Authentic relationships are hard to find. Lost in a vast sea of faces, students can feel lonely.
But Christ is always with us.
This message resonated with the more than 950 students who attended MIX, Southeast Christian Church’s five-day camp for middle schoolers at Country Lake Christian Retreat in Underwood, Indiana.
Three sessions of MIX were held June 10-22.
God with us
Addi Adkins, 13, experienced the eternal truth that everyone has access to the God of the universe.
“At MIX this year, God really spoke to me,” said Adkins, who attends Southeast’s Southwest Campus. “He was really speaking to me and wanting me to make the decision to follow Him. I got baptized on June 30. Last year, I didn’t feel close to God, but this year was different. I felt like the sermons really spoke to me. Even if your friend group isn’t including you, you can know that you’re never alone.”
Each student was given a “never alone” wristband and asked to give a second “never alone” wristband to someone they needed to befriend and love.
“One of our students, Cade Badstibner, who will be in seventh grade, came to church Sunday morning and confidently introduced me to his friend Nolan,” Elizabethtown Campus Next Gen Girls Ministry Associate Chelsea Bartlett said. “He said, ‘Hey Chelsea, this is my friend Nolan, and he is my one life.’ He was beaming. Nolan was proudly wearing the ‘never alone’ bracelet that Cade had given him. It was so cool to see that not even 24 hours after we returned from MIX, Cade was stepping out in faith so that his friend could learn about Jesus.”
During MIX, 53 students made first-time decisions to follow Christ, 61 students were baptized and another 21 students committed to be baptized after camp.
MSM partners with Christ In Youth, and the 2019 theme was “To Be Continued.” Students focused on Elijah and how he felt abandoned even in the aftermath of God’s amazing miracles through him.
Though camp included time to seek God during morning and evening worship services, sometimes the most fruitful times were during free time.
Blankenbaker Campus MSM Groups Pastor Justin Davis recognized this right away.
“Being brand new, it was good to be able to have a week with students,” Davis said. “I didn’t have a lot of pre-existing relationships with them, so anytime you can get a week exclusive with them, it’s helpful to build those relationships. I feel like that week catapulted me with some students and also with our leaders.”
Southwest Campus Student Connections Associate Craig Donnelly echoed that same sentiment.
“One thing I really appreciated about MIX was we had a lot of time to spend with students and leaders,” Donnelly said. “A good memory I had was with Dereon. One of the days he came up to me before free time. I was tired, wanting to take a nap, but he asked, ‘Do you want to go fishing with me?’ We went fishing and another kid, Evan, from our cabin was there. It was good one-on-one time and good conversations.”
The irony was 11-year-old Dereon Brown didn’t catch any fish, yet Jesus caught him.
“I enjoyed the free time, lake activities and I went fishing,” Brown said. “I didn’t catch anything, but my friend caught six bluegills. I also enjoyed celebrating baptisms and the worship. I’m getting baptized soon because the preachers taught me a lot about Jesus. I learned you’re never alone.”
Logan Elliot, who attends the Blankenbaker Campus, also drew nearer to God through MIX.
“I learned more there than any other Christian camp I’ve ever been to,” said Elliot, 10. “I had a really good experience. There were a lot of really nice people there. I got baptized. MIX flattened it out. I learned a lot about Elijah and Elisha.”
Taking it home
Many stereotype Christian camps as the climax of a student’s spiritual journey.
Davis said summer camp is just going to be the starting point for Southeast students.
“For many people, camp can just be the finish line of just coming to know Jesus,” Davis said. “And then, ‘Great. That’s awesome. We’re done.’ But how much of camp is also the starting line for students wherever they’re at in their faith?”
Melody Steineker, 12, enjoyed her time at camp.
“I felt like MIX was really engaging to students, especially me because the worship band and family groups were small,” said Steineker, who attends Southeast’s River Valley Campus. “It made me feel like I wanted to get baptized. I’ve been to previous camps, but this was the best.”
Steineker’s older sister, Madelyn, led her to faith, and she is now bringing that faith back home.
“The one-on-one opportunities with the leaders were really engaging,” Steineker said. “Miss Milissa and Miss Madelyn showed us even more about Elijah and Elisha. Elijah giving the cloak to Elisha taught me that God gives us a cloak to share with others. God has given me the cloak, but I haven’t given it to anyone else. To not just hold onto it, but to keep making a chain. That was really impactful because I need to share God to other people at my school.”