If you’ve been to one of our student camps, the term “missions offering” is one that you’re likely familiar with in connection to Crossings. Every summer we ask students to bring any amount of money with them to camp for the opportunity to give on their last full day, and since we started the missions offering in 2001, our students and kids have raised a total of $1,497,431 that we have been able to give to the nations. This past summer, Crossings partnered with the IMB to take every dollar of the money raised to go towards funding missionaries from Cuba who are leaving their homes to spread the good news of the gospel throughout the world. The offering has already enabled the IMB to train and place several families in hard to reach areas for the purpose of the gospel to be preached.
Last month Crossings’ president, Jeff Dalrymple, received an email from one of our missionaries who has been on the receiving end the offering. Hearing the update of how that money is currently being used to impact the kingdom was such an encouragement to us and one we believe will encourage you as well. Below is a copy of the email for you to read:
Greetings from south Florida!
Dirce and I hope that you, Kristil and the children are well, and that you all are enjoying a busy and fruitful fall of ministry through Crossings.
First, we want to thank you and the Crossings team and all the campers once again for the generous offering that has been shared with us this month. We received notification this week that IMB received a $20,000 gift for the Cuba Missions offering. Praise the Lord! How grateful we are for the vision that you have to invest in eternity in this way!
Two weeks ago, Dirce and I returned from Cali, Colombia, where three Cuban families received two intensive weeks of missionary orientation for work with unreached indigenous groups (two of these families were highlighted in the videos that were used during the summer camps). The experience in Cali was amazing. The families have now settled into their new homes and are beginning the work beside Colombian pastors and others with a heart for the lost indigenous of Colombia.
Crossings is helping to make all of this possible: The gift from you all purchased the tickets to get the missionaries to the field, paid for the two-week orientation, and is now taking care of the ministry expenses of these three families—as well as the continued support given to Javier and Yaíma in Ecuador.
We have already received reports from the families in Colombia. One family is already discipling two young believers from an indigenous group, and another has made contact with two other indigenous tribes. Today, the father of the third family is making his way up the Sierra Nevada to visit still other groups. And this is only the beginning.
I believe that the example of Crossings Ministries and the sacrifice of many young people are inspiring the Cuban churches also to be generous with their resources, both financial and human. Thanks for being a model of servant leadership!
Keep up the great work in the Lord.
As we are full swing into a season of getting, we hope and pray that you will not forget the importance, and the impact, behind giving. Every gift you give to Crossings has an exponential impact as we use it to pour into students every summer. We challenge them to see that they can change the world by giving their lives, their resources, and the gospel to the nations. Your gift can change the lives of students around the country who are then called to see the nations reached for the glory of God.
We’re thankful for you, for our campers, the IMB, the missionaries out in the field, and most importantly for the Lord who has made all of this possible through His son, Jesus. May we continue to spread the good news and work to change lives for eternity!
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“Madam Speaker!” a student would shout from one end of the House Chambers.
“Your purpose?” came the reply from the Speaker’s chair at the other end.
The student would go on to press a fellow student senator about the details of the bill they were debating. The room echoed with focused arguments, competing ideas, and the friendly banter that had grown among the group during that week at Truth in Public. Every student had spent the last four days learning how to defend their proposals and beliefs in preparation for the mock legislative session that was being held in the Kentucky State House Chambers. Discussions and debates reverberated around the room as the twenty-six intently engaged high school students leaned in for a life-shaping experience.
Truth in Public was launched in July 2017 as the new Crossings camp for cultural and political engagement. Asbury University, which is located near the state’s capital, hosted the camp as Crossings staff and speakers taught students to see how their faith intersects with the world around them. Students learned to analyze worldviews, link biblical principles to their ethics, navigate the complexities of local politics, and confidently command an audience with clear public speech.
Our goal with Truth in Public is not to produce the next William Wilberforce — although we wouldn’t mind! Our goal is to help young believers better understand the political process and how, as informed citizens, they can affect change at the local, state, and even national levels. We are well aware that politics is often messy, and with how complicated and controversial it can get, it’s ease to turn a blind eye and opt for the stance that there’s nothing we can do about it. But the problems won’t go away. As a body of believers, we are called to stand for what we believe and transform lives using the truth and tools we’ve been given by the Spirit. We are commanded by the Lord Jesus to love our neighbor, to give to the poor, to fight for justice, and to shine as lights in a dark culture. While there are many spheres where we are called to do these things, the political sphere is essential.
