Friday morning rolled around and eleven teens, along with their parents and two chaperones, gather around a big white van that would become our home away from home for the next seven days. We held hands in a circle and prayed while, unbeknownst to us, about a hundred children in Indiana prepared for a week of sports camp that would change the course of three campers’ lives forever.
The first couple hours of the car ride were by my standards, awkward. Many, many, many hours of driving later, we grew comfortable around each other, and as guards were let down, many shining personalities surfaced. About this time, we arrived at a hotel somewhere in Illinois, which I now wish I had appreciated a bit more, because the next six nights I cuddled with concrete.
On Sunday we woke unwillingly and arrived at 6:30am at the Regal Movie Theatre in Carmel, Indiana, an affluent suburb just north of Indianapolis. Legacy Stone Church is a one-year-old church plant that uses the movie theater as its location for church worship services. We unloaded a packed trailer full of all of the things Legacy Stone uses to transform the movie theater into a church. At this point, everyone needed coffee, which was graciously provided. Some of our team enthusiastically helped in Children’s Church while other attended the church service.
Since my family and I joined Southlake Baptist a couple of years after it was founded, helping the pastor, Joe Lightner, set up his services created a new respect in me for how hard it must’ve been to start a new church. When church concluded, and after tearing down sound systems, various sets for the children’s ministry, and lots of welcome center tables and reloading them into the trailer, we arrived back at the small church where we stayed in order to begin orientation for sports camp beginning Monday.
About thirty minutes into our meeting, I realized this week may not be a walk in the park. I was originally assigned to help out with the kindergarten group. I am not a “kid person,” so Travis, one of our Associate Pastors from Southlake Baptist, helped me out and placed me in the fifth and sixth grade group, where I was still uneasy. Monday morning arrived and the mission team was anticipating the campers’ arrival. After a short welcome by the two pastors from Legacy Stone Church, the kids sprang from their seats and ran to the soccer fields, while my group went first to snack time, where Travis and Cassie, one of our students from SBC, reinforced the Bible lesson for that day and applied it to situations in their lives. The same events would repeat themselves at basketball camp in the afternoon, but not before a much needed hour-long lunch break.
At snack time on Wednesday, I stood picking through the snack boxes to load up for myself when Pastor Lightner asked me to follow him into the hallway. My first impression was that I was getting in trouble for eating all the snacks. But he led me to a couple of young girls and a man, who was introduced as Mr. Danny, an adult from another mission team. After a few minutes of answering questions about Jesus that the little girls were firing at Mr. Danny and me, he led them in a believer’s prayer where they confessed their belief in God and became Christians. It was very fulfilling to watch these two girls. It hit me later that day that what we were doing this week saved two people from spending eternity in Hell.
After camp each day, the teens spent the nights in the meeting room playing cards and sharing their experiences so far that week with the group. Many evenings a pickup game of football started while inside cards, board games, and talking took place. I cannot remember ever laughing more than I did on this trip. I am so thankful for all the people who went and what their personalities brought to the group.
A silent agreement was made among the group that the ride home was bittersweet because finally we would get to sleep in our own beds, but we had become a family. A competition began in which no one in the back rows of the van could go to sleep because we didn’t want to waste the last few hours we had. The ride went by quickly – as quickly as seventeen hours could. Pulling into the Southlake Baptist parking lot and seeing all the excited moms and dads waving elicited a groan from the exhausted teenagers, but welcoming hugs were received by all the travelers.
Fellowship was created in the youth group during the week that will be vital as the school year draws nearer each day. New friends were made with our partnering mission group from Chandler, Texas and as for the children that were saved, they have big things coming their way as well. On Monday morning I assumed I would merely be taking children to and from the restroom all week but God had other things in mind as lives were changed and friendships made.
By: Lauren Shirrell