The bonfire wood lies unlit. The moon rises and illuminates the ground as the boys of Cameron Boys Camp and the girls of Camp Duncan arrive. Staff members and Chiefs, their families and friends mix in the group. The temperature drops and all step forward as torches light the stacked timbers. In minutes, the fire soars sending flames high into the air.
Singing begins and the fire roars in unison while the wood burns turning to embers. The coals will provide fuel for an earthen pit where turkeys will cook for the next day’s Turkey in the Hole.
Turkey in the Hole is an annual event at Cameron Boys Camp. The time welcomes friends of Baptist Children’s Homes from around North Carolina. It is a Thanksgiving celebration before the Campers go home for a holiday visit.
As the bonfire burns down, hearts and bodies warm and the ones willing to share begin to move to the front of the crowd. Those who speak have collected a branch and after they share why they are thankful, the branch is tossed onto the fire. The time has become reflective as the now solemn group comes even closer to the fire.
Chief Jacob Saburro reaches and pats the shoulder of one of the campers from the Ranger Group. The encouragement is all that is needed. The boy steps out and says he is thankful for his family. He is thankful that things are better between him and his mom.
Chief Jacob stands in front of the group next. “I’m thankful for each Ranger. I’m thankful for God’s grace and for the second chances He gives us all.”
Chief Jacob understands second chances. The 24-year-old magna cum laude business administration graduate says he has faced many of the challenges the Campers are facing.
“I had a lot of anger as a boy,” he says. “My father hurt my mom and me and my sisters. Their divorce was messy. Mom chose to move us four states away just to get away from him.”
That move brought them to Lumberton where the displaced family lived with his mom’s brother. “Mom needed time to get on her feet.”
Soon, a job opportunity brought the family to Fayetteville and before long Jacob’s mom had her children in church.
“We visited Snyder Memorial Baptist Church and I met Sandy Saunders,” Chief Jacob recalls. “The RAs were going on a father/son campout and Mr. Sandy invited me to go with him.”
The duo hit it off.
“Jacob was nine years old,” Saunders recalls. “He needed an opportunity to be with other boys. He was a good kid.”
Saunders was the Associate Pastor. He knew that Jacob struggled with the fact that his dad was out of his life. “I would tell Jacob that it was his father’s loss. I was quick to let him know that it wasn’t his fault that his dad was not there.”
Jacob remembers Saunders was tender hearted and not pushy.
“Even though it was hard to trust him at first,” Chief Jacob remembers, “I learned quickly that he was a loving guy with my best interest at heart.”
Saunders is a current trustee of Baptist Children’s Homes. The now retired minister first served as a trustee in 1987 and has consistently served two-year terms since then.
Chief Jacob and Saunders became friends. Saunders says it is much like a grandson/grandfather relationship. Through the years, the two have taken trips, eaten at favorite restaurants, and seen the latest blockbuster movies together.
“Mr. Sandy has been a great role model for me,” Chief Jacob says. “I know he cares for me.”
It’s no surprise that Chief Jacob turned to Saunders when he faced making tough decisions.
“I was all set to begin my career and yet I felt I couldn’t commit to this great job offer I had,” Chief Jacob says. “I went to Mr. Sandy.”
Chief Jacob told Saunders that he felt that God might have something for him other than beginning a business career. He told his friend of an opportunity to do inner-city ministry.
“I felt if God was calling Jacob into ministry,” Saunders says, “then he needed to consider Cameron Boys Camp. I believed he would be a great Chief.”
Saunders’ advice and Chief Jacobs’ new heart for ministry prompted the young man to go online and fill out an employment application. Within 24 hours, he was making plans to tour Camp.
“It’s crazy how God works,” Chief Jacob says. “I didn’t even know about Camp and now I can be a strong influence in the lives of young men. I remember thinking ‘I can be that someone who cares.’”
Saunders believes if a young man wants to enter ministry, then he should consider Cameron Boys Camp.
“Even if someone is not sure about full-time ministry,” Saunders says, “being a Chief could be the answer he is looking for. The experience will benefit him no matter where God leads next.”
Cameron Boys Camp is dedicated to helping boys and their families overcome personal and family struggles. For information on careers at Cameron Boys Camp, visit www.campcareers.org. For information about the services offered at Cameron Boys Camp please call 910-245-4034 or go www.CameronBoysCamp.org