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Youngsters flock to first Wheaton Park sports camp

Youngsters flock to first Wheaton Park sports camp

Youngsters flock to first Wheaton Park sports camp

The Rev. Jeff Summers of Harvest Life Ministries in Middletown, MD, teaches a group of boys the fine art of dribbling.  Summers coaches basketball at Grace Academy.

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ first-ever, inner-city sports camp in Hagerstown started out as a vision between new Area Representative Brad Smith and Area Director Scott Myers.

Shortly after he joined the organization last year, Smith set up a tent at Wheaton Park on Sumans Avenue and started handing out refreshments to neighborhood athletes playing basketball, Myers said. The two of them surveyed the park and thought “what if we …”

On Monday, the camp began — with 120 kids aged 8 to 14, nearly four dozen volunteers, assorted basketballs, footballs and soccer balls, and Bibles.

By Monday afternoon, Smith’s vision was taking shape. It was “pretty much what you see — kids having fun. And then at the same time, though, we want to teach the kids some life lessons,” he said. 

“When I think about life lessons, I automatically go to the Word — I think about Jesus Christ. The Word says He is the way, the truth and the life.”

Little ones armed with basketballs learned to dribble. Others kicked soccer balls while the more ambitious chased a football down a down-sized “field.”

A few danced.

After they worked out some energy, they “huddled” for those life lessons.

“We take a huddle leader, which is usually a student, and we team them up with maybe another huddle leader and we allow them 10 kids or so,” Smith said. “And they sit down with them and they simply crack open the Bible. We give them lessons to study.”

There’s also a chapel time with a speaker. “And he speaks on the same topic that they’re teaching during the huddles,” Smith said. “That way they’re getting a double-dose of those life lessons.”

Youngsters from the community signed up for the program, and FCA partnered with the Robert Johnson Center, area churches, the Boys and Girls’ Clubs and other organizations to sponsor the day camp. It runs all week. “This is really a group effort,” Smith said.

“We even created a situation where we are able to do some one-on-one counseling with the kids if they need to talk,” he added. “Right now they’re just having so much fun that they haven’t said much, except for ‘oooh’ and ‘ahh.’”

FCA sponsors other camps in the county, but this is the first for Wheaton Park.

“I think the unique part about this camp is that it is in the inner-city,” Smith said. “There’s no model for it … when you can see the vision, no matter what anyone says to you, when you can see it you can trust God to walk in that thing by faith — this is what you get.”

Helping out are a number of teens and young adults who’ve participated in previous FCA activities. Jarrett Choi became an FCA intern after coming to faith through the organization. “I went to church because my parents said so,” he confessed. But he went to an FCA camp, and after one of the campers shared his faith with him, “I decided to come to Jesus.”

Now Choi, a Grace Academy graduate, shares his faith with others.

Anna Crowl of Clear Spring encouraged her BFF Rilee Moats to get involved with FCA. Now they volunteer together.

“I love working with the kids here, I love learning more about Jesus,” Moats said. “This year, actually, I got baptized.”

Crowl had been working other FCA camps this summer, and was originally going to pass on the Wheaton Park program. But there she was, shooting photos of all those kids.

“So far, it’s been really fun,” she said. “I feel like it’s really easy to connect with the kids.”

She was surprised that so many signed up, she said, “and I’m surprised that so many of them are not just engaged, but they want to learn.”

This article was originally posted on Herald Media by Tamela Baker on July 29, 2019: View Original Article

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