TOCCOA — Walk around the grounds of the Georgia Baptist Conference Center (GBCC) here during a particular week in the summer and the Northeast Georgia mountains are alive with the sound of music.
Children, youth, and their sponsors are on the campus for SURGE150, a week of training, fun, worship, and inspiration through the efforts of Georgia Baptist Worship and Music Ministry. Based on Psalm 150, the camp embodies the final verse of the passage which says, “let everything that has breath praise the Lord.”
“This is a week where we invest in the future worship and music leaders for the sake of building the kingdom,” said state missionary Keith Chandler, now in his 15th year serving as camp director. Previously, Chandler was involved as a faculty member since 1990.
The music camp has evolved since its inception more than 60 years ago into a comprehensive event that includes a range of opportunities for children and students to grow in their musical ability and spiritual development.
Passing the baton
Leaving a legacy means passing the baton to those coming up behind you, explained Ryan Showalter, associate pastor of worship at First Baptist in Smyrna, who assisted with leading worship and classes. Children and youth both had times of worship each day with messages by children’s camp pastor Chuck Jonas of Reidsville Baptist and youth camp pastor Andy Childs of Ebenezer Baptist in Toccoa.
“I’ve never in 16 years of vocational ministry seen a worship service so full of joy of the Lord,” Showalter said. “It didn’t matter what type of expression of worship it was, the students were on fire to give their praise to the Lord.”
This year’s camp had the largest attendance in recent years, with a total of nearly 400, including 312 students and 72 faculty/sponsors.
“In addition to these numbers, one of the most exciting things we saw this year was the number of decisions made,” according to Jon Duncan, lead catalyst/state missionary for Worship and Music Ministry. Children’s camp had four who prayed to receive Christ and seven wanting to know more about Jesus. In the youth camp there were 195 decisions, including 45 rededications, 96 commitments to full-time ministry, 28 to receive Christ, and 26 others.
“I am so grateful that God is working in the lives of these students and that this camp is making an impact on their future,” Duncan added.
‘Best week of my life’
Reflecting this, Justin Fourhman, a high school student from Hunter Road Baptist in Cataula, remarked “SURGE150 was possibly the best week of my life … it has been a week of clarity and answers for many things as I discovered how to honor God in all my relationships and through my work.”
Another student, Carter Phillips of First Baptist of Snellville, said, “This week has been truly life-changing. I have learned and grown in a way I never could have imagined!”
Lee Chitwood, minister of music at First Baptist of Newnan, has brought students to camp for a number of years and had 18 attend this year. “It’s a joy and honor to serve as an adult leader and help students learn the eternal language of music and glorifying God,” he commented. Chitwood served as the director of the camp’s middle school choir.
In addition to choral and orchestral groups, students attended “language of music” (theory) classes and had the opportunity to choose electives which included a wide range of offerings such as drums, guitar, piano, organ (which notably had 10 students), handbells, and many others. Some of the newer electives included sign language, composing, creative/technical audio-visual, notation software, vocal praise team, and philosophy of modern worship.
“It’s such a joy to work with these students and faculty,” said Kendra Biffle Hughes of Salem Baptist in McDonough who has served for the past four years. “Over the years it’s amazing to watch the students grow and mature.”
Bill Coen, who has retired from serving several Georgia Baptist churches as minister of music, dropped in to hear the children’s camp rehearsal. He commented, “I thoroughly enjoyed the singing of the children as well as the message. It’s a joy to see these outstanding adult musicians pouring themselves into the lives of several hundred children and teenagers.”
To assist needy students to be able to attend SURGE150, the Jubalheirs have provided $10,000 of scholarship support. Additionally, scholarships are awarded to outstanding middle and high school students who are recommended by faculty during the week.
Winners of those scholarships include Kaitlyn Kennedy of Poplar Springs Baptist in Gainesville; Megan Timberlake of Christ Community in Columbus; Kristen Johansen of Grace Baptist in Monroe; Noah Hughes of Salem Baptist in McDonough; Raylyn DeJong of The Rock Baptist in Fayetteville; Emery Evans of First Baptist in Albany; and Charlie Fenton of First Baptist in Newnan.
The week ended with worship concerts which represented the hard work and use of God-given talents.
In 2020, SURGE150 will take place at GBCC on June 15-20.