We’ve also grown up with this mentality of separation between the church and state, but the original goal of this “separation” was freedom of religion, not disengagement of the church. In other words, the goal is that the state not intervene in the affairs of the church. It does not mean that the church should not intervene in the affairs of the state. In fact, the separation of church and state enables the church to intervene and involve itself without fear of governmental reprisal.
Luke Johnson, a student at the camp, said afterwards about the camp that he learned that “Local politics are just as important as national politics. You don’t have to be a politician to serve other people. There comes a point in time where you have to trust God’s plan and just do it.”
Harrison Watters, another student who attended, noted how Truth in Public shaped his future goals as a business leader: “Going in, I had already decided not to go into politics, but now I’m open to someday serving in a state office, not as a career politician, but as a businessman with a vested interest in the community.”
Our hope with Truth in Public was and is to show students that they must engage our culture through the political process and to teach them how to do it. We want to teach them that Christians must be culture changers.
Political and governmental camps have the potential to just be knowledge based, but at Truth in Public we wanted to make sure the students actually got to experience the political process firsthand. Every student was required to research a prompt and write a bill as a result. Our staff then spent two sessions helping them formulate and refine their bills. On Wednesday, the students broke into committees to debate their bills. Staff from Forge Leadership, who trains college students to enter the political fray, led the committee process. The bills that passed the committee were then presented on Thursday in a mock legislative session in the Kentucky State Capitol.
Forge Leadership made even the most hesitant students feel comfortable with the intimidating world of political jargon, creating an experience that many students were able to walk away from surprised that politics was not just important, but could actually be fun.
The students also had the opportunities to hear from many strong believers who are in the political sphere, including the current Lt. Governor and the newly appointed Kentucky Adoption Czar, Dan Dumas. These leaders encouraged the students to stay involved and explained to them how the smallest of actions can make the biggest difference.
Hannah Stec, another Truth in Public student, said that it was encouraging to know “that I am not alone in my political views and that there are others who can counsel the younger generation so that they know how to defend their political and biblical views to others.”
Of course, Truth in Public is a camp, so we made sure the students had many opportunities for camp fun as well. Late night bonfires, capture the flag, a campus-wide scavenger hunt, and team building games filled parts of every day.
While the Crossings staff walked out of that week certain the novel camp was a success, the real success will come a few years from now when these students – who voluntarily took a week out of their high school summers to learn about politics, culture and how their faith intertwines with it all – when they are entering the voting world. When they are running for student government positions on their college campuses. When they are active members on their school
boards. When they are attending town hall meetings and speaking up for the convictions they hold dear. When they start their own businesses and involve themselves in their local political scene. It is then that Crossings will be able to say “This camp was a success.”
As believers, we are each called to an individual purpose, but as a church, we need to stop and ask ourselves a very important and life changing question. Are we stepping up before the Madam Speakers of our society and government? Are we putting a foot forward to fight for the values we hold dear in the sphere where those values are being challenged?
Thankfully there are many members of our church body who are actively serving as culture-changing members in our society. Truth in Public’s many guest speakers testify to this. And thankfully, from what our Crossings staff saw during this fun, engaging, and transformative week, there are many more world changers quickly coming up the ranks.
“Rest” is not the first word you think of when you think of camp. Kids, blobs, hikes, zip lines, activities, late nights, early mornings – it doesn’t add up to a relaxing five or six days and Chris and Sandra Harrod would certainly agree.
At the beginning of the summer, I had the chance to sit down with the Harrods who were on Day Four of their stay at Cedarmore. They were group leaders with Pleasant Ridge Church and started off our conversation by sharing with me their love for the property – minus the hills. Sandra talked about running around to watch all their students do their activities. “My toes are always pointed down,” she said, laughing as she added that she hasn’t had shin splints since the fourth grade. That, coupled with the early morning devotions, the late night mattress surfing, and the jam-packed schedule in between, is enough to leave anyone exhausted by the end of it.
