By Bob Allen
Passport, Inc., an ecumenical Christian camping ministry and longtime partner of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, has launched a $1.5 million capital campaign, bolstered by a $500,000 matching-funds challenge grant from the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation.
“The students and staff that are attending Passport camps now will one day be leading our CBF churches as pastors, musicians and lay people,” said Jackie Baugh Moore, a member of the foundation board. Moore is a granddaughter of the late John Baugh, co-founder of the SYSCO Corporation and an active Baptist layman who was known for philanthropic support of moderate Baptist causes. The foundation conditions that legacy.
One of the ministries to emerge out of the conflict in the Southern Baptist Convention in the 20th century was a weeklong camp in 1993 called Passport, started by five former staff members of the popular Centrifuge summer camping ministry sponsored by the Baptist Sunday School Board (now LifeWay Christian Resources). With sponsorship from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Florida, Passport offered 162 teenagers an alternative summer experience distinguished among other things by a woman as camp pastor.
Today Passport, Inc., hosts more than 5,700 campers a summer ranging in age from third grade to seniors in high school. This year Passport welcomed its 100,000 camper. The ministry also employs about 60 college students, seminary students and young professionals as summer staffers, providing an important pipeline for emerging leaders in the 25-year-old CBF.
Based in Birmingham, Ala., Passport, Inc., is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that receives no operational support from any denominational group. Registration provides about 75 percent of the ministry’s annual income. The rest comes from individual gifts and foundation grants.
“Passport’s moderate theological voice is not easily found in mainstream student ministry programs,” said Passport co-founder and President David Burroughs. “After 24 years, we know that our specific theological voice comes at a premium — a premium we can no longer ask campers and their parents to bear alone. We are grateful to the Baugh Foundation for this incredible gift and are prayerful that others will accept this challenge for support.”
Passport is one of the first youth camps to incorporate a hands-on missions project into a week of camp. In 1993 campers built hurricane shutters for use in the CBF’s relief project in Miami after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Local projects ranging from painting and scraping to planting community gardens and working with the elderly and children vary by location.
“There is no more practical way to invest in the future of compassionate Christian leaders than to give to Passport,” Moore said.