By Michael Smith
Contributing Writer, B&R
NEWPORT — God’s favor was evident before and during the annual All Nations Camp at Carson Springs Baptist Conference Center on May 29-June 2, and the spiritual impact from the week will be seen for years to come.
The Tennessee Baptist Mission Board sponsored camp, in its 24th year, saw a record turnout of 278 registered students. There were 158 recorded spiritual decisions, with 104 students professing their faith in Christ — the most in the camp’s history.
Students, ages 7 to 17 years old, spent the week enjoying games, nature activities, energetic worship, and insightful group Bible studies.
The Bible studies were based on this year’s theme, “Just Live It!” and the theme verse, Micah 6:8 — “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Eighteen ethnic churches participated in this year’s camp, up from nine in 2016. This included Chinese, Hispanic, Japanese, Korean, Kurdish, Laos, Nepali, Romanian, Russian, Thai, and more than 40 Arabic-speaking students.
The camp was in danger of not being able to start on time after straight-line winds swept through Carson Springs Baptist Conference Center on Saturday night, downing numerous trees.
William Burton, ethnic evangelism/church planting specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, is grateful to the East Tennessee disaster relief volunteers who sprang into action to clean up.
On Sunday — the day Tennessee Baptists had set aside as a day of prayer for Tennessee Baptist Conference Centers — more than 50 DR volunteers from the Nolachucky and Jefferson County Baptist Associations, and others from the community, gathered at Carson Springs. Within about four hours, trees were cut, sawed, and limbs were mulched. Roads on the campus that were impassable after the storm were accessible.
On Monday morning before the start of camp, Burton and his team went to a local restaurant for breakfast. Upon seeing their T-shirts that had “All Nations Camp” written on them, their waitress told them that her church had prayed for the camp on Sunday morning. “We’re praying for a hundred kids to be saved,” she said.
“It’s not just a state Baptist camp, but the local Baptist association and those local churches are connected with Carson Springs Baptist Conference Center, and they are very aware of what’s going on,” Burton said.
He gave credit to camp director Dave Shelley, director of missions for Wilson County Baptist Association, based in Lebanon, who has directed All Nations Camp for 23 years. Shelley enlisted 12 volunteer staff members who planned and put on all of this year’s activities.
“Dave Shelley is just incredible. I can’t say enough about him,” Burton said. “He loves the kids, and they love him.”
Burton said the pastors who attended camp with their students were able to minister to their students and the entire camp by sharing devotionals in the morning and at night.
He says a major reason why so many students are able to attend All Nations Camp is the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions that underwrites the camp each year, allowing students to attend for the low cost of $90.
“What an impact that the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions is having on the nations that are in Tennessee, but also the future generations,” Burton said.
These students are going to be the leaders in our state and in our churches in the future, he said, “so the impact that we’re having on their lives right now, only eternity will be able to tell.”