Lifeway campers dig deep with big gift to IMB

Editor’s Note: Lifeway summer camps staffers say experience prepared them for future ministry. Read the story here. 

Students, children, camp staff and adult chaperones participating in Lifeway summer camps this year donated $294,103.50 to the International Mission Board. The funds will be used for missions work in Mexico and Central and South America, primarily directed for ministry in the Amazon Basin and with Venezuelan refugees.

Lifeway Christian Resources President Ben Mandrel presents checks to International Mission Board President Paul Chitwood and North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell at the Sept. 21 Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee meeting. The checks were funds received through offerings given by campers at Lifeway children and student summer camps. Photo by Brandon Porter.

Lifeway Christian Resources, the IMB and the North American Mission Board partner to provide and promote missions education and giving each year during the summer camps. Mission offerings are collected each week at FUGE Camps, CentriKid and Student Life Camps.

Lifeway President and CEO Ben Mandrell presented checks totaling $455,068 to IMB President Paul Chitwood and NAMB President Kevin Ezell.

“It’s thrilling that our Lifeway camps not only help kids and students walk more closely with Jesus, but that they also help them discover their role in the mission of God. So glad to partner this way!” Mandrell said in a Twitter announcement of the gift.

Missions is a central part of the camps and the children, youth and adults responded to the invitation to give to advance God’s Kingdom.

The children and youth were encouraged to make missions involvement a central part of their lives.

Joe Hicks, brand manager for FUGE Camps said, “Our hope is to open the eyes of students to what is going on outside of their world. We want them to see that they can have a mission mindset now and begin serving in missions before they are adults. They can pray, give and go. It doesn’t have to be something they do later in life.”

“We also hope that this awareness gives students an urgency to share the gospel at home and to even go back to their churches and urge the adults to have a mission mindset as well. Ultimately, we want God to be given glory not only here in the States but around the world,” Hicks continued.

George Siler, manager of IMB’s volunteer programs, said, “Lifeway can do more in one week of camp to cultivate a heart for God’s mission in campers than we might be able to do all year. What a great partnership!”

“The staff are heroes in the way they promote missions and set an example of giving. We are thankful for the incredible generosity of the campers and their leaders,” Siler continued. “Many of them come to camp prepared to give. Every year I encounter young adults now called to missionary service who track back to their first encounter with missions at a Lifeway camp.”

Children of IMB missionaries in Peru join two water pipes that will provide water to a farm run by indigenous missionaries in the Amazon.

The missions emphasis for the Student Life Camps was the unreached people of the Amazon Basin. The Venezuelan refugee crisis and the IMB’s partnership with Colombian partners to respond to the crisis was the focus of FUGE Camps.

Brad Barnett, senior manager of Lifeway Students, said the video footage of IMB missionaries and national partners engaging with and distributing clothes, shoes and food to refugees walking from Venezuela to other countries really resonated with the students and staff.

“To just talk about a ‘refugee crisis’ is too abstract for students, but to see missionaries giving out new pairs of tennis shoes to someone who has been walking for weeks barefooted, give them a new jacket and feed them in the name of Jesus makes it concrete as to how their offering is helping real people and helps them know how they can pray,” Barnett said.

Janna Smith, IMB student strategist, said the $294,103.50 donated will be used for various projects within the Americas with special attention given to the mission efforts in the Amazon and Venezuela.

“The most exciting aspect of the partnership between Lifeway camps and the International Mission Board is the opportunity to challenge new generations with our Father’s Great Commission. Missions education is a key element in holistic discipleship,” Janna said.

“I appreciate Lifeway’s decision to make it an integral part of the camp experience for both children and youth. This generous offering is evidence that thousands of campers captured the vision and understand the central importance of making disciples of Jesus.”

Smith expressed her thanks to the campers, “Thank you! Your generosity in giving financially demonstrates that your heart is set on obeying Jesus!”