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“Something really big that my heart’s been set on is that I haven’t been sharing the Gospel enough,” Burroughs said of the most important thing she felt God telling her. “I need to read more Scripture to know what to say to nonbelievers and atheists, things that will direct them to Jesus.”

Super Summer, the annual youth conference for Baptist students in Alabama, took place the week of July 9 at Samford University in Birmingham. This is something that students look forward to, because of the knowledge gained, the unique experience, and the chance to connect and become close friends with students from all over the state. This year, 15 students from Calvary participated, as well as several volunteers and investors, and of course our youth pastor, Ismael Pruitt.

There are different “schools” at Super Summer. The one students are in is based on the number of years they have attended Super Summer, coupled with the grade they just finished in school. Students are eligible to go starting the summer after they finish eighth grade, and the last year is the the summer after they graduate high school.

Caroline Burroughs, a first-timer at Super Summer, shared her thoughts on the experience. “It was a lot different than I expected. I was nervous at first, but everyone was so welcoming. It was easy to connect with the students from other churches who were also doing it for the first time,” Burroughs said. “The small groups were my favorite part because you get to individually talk to each other, and you share so much.”

This week is very intensive, allowing students only to grow in their walk with God, learn from pastors and other leaders, and form meaningful relationships with other students their age. There are “school” sessions, small group time, morning and night worship services, and church time.

The camp pastor was Robert Mullins, the Lead Pastor of Mt. Hebron Baptist Church in Elmore, Alabama. The worship leader was Marc Lewis with the Marc Lewis Band.

S.D. Allen Summer Missionaries

Calvary Tuscaloosa teamed up with the S.D. Allen Ministry and Tuscaloosa Urban Mission to put on the Summer Hope Block Parties at McKenzie Court and Rosedale. The block party for McKenzie Court took place on Tuesday, June 26, and the block party for Rosedale was originally scheduled for Thursday, June 28, but was postponed to July 5 because of bad weather.

These served as opportunities for all members of the church to get involved, create new relationships with people from around the community, and most importantly, serve with each other. At each block party, there were free food, games, music, and lots of talking and laughter. There was also a lot of dancing. This was a way for people to come together with people who were different from them, and realize that did not hinder their relationships with each other.

Although Calvary played a big role in these block parties, the S.D. Allen Ministry of Calvary specifically had a significant part. Every summer, this ministry takes a group of college students as interns, called summer missionaries, and for the entire summer, they serve in various ways throughout the community. This year, there are nine summer missionaries.

It is really fun to be an S.D. Allen missionary,” junior Jacob Rawson said. “It is always a fun time getting to meet new families and form friendships with them, as well as other people in the community.”

Throughout the summer, every meal for the summer missionaries is provided by those within the church and the community. Each day they go out to McKenzie Court and Rosedale and host a Vacation Bible School for them, which includes games, snacks, Bible lessons, and just simply forming relationships with them. The curriculum and materials used for this is all given from Tuscaloosa Urban Mission. “We let them know we are there for them,” Rawson said.

“Christ is the focus in everything with Tuscaloosa Urban Mission. Jesus is TUM and the ministry is His,” Sheela Latham with Tuscaloosa Urban Mission said. “Us that are blessed to serve a small part are grateful.”

In the afternoons, after lunch, the summer missionaries go back to the S.D. Allen furniture warehouse. Whatever furniture they have been given from donations, they go and families in need, or if there is no donated furniture at the moment, they go get donations, Rawson said.

“It is always an amazing feeling to see the joy of people’s faces when they get a new couch, or their very own bed, and it is outstanding to see a child get their very first bed,” said Rawson.

At the end of each day, the summer missionaries go to a family’s house and have dinner with them that they have provided. This is a great way for these students to become more connected with members of the church and build a larger community.

“Each of us are allowed to touch lives in small ways and God uses all of the lives involved for His glory. I serve in a very small blessing in the big picture, but it is amazing,” Latham said, regarding TUM and the summer missionaries who also serve hand-in-hand.

