“The sky at night is breathtaking,” recalls Vita Drew about the long-ago days and nights of her youth at Camp Ascension, a 160-acre ranch out in God’s Land. The camp, located 127 miles east of Wichita, and 132 miles south of Kansas City, KS, is about as rural as any city kid will get, but sometimes an escape from the urban busy-ness is exactly where children – and even adults – can find God.

For Drew, Camp Ascension provided an opportunity to experience God in a way that was unexplainable. “A lot of us found Jesus here, and a lot of us found our callings here,” said Drew. “We established and maintained lifelong friendships and we established relationships with adult sponsors. It was just simply amazing.”

With similar experiences shared by so many, you can imagine why an almost collective groan went up with the leadership of the Missionary Baptist State Convention of Kansas announced they were closing the camp. The camp was a staple in the conventions youth ministry and had touched thousands of youth during the camp’s 50-plus year history. 

The Missionary Baptist State Convention of Kansas, composed of more than 100 churches across the state and 15,000 statewide delegates, is the largest Black religious denominational body in the State of Kansas. Since the 1960s, for three weeks each summer, the camp provided inner-city youth of all ages an opportunity to experience nature.

“We house hundreds of kids during camp sessions,” says Rev. Dr. T. La Mont Holder, president of the Convention. “We teach them about life, relationship building, nature and faith.”

Holder was elected convention president in 2016 on a platform of reopening the camp and in just three year’s he’s accomplished his goal. This summer, Camp Ascension will once again open its doors of ministry to children from across the state.

Under Holder’s leadership, the convention was able to secure the funds needed to renovate the camps five-buildings: a chapel, administration building, recreation building and boys and girls dorms. The renovation was made possible by $200,000 in grants, an allocation that is “unheard of and noteworthy for our community,” says Holder. “We are doing positive and powerful things on the State level that impact Black and White kids from across the State of Kansas.”

The Sunderland Foundation of Kansas City, MO, has been a chief contributor to this effort.

The resulting good news is a gift to Camp Ascension alumni who want their children and grandchildren to enjoy that same amazing night sky they enjoyed. It’s also good news for those who know little if anything about the camp and for those not even born, who will be able for years ahead to enjoy Camp Ascension, make lifelong friendships, commune with nature, build their faith and experience God’s land.

If you want to see what Camp Ascension site looks like, check out this youtube video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5koON-PDcY

If you want to see what a week at Camp Ascension is like, here’s another video to watch – https://bit.ly/2rYLLDy

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Bonita Gooch

Since 1996, Bonita has served as as Editor-in-Chief of The Community Voice newspaper. As the owner, she has guided the Wichita-based publication’s growth in reach across the state of Kansas and into...

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