Just as Oklahoma Baptist University is committed to transforming lives, several OBU students and alumni served at summer camps to minister to children with special needs. However, these camps are many times just as life-changing for the workers as they are for the campers.
Five OBU students spent the summer at Charis Hills, a Christian summer camp in Sunset, Texas, designed for kids with learning and social difficulties such as ADD, AD/HD and Asperger's disorder. Here students learn by participating in activities that include riflery, archery, swimming, arts and crafts, boating, animal and garden care, fishing, various nature activities and snorkeling.
"Working at Charis Hills was an amazing opportunity to not only serve God but also have an opportunity to make kids feel normal when they don't always get to feel that way because of their 'disability,'" said Kristina Richard, a sophomore elementary education major from Rowlett, Texas. "Working at this camp and the challenges I faced made me grow stronger as a person and stronger in my walk with God."
Ty Scarborough, a sophomore biology/pre-med major from Allen, Texas, also served at Charis Hills -- and was changed by the experience.
"This is the first time I feel like I am using the gifts God gave me to help kids," he said. "I really enjoy connecting with the kids. Every session, one kid always happens to stand out that the Lord has me to connect with one-on-one."
Other OBU students who worked at the camp included Kyle Hammond, a sophomore electronic media production major from Allen, Texas; Carlee Turner, a former OBU student from Noble, Okla.; and Kady Treagesser, a former OBU student from Henryetta, Okla. Treagesser said she planned to changed her major from pre-med to special education following her experience helping children at Charis Hills camp.
Camp Barnabas, a Christian summer camp in Purdy, Mo., also played host to members of the OBU community during the summer. The camp's mission statement is to provide life-changing opportunities to people with special needs in a Christian camp setting, and they are able to do this by creating adaptive activities for people with physical, mental and/or medical challenges that help campers become participants in the world around them, rather than simply observers.
Travis Flood, an OBU alum who earned his degree in leisure services management and camp administration in 2009, travels one week each summer to Camp Barnabas to volunteer to make a difference in the life of a young camper. Flood, the youth minister at University Baptist Church in Shawnee, Okla., takes a group of high school students to Camp Barnabas every year to experience life as a primary caregiver to someone in need.
"Barnabas is one of the things that I live for each summer," Flood said. "As a minister, I am faced with trying to find ways to help young people find out what it means to truly give up yourself and serve others. More and more mission trips seem to be about the trip to the beach or the amusement park than the people or communities they are serving. At Barnabas, you become a servant to a child with special needs."
For 23 hours a day, workers are literally everything - the hands, feet and voice - to their assigned campers. Workers act as their camper's mother or father for a week, many times feeding, cleaning and/or changing their clothes while providing them with a friend and confidant.
"The life you live for seven days is completely for someone else," Flood said. "The youth group members that go are not the same people they were before they left. They learn the true meaning of love. As an adult, your job is to be an encourager and help the kids realize that when there is nothing left to give, there is Jesus to call on and say, 'Come fill me up.'"
Flood said his education at OBU prepared him for the challenges presented at Camp Barnabas.
"OBU has given me a firm foundation of both knowledge and experience that allow me to do this and much more," he said. "The Professors at OBU are more than just teachers; they are leaders, mentors and friends that helped me see how to help someone grow."