• Arkansas Baptist News

Siloam’s ‘Once Upon A Story’ changes lives


A scene from Camp Siloam’s 2019 production of “Once Upon A Story.” Each year camp staffers perform an original theater production for campers.

SILOAM SPRINGS – Gracen Seabaugh wanted the part in the production with all of her heart, but she was afraid.


If she agreed to play the role of Ritva in Camp Siloam’s 2019 production of “Once Upon A Story,” she wondered if she would be able to deliver in the same way her sister had six years earlier.


The part was demanding, and this year it required singing. At the same age, Gracen’s sister, Shelby, was the lead actress of Camp Siloam’s 2013 production of “The Gracie Spoon Diner,” and the play was a hit. Shelby had a larger-than-life personality; she was full of energy; everyone was her friend, and she was always on the go. Gracen looked up to her big sister and desired to follow in her footsteps. The next spring, before returning to camp, Shelby died in her sleep at age 21.


The decision to play the lead role in Camp Siloam’s production was emotional, so the Seabaugh family decided to process the decision together.


“Dad printed out three copies of the script, and we read through the script out-loud together at the kitchen table,” said Gracen. “We got to the last scene. Dad was reading for the Author, and we kind of stopped for a second because the dialogue mirrored a conversation we had years earlier about being a main character in our family’s story.”


Six years earlier Mike Seabaugh, pastor of Central Baptist Church, Magnolia, had helped Gracen process the death of her sister by explaining that maybe Gracen was the main character of the family’s story.


In the 2019 production of “Once Upon A Story,” the Author (played by Tra Hill) tells Gracen’s character, Ritva, that she shouldn’t be worried about who is the main character of the story.


Camp Siloam campers enjoy slices of watermelon.

“All stories are my story,” said the Author. “And you all have a part of it. So while you may not consider your role impressive or successful, it was something even more than that…it was significant. Even if no one ever finds your name in their storybook, it is most definitely written in mine…and that’s the book that truly counts.”


Gracen said, “There was a neat parallel between the camp story and my life’s path.”


Throughout Ritva’s journey, she meets characters that remind her about her sister’s path and her own path – which is different from her sister’s path. She hears about how her sister is doing and develops the courage to stay on her path.


For the Seabaugh family, Gracen’s role in the play would be a poetic conclusion to a story only God could create.


“It was as if this would be one of the last things I would do in my sister’s footsteps,” said Gracen. “I followed Shelby’s footsteps to Ouachita Baptist University (OBU), to work at Camp Siloam my first summer and then as the lead in the play. The summer is always so sad when it’s over, but it’s so fulfilling, because I felt like I walked this journey with God. While the journey is over, there are still many adventures ahead.”


This summer Camp Siloam chose to illustrate what it means to be “one with the Father,” as Jesus describes in John 17:20-21. Scriptwriter Adam Wheat, admissions counselor at OBU, chose to illustrate oneness with the Father using an Author who inserts himself into his story to dialogue with his main character.


“Adam did a great job with a complex concept,” said Jason Wilkie, executive director of Camp Siloam. “When you think about how an author writes a story, he thinks about the character before the character is even created. He knows the backstory of the character and their future. As he writes, he knows what they are going to say, and the character knows the author’s thoughts. That’s a great illustration of how the Father has thought about us and how that oneness relationship might look.”


Other themes from John 17 include that Jesus is sending us out into the world, that He has a path for us to follow and that He is authoring His story through each of us.


One of the camp’s counselors makes a joke.

The Heavenly Father authored a fantastic story in the life of Ralph Iweriebor (pronounced Weir-e-bore). Iweriebor was a staff member this summer at Camp Siloam. Iweriebor moved to the Arkansas Baptist Children’s Home in Monticello at age 15. He became a Christian at Camp Siloam after attending camp with the Children’s Home in his third year. This summer was Iweriebor’s first summer on staff at Camp Siloam, and he loved it.


The Arkansas Baptist Children’s Home at Monticello attended camp July 1-5, and Iweriebor was there to serve them.


“I know there were several kids from the Children’s Home that were not saved.” said Iweriebor. “One night one of my guys came up to me and said, ‘Hey, I’m having questions. I’m scared because everybody thinks I’m saved. I think they’ll judge me.’ I told him, ‘They’re not going to judge you. If anything, they’ll be happy for you.’”


The last night of camp, Iweriebor and several of his house parents had a long conversation in front of the worship center with the boy, and the boy gave his life to Christ. Later that night, Iweriebor said two other Children’s Home children came to him and said they were having questions. Iweriebor and their house parents led them to the Lord.


“I was glad I was able to be a part of their salvation and to be a part of the Children’s Home ministry to kids. It was one of the best feelings in the world to be a part of something like that. I prayed all summer that I could help someone receive Christ. Later that night I broke down in tears in my bedroom because I was so happy,” said Iweriebor.


At the end of the summer, Arkansas Baptists’ ministry to children and youth at Camp Siloam saw 786 life-changing commitments. Among those commitments, 436 were decisions to receive Jesus; 189 were re-commitments; 105 campers expressed an interest in baptism, and 56 expressed an interest in missions or full-time ministry.


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