possibly know what God would have me to do.
“But many years later I go back to that morning in that auditorium at Lake Yale when the Lord moved my heart and I believe even then the Lord had called me to the ministry that I couldn’t possibly have fully understood.”
Mohler also credits the camping experience as the “first real exposure I had to the scope and scale of Southern Baptist mission work, sitting in the auditorium at Lake Yale.”
Coming back to RA camp and an assortment of camps and retreats and conferences, Mohler said, “The imprint of those experiences remains on my life even now.”
The ripple of concentric circles representing Florida Baptists’ caring about and providing their children and youth with a Christian-oriented camping experience is destined to change many lives worldwide. It is an ongoing commitment they have made to the Kingdom. Those experiences are underwritten by Florida Baptists’ gifts to the Maguire State Mission Offering.
During the past year, 600 girls and teens attended four weeks of missions camps, now called CampWorldLight. Of these, 60 girls made a spiritual decision, including 35 who like Dobson and Mohler responded to a call to ministry and career mission service.
The 2014 Maguire State Mission Offering allocates $120,000 to provide camping experiences for Florida youth. These include Urban Day Camp, Camp WorldLight, Children’s Camp for the Hearing Impaired, Hispanic Youth Camp, Haitian Youth Camp, Korean Youth Camp and a Hispanic Young Adult Retreat.
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