By Reginald Hayes, SCBO senior staff
God moved in a tremendous way this summer at CampUCAN 2023, a four-day retreat for urban young men, ages 9-17, who are unsaved and unchurched. Of the 85 young men in attendance, 45 of them accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior.
In its fifth year, CampUCAN is sponsored by the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio (SCBO) as well as several Ohio Baptist churches. The young men who attend the camp live in female-led, single parent homes in urban communities across Ohio where murder, theft, drugs, and poverty are daily activities.
It is so important to invest in the next generation
Throughout the week, twenty-two adult male mentors spent time with the attendees, teaching them and showing them examples of what godly manhood is. Throughout CampUCAN the male mentors encouraged young men about being in an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ.
Christian speakers for CampUCAN included Julio Almaza, camp pastor; Jason Thomas, African American Church Mobilization strategist, International Mission Board (IMB); Lawrence Funderburke, former NBA player and OSU basketball standout; Doug Worthington, former NFL player and OSU standout; H. Good, entrepreneur and motivational speaker; and Wendell Tolber, Columbus police officer.
The testimony of Camp Pastor Almaza resonated with the youth as he shared about his life before he met Jesus. Almanza told the group about beginning gang life at nine years old, being a gang member with the Mexican drug cartel, selling drugs, shooting rival gang members, being promoted to the highest ranks of the cartel, and being locked up in prison for many years.
“After living the kind of life that many thought would send me to jail for life or six feet under, God changed my life and saved me,” said Almaza. “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the greatest sinner. But I received mercy.”
God changed my life and saved me
Twenty-three young men accepted Christ after Almaza’s testimony and twenty-two accepted Christ the next evening after worship service. Everyone in attendance was overjoyed and praising God for his moving in the lives of these young men.
“CampUCAN is an amazing tool that God has given Ohio Baptists to reach inner city youth from various cities,” said Jason Thomas, African American church mobilization strategist, International Mission Board. “It is so important to invest in the next generation and this camp provides a space where youth can explore faith, experience community, and receive transformation through the Word of God.
“I was blessed to share how God could change the trajectory of their lives just through their obedience of attending CampUCAN. I pray that God gets all the glory through many of the salvation stories we will hear from the past, present, and future years to come.”
Eighty-five urban young men, ages 9-17, experienced CampUCAN and 45 accepted Christ.
Twenty-two mentors and speakers shared the Gospel, mentored campers, and provided examples of Christian manhood at CampUCAN.