Yet, exhausted is not the word you would use if you saw the Harrods smiling and energetically talking about their love for camp, this intentionally set-aside week of each year. It’s a paradox, but at Crossings it’s no mystery why the running around leaves people renewed.
“When you come here and watch 600 kids praise God at the top of their lungs, it’s reassuring and it helps you go on,” Chris said. There’s a tendency to think that camp is solely a time for the students and kids that come, and while that certainly is a large part of it, camp can also be a time of reassurance, rejuvenation, and refueling for the adults, chaperones, and group leaders who come too. For the Harrods, this time spent around hundreds of others who are like-minded in their faith is precious.
“It builds you up and prepares you for when you have to go back out and face the world again” Sandra said, referring to her job as a nurse and the hours she spends alongside of people who disagree with her beliefs. “It’s not just me against the world; there are other people that believe the way I believe and for five days, you’re with a group a people that is almost like your family.”
The students are just as much a part of this family and this reassurance too. Chris explained that their students will bring notebooks to worship and take notes on the messages. Later, during the connect times, they’re quick to share all they wrote down with the group.
“My mind is so blown,” a girl in the Harrod’s group said one night. Sandra explained that this particular girl has a Catholic background, so a lot of the Gospel is new to her, but it is amazing her.
Another student in their group is an all-star football player for his high school team. His parents don’t take him to church throughout the year, so camp has become a time of fellowship and worship that he looks forward to eagerly. This year, when his mom told to him that camp would conflict with his football conditioning, the Harrods explained that he chose camp, saying “there are other people on the team and they can play without me for the week.”
Crossings unifies the students in a way that is special and unique. It refreshes them just as much as it does the adults.
It’s for all these reasons, and more, that the Harrods have made a point to be here for their third year with their group of students that keeps growing every time they come back. Sandra said that her kids are quick to tell their friends about camp and if they ever express doubt about “church” camp, her kids will say, “No, you don’t understand. This is not a normal camp.”
It’s not a normal camp because at Crossings, we don’t just give camp – we give life. Camp teaches and excites students and kids about the gospel of Jesus. It energizes and encourages adults in their faith. It’s a time of fellowship and fun memory-making for everyone and it’s that breath of fresh air from the draining day-to-days in which we often live.
The Harrods will testify to this. So much so that even when the funds were short this year, they willingly paid the difference for the sake of their students. “We couldn’t tell the kids we weren’t coming just because the money didn’t come in,” Chris said. So instead they made the financial sacrifice and as they left another remarkable week behind, Chris shared that they’re looking forward to the next 12 months of raising money to come again.
“It recharges us,” he said. “It fuels my soul. That’s what makes it worth every penny.”
I asked one of my good friends, Seth MacDonald to share some thoughts as a youth pastor who came to Crossings for the first time this last summer. He brought his students all the way down from Michigan to Cedarmore. Be encouraged, not just at what God did at Crossings, but that there are men like Seth out there who are giving their lives to preach the gospel to students and to walk with them through all the things they are dealing with.
After some time of prayer, God led me to find this camp way out in the “holler” of Kentucky. Crossings something… Seriously it was a God thing. I am glad that God ordained this whole experience because our youth group was forever changed through the ministry of Crossings. We didn’t know anything about the camp, except one of my heroes in the ministry pointed me to Crossings, and God did the rest! We call ourselves reál FHBC because we believe that we are royal heirs to an eternal kingdom. We are a pretty close-knit group, most have older siblings that graduated from our youth group even some have had parents in the teen department. Spiritually speaking, I believe that God is growing us and using us to further His eternal Kingdom.
After making our way down to Kentucky, we knew it was His will when Pastor T. Lusk asked us to turn in our Bibles to the book of Daniel. He did not know this but, we were studying Daniel under the theme of STANDING STRONG in our weekly meetings. The theme at camp, “Outsiders,” really hit home for us. I love when speakers simply preach the Word of God and then let the Holy Spirit work in the lives of the audience. The author of Hebrews said it best when he said that the Word of God is living and will pierce the soul and spirit and reveal the condition of our heart.
