By Brian Blackwell, Message staff writer
PRIDE, La. (LBM) – Jolie Pruyn, 20, was a faithful attender of church-related activities as a youngster but an encounter with Jesus at Sandy Creek Baptist Church’s summer camp left her convicted of her need for a Savior.
“That night I told myself, ‘If not now, when?’” Pruyn, a camp chaperon, told the Baptist Message. “Up until that point I felt ashamed of pretending to live a life for Christ and I was scared of what people would think. But the family I have become a part of at ‘The Creek’ was nothing but supportive. I have never felt more loved and uplifted in my life.”
Pruyn is one of 25 students and young professionals at Sandy Creek Baptist Church who have decided to follow Christ in 2022.
Seventeen of those were baptized July 17 (the most the church has baptized in one service) and seven are awaiting baptism. Additionally, five new believers who are not youth or young professionals have been baptized since January in a church that averages 225 in Sunday worship.
Most of the decisions have taken place during Teen Extreme camp (attended by 95 students) in Pensacola, Fla., June 27-July 1, and at Wednesday night student worship.
“It’s been cool to hear students say the most genuine prayers as they talked with another adult individually about their desire to follow Jesus,” Youth Pastor James Daniel Schopp said. “Those students have then gone out and invited their friends to our Wednesday meetings, where they heard and accepted Christ. Even the parents are coming on Wednesdays and have started to share Jesus with their families, friends and co-workers.”
Not only have students been baptized, but many have grown deeper in their relationship with Jesus through a greater emphasis on discipleship.
Each week, the students meet in homes for Bible study (one for males and another for females). The students also participate in accountability groups of five (30 groups overall), where they sharpen each other to become more fully devoted followers of Christ.
Eleventh grader Katelyn Easley, who trusted in Jesus during Teen Extreme camp, said her fellow students and adult leaders have helped her grow in her faith.
“The way everyone at Sandy Creek never gave up on getting me to go on a Wednesday night that led to my decision to go to camp was truly unreal,” Easley said. “We need those people around us to encourage us and I never understood the importance of that until I was the person needing that in my life.”
Schopp is excited about what this spiritual renewal could lead to this fall.
“My hope is the kids continue to reach out to their classmates once they go back to school and they will make this year really count for Jesus,” he said. “This summer they have been reminded that they were created for a purpose and reason. They realize how they respond to what Christ commands them to do can impact others for eternity.”
Pastor Tim Norris said he is blessed to serve at a church that invests in the next generation.
“What’s going on with our youth is real,” Norris said. “It gives me hope for this generation right now, and into the future. We’ve seen them want willingly go to Bible studies outside our regular meeting times, pray with adults on Wednesday nights, help with our children’s worship services and step out to be who God wants them to be.
“They reflect a bigger picture of what God is doing here at Sandy Creek,” he continued. “I’m blessed to be their pastor and to have seen God move in a mighty way.”