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Story by Susan Beach. Photos courtesy of Camp Alkulana.

“I don’t feel scared anymore.”  These words, spoken by a child at Camp Alkulana, tell us the fear is gone, but they also tell us that fear was there. They remind us that some children have serious worries and that for a variety of reasons, their homes can be scary places.

For nearly 100 years Camp Alkulana, a year-round ministry of the Richmond Baptist Association (RBA), has been a refuge for many of these children. Its mission is as serious as the children’s worries: to reveal God’s love to low-income and at-risk children and youth in Central Virginia so that they might realize the intrinsic value in themselves and others.

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A serious mission, but the means of carrying it out are as fun, beautiful and exciting as God’s world. Camp Alkulana, located in Millboro Springs, VA, is deep in the Allegheny Mountains. Its proximity to the George Washington National Forest provides the Camp with boundless space and endless program resources. Summer activities include hiking, cave exploring, camping out, cooking out, rock climbing, rappelling, ropes course, and swimming, as well as crafts, Bible study, and worship.

More than 200 campers, ages nine to 14, participate each summer. Depending on age, they stay for seven- or 11-day sessions. They are led, loved and supported by a staff of 50, some paid and some volunteer. All these people and activities add up. The cost for each camper is $500, but because Alkulana’s mission is to reach low-income families, those families pay only what they can afford. No child is turned away for lack of funds.

And that’s where FBC comes in. Each summer we focus on the Camp Alkulana Offering which completely funds the camp’s budget. As some area churches recently have withdrawn from the RBA, that offering must stretch farther than ever. Gifts can be made – now and throughout the year – online or using FBC’s gold missions envelopes in our offering packets and marking gifts for Camp Alkulana.

Our gifts replace worries with blessings. They change hearts and lives and words. The campers say it best:

     “It’s a great camp where you can have fun, make new friends, and learn to trust in God.”
     “It’s a place where you can always find people who love you.”
     “Alkulana is like family.”


Author’s notes: Camp Alkulana has been in continuous operation since 1915. Pray and give that the Camp can continue its work for another hundred years and beyond.

If you have volunteered or served Camp Alkulana in any way, please share your experiences in the Comments box below.

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By Lee Byerly. Photos by Susan Brown.

It’s been said, “You have not lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”

Summer Camp at Essex VillageI received an awakening while volunteering for summer camp at Essex Village Apartments (see related story). I have lived! How? I was awakened to the reality of young children, each unique and precious, each needing a smiling face from someone who genuinely cares. I could be that face and didn’t need anything in return.

Every day of camp about 12 children knew the smiling faces and love of FBC volunteers who gave their time, talent and treasure. Several of these children are from Pakistan, Kenya and Somalia and are trying to assimilate into a new culture and way of life, while still retaining their sense of identity. This they did with great joy and anticipation every day.

Mornings were filled with one-on-one tutoring, listening to students read, working out math problems, and playing various games. Higher level thinking skills soared as Checkers became the game of choice among students who wanted to play the adults. After lunch Josie Carver led creative art projects.

In addition to art and core subjects, Steve Blanchard (FBC’s Associate Pastor with the Ministry of Compassion) helped organize field trips. We took the students to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Three Lakes Park and Nature Center, and on a historical tour of Richmond. Steve was an excellent tour guide! Each student took notes of the travels and compiled them into a short personal essay that was shared with the class.

Other outings included lunches at McDonald’s and Sweet Frog where the children found good opportunities for decision making. Those who completed their summer reading were also treated to Chick-fil-A.

That reading can continue with many wonderful books provided by First Baptist for the children and adults of Essex Village. These books and two new book shelves were presented on the last day of camp.

Many exciting moments, many small victories, such a short amount of time. That kind of success happens when there is a combined effort – children, parents, volunteers, all under the direction of Mrs. Ernestine Dockery-Roy and her husband from Seeds of Promise Outreach Ministries, Inc.

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Lee ByerlyLee Byerly and his wife, Lisa, are members of the Travelers Adult Bible Fellowship. Lee teaches tennis. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with their daughter, Rachel, fishing, camping, snowboarding, and following college sports.

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