It took four vehicles to transport two classes comprised of ten students and two professors to one destination: Mission Camp Macon in rural Noxubee County, Mississippi. For the second time, Missions majors and Psychology majors from The Baptist College of Florida (BCF) in Graceville came together for a unique interdisciplinary practicum that provided hands-on opportunities for students of both fields.
Known locally as “Camp Macon,” the week-long project has been a summer highlight for children and teens in the county since 2004. While racial division in our nation remains a concern and has recently become a topic of increased interest in the media, the ministry of this camp has been intentional about making a positive difference in cross-cultural relationships within their scope of influence. Rich Malone, the director of Lake Forest Ranch, partners with local churches to make Mission Camp Macon possible. This cooperative spirit among diverse community leaders supports an explicitly stated goal of healing any ethnic tension in the area through a practical demonstration of the love of Christ.
During the action-packed week, teams of student missionaries were sent each morning to local church sites across the county to hold Kid’s Camp, a Vacation Bible School-like time of crafts, games, music, and Bible lessons. While the children were busy with Kid’s Camp, teenagers from across the county arrive by bus at Lake Forest Ranch for a morning of Sports Camp. In both settings, the goal was to provide a fun environment in which to build relationships with one another and with God.
The BCF students joined more than one hundred other student staffers who were charged with leading, teaching, befriending, and ministering to the needs of the more than 500 Noxubee County children and teens who participated during the week. But because the BCF students were actually taking the practicum as a class, their responsibilities increased. Not only were they expected to participate in all aspects of the camp’s ministry, but they had specific coursework to complete during the week as well. It was the differing perspectives of the Missions majors and Psychology majors that made the week an interdisciplinary delight.
For Missions majors, the practicum provided an opportunity to gain a broad perspective of Mission Camp Macon’s evangelical strategy through observation and evaluation of the camp’s goals and objectives. “The Camp Macon project combined many of the characteristics we love to see in missions practica,” explained BCF Missions Professor and Theology Division Chair Rich Elligson. “It is a multi-ethnic, cross-cultural, inter-personal, richly varied ministry environment, all crammed into one week and housed at one site,” stated Elligson. “Add to that the interdisciplinary factor, and there is something for everyone. And besides that, it’s just plain fun.”
While Missions majors were looking at the broad features of strategy, Psychology majors were focused on individual participants. “Camp Macon offers a living laboratory for in-depth study of individual needs,” suggested BCF Psychology Professor Kristy Ford. “Through building intentional relationships and observing interpersonal interactions, our students had the opportunity to put into practice techniques they have learned to increase spiritual, emotional, mental, and behavioral health within a specific culture.”
According to Ford, BCF students were enriched by the interaction as well. Psychology Major Greg Pruitt described a relational connection he made with a Noxubee County child at Kid’s Camp. “After getting to know him, I discovered we shared some similar struggles while growing up,” Pruitt said, “and it made me very happy to be able to speak words of hope and encouragement into his life.”
Not surprisingly, mission projects have benefits for BCF students that go beyond both academic learning and hands-on ministry, such as developing deeper relationships with fellow students and with professors. Online graduating Missions Senior Tricia McKinnon was thrilled to meet other students through the practicum. “I can think of no better way to earn college credit than combining academic instruction with onsite, hands-on ministry, with committed BCF classmates, and two fun and fully engaged professors. When I couldn’t make it to campus, it’s like the campus came to me!”
Blake Smith is a BCF Psychology major who is completing his program primarily online as well. “This trip really solidified my calling to give my life to young people from broken homes, offering the hope of Christ we all so desperately need,” he said. “Besides that, it was great to meet other BCF students face-to-face and build those friendships. I can’t wait for next year!”