At Work Camp, local teens learn how to ‘live their faith out loud’

By PATTI SELLS | News-Telegram Feature Writer

June 1, 2007 - For the past five days, "eat, sleep and serve" has been the motto for 100 youths of all denominations throughout the community involved in Sulphur Springs Work Camp ’07, coordinated by Shannon Oaks Church Youth and Family Minister Brian Cromer.

Staff Photo by ANgela Pitts

Summer Intern Ben Vos (back) supervises volunteers (front to back) Victoria Chapman, Kirsten McMillan, Caleb Brown, Colin Dennis, Paul Clark, (on ladders) Elise Rascoe and Ben Watson as they work Thursday at a home on Beckworth Street during the Sulphur Springs Work Camp ’07.

"I wanted to do this because some churches don't have the resources to go off on mission trips to places like Honduras or New York," explained Cromer, who has been with Shannon Oaks for almost three years. "This gives every teen-ager a chance to get that mission trip experience, only right here at home."

Area youths who signed up for the work camp have been busy all week painting and renovating nine local homes.

From 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. crews of 10-15 student age teens ranging from 6th to 12th grade are working hand-in-hand painting, scraping and doing minor outside repairs for needy families free of charge, while in the evening they praise, worship and fellowship together. 

Sulphur Springs Work Camp 07 is a legitimate mission trip, according to Cromer, with youngsters staying overnight, thanks to adult volunteers from three local churches. Boys stay at First United Methodist Church gym, with girls spending the night at Wesley United Methodist Church. Shannon Oaks is the "home base" where participants gather for breakfast, dinner and devotional. Sulphur Springs schools have even opened their locker rooms and field houses for showers and clean-up, and various church members have graciously supplied all their meals.

According to Cromer, he feels that God put this local mission on his heart, not only to help those in need, but to unify churches in the community.

"This gives teen-agers a chance to go out and make a difference, not only in the world, but in our community, while at the same time setting an example of unity to adults," Cromer said. "We don't focus on our denominational differences. We focus on the one thing that is most important and what we have in common — Jesus Christ."

Cromer, reared in Nashville, Tenn., and a graduate of Lipscomb University, came to Hopkins County after serving in Atlanta, Ga.

He first started bringing youths together from various churches with The Awakening, a praise and worship session held twice a year in the fall and spring that has included every major church in the area, according to Cromer. Sulphur Springs Work Camp 07' takes things to another level, he said, by having youth of different denominations serve together, as well.

"I just think it's so essential for Christians to live their faith outloud," Cromer explained. "It's about making God more famous. If there is anyway our teenagers can help do that through worshiping and serving together, then that's what we want to do. That's our job as Christians. Life is not about us it's about Him."

Cromer hopes Sulphur Springs Work Camp will become an annual event, and encourages youth to plan for it each year the first week after school releases for the summer.

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