For more than 21 years, I have been leading boys camps and also taking boys to RA Camps for more than 30 years.
There are least three things that make the Alabama Baptist Boys Camp different than other Christian camps. First, we emphasize learning about Southern Baptist missions. Second, we are outside, doing boy activities all day long: things that most boys would not normally get to do, such as cook breakfast on a gallon can, learn to throw tomahawks, learn to use a compass, and learn ropecraft, archery, air rifles, sling shots and blow darts. (These examples are only about half of the activities.) Third, from the time they arrive until they leave, they are under the influence of two camp counselors who are showing by word and action how to live as a Christian.
A few years ago, we had a grandfather and his grandson attend Lad & Dad Camp. As the campers were carrying a big rough cross up the hill during our Crosswalk service on the last night of camp, the grandfather said to me, “That is why God left me here.”
Later he told me the rest of the story. Through the outreach of some men, he had recently become a Christian. That group of dads had talked him into coming to camp with his grandson.
In Vietnam, most of his friends had been killed in an ambush, and he was left. He was mad at God for letting him live. For more than 40 years he had a miserable life asking, “Why God? Why did you let me live?” But he said now he understood: that he was the only father his grandson had in his life.
Over the years, we have had three churches send between 20 and 30 boys and fathers to Lad & Dad Camp. Can you imagine that many dads in a church feeling that a Lad & Dad weekend with their sons is that important!
A couple of years ago one of our past counselors, Phillip, called to ask if we knew any boys who needed their ways paid to camp. I had just been contacted by a retired missionary who was working with Mixtec Indian families.
As a result, Phillip sent 10 Mixtec Indian boys to camp where they, like other participants, learned things like how to swim and some of the activities mentioned above. They also listened to Bible teaching.
Let me also share with you a testimony from an Alabama Baptist father, Chris Jackson of Andalusia, who in 2014 will attend his eighth Lad & Dad Camp. Over the years, he has brought three sons to camp with one soon to go.
CHRIS JACKSON: Thanks for another great year at RA camp. This was my first year with #3 son, and I still have #4 to go. I thought I would give you a memory of mine from the Crosswalk a few years ago.
Right after the Crosswalk with #2 son, Ben (the one who says he is going to be a RA counselor), we found a place to talk. I noticed that Ben was crying — not just a few tears running down his face but he was sobbing.
I thought maybe he had been hurt in some way. I asked him what was wrong. After the experience of the Crosswalk, he just looked at the ground and said, “He loved me so much!” That was worth the price of admission.
The best we can tell, this past year was my seventh year. The thing that draws me back to camp every year is the time spent with my son. My sons and I camp, hike, backpack, swim, rappel, hunt, fish, canoe and do most anything else we can find to do outdoors.
When we do this stuff, usually there are other kids around — either church kids, brothers, friends or scouts. At RA camp, no one else is trying to get my attention. All my attention is on one son (not four at a time). We eat together, swim together; everything is together.
The devotionals and the Crosswalk also provide great opportunities for me to talk to my sons about Christ and what He has done for me and them. For some reason this can be uncomfortable in other settings but not at camp. It is what we are expected to do and so it works!
I also think the influence some of the counselors have on my sons is very important. One in particular has been a very positive influence in the last couple of years. He has become sort of a long distance hero for #2 son. Ben really looks up to him.
Why? Because good heroes are in short supply. This counselor enjoys the outdoors like we do, and Ben has picked up on that. He also seems to have a strong faith, which Ben also has.
Here in our area, there is a spiritual crisis. There simply are not very many boys who are trying to live a godly life.
One of my objectives is for my sons to have plenty of memories of us doing things together. There will be a time in life that the only thing that we will have are memories. I may only have memories of them, or they may only have memories of me, whichever of us God welcomes home first.
I want them to remember shared experiences that we have had. A boy may have a memory of hitting a homerun when he was 12 years old, but I think the memories that we share will be more important.
I’m not a very good spectator. I want to be a participant in their activities. Twenty years from now, I think we’ll be talking about the great times we had together at RA camp. I’m not sure being an all-star soccer or baseball player will be as important 20 years from now.
When we share these experiences, they learn more about who I am and what is important to me. My goal is to point them to God (Deut. 6:7).
This year, my younger brother, who does not have any kids of his own, visited from Raleigh to attend with Ben. Ben and I have been several years together, and this year was his younger brother’s (Jake) turn.
Ben had a very special trip with his uncle. His uncle also had a great time getting to know his nephew (although he was a little sore from all the activities).
For more information about the camps mentioned above, please contact State Missionary Steve Stephens direct at 334-613-2268, toll free at 1-800-264-1225, ext. 268, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or check online at https://alsbom.org/ra.
Steve and his wife, Tamara, are members at New Bethel Baptist Church, Braggs. They have three sons.