Avery Fraley admits he sometimes struggles with where he stands with the Lord.
But after spending a week at summer youth weeks at Fort Caswell this year, Fraley is one of the thousands of teenagers from across North Carolina who discovered that their lives matter to God.
“A lot of times, I doubt myself in the eyes of God,” said Fraley, a rising junior at East Burke High School in Connelly Springs, N.C. “But being here at Caswell and hearing the messages that have been part of the overall theme of ‘Worth It’ have really resonated with me.”
Fraley was among the more than 5,500 middle and high school students representing 228 churches who attended one of eight weeklong camps throughout the summer sponsored by the N.C. Baptist student ministry, also known as BeDoTell. Camps were held at the Fort Caswell Coastal Retreat Center on Oak Island, N.C.
The camp theme was “Worth It,” based on Acts 20:24, in which the Apostle Paul writes, “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”
Through times of worship, preaching, group devotions, personal devotions and more, camp attendees wrestled through a series of questions about Christ and the Christian life. Those questions included: Is Jesus worth it? Am I worth it? Is living the Christian life worth it? And is the church worth it?
For many, the answer to each of those was a resounding “yes,” evidenced by the numbers of decisions made during the eight weeks of camp.
Over the course of the summer, camp officials reported that 412 attendees trusted Jesus as Savior, 1,548 others recommitted their lives to Christ and another 585 answered a call to vocational ministry.
Reports of spiritual decisions made during youth weeks are still being reported to camp officials as of mid-August.
“It’s been amazing,” said Merrie Johnson, N.C. Baptists’ student ministries strategist. “It’s always exciting to see how God uses the theme for the summer to really touch the lives of students and adults.”
One of the salvation decisions was made by a man who came with a friend to drop off her son following a youth baseball tournament. Bruce Caldwell, pastor of Spencer Baptist Church in Spindale, N.C., convinced the man to stay for that evening’s worship service. What happened later that night was life-changing.
“You could definitely feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in the chapel working,” said Shane Pruitt, Next-Gen evangelism director with the North American Mission Board, who was that week’s camp proclaimer. “When I gave the invitation at the end of the message, over 70 students stood up saying they had just prayed with me to repent of their sin and place their faith in Jesus for salvation. This man stood up with all of these teenagers, as well. It was incredible. He was one of the first ones to stand.
“He went to camp to drive the teenager there, but God had a bigger plan and purpose for him being there.”
Youth leaders said the “Worth It” theme was timely and significant, and it resonated with the students.
“It’s so relevant and poignant in the time and culture we live in,” said John Pritchard, youth pastor at Enon Baptist Church in Morganton, N.C., who brought 37 students to camp.
“Teenagers deal with issues of worth on a higher level than any other age group,” said Cory Smith, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Hildebran, N.C., who brought 28 students to camp. “It’s helping them to recognize their worth through Christ.”
“If we define our self worth by anything other than who God has declared us to be in Christ, it’s sinking sand,” said David Sons, lead pastor of Lake Murray Baptist Church in Lexington, S.C., who served as the camp proclaimer the week of July 18-23. “The answers to the questions about whether I’m worth it, whether the Christian life is worth it and whether the church is worth it, really flow out of the first question – ‘Is Jesus worth it?’
“If He’s worth it, then all of these other things are worth it because He’s declared them to be.”
Camp attendees also participated in a missions project that involved packing meals as part of a long-standing partnership with the House of Abraham in Jacmel, Haiti. Over the course of the summer, campers collectively packaged 150,000 meals and collected nearly $53,000 to assist with transporting meals to Haiti.
Over the course of the 11-year partnership, youth weeks’ campers have collectively packed 2.65 million meals for children in Haiti.
“There’s a joy of knowing that while we’re here at camp, we’re packaging meals that will go to another country,” Johnson said. “They love knowing that we’re helping other people.”
Luke Clevenger, a member of First Baptist Church of Garner, N.C., has experienced youth weeks both as a camper and as a BeDoTell staff member. After attending camp throughout high school, Clevenger now serves on the BeDoTell worship team.
“I’m thankful to have experienced youth weeks as a camper and now as a staff member,” said Clevenger, a student at Liberty University. “My summer spent at camp was much better than spending a summer on the couch. It’s encouraging to see God move in the lives of campers, and I wouldn’t have had that experience without BeDoTell.”
Students like Fraley, who has attended youth weeks for five years, said he leaves camp each year feeling closer to God and looking forward to when he can come again.
“Every single year I get closer to God here, and every single year I try to bring that home with me,” said Fraley, one of the youth who attends First Baptist Church of Hildenbran, N.C. “There’s a joy that I get from being at Caswell every year. I look forward to it throughout the year. I’ll be looking forward to coming back the day we leave.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Camp registration opens for 2023 youth weeks on Nov. 1. Applications for those interested in serving on the BeDoTell staff open Sept. 1. More information can be found at bedotell.com.