OVERGAARD, Ariz. – A 2019 camp staffer with LifeWay Christian Resources was arrested this week in Overgaard, Ariz., and charged with multiple felony counts of child molestation by the Navajo County Sheriff's Office.
Noah Paradis, 19, served as a summer staffer at CentriKid Camp, a ministry of LifeWay. The alleged abuse of two minors occurred at Bison Ranch Retreat Center during the camp. Paradis' LifeWay camp involvement was limited to the week of June 10-14, LifeWay said in a news release received by Baptist Press Friday, June 14. As soon as LifeWay was informed of the charges, they terminated his employment, the release said.
LifeWay acting CEO Brad Waggoner commended the alleged victims for their "bravery" in reporting the alleged abuse, saying he was "heartbroken" for them and their families.
"Our primary concern is the safety and wellbeing of all our camp participants," said Waggoner, noting LifeWay grieves at the report that anyone "representing LifeWay would behave in this manner and abuse their position of authority with a child. LifeWay is working with local law enforcement as the investigation is ongoing and will continue to follow their lead in the case.
"We also want to come alongside the families and their church and walk with them through this ordeal," Waggoner said in the release. "We have alerted the six churches that attended this camp about the events that took place and included information that would enable them to report any additional incidents."
When leaders were informed of the incident at the camp, they immediately notified state authorities, the release said, and the Navajo County Sheriff's Office and the parents of the victims were contacted.
LifeWay has been hosting camps for several decades. More than 100,000 children and students will participate in multiple camps across the nation this summer.
"LifeWay is committed to providing a safe, Christian environment for all camp participants," Waggoner said. "We continue to advance our sex abuse training for employees across LifeWay, including all summer staff who work with kids and student camps."
LifeWay conducts both reference and criminal background checks for all seasonal and full-time staff at its camps, and all staff are required to take sexual abuse training, the release said.
Churches that attend camp certify that all adult volunteers and chaperones have passed a background check. LifeWay also engages an independent expert on abuse and reporting that all camp leaders can contact for additional support and direction, LifeWay said.
"We are grieved our safeguards did not prevent this from happening," Waggoner said. "We are committed to continually evaluating and updating our policies and procedures to ensure we are doing everything we can to prevent this type of event in the future. LifeWay will continue to be vigilant about the security and safety of the children and teens who attend LifeWay camps and events."
Written by Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.