Originally published in the 2017 Fall Quarterly Explorer

PASSPORTkids! Camp

by Buddy Sumner
photos by Kenton Sumner

Early one Tuesday morning, nine families entrusted their children to three adults for a journey that would leave such an impression on their lives (those families were more brave than they know). These five girls, four boys, and three adults had heard stories about what it was like to attend PASSPORTkids! Camp, but they really didn’t know what it would be like — new friends, new experiences, new adventures, new opportunities to connect with God.

SWe had an incredible opportunity to spend each morning studying the word of God, learning what it tells us about God and what God expects from us. Each morning we learned another aspect of our responsibility, to meet the lesson in Micah 6:8: “And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” We also celebrated and worshipped the Lord together, and then enjoyed a variety of recreation and fellowship activities such as basketball, soccer, worship arts, dance, and the group favorite… swimming in the pool.

The adults on this trip learned a great deal from this small group of children. Seeing their kindness,  uniqueness, and openness to finding the Lord throughout their day was a blessing. We got to watch them look out for each other as we progressed through the week. I enjoyed seeing them learn about themselves, not only from their Christian faith perspective, but also as they learned about life lessons, such as managing your resources (money management) and managing relationships with family and friends.

I was happy to miss the week of work to have this experience. It was certainly focused on their experience and growth, but it was just as meaningful to the adults. I look forward to seeing them continue to grow individually as well as collectively at River Road Church, Baptist.

“It was tons of fun even though the hills were tiring. My favorite part of Passport was meeting new kids from different churches and playing sports events.”
Jackson Koskinen

“You get to know so many nice people from different places in your bible study.  And the staff was very enthusiastic.  When you get there, they would jump up and down.  The videos about the kids in Malawi without water to drink were really sad.  I wanted to help them.  The music during worship made me feel closer to God.

It was fun playing and talking with my friends, even the car ride there and back.  The ice cream shop was super fun!  It was also fun in the cabins playing and making the concert video with our stuffed animals. And the food was good but not as good as my Mom’s”
Mary Alice Halloran


PASSPORT: Missions Camp in Danville, VA

by Zach Bostic

PASSPORT Camps have been around for over twenty years, and offer a unique opportunity for youth groups from the United States to come together and work toward common goals while also strengthening their relationship with God. Campers are assigned to Bible studies which also act as work groups for the mission projects. Through the work and time spent with new friends, youth finish the week with a passion for helping others, as well as a love for doing God’s will. After the closing celebration, I believe our youth group left camp with wonderful friendships and a better understanding of God and God’s desire for us to do Kingdom work. I love PASSPORT and the experience it provides is truly invaluable.


We are Family: Hands & Hearts Family Mission Trip

The term “family” takes on a lot of different meanings but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what the make up is, everyone is part of a bigger family: the River Road Church family.

Together this family traveled from June 25 to July 1, ministered to the community of Nickelsville, and grew in love and appreciation for each other’s gifts. There was building construction work, food pantry work, and visits to a nursing home. As a family we related to each other and the people of the community – all members of the family of God.

Team: Diane Shoemake, Bob Shoemake, Craig Andrew Martin, Isabel Martin, Bill Rusher, Andrea Glaze, Ashley Glaze, Marge Rusher, Laura Lee Chandler; Not Pictured: Julia Nixon and Wanda Pleasants


Have U Seen?

by Betsy Lowery

Vacation Bible School took place at River Road Church, Baptist from July 10-14. Our church was buzzing with a lot of fun-filled energy as 112 children, 20 youth helpers, and 49 adults focused their attention to our thought of the week: Have U Seen God’s fingerprints in the world around us. Hearts and minds were involved with discovering God’s son while looking around, discovering God’s work through others while looking up, discovering God’s work in our community while looking here,
discovering God’s work in our world while looking over there, and discovering God through us while looking at ourselves. As the week progressed, the children were involved in listening to and talking about Bible stories, getting their hands involved in art activities, enjoying music experiences, being a part of mission work, laughing during recreation fun, and sharing healthy snacks together. Each morning and afternoon all gathered in our Chapel for music and prayer.  Our week ended in celebration with a music program in our Sanctuary and a lunch in our Fellowship Hall where everyone enjoyed an array of pictures from the week. The following Sunday, 20 children sang two of their VBS songs in worship. The week was uplifting and, we hope, enriching to all involved. The VBS team thanks all of our church family for making this week one we will always remember!


UniDiversity Camp in Knoxville, TN

by David Stevens

On July 17, 16 RRCB youth and adults arrived at Unidiversity Youth Camp, held at the University of Tennessee (UT). Unidiversity (now in its 24th year) offers a week of worship, discussion, and fellowship for middle and high school students, emphasizing inclusivity and diversity as core elements of Christian practice. It was RRCB’s fourth year attending.

Each day began with Morning Celebration—a happy jumble of song, prayer, ad hoc calisthenics, and pervasive hugging.  Afterward, youth adjourned to Bible Study, followed by a slate of seminars, from which each camper selected two. These seminars addressed a gamut of topics: from “Christmas with the Simpsons” and “James Bond and Samson,” to “Human Sexuality among the Hebrews” or “Eno-ing with Dietrich Bonhoeffer.”

