Church Youth Groups Attend Baylor You Camp

July 1, 1999

In the heat of summer, amidst numerous activities and opportunities to escape boredom, students and their leaders from churches throughout Texas have come together for one purpose--to share in the experience of Baylor You Youth Camp. More than 300 students from almost 20 different churches traveled to Baylor this summer to attend one of the camp's four sessions.

Baylor You, in its second year, is part of the Youth Programs office on the Baylor campus. It was created for many reasons, but most importantly, to bring young people into a strong, saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Vincent Carpenter, youth ministry associate, works alongside Dr. Don Mattingly, director of youth programs, to ensure that Baylor You does just that.

"The primary purpose of Baylor You is to help young people grow in their relationship to God," Carpenter said. "When they get into school, they face so many temptations and peer pressures. The summer is a great time to get them away and really get them focused on God as they set their values and priorities. It helps give young people a boost and gives them a jump start for the fall."

Since so many students are searching for something to do, something to fill their summer days, Carpenter said Baylor You is a great program for middle school and high school students from all walks of life.

"It really gets them away from their home environment," Carpenter said. "Many young people get saved, and many are even called to ministry. It's a great way to reach kids."

This camp may offer a variety of opportunities for students, but it also provides a very unique and beneficial service to Baptist churches throughout Texas, a mission to which Baylor is very committed.

"It allows us to continue our relationship with Baptist churches," Carpenter said. "It helps us to relate to them. A lot of people see Baylor as academic, but these things show that Baylor still has a strong commitment to God and to missions."

In addition to providing a strong ministry to churches and to the students who attend, Baylor You offers ministry training and opportunities to Baylor students. A group of 10 Baylor students served as this year's camp staff. These students were responsible for everything from leading Bible studies and spending time with students to facilitating recreation and teaching classes.

Jerrod Clark is one Baylor student who set aside his summer to work with the Baylor You camps. A senior social work major from Henderson, Nev., Clark enjoyed getting to know the young people who attended camp and watching them grow in their faith.

"I want to help kids understand that things they go through are things that everybody goes through," Clark said. "They're not alone. There is hope."

This has been a busy summer for Clark, balancing his position on the Baylor You staff, as well as summer school. Clark lived in Martin Hall right alongside the campers each week, and he also helped out with classes such as rock climbing and his personal favorite, sign language.

"This job this year just kind of fell into my lap, and it's been a blessing," Clark said. "It's been a good ministry experience for me, and I've really enjoyed it."

Baylor You has many distinguishing features which set it apart from other youth camps. The camp maintains a strong emphasis on missions, allowing students to minister to the Waco community, and it offers students a variety of classes to choose from. Since Baylor is a university, there is a lot of talk about "majors" and "minors." As all college students know, you must eventually choose a major. Well, at Baylor You, students also choose from majors such as music, video production and sailing, and minors such as basketball and swimming.

Amanda Griggs, a high school senior, is one camper who came with a group of 16 students from Lake Athens Baptist Church in Athens. As Griggs relaxed during free time in her room at Kokernot Hall, she reflected about her week at Baylor You. She talked about her choice of house painting as a major for the week, which allowed her and other students to paint inner-city Waco homes and to make minor repairs.

"We worked really hard yesterday picking things up and painting," Griggs said. "It was very hot outside, and there was a little boy riding around on his rusted tricycle. You could tell he was very proud of it because he rode it around the whole courtyard. Being able to see that we were fixing this place up so that someone would have a home is really awesome."

Griggs also said this week gave her an opportunity to grow stronger in her relationship to the Lord and closer to the students in her youth group.

"We really got to reflect and hear other's opinions," Griggs said. "It can really open up your eyes. I thought I was the only one dealing with things. I never really thought about the problems of others."

Each week of Baylor You featured a different speaker. In all, four different speakers and two praise and worship leaders came to take part in the camps.

"Dudley Callison has been an incredible speaker," she said. "I've taken more notes in the past two days than I have in the past two months. He just puts things in our perspective. He puts it in our life situations."

Brenda Ward, one of the group leaders from Lake Athens Baptist Church, sat off to the side, listening to Griggs talk about what she was learning. Ward was clad in a old checked shirt and black polyester pants, reaching as far as her mid-calf, which she had purchased at a thrift store for a grand total of $1.62. This was not an outfit she set aside just for camp - it was part of Baylor You's poverty simulation major.

Ward and several of her campers chose to participate in poverty simulation, learning what its like to be poor in a modern Texas city. Mission Waco assisted in this major, taking students and leaders to the streets of Waco. During one day of camp, the major group traveled to a thrift store in one of the most poverty-stricken areas of Waco. Their mission - to buy a shirt and a pair of pants in five minutes that would fit good enough to wear.

"The store was small and cramped," she said. "There was no organization of size at all, and the clothes were just stacked on a table."

Ward said her girls experienced what it was like to choose clothes from such a small selection, something unimaginable in today's department stores. As part of the whole experience, the outfits they chose had to be worn to dinner and the evening service that night. This allowed the students to see what it was like to wear second-hand clothes and to receive strange looks and comments from others around them.

Ward said before this week, many of the students' concept of poverty and homelessness was something they had seen on television, like a bag lady pushing a shopping cart or at the very least, someone much older than themselves. However, one person who had been asked to talk to the group said he was homeless and living under the bridge at the age of 21.

"It was an eye-opener, especially when you live in a town like Athens," Ward said. "You don't see men holding signs or sleeping under bridges a lot."

Poverty simulation is just one of the many ways that Baylor You reached out to the Waco community. The campers also traveled to various apartments in Waco one day during the week. They held backyard Bible clubs with the local children, as part of Mission Waco's Street Camps. The students were responsible for teaching Bible studies, making a craft with the children, and simply hugging them and showing them love.

"We go out into the city of Waco, and the people are really supportive," Carpenter said. "Many of the Waco children are starved for attention, and the parents are very appreciative of this ministry. It gives their kids something constructive to do during the day, and it shows them Jesus."

And showing Jesus to others is just what Baylor You had in mind. This summer program has already made an impact on the lives of so many students, leaders, staff and Waco residents, and with its foundation rooted in Christ, it will continue to do so for many years to come.

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