When I tell most people the name of my hometown, they give me a puzzled look. When Kentucky Baptists hear of my hometown, they respond with a grin.
Bagdad serves as the home of the longtime Kentucky Baptist camp, Cedarmore. I grew up just a few miles from the camp and spent my childhood attending camps, retreats and other events on its campus. However, the Cedarmore of today far exceeds the Cedarmore of my youth.
At the kind invitation of Lance Howerton, I recently had the opportunity to spend an entire day at the Crossings Camp Cedarmore location. I wanted to soak in an entire day in the life of a camper, so I arrived early and stayed way past my bedtime to get that full Crossings Camp experience.
When I arrived on campus, I observed 697 campers and their chaperones busily making their way to and from breakfast. I learned this is a typical number of campers, as Crossings drew approximately 18,000 guests to their Cedarmore and Jonathan Creek locations over the course of the summer. As I drove past the church vans lining the parking areas, I noticed the diversity of the places they were from… Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan…. Panama City Beach, Florida!
What would prompt a church from Panama City Beach to drive 700 miles to Bagdad, KY, for summer camp? Furthermore, what is it that draws 18,000 campers from seventeen states to come to Crossings?
After spending a day at Crossings, I realized three important reasons people come here:
1. Servant Attitude
Crossings is the Chick-Fil-A of the summer camp world. Graciously serving others is infused into the minds of their entire staff. From the full-time, year-round staff to the summer college students, they exceed all expectations. Serving others is not just the logo on their shirt, it is the culture of the camp. The amazing summer staff work incredibly long hours, but they demonstrate joy in what they do. If your view of millennials is that they do not work hard, then you have not met the more than 50 college students serving at Crossings. They have learned well from full-time personnel like Lance Howerton, Seth York, Bert Lace and Mike Wolfzorn who find joy in meeting the needs of their guests.
2. Gospel Infusion
Church leaders can be confident that when they bring their students to Crossings, they will repeatedly hear the gospel. The worship services, large group studies, small group studies and church connect times all work together to form a blanket of gospel saturation.
I even witnessed a summer staffer named Emma from Central Baptist in Winchester sharing the gospel as part of a cookie decorating class. The gospel is infused throughout the entire camp experience. The Lord has moved mightily in response to this focus and this summer Crossings has seen over 900 campers cross over from death to life by trusting Jesus as Savior. At least another 700 students surrendered their life to ministry. In their 23 year existence, Crossings has seen over 10,000 campers give their lives to Jesus.
3. Exciting Activities
Crossings has learned the balance of how to provide an abundance of gospel opportunities while facilitating many exciting activities. Students can choose from points of interest (POIs) such as zip lines, bazooka ball, archery tag, fishing, hiking and much more. The recreation lake is equipped with slides, zip lines over the water and my favorite—the blob. Campers have no shortage of activities to help make this one of the most enjoyable weeks of their year.
Kentucky Baptists can be proud of Crossings and the transformation that has occurred with Cedarmore and Jonathan Creek. When your church gives to the Cooperative Program, you help support this important ministry.
Excellent service, gospel infusion and exciting activities all add up to a camp where churches enthusiastically want to bring their students. Weeks fill up quickly and next summer may approach 20,000 campers. And it all takes place in Jonathan Creek and Bagdad, Kentucky.
Beat that, Panama City Beach.