JACKSON, Tenn. – July 22, 2002 – For the past 16 years, when summer arrives, each new Sunday afternoon brings a new batch of church buses rolling onto Union University’s campus. Each bus carries in it dozens of kids who come from all over the country to attend Centrifuge, a week-long Bible camp that teaches kids about the values of the Bible through daily lessons and activities.
This year, as with the past few summers, a record number of more than 5,000 students attended Union’s camp. Linn Stranak, chair of the physical education, wellness and sports program at Union, also helps coordinate Union’s Centrifuge program. He said more than 32 states were represented this year, including a group from West Virginia, making this the first time that state has attended Centrifuge at Union.
“The theme for this year’s Centrifuge is called ‘Reel Life,’” said Stranak. “It’s a play off of the old black and white movies. The focus is what is real about life.”
This year’s theme was easily seen throughout the campus. In the Penick Academic Complex, classrooms were decorated to look like movie sets or backstage areas. Each classroom offered a different topic, such as “Makeup” or “Soundstage.” The theme’s purpose is to make teens compare the “reel” life of the movies to the “real” life of their everyday world, explained Timmy Drury, director of recreation for Centrifuge.
The daily schedule of a camper who comes to Centrifuge consists of daily morning worship, recreational activities, and classes designed to help students integrate what they have learned each day. A trained staff from Nashville, along with Union students, volunteer to teach and play host to the high school students who attend each week. Alexis Abney, a senior public relations major at Union, enjoyed being a hostess.
“The neatest thing was for me to see God working in these kid’s lives,” Abney said. “Most teenagers think they are too young for Christ. But I’ve seen some here really take a stand for what they believe.”
Hosting duties consist of registering the students, handing out supplies, helping them if they have trouble in their dorm rooms, answering any campus questions and being part of a support staff to the Nashville staffers.
Ashley Miller, a member of the youth group at First Baptist, Pochahontas, Ark., participates in a Centrifuge trust-building activity with her fellow campers.
Other staff members were in charge of teaching or recreation activities. Matt Nason, a senior sports management major, was responsible for keeping campers entertained with games and outdoor activities. Spending lots of time with these teenagers has taught him something.
“It’s been a good experience – I’ve learned a lot about how to handle different situations with different kinds of kids,” Nason said. “You see all different kinds of youth – I haven’t worked with two kids who were the same.”
Recreation is an integral part of the camp, said Drury. “We incorporate what the kids are learning in their Bible studies with what they are learning in the recreation activities.” Through a series of different tasks, the kids learn trust and support for one another. “They learn that God may call us to do something we’re uncomfortable with but with his help we can get things done,” said Drury.
The camp counselors and hosts work hard to entertain and educate the youth who attend. During a collective recreation period Centrifuge calls the “Mega Relay”, all the campers were brought together to play games out at the soccer fields. Although the hot sun was beating down and the field was full of teens, campers still managed to enjoy themselves. Ronnie Siggs, 14, from Grenada, Miss., especially enjoyed taking part in the relay.
“It was great. This camp has been one of the best times of my life,” said Siggs.
Barbara Bishop, a member of the youth group at First Baptist, Pochahontas, Ark., gets assistance from other campers in climbing a six-foot wall in another trust-building exercise.
Another camper, Wyatt Lydolph, 14, also from Grenada, had similar feelings. “Centrifuge has been awesome. I’ve learned a lot and I’ve had a great time.”
By the time Friday rolls around, the campers have had a week full of fun, Bible learning, and great memories. Now the time comes for these campers to go home. The campus grows quiet as the last of the church buses roll away, leaving camp counselors and hosts to rest for a couple of days before greeting the next group of teens who are ready to be challenged, stretched and motivated for Christ – and have a lot of fun doing it.
By Tracie Holden, Class of 2004
Sara B. Horn,