Posted: 6/21/20 at 5:00pm. Written by Glenn Maddox.
For 26 years, Virginia Baptist youth have served side by side with local churches in communities across Virginia, in several other states in response to disasters, and even around the world through Impact Mission Camps. For the first time in 26 years, students will not be coming together to dig, paint, drive nails, and share Christ’s love with people and communities in need. But this doesn’t mean that they won’t serve, and it doesn’t mean that they can’t come together at all.
In response to COVID-19, Impact, like many other summer activities and camps, had to cancel in-person camps for the summer. Churches had the option of getting a refund of their deposits or to apply that deposit to next year’s camp. But summer is still coming, and students, their families, and their youth ministers are still desperate for ways to serve and ways to be part of God’s mission this summer. So we pivoted and created Impact Virtual Mission Camp–open to all individuals, families, and churches–and we’re thrilled to start our first week of camp on Monday, June 22.
Five college students had committed to work for Impact this summer. It was important to us to offer them a meaningful ministry internship where their creativity and gifts could shine, and they’ve already given more than we could have expected. Impact participants will have daily challenges, hands-on mission opportunities that they can engage in even under social distancing requirements, and worship three nights a week. There are three weeks of devotional resources anyone can access to help reflect on what mission looks like in a pandemic, using the five-fold ministry of Ephesians 4 (Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds, and Teachers) and exploring how each of us expresses each gift and has a role to play. Our relatively new Impact KIDS option is becoming a mission-focused VBS option for churches who want to try something different from their usual VBS experience, supported by the resources our staff are creating daily. Our theme–Better Together–seems providential in light of how we’re needing to function apart from one another but are still made better together by Christ’s work in us.
While the pandemic has forced us all to be more distant from those we are usually close to, it has also helped us feel closer to people who are further away, and Impact has greatly benefited from the many international partnerships of the BGAV. We will be welcoming youth and young adults from Ghana and Norway, along with hopefully other European Baptist Federation partners to camp this summer, sharing worship leadership and daily challenges with them. This kind of partnership has probably always been possible, but it took a pandemic to make us consider what we could truly accomplish working together. A virtual camp won’t have the same feel as camp in person, but we’re grateful for the opportunity to be part of your summer. God is present among us, and our distance doesn’t matter. We truly are Better Together–Even When Apart.
Glenn Maddox is BGAV’s National Mission Director for the Mission Development Team.