By Sharon Mager, For Embrace Baltimore
CURTIS BAY, Md.—New Hope Community Church (NHCC) partnered with Embrace Baltimore, a Strategic Focus City effort of the North American Mission Board (NAMB), the Baltimore Association (BBA) and the Baptist Student Union at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) to host a sports camp at the Curtis Bay Recreation Center during spring break in March. By the end of the week, over 114 children came to the camp, 23 people made professions of faith and three young adults on the mission team decided to be summer missionaries. The twenty-three college students and their leaders worked alongside New Hopers leading the camp and doing outreach evangelism throughout the Curtis Bay community.
Rain fell through much of the week while New Hope members and the mission team saturated the area with prayer. Each day Shannon Baker, wife of New Hope Church’s pastor, Larry Baker and New Hope’s children’s minister, led the team in up to four hours of prayer each day.
“One of the college students, longing to be out of the streets, shared that at first she felt sad that she was doing the least important part of the ministry. After two hours of intense prayer, she confessed that she realized that the prayer was the most important work of the day! It was beautiful to watch these students transform right in front of our eyes,” Shannon said.
“I knew that prayer was important, but I guess I never actually realized the power or prayer until this trip,” Kris Katie, one of the USM students, wrote in an email.
Amy Thomason, another USM student wrote, “I learned how to pray for the lost which I never really thought about doing before and I also learned that we should not be afraid to share the gospel because if we disobey God it could cost someone their opportunity to become a Christian. The music minister at New Hope (Ken Miller) put it like this: ‘if the person that shared Christ with us had disobeyed God and not shared with us, would we be Christians right now?’ That really encouraged me to be bold about my faith.”
As the team continued to pray and share the Gospel, God poured his blessing down on that camp experience.
“On Sunday, in the rain, we had 45 students. On Monday, still raining, we had 59 kids. Then on Tuesday, we had 81 and on Thursday, we had 114!” Shannon said.
As a result, the children’s ministry at New Hope’s second site, which was launched on Dec. 21, 2008, has grown. Before the event, five children regularly attended. Now attendance fluctuates between 15-25 students each week.
Larry Baker led the college students in evangelism projects before their work with the evening’s camp activities. The young adults picked-up trash, gave snacks to area merchants and even cleaned toilets throughout Curtis Bay community.
“It was really awkward at first asking people to clean their toilets or trying to convince someone to take a snack during servant evangelism,” USM student Kathryn Plunkett said. “I just had to remind myself that it doesn’t matter how stupid I feel and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about me. I know God can use any situation in order to save lost souls, so I just had to let my guard down and share about my relationship with the Lord. What was most challenging to me was also most rewarding.” “The college students really caught a vision for reaching a community in need in very practical ways,” Brandy Caffey, Embrace Baltimore sports evangelism associate, said.
“The kids in Curtis Bay need so much attention, love and care. The USM students were able to share the love of Christ with these kids and New Hope Community Church was there to also make connections throughout week and to follow up,” she said.
“Our experience with Embrace and NHCC was tremendous. I really could not have asked for a better experience for our students,” Kris Walters, Baptist Student Ministry associate director at Southern Mississippi, said. “Without a doubt, God used this trip to change us (as He usually does!) Our students saw a very hard side of life but saw how God was at work in the midst of it. Out of our experience, three students decided to serve as summer missionaries. One girl is coming back to work with Brandy at Embrace and the other two are going to Peru to serve for a month. I think this speaks to how much this trip meant to our team.”