Church sends 11 students to Bible camp
Jennifer Lee Preyss
July 22, 2012 at 2:22 a.m.
Updated July 23, 2012 at 2:23 a.m.
Sunday mornings at St. Peter's Baptist Church are eternally filled with clamorous exaltation.
But when 11 student members returned from Camp Exalted in Hawkins on Friday night, church members erupted with an even denser spiritual fervor.
Last week, the church was without 11 of its student members, who were away at church camp - a venture the entire congregation financially supported and spiritually encouraged.
"The whole point of camp was for you to learn how to minister to somebody, so when you go home, you can share it with someone else," said Christopher Hughes, St. Peter's youngest camper. "The more I learned about God when I was there, the more I loved him and wanted to be like him."
Christopher, 12, a second-year camper, was among the 11 young adults who were sponsored to attend the five-day Baptist camp at Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins.
"I said hallelujah" when I found out the church was sending us to camp, an energetic Christopher said laughing.
Janice Johnson, a St. Peter's member and camp organizer, said the entire congregation pitched in financially to raise about $2,500 for the students to travel five hours to Hawkins.
Their days were long. Television, Internet, and cell phone access was unavailable.
"When they go to camp, a lot of them have an eye-opening experience," Johnson said. "It's an experience for the kids to be in a Christian environment, with quiet time, games and Bible teaching. It's fun and fellowship for the children. They meet a lot of friends there."
Hundreds of teens and young adults from all over the state attended the camp, organized by the Baptist General Convention of Texas, Johnson said.
It's the second year St. Peter's has sent students to the camp, but the first year the congregation raised the money to send them.
"Last year we got a grant to send them. And the way they came back, with such a positive experience, the church felt like it was worthwhile to sponsor them a second year," said Johnson's husband, Deacon William Johnson. "We raised the money in about a month."
The deacon said individual church members sponsored, or partially sponsored, certain students. The remaining amount was donated through collections and offerings within the church.
Transportation to the event was provided by the church, and driver James Johnson dedicated two 11-hour days last week driving to and from Hawkins to drop off the campers off on Monday, and pick them up on Friday.
"I'm one of those people who doesn't mind driving," he said. "I was happy to do it."
First-year camper Whitney Jefferson, 15, a student at Victoria East High School, said her week at Camp Exalted was life changing.
"It was great. You realize what the Lord does for you," she said. We "pretty much only have a Bible and each other ... But it is truly life changing. You realize you would be lost and everything would be harder than it is."
Johnson said as long as the church is able, they will continue to send student members to camp because they see the changes in the teens when they return.
"They come back so excited and they're relationship with God actually means something to them. They see how it relates in all areas of their life," she said.
"I want to go as long they'll send us," Christopher said. "I know now it takes sacrifices to be close to the Lord."