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What will God do on Thursday nights this summer?


The Thursday commitment service at the Henderson, Ky., World Changers turned into something very special last summer. It happened when staffer Sammy Jo Turner issued a challenge for students to be involved in vocational missions.

It was an unanticipated twist to an anticipated response. On display stage left was one large candle with 100 smaller candles spread around it on a plastic sheet. The large candle was lit, as were 10 of the smaller candles.

Sammy told participants the large candle represented God, and the 10 smaller candles represented the percentage of Christians who had committed to vocational ministry. She emphasized that while we can certainly celebrate the commitment of the 10 percent, the light they emitted wasn’t nearly enough.

When the special invitational call to vocational ministry began, I watched as students stood up one by one in the darkened auditorium to make their way forward. It started slowly with one or two, but quickly grew. It was as if the hand of God were moving across the auditorium, tapping students on the shoulder. More than 25 answered the call and added the light of their life to combat the vast darkness.

That same Thursday night in Sunset, S.C., Royal Ambassadors made the steep trek from the mess hall and their cabins toward the chapel on top of the mountain at McCall Royal Ambassador Camp. It’s a climb an estimated 2,500 boys make each summer in South Carolina toward the brilliantly-white chapel that overlooks Lake Chilly Water. They hike, swim, shoot archery, and glide on zip lines during the fun-filled week, but on Thursday night Royal Ambassador boys and Challengers young men hear a clear presentation of the gospel that encourages them to make an eternal decision. For many boys, they come off the mountain transformed – with Jesus living in their heart. At the bottom of the mountain in the darkness of the evening, luminaries light the way and point them toward an illuminated cross. Inevitably – without prompting – boys kneel at the cross and pray for their lost buddies.

On the doorstep of summer, it is important for Southern Baptists to remember that literally tens of thousands of our children and youth will attend mission camps and mission projects – with eternal significance. And typically, Thursday night is set aside as a time designed to challenge their relationship to Christ, their salvation, and their life’s vocation.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget how important these camps are in the life of our children and youth.

This summer across the Southern Baptist Convention, state Baptist Royal Ambassador and Girls in Action camps report about 2,100 professions of faith annually.

Through the North American Mission Board’s World Changers, PowerPlant, and Families on Mission projects, more than 2,000 professions of faith will be recorded in countless communities where they will serve. And like the participants in Henderson last summer, about 400 will make a life commitment to vocational ministry and missions.

The children and youth who attend these summer mission camps and mission projects represent our future leaders. God continues to use mission education and mission action in the 21st century to shape young hearts – and let’s not forget the 10 percent or more that He is calling to a lifetime of vocational ministry and missions.

As school ends and vacations begin, there’s much to consider as we enter what for many will be the best season of the year. The busyness of life often robs us of experiencing God’s activity around us. This summer in the midst of all that seems important, will you join me in praying – particularly on Thursdays – for our children and youth?

Nothing is more important than our children and youth responding to the work of God in their lives.