Lifeway campers give more than $540,000 to the IMB and NAMB as camp fuels heart for missions

By Marissa Postell

Nashville, Tenn. — Ben Mandrell, president and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources, presented checks totaling $543,300.81 to International Mission Board (IMB) President Paul Chitwood and North American Mission Board (NAMB) president Kevin Ezell on Monday, September 19, during the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee trustee meeting.

“We believe the focus on missions is an important part of discipling students,” Mandrell said. “I’m thankful we can partner with NAMB and the IMB to spread the gospel both here in North America and across the globe.”

Lifeway Christian Resources President Ben Mandrell (left) presents International Mission Board President Paul Chitwood (center) and North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell (right) with checks totaling more than a half-million dollars, made up of offerings from campers at Lifeway’s 2022 summer camps. Baptist Press photo by Brandon Porter

Lifeway, the IMB and NAMB partner together each summer through FUGE Camps, CentriKid and Student Life Camp to provide missions education and promote missional giving among kids and students attending Lifeway camps. This summer kids, students, camp staff and adult chaperones at Lifeway camps across the country donated $368,862.11 to the IMB and $174,438.70 to NAMB.

“One of the most amazing moments of camp is the opportunity to watch this generation of teenagers give toward the spread of the gospel,” said Jared Shingleton, director of Student Life Camp. “In our culture it seems unlikely that teenagers would give so generously of their limited resources, but that’s exactly what we’re seeing happen at camp.”

Lifeway camps are designed to include experiences that fuel campers’ hearts for missions. As campers’ hearts for missions grow, their actions begin to reflect that passion. And each week at Lifeway camps, campers have the opportunity to put into practice the action of giving to missions.

“Lifeway camps have been taking up a missions offering for the IMB and NAMB since the very early years of our programs,” said Joe Hicks, manager of FUGE Camps. “I love that missions education and teaching students to live a life of generosity is at the heart of our Lifeway camps.”

International missions emphasis

FUGE Camps and CentriKid focused their missions education and giving on two areas—the Embera people group in South America and the city of St. Louis, Missouri. The Embera, a group of unreached peoples spread throughout the mountain and river regions of Colombia and Panama, live in fear believing all material objects are inhabited by spirits that must be appeased. During CentriKid and FUGE Camps, students heard first-hand testimonies of how the Lord has transformed lives through a diverse missionary team including IMB missionaries, Colombian Baptist partners and Cuban and Panamanian missionaries.

“It’s an honor and privilege to partner with Lifeway to tell the story of what God is doing among the nations and sharing how they can play their part in seeing the vision that Jesus will be worshipped by every nation, tribe, people and language become a reality,” said Andy Pettigrew, IMB NextGen team leader. “It’s exciting that students at Lifeway camps are playing a part in reaching the nations as they pray for unreached peoples and give generously to advance the mission around the world.”

In May, the IMB reported that the first known believer was baptized among the Embera people of Colombia.

“God uses many ways to make His name known, and we thank God that campers played a role in seeing that become a reality,” Pettigrew said. “More than 52% of the world remains unreached, but we are thrilled to partner with Lifeway camps to see more and more of the next generation hear and respond to how they can play a part in fulfilling the Revelation 7:9 vision.”

Student Life Camp’s missions emphasis was on Santiago, Chile, where Landon and Megan serve as IMB missionaries and are planting a church alongside national partners in the eastern sector of the city. More than a million people—mostly white-collar workers—live in this sector of the city. And very few churches exist to reach the large community.

“God really burdened me with the fact that there are rich people who don’t know Him and are just as lost as those who don’t have resources, and Santiago is a place that has that need,” Landon told campers in a video that played each week at camp. “God opened a door for us to come and really convicted me that it was the call He had placed on our lives—to make Jesus known to those ‘who have’ according to the world but don’t have the most important spiritual thing in their lives: Jesus.”

North American mission emphasis

This year, Michael and Traci Byrd were FUGE Camp’s featured NAMB missionaries in St. Louis, Missouri. Several years ago, Send Network, NAMB’s church planting initiative, helped the Byrds start Faith Community Bible Church in Baden, the inner-city St. Louis community where Traci was born.

“Every believer has a role to play on the mission field. We are so grateful that, each summer, Lifeway helps instill that vision in the students who attend camps. Nothing is more encouraging than seeing students with a heart for taking the gospel to those in need,” said Mike Ebert, executive director of public relations for NAMB. “We are grateful for Lifeway’s long-standing commitment to making missions a key focus for students attending its camps and helping mobilize a new generation to the mission field.”

Through their gifts this summer, campers are helping missionaries like the Byrds and churches like Faith Community provide the basics of life to people in their communities. They are also helping provide Bibles, supplies and other necessities for new churches to get up and running.

“But it’s not just about financial resources. This summer, we had a crew of students on a mission trip attend our church one morning. They encouraged our hearts,” Michael Byrd said. “That kind of support does a world of good for us as we’re serving and ministering in some pretty difficult places and seeing more churches planted.”

Developing a heart for missions

“We want students to be global Christians by making them aware of the people across the world who are in need of the gospel,” said Amanda Rhein, FUGE Camps coordinator. “We want them to know they can be a part of the gospel story now. They don’t have to wait until they are older.”

The IMB and NAMB train a mission mobilizer on every Lifeway camp team on the camp’s mission focus for the summer and equips them with tools and resources to mobilize others. The missions mobilizer trains other staffers on what they learned and focuses on equipping campers to take their next steps in missions—whether that’s to pray, give or go. Bible study leaders also incorporate “Missions Moments” into their time with campers each day, further cultivating in students a heart for missions.

“We’re grateful for this fruitful summer,” Mandrell said. “And we’re eager to see the long-term impact of these camp experiences as kids and students take what they learned at camp and apply it to their everyday lives.”

Published September 23, 2022

Marissa Postell

Marissa Postell is a writer for Lifeway Christian Resources.