Through Fellowship, Worship, and Service, Campers Agree: Fuge at Mississippi College is Special
Every fall, Wesley Poston gathers the 11th- and 12th-grade students in his youth group at Ridglea Baptist Church in Ft. Worth, Texas, to select where his class members will attend Fuge camp the following summer.
“Letting them help me pick camp also encourages them to come with us,” said the Ridglea youth minister. Poston is a veteran of Fuge events, having attended 16 different camps during his career. That list includes Fuge at Mississippi College, where in 2019, his group worked with children at Hope Hollow Ministries in Canton.
The COVID-19 pandemic limited their options during the last two years, however. Poston arranged an independent local project for summer 2020, and last year, his students attended the closest Fuge camp in Houston, Texas.
During that event, he showed a list of potential 2022 Fuge camps to the group’s returning upperclassman, Safira Shabani, and asked her where they should go.
“She said, ‘I think we should go to Mississippi again,’” Poston said. “I told her I was also thinking that. We didn’t need to discuss it any further – we went ahead and signed up.
“That was one of the few times I’ve ever registered early for camp.”
Their decision was based on a number of factors, but the atmosphere at MC’s camp in 2019 was a leading reason.
“It was such a great experience for our kids to work at Hope Hollow,” Poston said. “Nothing brings students together, I have found, than serving shoulder-to-shoulder on a project that the Master has put us on.”
The opportunity to help others is what Shabani has enjoyed most about participating in Fuge at MC this year. The soon-to-be 12th grader stayed busy gardening, watering plants, and sprucing up the grounds at a nearby church, and interacting with local children in a summer school program.
“My favorite part is talking to people, getting to hear about their lives, and getting to see the impact that I have on them,” Shabani said. “Today, some of the kids I was working with gave me hugs, and they said, ‘I hope you come back tomorrow.’ I loved it.”
MC is the first college in the country to host a combined Mission Fuge and CentriFuge camp – simply called Fuge – which takes students out of their normal routines and places them into an environment focused on changing lives through a relationship with Jesus Christ. The camp is sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, Tennessee.
Fuge at MC can be a boisterous event at times, with students from throughout the Southeast gathered to cheer, chant, sing, work, learn, serve, and above all, worship the Lord. CentriFuge campers are divided into groups for recreation and Bible study based on age and education. The six-day experience combines energetic worship services with live Christian music, quiet time for Bible study, fellowship with peers in the cafeteria, sports activities at the HealthPlex, and short mission trips to share Christ’s love with others in the Jackson metropolitan area.
“Matchless One” is the theme for 2022 Fuge. Campers learn how the Bible is filled with stories of ordinary people God used in extraordinary ways to teach character and truth, but one person in Scripture is the full and complete embodiment of every good trait any other character ever displayed: Jesus, who is the matchless one.
MFuge students jump into ministry programs with local communities, working directly with people in need. They take home an enriched attitude about their faith, and the memories that stick with them – and what brings most of them back to the Clinton campus year after year – is their experience serving others.
“Going to the mission site, being involved in the community, it’s different every time I come, but I love giving back,” said Keely Mills of Milton, Florida. “And having them know it’s on behalf of Jesus and that we are just trying to show his love for them.”
Mills has attended seven different Fuge camps from the time she was in elementary school. Now entering her senior year in college, Mills serves as a chaperone for the group of middle school and high school students from the First Baptist Church in Milton. Her group volunteered at Operation Shoestring, a nonprofit organization that provides after-school and summer programs for children in central Jackson.
MFuge participants remain active throughout the week. On one bright Thursday morning, campers emerged from Swor Auditorium in Nelson Hall after the daily Morning Celebration prepared for Bible Study before being taken to their volunteer sites before noon.
“Today’s theme is obedience,” Mills said. “I think the obedience of acting on behalf of Him on this Earth is the biggest thing I can do when I go back to school in the fall.”
A student member of her group, Trent Abercrombie, an emerging high school senior, was participating in his fourth Fuge camp. He said the worship sessions, led by Matt Paradis, camp pastor, have been especially meaningful to him.
“He’s an incredible preacher. It’s really an honor to sit and listen to him,” Abercrombie said. “I’ve learned a lot about patience. Throughout life, you’re going to need that. If you can be patient in a Godly manner, especially when you’re in a rush, you can be loving and kind like Christ wants us to be.
“That will be a beautiful thing to take home with me.”
The minister of students at FBC Milton, Bo Mills, has served as group leader at 19 Fuge events, including about a dozen separate visits to Mississippi College. He praised the Fuge volunteer staff members for their organizational skills, work ethic, and exuberance.
“It’s a camp you can come to and you can know that the theology your kids are getting is solid,” he said. “You can trust that the staff has been vetted and well trained. The reason we do MFuge is because you serve. What I hear most from my students is, they remember the service part, they remember the kids that were there, and they remember the projects they were doing.”
He said the facilities at MC are second to none.
“The campus setup is great,” he said. “The cafeteria offers a variety of food, and the lodging is always comfortable and solid.”
The pleasant environment is a factor that keeps Abercrombie coming back to Mississippi despite the heat of summer.
“There’s something about Mississippi College itself that just invigorates you on the inside and makes you feel incredibly special,” he said. “The worship area (in Swor Auditorium) is big and loud, and you can hear everybody sing.
“It’s an incredible sound and an incredible feeling.”
Campers will be able to enjoy that feeling at MC throughout the month. The second Fuge session began June 20, with the third and final session slated for June 27-July 2.
Shabani enjoyed the camp at MC in 2019 so much that she encouraged her brother-in-law’s brother to join her at Fuge this year.
“I like for people to know the staff here are amazing,” Shabani said. “You might have some kids who are a little hard to reach, but they push through and get the kids what they need.”
She was especially impressed with the impact Fuge at MC has had on one of her fellow campers.
“We have a person with us who is really quiet,” she said. “But at camp, not at all. We got invited to a party, and they played the Shuffle, and even she got into it. We were all dancing and having fun.
“You wouldn’t know this was the same person.”
Almost everyone in the group may have been surprised – but not Poston.
“The staff here really connect with the kids,” he said. “They have got every level of introvert and extrovert, kids that are all about doing chants and cheers and want the spirit stick, to others that are pleased to sit in the back and just participate when they get the courage to do so.
“The staff is broadly talented, and they’re able to find and connect with all types of personalities. They do so well with the kids.”
For more information about Fuge at Mississippi College or to register for Fuge at MC in 2023, visit https://fugecamps.lifeway.com/venue/mississippi-college/.