By Susan Mires
ST. JOSEPH – It was a hot afternoon on the basketball court at John Lucas Park in St. Joseph’s Midtown.
The players took a break from sports camp and sat on the bench talking. One boy looked up at the young man from Sports Crusaders who was leading the week-long camp.
“Do you think I could be a Sports Crusader some day?” he asked.
The college students assured him he could, if he worked really hard at basketball and, most of all, if he loved Jesus Christ with all his heart.
This was just one of the inspiring moments from a sports camp hosted by Frederick Boulevard Baptist Church the week of June 20. Through the week, 19 children indicated they made decisions for Christ at two camps in St. Joseph.
“It was exciting to see not only the decisions, but the expansion of the kingdom for those children who are believers to see college students excited for the Lord,” said Cynthia Walker, a member of Frederick Boulevard who helped organize the camp.
Several ministries cooperated to assemble the Midtown camp in a matter of days. Frederick Boulevard had scheduled the Sports Crusaders to lead a week-long basketball and cheerleading camp at the church gym. Yet, several members felt led to take the camp to the Midtown area for children who couldn’t afford the camp fee.
Frederick joined with Wellspring, a small, evangelical church in the neighborhood, Midland Ministries and Food For Kids, a ministry which provides lunch to children during the summer. The ministries organized “Rock the Park” June 20, offering free food, a live concert, and a basketball clinic.
Walker invited her father, who happens to be Bobby Shows – the founder of Missouri’s Sports Crusaders. Since 1994, the Crusaders have been sharing the Gospel through basketball camps. Walker was a Crusader, serving in Belarus. She also has served on the board of directors for the ministry.
Sports Crusaders’ dedicated inner-city team had originally planned a camp elsewhere the week of June 20. That camp was postponed at the last minute and since they had the week free, the team voted to come to St. Joseph.
“Those kids are amazing. They are missionaries for eight weeks and use sports to pull children in to hear the Gospel,” Walker said.
Within 36 hours, a full-scale camp was organized in the Midtown area. Church members stepped forward to serve as volunteer coaches. They purchased T-shirts and devotional books for the children. Others served as host homes and one family provided all the snacks for the week. Wellspring and Feed the Children used their relationships in the neighborhood to get children involved.
“It is so encouraging to see the church come together in mission to touch others for Christ,” Walker said.
A police officer on patrol stopped by the park the first day and cautioned the campers to be careful because of drug activity in the neighborhood. The church invited the officer to bring his children and he brought all four children to the camp for the week. He told them the event encouraged him as a believer to become involved in church again.
More than 70 children were involved during the Rock the Park and week-long camp at Midtown, with 17 making decisions for Christ. In addition, 58 children were involved in the Sports Crusaders camp at Frederick Boulevard and two indicated decisions.
The camp also opened doors for an ongoing ministry in Midtown. Members from Frederick Boulevard will join with Wellspring for a Friday day camp throughout the summer.
“God is at work all around us. It was truly a joy to be on the sidelines watching Him use so many people to make this happen,” Walker said.