My wife and I loved sitting down with our teens and listening to them as they told us how God was moving in their lives after each message. This was more evidence that we were exactly where our Lord desired us to be. Pastor T. Lusk was so up-lifting towards the sponsors that brought the teens to camp. I’m always encouraged when Crossings staffers pray with our teens, but I appreciated when he directed them to us for help in praying for every decision being made that week! By doing so, it helped to strengthen our relationship with each teen and gave us insight into where they were in their spiritual walk with Christ, while helping to grow us together in our ministry back in our home church!
Whenever we get the chance to lead our church in worship our prayer is Psalm 34:3, “Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together!” (ESV). Stepping into the worship center each night made us feel at home and free to praise His holy name. During each service there was only one agenda, to give God all honor and glory! From the high energy when we pulled in the gates right down to the tears shed in the worship services, Crossings showed me that their heart of ministry is centered around Jesus Christ alone!
My favorite moment at Crossings happened on the second day. The camp was in full swing and the campers were at different activities, so I decided to walk around and “investigate”. Saying this, I want everyone to know that I am not incriminating myself by any means, but there was a sign up at the worship center that stated “Worship Band Practice,” and I wanted to hear for myself. As I stepped into the chapel, to my surprise I heard nothing except the sound of muffled voices. Well, I may or may not have walked in. What a blessing to see the same people leading our hearts in HIS praises were not playing instruments, but praying quietly over the songs and instruments. Seeing this brought me to tears. This showed me that their level of respect and reverence for our God was right where He wanted Crossings to have our hearts this week! It is never about the instruments or the voices but always about the PRESENCE and POWER of God!
The atmosphere throughout the week was amazing. Being our first time at camp, I was a little nervous about the unknown. How would we fit in? How will our teens get along with others? How will the camp staff treat our kids? Crossings made us feel like we mattered and asked questions that were more than surface deep. The most asked question was “How is God working in Michigan?” They were sincerely interested in helping our youth draw closer to our Creator!
Our church has accused me of preaching about “Where’s Your Heart” too often. I am a big advocate that everything comes down to where your heart is. Crossings reinforces that same message every day. EVERYTHING they did was purposefully and prayerfully placed in the schedule to bring the campers closer to JESUS, from zip-lining to singing in the worship center, or archery tag to the messages from the Word of God, it all pointed them to the Cross of Calvary. Each activity was opened in prayer and had Scriptures supporting why we were participating in it. Crossings takes the portion of Scripture from Ecclesiastes 9 and Colossians 3 quite literally, reinforcing the message that whatever your hands find to do, do it good as unto our God!
The staff at Crossings would often refer to our teens by name and talk to them and not at them. They showed them through the Word of God that with the blood of Jesus we are all the same. It doesn’t matter what circles you run with or school you go to, we are all children of the One True King! Like the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 2, we were in one accord with the same mind and seeking the same love.
If you are looking for a great place to draw closer to God, or a safe environment to let God heal your brokenness and mend your heart…then look no further. Crossings is here for all of those things and more. I guess what I have been trying to tell you is that the presence of God was made known at camp that week. I am truly thankful for the ministry that Crossings has and also the work that the staff puts into each week. We continue to see our teens grow and hold fast to the decisions they made at camp and I look forward to the work our God is going to do next year at camp.
Would you consider giving to support Crossings as we come alongside youth pastors like Seth and his students? Every gift helps us keep the cost of camp down, helps us do more to invest into student ministers, and allows us to create new ways to help students see, believe, and obey Jesus. You can give below or mail your gift into our central offices in Louisville.
It’s Trey here! Last week I sat down with Crossings’ President, Jeff Dalrymple, to ask him a few questions about Crossings, and specifically about his now being the parent of a Crossings camper. I hope this helps you learn a little more about us as a ministry as well as get to know Jeff’s heart for what we do.
Trey – How long have you been with Crossings?
Jeff – I’ve been with Crossings for a year and a half.
Trey – Why did you come to Crossings?
Jeff – I came to Crossings because I want to reach the next generation for Christ and I know that Crossings has a great reputation of proclaiming the gospel, seeing life transformation take place at camp, and it was well positioned to do so much more. They were positioned to equip and to reach you leaders and children’s ministry leaders; to train the trainer. I thought, “Let’s impact those that are impacting the next generation so that they can go and invest a greater extent in that next generation.”
