FORESTBURG—More than 230 youth from across the state converged on Forest-burg to scatter, work and make an impact on lives in Christ’s name.
Volunteers came from 19 churches, including one from Oklahoma, to work on 35 projects to benefit people in four counties.
In addition to Forestburg, they worked in Alvord, Bonita, Bowie, Rosston, Saint Jo, Spanish Fort and Sunset.
They needed to branch out because visitors outnumbered the children who attend school in Forestburg.
The youth—from MPACT Mission Camp—traveled from as far away as Corpus Christi and Uvalde to work on mission projects during the day and engage in camp-style worship and activities in the evening.
Founded in 1997, the camp moves to a different location each year. Previous locations include Georgetown, Highland Village, Booker, San Angelo, Uvalde, Newton, Pleasanton and Corpus Christi.
MPACT stands for Making People Aware of Christ’s Truth, an acronym founder Mark McBride acknowledges he “stole”—he is just not sure from whom.
McBride, who served several Texas churches as a youth minister before he was called as pastor of Knobbs Springs Church in McDade, said the idea for MPACT missions came as he was returning with his youth group from an out-of-state mission trip.
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“I asked myself why we had to leave Texas to do missions. Why can’t we do this back home?” he recalled.
The next year, he and another youth minister brought their students together for the inaugural MPACT camp in Georgetown.
The MPACT tribe has increased, since many of the students who participated matured into youth ministers with their own youth groups. “We have kids that were with us in junior high and high school, and they come back as college students, youth ministers and married couples,” McBride explained. When they return, most don’t arrive alone.
“This is run by youth ministers. We don’t hire speakers or bands. It’s all kept in-house. We make it like a camp at night, but it’s truly a mission trip,” McBride explained.
MPACT has acquired three trailers of chainsaws, ladders, paintbrushes, cordless drills, brooms and various other tools to help youth do the work necessary to change the lives of others.
While MPACT has served in several larger communities, it also has devoted attention to smaller towns like Forestburg.
“When you go to these smaller towns, it’s like a revival, and the entire church gets involved,” McBride said. “It becomes a community event. They’ve never seen this many kids here before. They will talk about this for years.”
Since the group was so large and Forestburg Baptist Church so small, not just the church, but the entire town became involved, Jason Crookham, youth minister at the Forestburg church explained.
Also assisting in hosting the group were Forestburg United Methodist Church and Prairie Point Nazarene Church. The group slept at the Forestburg school each evening.
The Methodist church opened its doors for meal times, and all three churches made facilities available for worship services.
And the worship services are key to all that is accomplished, McBride said.
Each camp starts with a Saturday night orientation and an evangelistic sermon, because “if you don’t know Jesus, this is going to be a hard week,” he said.
Worship is one of his favorite parts of the week. “Every year, we have kids get saved. Every year, we have some surrender to ministry. But the main thing is that the kids get a heart for missions,” McBride said.
Missions involvement gets in the blood, said Shane Green, youth minister at Community Bible Church in Irving, who has been attending MPACT mission camps eight years.
“The ministry is what brings me back. We joke every year about paying money to come out and work in what is sometimes 102-degree weather. But one of the phrases we use around here a lot is ‘It’s not about me.’”
And he said that attitude is contagious with the students.
“If one of the kids out on the job sites starts complaining, one of the other kids will say, ‘Hey, it’s not about you.’ We never have to say a thing,” Green said.
“A lot of people won’t come out to our churches, but when we go to them and serve them, we gain a little bit of the right to be heard,” he added. And those conversations can be life-changing.
Ranee Brown, a member of Second Baptist Church in Corpus Christi, takes care of many of the financial details of the camp and is known to most as “Mama Brown.”
“That’s because I like to be their spiritual mama,” she said.
“God brought me to youth four years ago. He told me I had a lot to offer these kids, but they give me so much more. God had a plan, and he just brought me here.”
God continually works through the camps, she said. She remembers a man whose truck wouldn’t start, and a group from the camp stopped to see if they could help.
While they were with the driver, he asked what they were doing. They explained their desire to perform missions service projects.
“For free?” he asked. He then told them he was on his way to see his wife who was at the hospital with cancer.
“We prayed with him, and then the truck started right up. There was nothing wrong with that truck. That was God giving us an opportunity to pray with that man. I’ve seen God work so many times through this ministry, and I’m going to be here until I’m an old lady.”