Evenings were reserved for worship, anchored by a daily message from the 2017 Proclaimer: Alan Sherouse from First Baptist Church, Greensboro. These services also highlighted the outreach work of Refuge and Hope International, a faith-based non-profit serving the urban refugee community in Kampala, Uganda. Missy Ward-Angalla, a CBF missionary serving with Refuge and Hope, visited RRCB last October. Over the week, Unidiversity attendees raised more than $3,000 in support of this organization.

Campers spent ample time outside church, too, with afternoon electives, both recreational and educational. Each evening we gathered for UNite, a madcap series of games centered on this year’s theme of “Christmas Presence.” On July 20, electives were suspended for a free day. RRCB enjoyed an afternoon of tubing on the Little River, located between Knoxville and Gatlinburg.

On a more personal note: while driving to UT, Scott Leake made the observation that Unidiversity emphasizes discipleship where other youth camps focus more on missions or some combination of both. That insight stayed with me. Unidiversity is too brief to offer much theological instruction. But what it manages to do quite well is remind youth of their connection to each other and their communities, of their ongoing commitment to a set of faith-based precepts that includes respect and compassion for all. I do not mean to discount the myriad lessons of mission-work, but Unidiversity seems more concerned with how campers live moment to moment, urging them to face the world with the demeanor of the loving Christ to whose example we aspire. Camp can be emotionally intense. But the week reinforces the best qualities of the campers, and its impact on many is as profound as it is obvious. I am glad to have witnessed Unidiversity and hope it remains one of the regular summer options for youth at RRCB.


On Mission in Maine

by Karen Collier

The 2017 Chester L. Phelps Outdoor Worship Center Crew: Ron Benton, Bill Rusher, Bill Thurston, Taylor Bostic, Zach Bostic, Lee Bradley, George Davis, Ed Prudent, RC Moore Not pictured: Jack Heisler

In early August 2017, the River Road Church youth and adult mission team journeyed once more to Maine. The destination — the Farmington Conference Center, owned by the Maine Baptist Association in partnership with the Hampshire Baptist Association, and this year celebrating its 31st year as a Christian camp ground and conference center for northern New England.

In 1989 and again in 1990, River Road Church sent the first teams to Farmington to help advance the conference center’s work of leading boys and girls to faith in Christ through the experience of camp. The camp was just 3-4 years old at the time. Roughly
every three years following, up through 2006, another River Road Church team took up the call, so that nearly every aspect of the camp facility, as well as the adjacent Farmington Baptist Church, has been touched by the eager hands and hearts of our River Road Church family. Teams traveled to Maine again in 1993, 1996, 1999, 2002, 2004, and 2006—and then again in 2017, extending the profound experience that is Maine for so many at River Road across three generations of participants.

Over the years, River Road teams have scraped and painted, framed buildings, put up exterior siding, hung dry wall, run electrical wires, installed ductwork, cleared brush and more. The 1999 team was one of many helping to build the Farmington Baptist Church sanctuary — now the largest Baptist church in the state. In 2004, the year of Chester Phelps’ (first) retirement as our minister to youth, one of his experienced crews of young adults conceived of and built the Chester L. Phelps Outdoor Worship Center, consecrating it in his honor and to the glory of God with the blessing of the camp leadership.

This year, 45 youth and adults worked in smaller teams to paint three cabins, the bath house, the barn, the chapel porch and a deck. Another team expanded the outdoor worship center, adding a covered stage and resurfacing benches — a fitting tribute to one who has extended his service in our midst again and again.

And so another trip to Maine is in the books, leaving us to be glad of a job well done and to carry with us in our hearts so much more than we left behind. Thanks be to God.

Building Grace

by Taylor Bostic

During this week, I had the pleasure of working on the outdoor worship center at the Farmington Conference Center. Our main project was to construct a new covered stage that could be used for worship, music, movies, and more. While the work was certainly not easy, it was incredibly fulfilling. I knew that what I was doing was going to be appreciated in a way that I may never fully understand. Even though I will most likely never directly benefit from the work I did, I know that this will be used by hundreds of kids for years to come. Sometimes, God calls us to serve in ways that are of no benefit to us. But it is through this service that we can come to see God’s grace at its highest point, and we can lead others to see the same.

Maine Mission Tour Experience

by Beth Rooney

This was my last mission tour as a youth group member, and I am glad that it was in Farmington, Maine. From the two-day trek in the vans to the eight-hour days cleaning and painting the cabins of the conference center, it was the best tour yet.

My group had the responsibility of painting the bathhouse, which entailed slathering grey paint on all sides and stairs, as well as trimming with green paint. We climbed tall ladders, painted whilst standing on scaffolding, and even got doused with a little paint on our clothes and skin. The enthusiasm and energy that each team member brought to the table was astonishing. By the end of the week, we had accomplished the feat of restoring a place that has been deep in our church’s roots for so long.

But the meaning behind the work was most evident at each night’s group devotion. The stories, laughs, scripture, and songs of praise aided in the building of God’s presence for each team member. The most incredible take-away from this trip, at least for me, is that our youth are strong—in friendships, in work ethic, in faith. The best is certainly yet to come for the youth at River Road Church. We should never doubt them, not one bit.


We will here from all of our groups THIS SUNDAY, September 10!