February marks the end of an era at Pinewoods Church! Brenden and Ashley Camp have been working with our students as Interim Youth Directors since February of 2019 and have prayerfully decided to step down so they can focus their time and energy on full-time support raising.
As most of you know, Brenden, Ashley, Keira, and Oakley are headed to Columbia as missionaries with MTW (Mission to the World) … but they can’t leave for the field until they’ve raised at least 80% of their support. God has been growing their support base over the last year, which has been encouraging, but they believe that this task needs their full focus and energy.
As their pastor, I wholeheartedly agree! I believe God has called them to the mission field internally (by putting a desire for Columbia on their hearts) … and I believe God is going to confirm their call externally by providing the financial support they need for the mission.
So why should we remember the Camps? (Especially since they’re not leaving the church! They’ll be worshipping with us until they head to Columbia, and our relationship with them will continue even though they’ll be far away from us!) I think remembering is an important part of the Christian life. Whenever one chapter closes and another begins, I think it’s good to look back and remember what God has done. That’s a biblical thing to do.
The word remember is used 237 times in 232 verses in the English Standard Version of the Bible. In the Old Testament, we’re called to remember God’s grace. We’re called to remember God’s covenant promises. We’re called to remember God’s faithfulness. We’re called to remember God’s name. In Psalm 134:5, David writes, “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands.”
Repeatedly, the Old Testament writers assure us that we can and should remember the person and work of God, with full assurance that God will remember us! He will remember his gracious promises to be our God, while simultaneously forgetting our sin! The prophet Jeremiah writes, “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 8:12)
He will remember our sins no more! That’s good news! Because God remembers his grace and forgets our sins, he can answer the prayer of a blasphemous thief who prayed, “Jesus remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” (Luke 23:42)
In Paul’s letters, remembering is often connected to prayer. In Ephesians 1:16, Paul writes, “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” In other words, one of the best ways to remember what the Camps have done for our church is to pray for them as they transition to this next phase of their missionary journey!
With all that in mind, I want to share some of the things I’m going to remember about Brenden and Ashley’s time on staff at Pinewoods. I remember when we hired Brenden to be our Children’s Director. We hadn’t had a Children’s Director for some time, and I believed God was calling us to hire someone for that position. I knew Brenden had a passion for Jesus and the church, so I approached him about it. He enthusiastically agreed to serve, and it made a HUGE impact in the lives of many families in our congregation. Brenden and Ashley started a new Sunday night ministry called “Sunday Night Live.” (I will take credit for naming it. I grew up in the 80’s when Saturday Night Live was kind of a big deal.)
In a few short months, young children were learning to SING the Westminster Children’s Catechism! To this day, I still remember Brenden strumming on his guitar as the children (including my own children) sang, “Who wrote the Bible? Ho-ly men who were in-spired … by the Ho-ly Spirit!” and “Who were our first parents? Adam and EEEEEEVE!!” (That one had an exuberant high note at the end!)
Before Brenden and Ashley came on staff, our Vacation Bible School program had fallen on hard times. It wasn’t completely moribund, but enthusiasm was low. We were trying to come up with something fun, creative, and educational … but for whatever reason, we just couldn’t gain traction. That’s when Brenden and Ashley came up with the Pinewoods Faith and Arts Camp. All of a sudden, we had volunteers, and energy, and excitement! Children were singing, dancing, and creating cool art pieces that reflected the biblical storyline of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration! To this day, we have one of the art pieces the children created on display in our Fellowship Hall. Amazing!
Brenden and Ashley not only invested in children, they invested in parents and volunteers. Before Brenden and Ashley came on staff, we had a total of three volunteers for our Wednesday night kids program … Pastor Joel, Elder Ken Showalter, and Deacon Steve Whittle. By the time Brenden and Ashley handed the reigns over to our new Children’s Director Krissy McKee, we had a team of helpers! We had Sunday School teachers, nursery workers, Children’s Church Teachers … they were loved, appreciated, celebrated … it was incredible!
But that’s not all! One year ago, we had a major transition in Student Ministry. Our former Youth Director and his family moved up to Atlanta to pursue a new calling in a new city … and we were left with a huge need for a new Youth Director. During the worship service I was praying about this, and two names came to mind – “Brenden and Ashley Camp.” During the greeting time, I asked them if they would come to my office after the worship service. They had just stepped down from Children’s Ministry to do support raising for Columbia … but we had a HUGE need … and so I asked them if they would serve our students until we brought on a new full-time Youth Pastor. They agreed … and within a week they were planning a mission trip that was weeks away! Brenden taught the Bible faithfully. Ashley reached out to students over coffee and deep conversations about life and faith. Together, they did immeasurably more than we could have ever asked or imagined. (And in doing so, they mirrored the redemptive, sacrificial love of Jesus!)
It’s been an amazing year. (Before that, it was an amazing four years!) God has been faithful … but it’s time for this chapter to end and the next to begin. A search team has been meeting since the end of last year, and we think we’ve found a very solid candidate. He and his wife will be visiting us in February.
Please be in prayer for that visit, and please be in prayer for the Camp’s! Beyond that, please consider supporting the Camp family financially. You can do that by giving to the Pinewoods missions budget. Some of you might know this, but the money we use to support missionaries like the Camp’s doesn’t come from our regular tithes and offerings. We ask all of our members to consider what they might give, beyond their tithes and offerings, to the work of global evangelism and church-planting. Then, when the Missions Conference comes around in March, we ask you to fill out a giving card and let the team know how much money we have to give to our missionaries. Whatever you can give, small or large, makes a HUGE difference to families like the Camp family.
Ephesians 2:11–13 11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
What an amazing promise! Be sure to thank Brenden and Ashley for their service to the children, young people, and families of our church. And then, I want to encourage you to remember them further by supporting their missionary work with your prayers and offerings. God is so faithful! He who did not spare his own Son – Jesus – will never forget us.
Remember – only one month until the Missions Conference! See you there!