Camp season finishes strong, says Crossings president

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LOUISVILLE (KT) – With less than a week to go, Crossings President Lance Howerton said the Kentucky Baptist camp ministry is near to closing out its first successful season since the COVID pandemic.


“Our only two goals were 13,000 campers and not to have to cancel any sessions of camp,” he said. “We are days away from meeting both of those goals.”


Crossings Ministries board of directors canceled camp last summer, along with all other fall 2020 retreats and events, at Cedarmore and Jonathan Creek campgrounds because of COVID-19. Campers finally returned in June but getting to that point was not without sacrifice.


“A lot of our folks were furloughed,” Howerton said. Those who remained, including the Crossings president, saw a 20% cut in pay that continues through the end of summer.


“The loss of more than 90% of annual revenue was very hard to deal with,” said Rusty Ellison, Crossings’ vice president of development. But “God provided for us financially in ways that we could have never expected.”


One unexpected gift was $308,000 approved by the Kentucky Baptist Convention Mission Board. A second came when the sale of some property near Jonathan Creek sold at auction more than $300,000 above its estimated value of $500,000.


Howerton said it was “a sign of how God was watching out for Crossings” and making sure the ministry was able to continue leading students from “death to life” in proclaiming the gospel.


Already this summer more than 600 students have professed faith in Christ – and the numbers are still rolling in. Then, there were the 700 students who reported that God is calling them to serve full-time in ministry.  


Just think about that, Howerton said, 700 school-aged children who have voiced “they're open to what God wants in their lives.” Even if a majority never follow through into ministry, they are – right now, in this season of their lives – tuned into God’s will, he said.


Students also gave more than $125,000 to missions. Their offerings will be used to provide free day camps for children in eastern Kentucky and go toward supporting the ministries of Freda Harris Baptist Center in Elkhorn City and God’s Appalachian Partnership in McDowell.


“The people who run Crossings are the best in the camping ministry world,” said Kris Billiter, pastor of Eastpoint Community Church in Louisville. “They, like everyone else, have endured hardships. There were furloughs. The people that stayed took cuts, but they stayed the course. And here we are running at full steam. It's a testimony to their perseverance and to the dedication of Kentucky Baptists in supporting ministries like this.”


Billiter, who was serving his second of three sessions as a camp pastor, said he’s experienced real energy at camp after being gone for a year.


“Camp is a highlight of the summer for a lot of these kids and students. They missed it terribly,” Billiter said. “I definitely think there's just a little extra bit of excitement to be back. I really do. You can sense it. They're just so happy.”


Howerton said he sensed the same, especially when surrounded by hundreds of students singing praise songs as loud as they can and worshiping God. “I think everyone should go to one night of worship at Crossings.”


Pre-registration for 2022 is already trending higher than Crossings’ record-breaking 2019 attendance. Howerton is estimating they could impact the lives of as many as 17,000 campers next summer.


Until then, Crossings plans to work with ministry partners by providing day camps at Kentucky churches and possibly at Oneida Baptist Institute. Howerton said they will again send a team to the Maryland Delaware Baptist Convention to lead several weeks' worth of camp, and hopes to see work begin on numerous facility updates including a major housing renovation at Jonathan Creek.

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