SILOAM SPRINGS – “But God…” is a little phrase found in Ephesians 2:4 with infinite possibility and hope. It was this phrase that has carried Jeremy Freeman, pastor of First Baptist Church in New Castle, Okla., and his family through difficult trials and the refining fires of God the Father.
The Freeman’s trials have been Job-like. After losing a 7-year-old son, Trey, to cancer in 2013, their oldest son’s car was hit broadside by a semi-truck going full speed on a rainy night in Oklahoma City. On that night in December 2017, Caleb should have died, but God…
The Freeman family’s path in life has not been easy. It’s not what they would have chosen, but it is the race God laid out for them. The race is the message Jeremy talked about at Sproing; a children’s retreat held at Camp Siloam on the weekend of April 4-6.
Using Acts 20:22-24 (NKJ) Freeman talked about doing what God has called us to do even though it may be difficult. Acts 20:22-23 says, “And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”
Sproing is designed to get first time campers ready for summer camp. The keynote speaker this year was Freeman, the son of well-known evangelist Ken Freeman, he used the story God has been authoring in his family to connect with campers, help them see the need for God and to run the race God has laid out for them, even though that race may get difficult.
“People think, ‘if I become a Christian, life will become easier,’” Freeman told campers. “I wanna tell you something. When you begin to follow Jesus, life often gets a little bit harder.”
“I want to introduce you to my life,” said Freeman in his first sermon of the retreat. “Six years ago, my 7-year-old son passed away. He had cancer. Trey was awesome. Then, about 16 months ago my 16-year-old son was on the way to a basketball game with his brother Clayton and he hydroplaned into oncoming traffic on I-35. That night he suffered such an injury that rescue workers had called in a fatality team because they assumed he wouldn’t live.”
Freeman told about how his son survived the wreck but was in a coma for eight weeks and has been recovering ever since. Freeman also told the campers how Trey courageously faced death, but contemplated his salvation in the process.
Freeman said, “It took me a long time to talk about it because it was so raw and personal; I almost couldn’t do it. I would get so emotional and then I would feel bad about it because I don’t want this to be about me. So, one of the things I pray every time I share Trey and Caleb’s story is, ‘let the story point people to you.”
Freeman’s family story wasn’t about him this weekend, the campers were gripped by his children’s stories. Six campers were moved to make professions of faith during the weekend. “Trey’s story is so powerful and it resonates with younger kids, why wouldn’t I tell his story,” said Freeman. “I want Trey to meet a lot of people in heaven who are there because they heard his (Trey’s) story,” said Freeman. “I often think about that, like tonight, when people give their life to Jesus.”
Sproing continues to be a retreat that is reaching children for the kingdom and connecting children with their church. Josh Kimbrell, Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church, Greenwood, said, “Time after time I see our kids hear from the Lord in this moment because they just take in time that’s different.”
“I love kids. I have six kids of my own. I feel like I’m able to speak ‘kid.’ But the other thing is, I get great joy out of talking to kids because they listen. They take your word as gospel truth; which is why you’ve got to preach the word, because they’ll take in what you say.”
An Oklahoma City director heard about Caleb Freeman’s story and is making a documentary on the family’s journey. You can see more of the Freeman’s story and trailers for the movie at facebook.com/prayforcalebfreeman.
Jason Wilkie is executive director of Camp Siloam.