Trey – I know you and I know this was a part of your story long before you came from Los Angeles to Southern Seminary to serve on staff, right?
Jeff – My wife and I met and were married while serving in the student ministry at Grace Community Church in LA. One of the things that attracted me to her was watching her disciple young ladies in that student ministry. We had no kids at that time and we both loved discipling high school students. That really drew us together. We actually had our youth pastor marry us. We served there for ten years and I didn’t know it at that time but watching the biblical philosophy of ministry on display in that student ministry really influenced me. Frankly, going back farther than that, my own testimony, while I wasn’t saved until I was 19, I grew up in the church and I grew up with youth leaders reaching out to me and sharing the gospel with me, praing for me, taking me to church when my parents couldn’t, and that really stands out as highly influential. I still know where those former youth pastors are today and what they are doing because of their influence in my life. I thank the Lord for their impact on my life all the time.
Trey – In one word, describe Crossings.
Jeff – Gospel.
Trey – Why gospel? I thought you’d say discipleship knowing you and your heart.
Jeff – I guess maybe I was looking back more. I think discipleship encompasses the gospel because you first have to hear and respond to be discipled. I would have said Great Commission but you only gave me one word [laughs]. The Great Commission is to go and make disciples, but it starts with the life changing good news that Jesus Christ lived the life we should have lived, died on the cross in our place, paid the penalty that we should have paid, so that we could be counted as God’s children. That’s powerful. That’s something worth giving your life to and I’m thankful for the rich history and heritage Crossings has of proclaiming that good news.
Trey – What would you say is your vision for Crossings?
Jeff – My vision for Crossings would be to continue what it’s been known for, proclaiming the gospel, but to champion biblical discipleship as we reach the next generation. Notice I didn’t say “camp.” Camp is the vehicle, the tool we use to reach them, and once they have responded and are following Christ then they need to be equipped and encouraged because the world around them today is completely antagonistic to the things of the Lord. While we are not the local church, we come alongside the local church to provide resources, whether that’s training youth and children’s ministry leaders, or creating camp and event experiences where students can come and hear the gospel. It reinforces what the local churches are doing. I love that at camp, and I would never want to change this, I love the fact that we serve the local churches and that church leaders can come with their students to camp and not have to worry about food, activities, POI’s or any of the things that happen at camp. They show up and just spend time with their students. Think of the trellis and the vine— they can just focus on vine work while we do the trellis work at camp. But this isn’t just limited to camp, that could happen at a parenting event or our DNOW type event, Navigate, Endeavor our college retreat or any other event we host that’s designed for the local church to tap into. And my goal is that this isn’t just in KY, but that we are all over the country in 10 years. We could have camps and camp properties all over the U.S.
Trey – One of the things that has been the most encouraging for me, as I have written recently, I’ve used the language of seeing, believing, and obeying Jesus because I think we have an emphasis, which goes back to Rusty Ellison, we want camp to be fun. We want kids to want to come to camp so that we can interrupt their lives with Jesus’ love. We want them to see and believe in Jesus. This plays out in your emphasis on being gospel-centered, of having biblical teaching, and gospel application in everything we do. I can see this in all your new ideas (Crossings Underground, Crossings on Mission, Truth in Public, etc…) that you believe that the next generation needs to be challenged to obey Jesus, not just see and believe. Do you think that’s a missing component in a lot of student’s lives?
Jeff – Yes, I think cultural Christianity says, “I grew up in a Christian home, I believe all that stuff, I need a healthy dose of God in my life…” but a calling to obey the Word of God is a whole other level. Cultural Christianity says “I will take some of it, but reject the parts that I want to reject.” The call of God on our lives as a disciple is complete abandonment. It’s completely being emptied of ourselves and filled with the Spirit to accomplish God’s purposes. It means sacrifice. It means doing things even when we don’t want to do them, in obedience to God, because we know that we trust God and that He wants the best for us. Actual enjoyment, to go classic Piper on you, enjoying God is saying no to things of this world for His greater glory and our greater joy.
Trey – I think that’s the number one challenge in student ministry today, we have to do more than entertain our kids today.
