Leaders reflect on first Deep Impact experienceby C. Walter Overman
For one week each summer, hundreds of youth from all over the state descend upon The North Carolina Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell for Deep Impact, a weeklong mission camp for middle and high School students sponsored by NC Baptist Men.
Although the camp is held in a resort area where thousands of people flock for a relaxing vacation in the surf and sand, Deep Impact is anything but a vacation for students and their adult leaders.
“Camp is not a vacation. I’m here serving Jesus,” said Gary Campbell, youth pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Morganton.
Campbell, who is bivocational, took a vacation week from his secular job to bring 21 students to the camp. In recent years, Campbell led the youth group on mission trips to Kentucky, West Virginia, and South Dakota.
This summer was the group’s first experience with Deep Impact. Campbell said it’s a good fit for his mission-oriented group.
“So far I’m just blown away. We are very mission minded and we try to teach that to our youth,” he said. “I believe missions are at the heart of God and so we go on a lot of mission trips, that’s why this fits right in with what we feel we are about at Grace.”
Campbell heard about Deep Impact from a former student, who now serves at Caswell during the summer. “She told us that we really needed to come for Deep Impact because of its missions focus,” he said. “God set it up, and here we are.”
The first Deep Impact weeks were held in 1998 at Caswell and in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. These weeks are an opportunity for youth to spend one week during the summer serving and sharing their faith in nearby communities. Students also participate in evening worship services during the week.
About 1,700 students will participate in Deep Impact this summer, held at 11 locations statewide, plus New York City, Cuba and Honduras. The students participate in activities such as construction, Vacation Bible School, prayer walking, senior adult ministry, and community outreach projects.
Campbell’s group spent the first two days cooking and serving lunch at a nearby fire department, serving about 20 fire fighters each day, where the students learned about servant evangelism.
“It’s not always about knowing what to say, it might be a smile or a kind word, it might be a simple encouragement to someone that makes an impact,” he said. “That is sowing a seed and God will add to that. He will cultivate that. He will work in people’s lives.”
Deep Impact also allows God to work in the lives of students, who learn invaluable lessons about the need for missions.
“Going out and being the hands and feet of Jesus, you can’t put a price tag on that. It teaches them compassion for other people,” Campbell said. “The impact on the student’s lives is that it helps them realize that opportunity for missions exists everywhere.”
Another first-timer serving at this year’s Deep Impact was Barry Hall, a member of Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Boone. Hall, who works for Samaritan’s Purse, also used a vacation week to attend with his 18 year-old son and 45 other students from Mount Vernon.
“I just love doing this,” Hall said. “I take as many of these trips as I can.”
Mount Vernon’s youth group travelled to Kentucky the previous 16 summers for their annual mission trip, but they decided to join Deep Impact this year.
“We’ve been doing Kentucky Heartland Outreach for 16 years, so this was the first year we didn’t do that,” Hall said. “We heard good things about Deep Impact and decided to give it a shot.”
Hall led a construction team that built a wheelchair ramp for an elderly couple. The team also cleaned the yard and cut down a dead tree. “We trust the work that we have done will be a blessing,” he said.
At Deep Impact, students are placed on teams with youth from other churches, giving students opportunities to learn how to work together with people from different backgrounds. Hall said it was a great team building experience for everyone and that the students learned that hard work can be fun and rewarding, especially when it is done for the Kingdom.
“We didn’t know each other at the beginning of the week. But the team has been awesome,” he said. “They have worked together and worked hard. Everyone has pitched in and done whatever they could.”
Every night after worship, Hall spent time with the students reflecting on the day’s events. He said the students talked openly and honestly about how they can make missions a central focus of their lives after camp.
“I hope it will be a mountain top experience for the students, that they can take this experience home and keep it going.”
Deep Impact at Caswell is held each year in conjunction with World Missions Week. By the end of the week, the two camps recorded 45 decisions for Christ, 65 rededications, and five calls to vocational ministry. For more information about Deep Impact, visit www.baptistsonmission.org.