It has been less than a year since Zach Payne graduated with a degree in theology, but he has already begun to put the skills he acquired in school to good use. The Apison Adventure Camp, an eight-week summer program sponsored by the Apison Seventh-day Adventist Church, is the result of his enthusiasm for kids, training at Southern, and willingless to let the Lord lead.
In his final semester at Southern, Zach was in the process of interviewing for several different positions with multiple conferences when one job in particular caught his eye. The posting described the need for “a part time youth pastor and day camp director” at a church less than five miles from campus.
“The posting was a little vague, but it intrigued me,” Zach said. “It was the only position that had anything to do with youth or camp, and both of those are fields that I love working in.”
The pastor of the Apison church had come up with the idea to start a day camp program and, during the interview, asked if Zach was ready to take it from there. A few weeks later, Zach got the call that the job was his.
Having previously worked at several different summer youth camps as both a counselor and boy’s director, he already had much of the experience needed to take on a project like this.
With advice from his past camp directors, and the support and funding of the church, Zach was able hire a staff, schedule activities, and create a fun, spiritual environment where kids could spend their summers.
“I've learned almost as much in the past six months of on the job training as I did in school,” Zach said. “Looking back, I can't believe how well things have worked so far, knowing that six months ago I was still in college. There's no way I would have had it in me to do this whole thing without God's help.”
Zach has put together a variety of activities to give kids the fullest summer camp experience possible. They are able to ride horses, go swimming and rock climbing, make crafts, play gym and field sports, participate in drama skits, and more.
Bo Smith sends his two children, Carolina and Tre, to the Apison Adventure Camp and said they are always happy at the end of the day.
“With both my wife and I working for the first time since the kids were born, this has been a tough summer for them,” Smith said. “But once camp started, they had something to look forward to and now they can't wait to get up and go.”
Carolina says her favorite activities have been the drama classes and all the crafts, while Tre feels the sports games are best.
“We've seen a lot of ministerial students from Southern come and go at our church, but Zach really stands out,” Smith said. “He has always been very deliberate about engaging with the church’s youth.”
Though running a camp has many challenges, Zach insists that it has all been worth it. The greatest thing about the whole experience for him he says is that he gets to see God working through him everyday.
“Often I'll wake up in a bad mood and not feel like being a director, but after work that feeling is completely gone,” Zach said. “I feel like God is making a difference through me.”
After the last day of camp in August, Zach will move to Green Bay, Wisconsin, to begin a new ministry as a full-time youth pastor. He regrets that he won’t be here to run the camp next summer, but is excited about where God is leading in his life.