Last year, CrossTimbers Children’s Mission Adventure Camp had 1,477 campers during 13 weeks of camp. This year, the camp will host more than 2,600 campers by the time the season ends July 29.
Numbers in 2009 were limited by the 222 beds available at the camp each week. The camp didn’t add beds this year, but changed the schedule to four-day, instead of five-day, camps which increased the camp’s capacity by 1,000 beds. Camping sessions run Monday-Thursday, Friday-Monday and Tuesday-Friday.
The popularity of the Oklahoma Southern Baptist camp for children located near McAlester is growing with its missions and activities program presenting a complete Christian camping experience for children, third through sixth grade.
“We try to give them experiences they may not have at other camps,” said camp director Mark Jones, children’s ministry specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
One of those experiences is an array of hands-on missions learning opportunities. This year, during four days, the children travel the world from Central Asia to Gabon, Africa and back to Oklahoma, where they learn about Native American church plants in Oklahoma and how to share Jesus during a personal missions time.
While in Central Asia, they visit an Internet Cafe run by former International missionary Sherri Hanzel and three of her children, Hannah, Jesseka and Jonathan, learning about a small Central Asian nation, its people, its needs and how to present the Gospel there.
Later they are led on a mission walk to Gabon, a 99,486-square-mile country in West Africa with a population of nearly 1.5 million.
There they learn from Fisa Mihy-Mihyndu, an international student from Gabon, how the people in that country live, including singing the pledge of allegiance to their flag, and their need for people to tell them about Jesus.
Back in Oklahoma, campers are taught a Native American dance, which they perform in front of a teepee to the beat of a drum. They also have the opportunity to play a Native American flute and experience the taste of Indian corn. Then they are told how Native American ministries are supported through their tithes, a portion of which goes to the Cooperative Program, and play a “Price Is Right” type of game about the CP.
This year, in their personal mission time, led by Jones, they learn how to share Jesus through MY316, using their personal testimony and John 3:16. During one second-day session, 27 of the campers came to know Jesus during this time.
Campers are asked to write on a square of paper the name or names of people they will tell their story to when they return home. Those names are then nailed to one of four large boards. Many pieces of paper have “Mom” or “Dad” written on them.
A father of one of the campers e-mailed Jones after his daughter returned home from camp, saying she had shared her testimony with friends, and two of them already accepted Jesus.
Jones received another note from a camper from Moore, First, which said she told three girls about God with her MY316 card.
In addition to learning about missions, campers experience activities from swimming, boating, fishing, riflery, archery, low ropes course, zip line, climbing wall, horseback riding, frisbee golf, crafts and music. At each activity, a spiritual application is made by the staffer in charge of the activity.
At the rifle range, Rebecca Harber, an OU student, told the campers that sometimes they hit their targets and sometimes they don’t.
“We need someone to give us instruction,” she said. “We get instruction from teachers. When things get tough, you can always turn to the greatest teacher, Jesus, Who has instructions for life.”
Students have been saved at the ropes course and water front this year.
In addition to the missions education opportunities and activities, the campers also experience outdoor worship and Bible study.
Each morning, Jones leads a Bible study on four themes: “It’s UR Life . . . U Decide,” “I Am Loved,” “Quick, Slow, Slow,” (Quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry) and “Do It!”
The evening chapel is led by a state pastor.
Through the first 10 camps, there were 218 salvations, and an offering total of $3,368.61, which will go to buy mosquito nets for Africa and for Native American festivals.
Jones said churches that attended camp this year may register for next year’s sessions beginning Sept. 1. General registration starts Oct. 1. Churches may register by visiting BGCO.org/CrossTimbers.
Jones urges churches to register early to secure a place at the camp.
“We have to turn churches away because we do not have room,” said Jones. He added that he hopes that will change in the future as the camp is allowed to expand.
He said he is grateful to Campers on Mission who remodeled several cabins on the grounds the first year of operation of CrossTimbers, which for years was Camp Hudgens, a Royal Ambassador Camp.
The offering from the State Women’s Retreat at Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center in 2008 is responsible for a remodeled Pennington Lodge with new tile floors, an added bathroom, updated kitchen and a connecting outdoor deck area for meetings.
Jones said he has big dreams for the 560-acre camp grounds. Only about 25 acres are developed and in use now. He said he would like to see four distinct camping areas divided into continents, including North America, South America, Africa and Asia. He also envisions a family camping area on the waterfront facing Lake McAlester.
“I’ve got the initial plans, but what we need is someone to take those and develop them into workable plans, which could be divided into areas that churches or groups could take on as projects,” he said. “There’s a lot of land here that’s unused. We hope someday we won’t have to turn anyone away as this is developed into one of the great children’s mission/adventure camps in the nation.”