Youth saved at All Nations Camp returns with campers from her church
By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
NEWPORT — Maritza Cruz attended her first All Nations Camp in 1996 when she was 15 years old. While at camp, she made a decision that has impacted her life forever.
Cruz accepted Christ that summer while attending the camp with a group from Brownsville Baptist Church in Brownsville. She is grateful to the church which began a ministry to Hispanics shortly after her family moved to town.
The church offered an English as a Second Language class and took Cruz and her siblings to All Nations Camp that was held that year at Linden Valley Baptist Conference Center in Linden.
She is forever indebted to then pastor Bob Connerley and the members of Brownsville Baptist.
“They saw the mission of God regardless of culture, race and language barriers,” Cruz recalled.
“That changed my life forever,” she affirmed.
Leading the camp that year was Dave Shelley, who was directing his first camp for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board (then Executive Board of the Tennessee Baptist Convention).
Twenty-six years later, Shelley is still leading All Nations Camp for the TBMB. He connected with Cruz this year at Carson Springs Baptist Conference Center when she brought 18 people from Iglesia Bautista Cristo Rey in Brownsville, which began years ago as a mission of Brownsville Baptist Church.
Shelley was the camp pastor when Cruz made her decision for Christ.
“It’s amazing,” he recalled. “That’s what it is all about — lives that are changed.”
Noting that he is now seeing kids who accepted Christ years ago and who are now bringing groups to camps years later is emotional, Shelley admitted.
“It brings me to tears,” Shelley said.
For Cruz, bringing children and youth from her church to All Nations Camp is important because she wants them to have the same opportunity she had.
“I had an encounter with Christ that I didn’t expect,” she said.
“It would impact my life so much.”
Bob Connerley, now retired, was pastor of Brownsville Baptist when Cruz was a teenager.
Connerley recalled Cruz (whose maiden name is Sanchez) led her dad to Christ through Sanchez’s nephew who served as interpreter. Sanchez later moved his entire family to Brownsville and they all came to know Christ and became involved in the Hispanic mission that is now Iglesia Bautista.
The Sanchez family became the core family in the church and Maritza is continuing in their footsteps, Connerley said. “It is a real blessing to see her carry that ministry on,” he said. B&R