Young church campers getting fired up for faith

EAST MANATEE — Bethany Winz is a bright Orlando teen with a summer reading list that includes: “Mere Christianity,” by C.S. Lewis; “Don’t Waste Your Life,” by John Piper; and “Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations,” by Alex and Brett Harris.

But all this week, Bethany will be blasting down a giant water slide, climbing a slippery mountain, throwing wet dodgeballs and darting through an obstacle course.

That’s because it’s Kids-a-Flame summer camp week at Christian Retreat Family Church, just off Upper Manatee River Road.

“The most fun thing is when we all run down in front of the stage during praise and worship and we just jump in unison,” Bethany said.

Interested youths can still attend the camp today through Friday, camp officials said.

For 14 years, the church has hosted Kids-a-Flame, and this year the youths are ages 7 to 13 and are mostly from Florida, Georgia and Alabama.

The “flame” theme is an apt one, as the children are often “on fire” with spirit, said Emily Bolt, one of several adult leaders from Pine Castle United Methodist Church in Orlando, which sent Bethany as well as 70 other youths.

“It’s amazing to see the work that God does during the week,” Bolt said.

More than 100 new faithful emerged during the first three days of this camp, said host pastors Carl and Vicki Snyder of Christian Retreat.

Bethany is typical of these young people. This is her fifth Kids-a-Flame camp, and she looks forward to it because she’s surrounded by fellow believers who accept her exactly as she is.

Bethany called home to tell her parents that, after listening to the Rev. Julie Beader preach Tuesday about the mission field, she made the decision to be a missionary. She’s delighted in her decision and has no worries that the pay is next to nothing.

“As Pastor Beader was talking, I realized that this was exactly what I wanted to do,” Bethany said. “I could not say anything but yes. Everything inside me agreed.”

What about Christian overload? How can she live Christianity 24-7 and not get burned out? Her eloquent answer is one that, for these children, is at the heart of this unusual camp.

“I never stop being awed with Christianity because Jesus is alive and I know it,” Bethany said. “What really amazes me is that the creator of the universe wants to meet with me.”

For those interested in camp fees and a complete list of activities, call 746-2882, ext. 468, or go on line at kidsaflame.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 708-7917.