Calvary Youth at the Well

Calvary’s college program, The Well, has been holding services every Wednesday night during the summer, and this past Wednesday night was the last summer service since Selah takes over in July.  This Wednesday they merged with Calvary Youth for a unique experience for both college students and students in the youth.

This is something that usually happens at least once every summer, to help the two groups to feel more connected and allow students from both groups to get to know others outside of their immediate age group. It took place in the Annex at 7 p.m. These students mingled for around 15 or 20 minutes before the service began. Alan Henderson and several other people led worship.

“I love being able to worship with the youth because I love to see kids younger than me worship,” Well member Makiyah Cheeks said.

Ismael Pruitt gave this week’s message on 2 Peter 1, which focused on a call for us as believers to make every effort in whatever we do. It listed several traits and qualities that we should make every effort in, with faith being at the top of the list; it is not possible to do any of the other things if we do not have faith. This was a good topic for students because we often get tired and feel beaten down from school and just life in general, so it calls for us to keep going and never give up. However, you may fail, even if you put forth every effort, and that is a good thing for students to know as well.

“We talked about making every effort, which is something we talk a lot about in the youth. The sermon made me reflect even more on making every effort and how we, as Christians, are called to make every effort,” high school sophomore Katelyn Skelton said.

At the end, Ish challenged students to think about faith looked like in their own lives, and what qualities on that list that they are not trying to make every effort in. He also ended with this good quote that is essential for all believers to remember: “You don’t get salvation because you do good things; you should do good things because you have salvation.”

Cheeks said that two things that stuck with her from the service are that you, as a believer, are responsible for the effort and NOT the result; also, there are some things you have to do even though you don’t want to do it.

It was a good message for a combined college and youth audience, and it served as a way to bring these two groups together, and hopefully serve as a base for creating deeper relationships over the rest of the summer and next school year.

“I thought it was really unique that everyone was sitting all together and there weren’t many people that were not involved. I just loved the environment and the whole service,” Skelton said. “I really enjoyed getting to worship with people that are in a different place in life than I am. It is truly amazing just how mighty God’s power is, for Him to have brought all of us together in one place.”

VBS 2018: Shipwrecked

This summer’s Vacation Bible School took place June 18-21, from 9 a.m. until 12 p.m. each day. The theme this year was “Shipwrecked,” which focused on the belief that if you are ever in a tough situation, God can rescue you. It included Bible discovery, crafts, music, and snacks. This was for preschool ages through sixth grade, although older students and adults were welcome to volunteer in many different areas.

Jonathan Freeman, the children’s pastor, was in charge of it and always loves this event. “What I love the most is the excitement on kids’ faces during rallies as they learn these songs and Bible truth,” Freeman said, “as well as seeing a multitude of volunteers come together for a greater purpose.’

Although a large part of VBS is learning new lessons about God and the Bible through the Shipwrecked theme, as well as learn songs that go along with it, the missions giving aspect of the week is one that is just as, if not more, valuable to the kids. It is important for kids to participate in this type of service and to recognize the importance of it.

The offering was taken every morning at the beginning of VBS, and it served as a competition between the girl students and boy students. This year, the offering went towards buying beds for children in Tuscaloosa. This goes through the S.D. Allen Ministry, which is made up of college summer missionaries whose role for the summer is to serve in Tuscaloosa in whatever way needed.

The final total offering included $786.78 from the boys, and $1,332.84, with the combined total amount at $2,119.62. At $150 each for a twin bed, this amount was able to provide 14 beds to children in Tuscaloosa who did not have any. The purpose of this service is to “get kids off the floor.”

Erin Moore, the administrative assistant to the children’s minister, has been a leader in VBS for many summers. “Every year is different in certain ways. Each group of kids that comes in brings a new energy and a new perspective to what VBS means,” Moore said. “Being able to see an event like this through the eyes of the kid [is the best part].”

The most important thing that Moore said kids should learn from the week of VBS is that there is a “multigenerational community who wants to grow in their faith just like them.”

