Camper Baptized After Every Child Belongs Camp
Operated by The Banquet Network (TBN), in partnership with the Baptist Convention of Maryland and Delaware, Cresthill Church in Bowie, and The Gathering Place Church in Bowie, the Every Child Belongs Camp (ECBC) is an overnight weekend experience for children and young adults impacted by disability. Campers, buddies, and volunteers meet at Skycroft Conference Center to engage in camp activities, learn about God, and develop meaningful relationships and community. This year the camp doubled in size with a total of twenty-five campers, including first-timer Katie Stillwell and her mom, Kim. Katie attends Hughesville Baptist Church in Maryland, where Kim and Hughesville Church Member Theresa Fisher lead a disability ministry. Katie began her journey with God during elementary school. Though her evidence of faith was clear, when offered the opportunity to profess her faith through baptism, Katie declined due to a fear of the baptismal pool.
In July 2021, Kim was diagnosed with cancer. Kim remembers feeling an overwhelming peace from God throughout her treatments. Although Kim was terrified at the thought of being removed from Katie’s life, she put her trust in God and his sovereign plan.
Katie was a huge anchor of support during this trial in her family. In the mornings, Katie would greet her mom in bed and ask how she was feeling. If Kim was feeling okay, Katie would say, “Then get up and eat breakfast, Mom!”
When Katie was asked how she cared for her mom, she recalled being “a good nurse.” She explained how she prepared her mom’s breakfast in the mornings, created crafts and cards, re-heated her mom’s coffee, and tended to other needs in the home. Kim shared that Katie was always quick to ask people to pray for healing because she knew that only God could bring her mom back to good health.
In August 2021, Kim underwent surgery and radiation treatments to remove the cancer. In September, Kim received confirmation that she was finally cancer free! Kim believes God used her daughter Katie to be a source of strength and encouragement throughout her cancer journey.
During camp, Katie formed a special bond with her buddy, Sherri Swanson, a disability ministry director at Bayside Baptist Church. Some of Katie’s favorite camp activities included making crafts, singing during worship, and eating s’mores with friends around the campfire.
Since attending camp, Katie has become much more involved in her faith community at Hughesville, and she’s also becoming active in two other disability-inclusive congregations, Bayside Baptist Church and The Gathering Place Church. Katie and other ECBC campers meet regularly at these churches to continue fostering the relationships created at camp. Kim insists the impetus behind Katie’s increased involvement in church is her experience at ECBC.
Katie has enjoyed attending other disability ministries so much that she and her mom began working with their own church staff at Hughesville Baptist to build a program that reaches people with disabilities. Kim feels her church’s recent interest in reaching families impacted by disability is a byproduct of the ECBC. Katie is thankful for the relationships within her church communities and has already made plans to bring new church friends to camp next summer.
Following the ECBC weekend and Katie’s deepened involvement in her church communities, Katie told Kim she wanted to be baptized. The leaders of Hughesville Baptist met with Katie to discuss her faith and made arrangements for Katie’s baptism. Kim was delighted for her daughter but knew Katie still had a significant barrier to her baptism: her fear of the baptismal pool. For years, the enemy had used fear to stop Katie’s public profession of Christ, but now Katie and Kim were determined to make this desire come true.
During the baptism service, Hughesville Baptist Church’s Associate Pastor Kevin Cullins asked Katie if she knew Jesus as her Savior and knew He lived a perfect life and died for the sins of the world. In response, Katie exclaimed several resounding “yeses” from the pool in front of her church congregation.
Following her daughter’s baptism, Katie’s mom expressed her gratitude for the ECBC, saying, “I truly believe that camp changed her world.”
Glenda Durano, a TBN board member, said, “That’s what the Banquet Network does; we change the world by changing lives, one person at a time. One billion people in the world live with a disability, but only five to ten percent of those individuals will ever hear the gospel, making people with disabilities the largest unreached people group in the world. That’s why The Banquet Network is committed to integrating disability into the life of the Church, so people like Katie can be a part of a community that encourages them in their faith journey, whether that means accepting Christ, getting baptized, or ministering within the Church.”
TBN Communications and Marketing Manager Allie McCarty said, “At The Banquet Network, we are praising God for Katie’s baptism and profession of faith! We are amazed how God has used the ECBC to encourage a camper to pursue a deeper relationship with him through her local church and community. Please join us in celebrating Katie’s desire to express her faith through baptism by asking God to continue using the ECBC and all partnerships involved to reach individuals and families impacted by disability with the gospel.”
Click here to view Katie’s baptism service at Hughesville Baptist. The baptism begins approximately at the 30-minute mark.
Allie McCarty is the Communications and Marketing Manager for The Banquet Network. For more stories like this one, visit our blog, or click to connect, learn or donate to the mission of The Banquet Network.