Young people hold hands as they pray during GO! Camp at Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tenn. The camp mixes interactive labs and service projects with fun and activities.
After all, the camp motto is tattooed on her left arm.
Love God. Love your neighbor. Change the world.
Morgan, 18, a member of the West Seventh Church of Christ in Columbia, Tenn., decided to make that message permanent after attending last year’s inaugural GO! Camp.
“It’s been different from any other camp I’ve ever been to,” the recent high school graduate said. “I’ve grown up in the church, and I’ve been a part of a ton of camps, but I’ve never been to one that not only talks about what you can do but also shows you how.”
Here in rural West Tennessee, Morgan joined more than 350 young people from 25 Churches of Christ in eight states at the recent second annual GO! Camp.
Campers chatted live via Skype — an online video service — with missionaries around the world, including an American who arranges free heart surgeries for children in war-torn Iraq.
The teens donated more than 3,000 bottles of water to an Arkansas-based homeless outreach unit called The Van.
One night, all the students and counselors drove to nearby Jackson, Tenn., and cheered at a baseball game played by children with special needs.
For many youth groups, Bible camp means swimming in creeks, bunking in rustic cabins and singing praises to God around campfires.
Other teens sleep in Christian university dormitories and eat in campus dining halls as they flock to leadership and service camps with names such as Cornerstone, Encounter, Genesis, Horizons, Impact, Kadesh, Soul Quest and Zenith.
GO! Camp teaches young people how to recognize needs in their own community and take action, director Brad Montague said.
“Everything is about, ‘How can I take this home? What does this look like there?’” said Montague, a former youth minister. “That’s the big push.”
Months ago, GO! Camp organizers set a goal of raising $30,000 to feed starving children.
The idea was that the funds would be used to buy bulk quantities of rice, vegetables, soy and chicken.
Campers would measure the bulk supplies into smaller meal packets, then box the packets and ship them to destinations such as Haiti and Africa.
Via Facebook and Twitter, word of the project spread.
Jenna Ellison and Kelli Clausel, youth group members at the Savannah Church of Christ in Tennessee, decided to host a benefit banquet at their church.
Their initial goal: $500.
Church deacon Lonnie Miller encouraged them to dream bigger.
With help from other teens and adults, Ellison and Clausel sold banquet tickets, accepted donations and conducted a silent auction.
Aspiring country singer Savanna Smallwood, who attends the Jacksonburg Church of Christ in Florence, Ala., performed.
“Our idea just sparked and blew up,” said Clausel, 16. “It just gave everyone ... a chance to give something.”
“Our church came together, and our community came together,” said Ellison, 17. “I don’t know what happened. God happened.”
The banquet raised $25,000 (see related video).
In all, GO! Camp supporters collected nearly $52,000 for the food project. At Freed-Hardeman, campers packed 139,968 meals — enough to feed 384 children for a year.
“You see the kids come to life when they realize they can live beyond themselves and get involved in something bigger than they are,” said Beth Haley, a Freed-Hardeman graduate. “They find their purpose.”
Haley found her purpose as the founder of Exile International, which provides art and expressive therapy to former child soldiers and war-affected children. A member of the Otter Creek Church of Christ in Brentwood, Tenn., Haley shared her experiences with the campers.
“I’m really excited to talk to the kids about what they can do, in big ways and small ways,” said Haley, who had just returned from Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. “That’s how you change the world, in big ways and small ways.”
SALT AND LIGHT
After GO! Camp last year, Katie and Claire Morris decided to gather eyeglasses to send to poor countries.
The twin sisters, now 13, dubbed their project “Blind But Now I See.”
“I was thinking, ‘I wear glasses and contacts. What would it be like without them?’” Katie said. “That inspired me to start it.”
The girls designed a logo and placed collection boxes at their school.
Hundreds of donations later, Katie and Claire remain committed to the cause, said their father, Chuck Morris, a Bible teacher at Jackson Christian School and youth minister for the Crosswinds Church of Christ in Three Way, Tenn.
“So many times our camps are very introspective as to my relationship with God, my spiritual growth. This is almost the next step,” Morris said.
“I think these kids really get the message of Christ — I want you to be salt and light — and they’re not satisfied with letting the lights hang in a church building and letting the salt sit in a shaker,” he added. “They want to be out making a difference.”
Ellison, who made a difference by organizing the benefit banquet in Savannah, agreed.
“Other camps I have been to, it’s all about changing your life, like ‘get right with God,’” she said. “That’s a great thing, but this camp is more about ‘you get God, and then you go and take him to everybody else.’”
Morgan got her tattoo on April 7, her birthday.
“I planned it for a while because I knew it was something that I wanted a constant reminder of,” she said. “It’s very simple, but it means a lot.”
Love God. Love your neighbor. Change the world.
You Must Have Flash Version 8 or higher
installed to view this Photo Gallery.
View Larger Map
The Chronicle welcomes and encourages
feedback that promotes thoughtful and respectful discussion. Letters and comments should be 750 characters or less and may be edited for length or clarity. Comments to the print or online edition are considered to be letters to the editor and may be published.