“Through every storm of life, I know You’re by my side,” was repeated in the theme song for the week, and it perfectly sums up what the week was all about and what the children learned.

Wrap-Up of St. Louis Mission Trip

On Wednesday and Thursday, both groups continued to serve at both Word Church and Meramec Valley Baptist Church. On Wednesday night, everyone on the mission trip attended a church service at Meramec, where we cooked hamburgers and hotdogs and fellowshipped with everyone. This served as a good way not only to connect with the people at Meramec, but also each other as well. We listened to Brother Jim’s sermon and worshipped together.

After four days of service, Friday was a much-deserved break for the mission team. Friday morning, the group headed to the Gateway Arch in Downtown St. Louis, which was a very cool experience. The Arch is 63 stories high, offering beautiful views at the top. Each tram ride took around five minutes to get to the top, and and around the same amount to get back to the bottom. At the top, there are little windows in the Arch in which you can look out over St. Louis and get views of Busch Stadium and just downtown in general. After finishing with the tram ride and checking out the Gateway Arch memorabilia, our group headed back to the bus to go to Six Flags St. Louis. We stayed here from about lunchtime until 7 p.m., when our very exhausted team headed back to Mission St. Louis.

The mission trip to St. Louis was a very beneficial experience for everyone involved because it challenged people in ways they did not realize were possible. Hannah Kate Junkin, a 2018 graduate of the Calvary youth group, and Rachel Goggins, an adult church member, shared their thoughts about the trip and how it impacted them going back. They have each been on several mission trips with Calvary, but each one is different and affects people in unique ways.

“I enjoy any opportunity to serve my own community and other communities. On the trip, I was able to make strong connections with kids that I am still able to keep in contact with today. I had the ability to teach some of the lessons and I enjoyed interacting with the kids in that way as well,” Hannah Kate Junkin said. “I take back from the trip an increased faith in the Lord’s sovereignty and his ability to…give me the right words to say to advance His kingdom.”

Rachel Goggins was positively impacted as well. “Serving in St. Louis allowed me to see the diverse gifts and talents that the Lord has given to each of the members of our Calvary family. While I loved serving the students at Meramec Valley, I found the most joy in watching the Lord use each member of our team in a very specific way,” Goggins said. “I have been blessed to participate in eight mission trips with Calvary, and no matter how many mission trips I go on, the Lord always brings a new truth and a new experience. The Lord is faithful, and He has never allowed to me to come home from one of these trips unchanged. I must remind myself that I can also choose to live with the intentionality of a mission trip here at home. When I go elsewhere to serve, it seems much easier to wake up each morning ready and willing to serve others and listen to the Holy Spirit. Building relationships and meeting the needs of those around me can be a part of my daily life, and I pray that the Lord continues to remind me of this experience.”

This was another impactful mission trip for the Calvary family, and it is only the beginning of this summer’s opportunities to grow in Christ through missions.

St. Louis Family Mission Trip: Meramec Valley Baptist Church

On Tuesday, most of the same people who went to Meramec on Monday came back to serve again at the church. This type of service involved putting on bible studies for the neighborhood kids, playing with them, and just interacting with those at the church in any way possible. Everyone seemed to be able to find a way to serve these children and this church.

Before doing the actual Bible study lesson, the mission team played various games with the children at the church, such as kickball, where it was clear that many younger kids were much more athletically inclined than some older people. There was also a volleyball net that several people used. The Bible study and interactions took place for the most part on a large expanse of grass right across the street from the church, so the many beautiful trees helped bring shade to the otherwise hot and bright day. There were also organized games, such as ones that involved people being in a circle and running to try to get the plastic apple in the middle before the other person did.

The goal of this mission site was just to interact as much as possible with the individuals at the church. Even though we had a Bible study ready, the ultimate goal was for those at Meramec to see God’s love through us, no matter what we were doing. Most people had fun simply being around the children. One of the mission site leaders wrote a word of each key bible verse on the sidewalk: “Blessed are all who fear the Lord – who walk in His ways!” – Psalm 128:1. They then had the children draw with chalk around every word, which was a good way for them to enjoy using the chalk while also learning the bible verse better, almost without realizing it.

