Remembering & celebrating 20 years of Zona Camp

By Raquel Kerr, Photos by Christian Challenge | Jul 18, 2023

“Remember, the great things that God has done.”

On June 26, a total of 830 students and youth leaders rolled onto the campus of California Baptist University to kick off Zona Camp 2023. Zona Camp is unique as it offers four camp experiences in one where students can choose from Zona Experience, Missions, Worship Catalyst or Impact Leadership Training.

Zona’s mission is to lead students to Jesus and provide a place to grow in Him, and that is exactly what occurred at Zona this year.

Each day, students started their day with a worship celebration led by The New Divide and they heard from James Cavalier, camp speaker. Students were energized, challenged and ready to attend their Zona experience for the day.

“The Zona Team makes sure the band and speaker are biblically based and preaching God’s Word,” said Chad Murrell, camp director and pastor of First Southern Baptist Church of Scottsdale.

“Plus, these are all churches from Arizona, so all the friendships that students build are with other Christians from the same state and oftentimes the same city as them.”

Zona’s theme this year was REMEMBER, based on Psalm 77:11-15: “I will remember the deed of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds …” During evening worship, Cavalier challenged students to remember when God has done great things in their lives.

“Use these experiences to remind you that God sees you and hears you,” he said.

Students had opportunities to respond to the Gospel message, to answer a call to ministry and to pray with the Zona Crew. The Zona Crew included 19 Christian Challenge staffers who went above and beyond as they were on mission to serve at camp and minister to students during the week.

At the end of camp, there were a total of 16 decisions for salvation and 56 students responded to a call to ministry. The last night of camp, Zona campers filled the gym with a loud roar of worship and praise as they celebrated all God did during the week and also celebrated Zona’s anniversary.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Zona Camp, and what a reason to celebrate the legacy of Zona!

In the summer of 2003, Zona Camp began as hundreds of students and leaders came together on the campus of Point Loma Nazarene University. It was the beginning of something new and exciting.

Since then, Zona Camp has been hosted at Point Loma Nazarene University, California Baptist University, Northern Arizona University and Glorieta Camp, and each year the Lord has done great things. Since 2003, more than 12,000 campers have attended Zona, 386 students have answered a call to ministry and over 1,200 students made a profession of faith.

The long-lasting impact of Zona was seen even this year. Many former students who were once campers returned to serve as Zona Crew and youth leaders, and some have even become church leaders as a response to a call to ministry that began at Zona.

Zona has come a long way, and, even when faced with major trials in 2020, Zona returned strong in 2021. Leaders plan to keep Zona’s mission and vision strong as they keep moving forward.

“I am incredibly thankful that Zona has made it through and that the Arizona Mission Network supported us and championed us to ensure that we carry the mission that we have,” Murrell said.

Just as Cavalier challenged students to “remember the great things that God has done,” may we be challenged to also remember what God has done, thank Him for it and tell somebody about it.

Raquel Kerr, a freelance writer living in Glendale, is a member of First Southern Baptist Church of Scottsdale, where her husband, Josh, is family pastor.

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