Jeff – And yet, the entertainment or better put, the fun at camp creates that shared experience that ministry leaders and their students can have together that deepens relationships so that, it’s easier and more natural to have more spiritual conversations.
Trey – You’re right. We want camp to be fun so that non-believing students will come to camp. That’s part of the “come and see” factor that our Communications Director, Randal Breland, is always talking about. The activities provide a hook for students to come and see. And that has probably become much more important for you because you aren’t just the President of Crossings, but as of this past summer, you were the parent of a Crossings camper. What was that like?
Jeff – JJ, my son, my oldest of four kids who is twelve, went with our church, Third Avenue, to Jonathan Creek for camp this summer with Aaron Scott, our youth pastor. He had an amazing time. Actually, both JJ and Aaron Scott will say that the time at camp really accelerated their relationship to another level than just was going to church on Sunday’s or random events just couldn’t do. It really strengthened and propelled their relationships forward. Now, JJ and Aaron have a deeper relationship where they are talking about deeper things. JJ doesn’t claim to be a Christian right now. He came away from camp really confronted by the gospel and thinking through am I a Christian and what does it mean to be a Christian. He asked at dinner the night he got home from camp, “Dad, what’s the difference between a believer and a non-believer?” That question alone opened up an hour and a half of great spiritual conversation for us that all the money invested into camp was well worth. We said the difference is not perfection. That’s the problem with cultural Christianity is that everyone shows up playing the part looking like their lives are all together, but we know that’s not true. No one has their life all put together. The difference is that a believer knows that they are not perfect, but they are repentant. Repentance is the difference.
Trey – As a parent, what are some of the thoughts that go through your head as you prepare to send your kid to camp?
Jeff – I think prayer is the first thing that comes to mind. Wanting the time to not just be about fun and games but really wanting the Holy Spirit to work in the lives of our kids. Knowing that it’s about the gospel coming to bear on their lives. Also, the reinforcement of what we are saying at home and what he’s hearing at church. My wife and I just prayed a lot before and after that God would do what only He can do. I am excited for my daughters to get to go to camp when they get older.
Trey – Me too. I can’t wait for my kids to get to experience Crossings. What is it that you hope camp will do for your child that might be harder to accomplish at home, at school, or even at church?
Jeff – I think camp is kind of like the equivalent of parenting and youth ministry are in partnership… Camp and youth ministry are in partnership. In youth ministry, we’d talk to a kid who would go home and say something like, “Dad, dad, we learned about this thing at church tonight… this attribute of God or what this bible passage means this,” and the parent says, “Yeah, we’ve been saying that for years.” Somehow, they missed hearing it from the parents but it clicked when the youth pastor said it. The same thing can happen between camp and youth group. The Crossings staff, summer staffers, camp pastor, or whoever can say something at camp that clicks even though youth pastors and parents have been saying it regularly. It’s a partnership all working together at different times, in different ways, and in different environments that engages students in different ways. The Holy Spirit uses all of these means to open the eyes of students.
Trey – I still have those moments with my dad where I will call him and share something I am learning in school or just read and he will say, “I’ve told you that a hundred times.” It’s that principle that sometimes the people who are closest to you are the hardest to hear from. It is really hard as a parent who takes that call to disciple our kids seriously to hear that because we say a lot to them. We have to understand that they just aren’t going to hear certain things from us which is why a youth pastor, mentors, or even friends… my dad told me constantly growing up that if you take the 5 people who are closest to you and that’s who you are. It’s so important that we get good gospel speaking voices in our kid’s lives. Camp just puts all that in a pressure cooker.
Jeff- Circumstances are part of that too. You may have heard something that didn’t stick because maybe it wasn’t relevant at that time but later in life as you’ve matured and hear it again it sticks.
Trey – As you are looking back 4-5 months later are there things you notice that camp has impacted in his life?
Jeff – I think we keep having gospel conversations with him. It was definitely a milestone in his life as a 12 year old. If he doesn’t remember it, I always will. We had great gospel conversations before but that week really escalated that. I don’t know that I could say anything is different because he isn’t converted, but it pushed him in that direction. We are still praying for the Lord to open his eyes, but we know this was a big part of that process.
