The mission of Kids Across America is to build, equip and empower kids. The Christian camp employs camping, education, and the gospel for reaching urban youth.
While COVID-19 shut down operations last year, it’s back open, although fewer kids are taking part. Despite the challenges, lives are still being changed.
“We’re at about 28, 30 percent,” Randy Odom, President and CEO for Kids Across America told CBN News. “We normally have about 9,000 kids every summer. We’re operating at a reduced number.”
Odom leads the Branson, Missouri-based ministry with the goal of preparing young people to reach their urban communities for Christ.
“We have young people from all over the nation, Florida, West Palm Beach, from Dallas, Texas, St. Louis, Memphis, Chicago,” explained Odom. “The young people that we focus on are in urban areas, and they do live in cities, and we do intentionally seek out relationships with ministries and churches who are in under-resourced areas, and we want to provide resources to them and one way we do that is through our camps.”
Christian rapper Lecrae attended the camp as a teenager and now his kids are carrying on the tradition.
He recently said through social media, “God is using Kids Across America…I experienced it, and now my kids are.”
The camp’s decision to reopen follows a year of unprecedented challenges and changes for today’s younger generation.
“Their schedules were hindered, they didn’t have school,” said Odom. “They weren’t able to be exposed to certain after-school programs or sports activities or even the mentoring relationships that they would have. So, we felt really strongly even opening at a reduced capacity.”
That is why majoring in fun is one of the goals for the camp.
“We have ski tubing. We have high ropes courses. We have all the regular sports, basketball, football, soccer, flag football,” said Odom. “We just make sure that any kids that come through our gate are having an unbelievable time.”
“KAA’s pool is probably the biggest pool I’ve ever seen,” said Chloe Jackson of Little Rock, AR. “It has a lot of fun activities like the high dive, and the Blob, and the trapeze and the rings, and all of them are fun.”
Safety measures such as masks, temperature checks, and loads of hand sanitizer are now part of the camping experience at KAA.
“We have a phenomenal health care team that works with us,” commented Odom. “We test, we do offer the vaccine. We feel like we’ve layered a blanket of protection around our camp.”
According to Camp Minder, nearly two out of three Summer camps remain closed this year.
Several that re-opened have reported outbreaks.
While that was an issue of concern, Odom said the staff is well prepared.
“We’re monitoring other camps that are around us. We’re also looking, in conversation with the CDC on a regular basis,” said Odom. “We even have an app that we use, and we monitor symptoms ten days before a young person comes [as well as] before a group leader comes.”
And despite fewer kids, those who attend the camp are responding to the unchanging Gospel of Christ.
“What we’re seeing inside those smaller numbers is we’ve had almost 48% of those kids come to Christ, make a profession of faith, or respond to the gospel in a tangible way,” explained Odom.
Corey Peers of Alexandria, LA said, “I think I’m going to be different because I’m going to start reading my Bible more trying to get a better relationship with God and take all that in.”
That is a result that pushes Odom and his team to press on even amid a global health crisis.
“We major in first experiences. The first time a child does this, the first time a child jumps off a high dive. But for many of them, it’s the first time they commit their lives to Christ.”