A group of Burke County churches is planning a youth-focused missions blitz to serve the community and strengthen the faith of local teenagers.
The Catawba River Baptist Association, a partnership of 68 Baptist churches, is sponsoring Burke Changers, a missions day camp that will run Sunday through Wednesday. During the four-day camp, middle and high school students from nine local churches will participate in worship and prayer, service projects, a barbecue and several community block parties hosted by churches across Burke County.
The program is patterned after World Changers, a nationwide faith-based missions camp emphasizing student missions and community service, said Robby Smith, director of missions for the association. Between 2016 and 2019, Burke County hosted a World Changers camp, bringing hundreds of students from across the southeast to Morganton to serve the community for one week. In 2020, however, Lifeway discontinued the program, sending Catawba River Baptist Association leaders scrambling for a way to continue the annual community service effort.
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“When sharing the news with several youth pastors, we began to pray about how God might use us to do something similar, but on a local basis,” Smith said. “That was when the idea of Burke Changers was born.”
He said the Rev. Greg Klapp, minister of children and families at Burkemont Baptist Church, has been instrumental in organizing the program. He also credited pastors and youth pastors from across the association for their contributions to the program, including opening their churches to host activities and providing volunteers, meals and other supplies to support the effort.
Burke Changers will kick off Sunday evening with a worship service and a brief training workshop for student participants at Burkemont Baptist. After that, each day of the mission camp will feature the same basic schedule. Students will meet each morning for a short prayer time before dividing into their work crews and going out into the community. Crews will work through the day, breaking at 3 p.m. for showers, free time and dinner. Each evening, the students will reunite at 6 p.m. for evening activities, including roller skating at Pavilion Roller Skating, a pizza party and a barbecue hosted by El Bethel Baptist Church.
Smith said the week’s key event will take place Tuesday. That night, four local churches will host community block parties in locations across the county. These parties are open to the public and will feature free food, games, bounce houses and door prizes. Burke Changers students will help run the events, which are designed to help local churches make connections with families in the surrounding neighborhoods.
“We hope these block parties will be a blessing to the families in our community,” Smith said. “They will also provide an opportunity for Burke County families and our churches to become better acquainted. Our CRBA churches are committed to making our communities better while sharing God’s word and love with all who will listen.”
Following Jesus’ command to neighbor-love is an important theme, not just for the Tuesday evening block parties but also for the entire Burke Changers camp, Smith said. He noted that Foothills Service Project has been instrumental in helping organizers set up service opportunities and will have volunteers at the work sites to train students to do the work.
“Foothill Service Project is a wonderful ministry,” Smith said. “They have discovered local families who need help, and with our students supplying the labor, we will be able to minister to several local families who are in need.”
Over the three-day missions camp, about 115 students will complete projects, including painting, building access ramps and repairing roofs. Smith hopes that this will only be the beginning of what Burke Changers will accomplish in the coming years.
“We are planning for this to become an annual event,” Smith explained. “It is wonderful to see students and adults from different ethnicities and backgrounds work together like this to share the love of Jesus, to make him known and impact the community.”
The Burke Changers community block parties will take place from 6-8 p.m. A grand prize of two children’s bicycles will be given away at each location. The parties will be held at:
Fisher Mobile Home Park, 5125 Crawley Dale St., Morganton; hosted by Burkemont Baptist.
Mount Home Baptist Church, 2272 Mount Home Road, Morganton.
Walker Road Baptist Church, 100 Walker Road, Morganton.
Valdese Housing Authority, 1402 Lydia Ave., Valdese; hosted by East Valdese Baptist Church.
For information, call the Catawba River Baptist Association at 828-437-0137.