NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – A few hours of golf can produce a lasting impact, and not only in terms of scores or sunburn.
For the second year in a row, Bethel College golf coach Gregg Dick took several of his seasoned and incoming freshman golfers to Kids Across America, a camp on Table Rock Lake in southern Missouri. KAA is a Christian sports camp for inner city children and youth – around 6,300 come to the organization’s facilities in Missouri each summer from nearly 500 cities across the United States.
Dick and his players – one senior, one junior, one sophomore and four incoming freshmen – spent June 5-8 at the camp, which included 2½ days of working with the young campers. “In that time, we worked with around 100 campers, teaching golf skills, listening and talking to them about their stories, struggles and outlook on life in general,” Dick said. “Only one of these guys was on our trip last year, so it was a new experience for most of them.
“The golf instruction we participated in takes place at the Payne Stewart Memorial Golf Complex, funded by the Stewart family and other professional golfers in memory of [1991 and 1999] U.S. Open champion Payne Stewart who [died] in a plane crash a number of years ago,” Dick continued. “Golf is a unique sport, which builds on character qualities that KAA desires to instill in all the kids who experience camp. During their time at KAA, every child has a chance to participate in the programs at the golf facility. The staff uses the game of golf to teach the kids biblical principles and skills they can apply to their everyday lives.
“While teaching golf to campers was our main activity, we also participated in other team building and camp activities, including Crosstalk, a unique presentation of the Gospel by camp personnel, a treetops ropes course, boating and tubing on Table Rock Lake, a ‘Challenge’ team-building course, a zip line and swimming,” Dick said.
Two different groups of campers come each day for golf instruction, Dick noted. The first group has chosen golf as one of their specialty activities to concentrate on during the week. They come from the 13-14- and 15-18-year old camps and spend a couple hours each morning on golf.
“The second group is from the 10-12-year old camp,” he said. “They just spend a few minutes each afternoon being introduced to golf. These are the kids who basically know nothing about golf and are just really excited for the opportunity to hit a ball and be like Tiger Woods.”
“It was an awesome experience,” said Cameron Voth, incoming freshman from Goessel. “I have already received an e-mail from one of the kids saying how much they appreciated us helping them with golf.”
Added Zach Frey, sophomore from Goessel, “I had a lot of fun at the KAA camp. It was a remarkable experience that not only influenced my outlook on inner city kids but on Christ as well. Knowing what some of those kids go through and being able to be there for them as a friend is a great feeling.”
“I found it amazing how the Lord was not only integrated into the game of golf at the camp but also into the everyday lives of the campers during their stay,” said Nathan Schmidt, senior from Tribune. “It was great to be able to share our passion and knowledge of the game of golf with several campers and hope that our short time spent with them will have an impact on their lives in the future.”
“My most memorable student was a young man in the high school age group,” said Jordan Esau, incoming freshman from Hutchinson. “He was from Memphis and attended a high school with around 4,000 kids, most of them gang members. He said that he had been in a gang during the last year but he has found God and feels he is a ‘good boy now.
“We talked a little about why it is good to be a Christian. He tries to explain that to his friends at home but nobody understands. I really tried to [tell] him that it is most important that he is making good decisions right now. I felt like I had made a positive impact on him. It really took a while for him to talk to me, but as he did I could tell he felt comfortable with me. One thing that made me feel great is when he hit a ball really well, like 125-150 yards, he would look at me and say, ‘That one was for you.’ It’s incredible the number of lives this camp touches.”
Other golf team members who went to camp were Eric Regier, incoming freshman from Haysville, John Reimer, incoming freshman from Hesston, and Alan Skinner, junior from Clay Center.
“The guys had a great time again this year,” Dick said. “It’s awesome to see them working with these kids who come from totally different home situations than all of our players. You hope you are making a positive impact on these kids and helping them understand what it is to live a life for Christ. However, in the end it is humbling [to] think about what you have learned and can take away from each of these kids as well. Even though their home situations are rough, there are still many things we can learn from them.
“It is also extremely rewarding for me to see how the players all come together and unite as a team through the various team-building activities we participated in,” he added.
Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the highest ranked Kansas college in the national liberal arts category of U.S. News & World Report’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2008. In sports, Bethel is part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC). For more information, see the Bethel Web site at www.bethelks.edu.