Trey – What would you tell a parent who has kids who are not going to camp now? Should they be sending their kids or pressing their youth pastor?
Jeff – The ideal scenario is that they are coming with their church. What we can say at camp compliments what’s being said at church and home so it’s an ideal scenario. It’s a perfect environment for that to all converge. If your church isn’t coming to camp, find a way to get there whether that’s with another church or as an individual to one of our off-property camps. All them to come in and get that time away from all the distractions school, sports, electronics, friends, etc.. can provide. They can get away and retune or realign their lives with the gospel. Even for students who are Christians already, it’s a great opportunity to grow. I wish more older students would go to camp with the vision to disciple younger students, that can happen there and it should happen more. I would tell parents that they are missing a huge formative milestone in their kids lives in they are not sending them to a Christian camp that proclaims the gospel and champions discipleship. They are missing a huge partner and a great opportunity. God always shows up at camp from worship focused on Him and not us, to the preaching of the Word all in a concentrated period of time. Why would you not want to go to camp to experience that?
Trey – We have a lot of youth pastors that read our blog, and it’s a common question, they want to know about the price of camp. You have kids, kids are expensive, is it worth the price to send your kid to camp?
Jeff – Absolutely. We work very hard to keep that price low as well. I’d love for it to be even lower. You and I are both working to grow our scholarship fund so that more kids can come to camp and hear the gospel. If the money is an issue, work with your church to subsidize the cost of camp. Many churches do fundraisers to help get kids to camp (Hey Randall, maybe we should write a blog series on this?) We’ve heard so many stories of bake sales and carwashes, grandparents, etc.. Churches have worked to find ways to make it happen for their students. We are also working hard to keep costs down. We are probably below average on the price of camp if you look at other camps, but it still can be expensive. I want to be clear though, it’s worth every penny.
Trey – Do you see things differently now that you have a child that is going to camp, and more kids that will soon be going to camp?
Jeff – I think I am all the more committed. There was no doubt, but if there was one on why I came to Crossings, my kids are right at that age. My daughters may start going to kids camp next summer. It’s a test of what I believe and why I am doing all that we are doing. It’s an absolute thrill to serve in this season with my kids. I love that we get to do this together. It’s perfect and providential.
Would you consider making a year end donation to Crossings to help us reach the next generation with the hope of Jesus? Consider giving a regular gift monthly to help us keep the cost of camp down, a scholarship to get students to camp who might not otherwise be able to come, or a one time gift to help us launch our new off property camps at Asbury, Cedarville, and Trinity International University. You can give online below or you can mail your gift into our central offices in Louisville.
I asked my friend, Kris Billiter to share his story of Crossings. As you’ll see, Kris’s story is really a Crossings story. Kris is a pastor, camp speaker, and one of the best friends Crossings has.
I was in middle school the very first time I stepped foot on what would eventually become one of the two Crossings Ministries properties. Our youth group from FBC Lawrenceburg, KY had our retreat at Cedarmore, I had no idea of the way God would use these camps to form and shape my life decades to come. While Cedarmore was close to home, Jonathan Creek is where some of the most formative experiences in my life would occur.
In the summer of 1997, I attended what was then the KBC summer camps with the Son Teams at Jonathan Creek. I remember meeting great staff who cared for the campers and I remember it being hot… very hot. In those days, there were no man made lakes on property, just Kentucky Lake, and the rules were you couldn’t go near it unless you wanted to get sent home! Despite the heat, the staff was amazing and the Lord used that time to focus and ground me going into my senior year of high school.
It would be three years before I would return to these camps, but in the summer of 2000, I would return to Jonathan Creek, though not in the role I had initially hoped. I interviewed to be on staff at a new camp called Crossings at the Creek in the Spring of 2000. I didn’t know much about the new camp and I later found out that the KBC reached a point where the convention would either have to sell the camps or dramatically reinvent them. After deciding to reimagine the camps, the Kentucky Baptist Assemblies was formed and a man named Rusty Ellison was hired to lead this new venture, but more on him later. For now, all I knew was that I loved the property and thought it would be an amazing chance to serve the Lord by working with students. I loved the idea that I might be used by God to impact students in the same way I had been impacted during my high school years. The only problem was that I didn’t get hired! Instead I was chosen serve as a Summer Impact collegiate missionary at a church in Northern Kentucky.
