VILLA RICA, Ga. — Months ago plans were underway for First Baptist Villa Rica’s annual summer student camp. Reservations were made to have the camp at Laguna Beach Christian Retreat in Florida for June 19-23.
During the time plans were being made Pastor Kevin Williams and Student Pastor Josh Shrewsbury had a breakfast meeting with the new head football coach at Villa Rica High, Austin Barren.
Shrewsbury explained, “Coach Barren indicated that he was interested in doing a camp for the football team. Pastor Kevin paused, took a deep breath, and lit up like a Christmas tree. In that moment the idea was born to bring the football team along with us to camp and permit them to have their own team time each morning.
“We spent the next hour trying to determine the logistics and cost. Pastor Kevin proposed that we challenge First Baptist Church of villa Rica with paying the team's way to camp. Our constant goal is to reach the lost and disciple the saved, and so the pastor challenged the church to give $35,000 to pay for everything for the football team to go to our camp.
“The Spirit moved, and the church responded by giving over $50,000 for the team to be a part of our summer camp. I was overwhelmed to the point of shedding tears of gratitude. Our pastor and church have a heart for this next generation like I’ve never seen, and I am blessed to serve them as student pastor.”
No one could be sure if the football team and the students from the church would blend well and become friends. However, Shrewsbury stated, “We attempted to integrate the football team and the church students by synergistic actives and games.
“We created games we called ‘squad wars’. Nick Petrosky, the assistant coach at Villa Rica High, and I worked on splitting up the football team into eight different teams that we called ‘squads’ based on athletic and creative abilities; and I did the same for our high school students. Once we got to camp, we gathered all the teams together one day, gave them a 5-foot flag to decorate and told them to give their ‘squad’ a name. I believed that this really helped bring everyone together from day one and established a convivial, harmonious atmosphere for the camp.
“It also helped that some of our student leaders at the church like Tyson Brown are on the team. Tyson’s personality and maturity level is just special. Those kids rallied behind him, because he is a staple leader here at our church and on the football team.
"The football team was with us for every event and activity except for the hours between breakfast and lunch when they had their team time and practice. Coach Barron also used some of the free time periods to lead his team in character-building exercises."
After much prayer and dwelling on Revelation 21:5, Shrewsbury decided to use “Made New” as the theme for the camp. He stated, “The Lord kept pressing into my heart His abundant love and faithfulness to mankind even when we aren’t so faithful. I kept thinking about the concept of renewal in Christ and our Connections Pastor Austin Williams took that and made it better than I ever could. Austin and our student assistant Leah Hogue are extremely talented and made the camp come to life.”
The Villa Rica camp resulted in 38 decisions for Christ and 24 baptisms. Shrewsbury added, “We had one girl accept Christ and we reached out to her mom to make sure she was in agreement with us baptizing her at camp. Her mom was overwhelmed with happiness when she heard the news of her daughter’s salvation. She said she was driving down to the beach to surprise her. When Thursday came and we got ready to baptize this young lady, her mom showed up to surprise her daughter and when they made eye contact, they both just started crying and she ran over to her mom and gave her a huge hug… It was so special… I’ll never forget that moment.”
Another student, a Villa Rica High School football player, waited until everyone had left the evening worship service and fell into Shrewsbury’s arms with tears flowing down his face. The student pastor recalled, “He told me that he wanted to be right with Jesus and be baptized. I had been with this young man for over five years and have seen the Spirit of God working on his heart. It was a glorious moment.
“My favorite thing about camp is watching these kids that we pray over, mentor, and pour our lives into connect with God’s truth about salvation and become children of the King.”
The success of the camp takes financial support, dedicated leaders, fervent prayer, and a significant investment in students. Shrewsbury attests, “My personal approach is one that I learned from Pastor Kevin. He has told us to love these kids like they are your own and preach to them like the world is after them. I heard this quote from Charles Spurgeon, and it keep me up at night: ‘Consider how precious a soul must be if both God and the devil are after it.’
“I read that quote standing outside an operating room while I was in Orthopedic trauma medical sales struggling to accept my call to ministry four years ago. Now, thanks to the generosity of our church and the leadership of our pastor we saw God win the ‘squad war’ for 38 souls at our camp last month.”