Arizona Mission Offering at Work: God moves in students’ lives at Zona Camp

By Johanna Willett, Photos by Christian Challenge | Aug 1, 2022

Over the course of a week at Zona Camp, Kyle Villa noticed student behaviors change.

Villa served at Zona this year as a member of the Zona Crew, a team of college students who work with teenagers during the week of camp.

As the week went on, Villa said he began to notice teens inviting others in and paying attention to those on their own.

“Throughout the week, I have seen God moving in students,” said Villa, who got connected with Zona through Christian Challenge at Arizona State University. “I’ve seen them encouraging each other and caring for each other. … They’re very inclusive and that’s God’s work.”

About 420 middle and high school students attended Zona Camp at California Baptist University from June 26 to July 1 this year. Of those, 26 made first-time commitments to follow Jesus, 17 rededicated their lives to Him and 17 answered a call to ministry.

The Arizona Mission Offering aids this life change, providing financial support for Zona Camp that helps keep the cost down for students. This year, students paid $349 each to attend camp. Zona Camp Director Chad Murrell said Arizona Mission Offering giving prevents significant price hikes that would ultimately make camp unaffordable for many students.

This year, the offering goal is $180,000, with $22,500 of that allocated toward student ministries (which includes Zona Camp). And at Zona, there are opportunities for students at every stage of their faith journey.

“Some students connect with Christ through serving,” said Murrell, who is also the lead pastor of First Southern Baptist Church, Scottsdale. “Some of them do it through music and art. Some of them do it through sitting down in God’s Word and talking about it within the context of other people. Some of them are at a stage in their faith where they are ready to be pushed into the next level of their calling. … We offer multiple ways for students to grow closer to Christ, depending on where they are in their walk with Christ and their maturity in Christ.”

And it works. Some leaders who brought groups of students to this year’s Zona Camp were at one time students themselves. Through this camp and the transformations that happen here, God has prepared new leaders who continue to introduce teenagers to Christ.

“It’s amazing to look at the youth ministers that are here at Zona this week and count how many of them came to know Christ or answered a call to full-time ministry through Zona,” Murrell said.

“This is the instrument God has used in a huge way to continue to provide student ministry for the state of Arizona.”

Johanna Willett, a freelance writer living in Tucson, is a member of Mountain View Baptist Church, Tucson.

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