There I served as an intern under their bivocational youth minister, Ryan Petrie. Due to his work schedule, he could not go to camp, so it fell to me to lead that group of students in what was Crossings at the Creek’s first full summer of camp. Though I was there as a leader, God spoke to me clearly that week. I will forever remember sitting in the old chapel after worship understanding two things: First, God used that time to confirm the sense of calling to ministry He had put on my life. Second, God used that time at Creek to impress upon me that He would use Crossings to continue to mold me in the future. I thought that simply meant I might get to work there the following summer. That turned out to be true, but God would use it is so many other ways!
I applied to work at Crossings the following Spring and this time was hired! I could not even begin to explain how excited I was to be serving at Creek that summer, but that excitement soon came face-to-face with reality: We had two weeks of training and it was hard work! We were getting the camp physically ready for students, and the days were long. I was the only person from WKU that summer so while many had established friendships with others on staff from their schools, I felt lonely, and given my extroverted tendencies, that was hard. I remember talking to a mentor who simply encouraged me to press on and that things would get better, and thankfully he was right.
That summer was amazing! We worked long, physically exhausting days serving the students who came. Days started early (6:00 am) and ended late (midnight), but it was so worth it to see the Holy Spirit work in the lives of students. I was a Bible study leader so I taught Bible study in the mornings and worked Recreation (then TFMs and now POIs) in the afternoon. In the Bible study room next to mine another staffer named Angie Ellison (yep, Rusty’s daughter) taught her groups. We became friends and by the end of the summer, I knew I would marry her.
We worked together again in the summer of 2002, but this time engaged. Once again the Lord used Crossings in a massive way as it was during that summer that I met the youth group where I would serve in my first ministry position at Hurstbourne Baptist Church.
In the years since we worked at Crossings, the ministry has remained a huge part of our lives. There has not been a summer since Crossings began that we have not been involved in some way. For a decade, I trusted Crossings as a student minister by taking my students there. The first few years even allowed me to see staffers who were once in my Bible Study who had gone to college and were now back serving themselves. Eventually not only would we see our students go to camp, but we would see our own daughter attend both kids and now student camps at Crossings, while our son anxiously awaits his turn in the summer of 2018.
In 2017, I was given the opportunity to see my Crossings journey come full circle when I was asked to be the camp pastor for the first two weeks of the summer at Cedarmore. It was a ministry dream come true to be able to go and serve the ministry that had meant so much to me. Due to it being the beginning of the summer, the weeks I served were smaller numerically than the weeks that would follow. I laughed as I thought about how these two “small” weeks would have been the highest attended weeks we had in 2001! Those two weeks were amazing! To be able to pastor those students for a week through preaching, teaching, and being present with them throughout the day on the ziplines, tower, and lakefront (I must have jumped on that blob 150 times in those two weeks) was something I will never forget. To be used by the Father in the place that He used to dramatically in my life is a gift of grace that is beyond comprehension.
As 2017 ends, I still believe in the ministry that God used to shape me starting back in the early 1990’s. I believe that God still uses the work at Cedarmore and Jonathan Creek to point students to Jesus, to call them out of the routine of their lives and see that Jesus is indeed better. I still believe in the vision God gave Rusty, now my father-in-law, from which Crossings derived its name. I believe that Crossings can be a camp where Christian students grow deeper in their faith and students who do not yet know Christ can encounter Him and experience the truth of John 5:24 that “whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” I look forward to being there once again as a camp pastor for a student week and a kids’ camp week in the summer of 2018 and can’t wait to see what God does this summer and for years to come.
I hope Kris’s story encouraged you and helped you learn more about who we are at Crossings. God has been so generous to us to send men like Kris to teach God’s Word every summer at Crossings. Would you pray about partnering with us this end of year to make sure that more kids can have fun, hear the gospel, and grow in grace at a Crossings Camp? You can give to a scholarship fund, give a regular gift (monthly/quarterly) to our annual fund, or reach out to us about a major gift or estate gift that we’d love to help you with.
*Crossings Ministries is a 501(c)(3) organization. EIN: 31-1537445