From amusing games of human foosball to deep-hearted discussions in family groups to spirit-led worship, students at Camp Exalted gained both new friendships and spiritual growth June 22-26.
Camp Exalted has three goals in mind, according to Camp Director Reverend Carlos Francis from Bethlehem Baptist Church in Mansfield: "We want to introduce someone to Christ, to make them a disciple and teach them to make others disciples," he said.
Callise Butler is going into the ninth grade and has been attending Camp Exalted for three years with her church, Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in San Antonio. She returns every year excited to see how her relationship with God can be strengthened.
"I just love the experience," Butler said. "It helps me get myself together. The words that come from speakers and the worship build my faith in God stronger."
Each day of camp, youth in grades 7th through 12th divide into groups determined by their grade level and delve into Scripture during class sessions. Then, they divide into even smaller "family groups" where they engage in deeper discussion with their peers.
"In family groups, you're able to open up to one another and share your story and tell people what you've gone through and where you're coming from," Butler said.
It is not uncommon for college students to return and take on leadership roles at Camp Exalted, Francis said, and that is something they hope to inspire students to do after their 12th grade year.
Brandon Twillie is one of those college students and after three years of being a youth at Camp Exalted with Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church, he took a week out of his summer this year to serve as a recreation leader for the camp.
"A week doesn't mean anything to me. Sometimes we can't even give two minutes to God," he said as he was setting out the dodgeballs on the grassy recreation field for the next game. "Being older now, I have to show the younger students the ropes. I have to be a role model."
Since students who attend Camp Exalted may or may not be saved, Francis said they intentionally make camp pastors available to answer any questions students or even leaders may have. From questions about participants' personal lives to theology to the steps to take toward salvation, trusted and educated pastors were ready and willing to provide the answers.
By the end of the week, Francis said they pray students have built relationships with at least one leader with whom they can remain in contact with and approach for future questions. They also pray the students have grown in their relationships with Christ.
Camp Exalted is hosted every year by the African American Ministries to unite students from different cultures, backgrounds and cities for one week to be enlightened, encouraged and educated about their relationship with Christ. For more information, visit texasbaptists.org/campexalted.