The Bible study in the morning was for younger children, while there was one for older kids in the afternoon. Katelyn Skelton did the bible study in the morning, and it was about how Adam and Eve could eat from any tree in the Garden of Eden, except the one in the very middle of the garden that God told them not to. However, the serpent, who was the Devil, persuaded Eve to eat it, who then passed it on to Adam, and as a result, God banished them from the garden ultimately for their good; if they stayed in the garden and kept eating from the forbidden tree, they would have been stuck in brokenness. Katelyn related it to a really nasty food like liver, and while she told the children that it could rot their stomachs and make them feel really bad, several children still said they would want to try it. This went along with the story because it showed how sin can rot our brain and souls, and how God always wants the best for us.

Meramec fed the group lunch both Monday and Tuesday, barbeque and tacos. After lunch, everyone went back out onto the grassy area and played, while also waiting for individuals to show up for the later bible study. During this time, since it was for older kids, it involved a different lesson and different games than the morning Bible study did. The pastor of Meramec was very involved in this Bible study, giving one of his own lessons and playing a game with everyone.

After another day of service, the entire mission team departed for a St. Louis Cardinals game at Busch Stadium, where the Cardinals were playing the Miami Marlins. This served as a fun way for everyone to get to know each other better as well as de-stress and relax from the two days of hard work. It was a late night for everyone, as the game did not finish until late and the bus did not make it back to Mission St. Louis until around 11:30. Regardless of the late bedtime, everyone was still ready to be up and about and ready to serve early Wednesday morning.

St. Louis Family Mission Trip: The Word Church

Monday was the first day of mission work in St. Louis. There were two separate groups of our volunteers, and one went to the Word Church, where they are helping with construction projects, and the other went to Meramec Valley Baptist Church, where they helped do bible studies for children of various ages. After grabbing breakfast at Mission St. Louis, where we stayed, we left on the bus at 8:30 to be at our church work sites for the day. Most people will get to experience both church experiences, spending two days at each site.

Pastor Ulysses Ross is the pastor of Word Church, which is a church that partners with the St. Louis Metro Baptist Association, as well as the North American Mission Board. The sign outside their church read “We love God and we love people,” which I think is very fitting in the way that he serves his church and his community. He was very welcoming on the first day that Calvary members volunteered, opening up his church and its contents to all of our volunteers. His church has only been in this building for around two months, but the church itself has been in existence for about two years.

Word Church has been undergoing construction since it moved into its current building, since the church that was there before them did not do much in the way of fixing it up. Our group took on several construction projects on Day 1, including painting inside walls, the outside of the church building, and the door of the other church building. Several people took down a stair rail and put up 2×4 wood pallets with sheetrock on top. Several volunteers also began pressure washing the front of each house.

Pastor Ross said that this church’s journey, and the progress inside the current building, has been slow and steady. Being able to have Easter inside the new church was considered a victory for its members. “My greatest joy is when I see people finally get that that we’re here to make disciples, not church members,” Pastor Ross said.

Each member had valuable experiences from whichever church they served at on Monday. Whether it was simply by doing construction work or just playing kickball with neighborhood kids who came to the church, these were opportunities to show God’s love, no matter the task. Even those who were doing construction at Word Church were able to interact with individuals who passed by, and some even got to hold a meaningful conversation with them and invite them to Word Church.

On Monday night the mission team got back from their work sites at Mission St. Louis around 5 p.m. For the rest of the night, people relaxed and fellowshipped with each other, while they enjoyed a dinner from Hodak’s, supposedly the best chicken in St. Louis. At the end of the night, we debriefed and shared with the group the positive aspects of our experience, the challenges, and what made the most impact on us that day. That is always one of the most valuable experiences of the trip because it allows for others to get everyone else’s points of view, and learning about things they haven’t gotten the opportunity yet. Everyone was excited for what the next day would bring.