Director Calvin Woods asked more than 200 campers to stand during the closing ceremony of the recent Louisiana Baptist Church Youth Encampment at Dillard University.
Woods, pastor of Greater Liberty Baptist Church in New Orleans, then asked campers to recite their pledge to be "peace officers" for God.
"The purpose for that is to deputize them and commission them to be peace officers in their communities," Woods said. "Their job is (to) go and bring peace in schools, home, communities. It's all about bringing peace."
"Perfecting Peace" was the theme of the camp held July 22-26 for youth ages 12 to 21 from throughout the state. Campers took classes centered around the theme based on Philippians 4:6-8. Lessons focused on how our youth can allow God's perfect peace in their daily lives.
"When we bring peace within ourselves, it's a blessing to share peace," he said. "That will reduce crime and violence in our community because we'll have more peacekeepers, people who long for God's peace."
In addition to classes, campers also participated in dance, mime, singing, Bible study and activities. Their talents were on full display during an emotional closing ceremony.
Nicholas Ramsey, 18, of New Orleans, participated in his first Youth Encampment.
"This camp experience was a blessing," said Ramsey, a senior Holy Cross High School. "God moved through each and every young person that was here. I've never seen anything like it."
Ramsey was part of the Youth Encampment choir.
"This has been a great experience meeting other people and to get to talk to them and see the different cultures and their backgrounds and how we might have some similarities and how we might be different in spirituality and cultures," Ramsey said.
Ramsey said the camp experience gave him more guidance in ministry. He answered his call to ministry at age 15.
"It gives me the faith to keep on going, and it gives me the courage to keep on going and to do God's work," said Ramsey, who plans to study public administration, theology and law after graduation.
Woods said summer Youth Encampment under the Louisiana Missionary Baptist State Convention has been around for 70 years mostly on college campuses.
"It's to empower the young people to know God and to experience college life. It empowers them to know they can succeed," he said.
Woods, 60, said being around Youth Encampment has also been a blessing to him the past 14 years. This summer was Wood's last year as director; he is stepping down to spend more time in his new post as the historian for the Louisiana Missionary Baptist State Convention.
"That job is going to take some of my time. I'll be working with this (Youth Encampment), but that's a bigger picture — preserving the history," Woods said. "I want to maintain the history of our State Convention."
In his historian role, Woods hopes to update the website and increase the publishing and production of content.
"When we do that, that makes all the difference," Woods said.
Woods also has a vision of an archive and museum site for the Louisiana Missionary Baptist State Convention. The organization owns and has started collecting data at the T.J. Jemison Baptist Center at Southern University.
"We already have a facility. We can use what we have to start off and go from there," he said.
Woods said his position may require him to spend more time in Baton Rouge while continuing to pastor Greater Liberty, where he has pastored for 31 years.
New Baptists president
The Rev. Edward Alexander Jr., of Christian Baptist Church in Lake Charles, will be installed in October as the new president of the predominantly black Louisiana Missionary Baptist State Convention.
Alexander, 54, replaced the Rev. C.S. Gordon Jr., of New Zion Baptist Church of New Orleans. Gordon, 65, served eight years. Alexander had been the convention's general secretary.
Alexander, who was elected by convention members on July 18 at the 145th annual convention in New Orleans, has been the pastor of Christian Baptist Church since 1994. He is a graduate of McNeese State University with a bachelor's degree in social studies education.
"I pledge to maintain moral values pleasing to God, to preach, practice and promise humbleness, unity and peace among the people," Alexander said. "I pledge to work hard for you and with you, to be prayerful and seek divine guidance in all that we do. I pledge to always make you proud as we together undertake and achieve a greater work for the kingdom of God."
The installation is set for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 19 at Christian Baptist Church, 4460 Fifth Ave. in Lake Charles. The Rev. Jerry Young, president of the National Baptist Convention USA Inc., will be the keynote speaker.
Another day, another blessing
There’s a billboard near the LSU Lakes in Baton Rouge that flashes a big purple screen with gold numbers. There’s no words, no explanation — just a different number each day in descending order.
For many, it needs no explanation. A majority of LSU fans immediately know the numbers represent the countdown to the start of the LSU football season on Sept. 2.
While I’m looking forward to the kickoff, that billboard countdown also brought to mind two sobering thoughts as I was on the way to a funeral recently. The first thought was of my late brother, who around this time last summer was counting down to another LSU and Saints season. He didn't get to see his beloved Saints enjoy their best season since winning the Super Bowl.
My second thought was how the days are counting down and to take one day at a time. I realize there’s no guarantee that God will allow me to see those 20 or so days until this year's kickoff and the days after that. Psalms 90: 10, 12 puts it into perspective: "Our days may come to 70 years, or 80, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. … Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
We’re not guaranteed 70 years or 80 years or even tomorrow.
The psalmist asked God to teach us to number our days. In other words, he recognized how short our time on Earth really is and to live well and in wisdom. May God teach us to number our days, not with stressful, fearful and anxious lives but with joy and anticipation.