At the end of this year’s Adventure Weekend, Larry Hyche asked Joe Brothers to come on stage and close the event in prayer.
And Brothers told him something that he didn’t intend for Hyche to share.
“He whispered to me, ‘This is my 50th year of working with kids,’” said Hyche, who serves as men’s spiritual development specialist at the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions. “He has been faithfully bringing boys to our events and Royal Ambassadors events for years.”
Hyche was encouraged by that story of faithfulness standing right in front of him. And as he introduced Brothers to pray, he shared the story with the 200 boys, dads and group leaders present at Adventure Weekend on March 24–25 at Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center.
For the past 50 years, Brothers, a member of First Baptist Church Glencoe, has been involved in ministries like Adventure Weekend. It makes sense he’d have a heart for it.
“I had an RA leader in my lifetime — Gerald Smith — who influenced me greatly about coming to the church and eventually led me to the Lord,” Brothers said. “He was one of those awesome leaders who took us camping and got us involved in adventure, and that got me involved the most.”
So in 1973, when Brothers got out of the Marines, he started leading a Baptist Young Men group for high school boys as well as an RA group for elementary-age boys at another church in Glencoe.
Maury Riley was in that RA group — and he was also in the crowd at Adventure Weekend in March when Brothers prayed. He told Hyche that after the prayer.
“As soon as we dismissed,” Hyche said, “a white-headed man approached me with tears in his eyes and with a kid by his side and said, ‘I was in Mr. Joe’s first RA group. He picked me up every week and made sure I went to church. Now here I am investing in my grandson.’”
‘What we want’
Hyche said he grabbed Brothers so he could share in the moment.
“They cried and embraced. We were all sitting there crying,” he said. “This is what we want for men’s discipleship.”
Riley said Brothers “has been doing this a long time; he’s a great guy.”
Brothers also invested in Riley’s son, who went to another church but attended some of his RA weekends. Now Riley’s grandson, Daylon, is a part of Brothers’ group at FBC Glencoe.
“I know these kids love him. My grandson loves him to death,” Riley said. “Joe doesn’t want any accolades; he just loves what he does.”
Brothers agreed that it’s not about him at all.
“It’s about the Lord and His kingdom, but it’s also so many people who have helped me through the years through this program,” he said. “It’s not like I should take the credit. I know how much help I’ve had throughout the years.”
That sort of faithful investment is what Hyche hopes to grow through Adventure Weekend, which used to be called RA Congress. “We have opened it up. It’s not just for RAs anymore; it’s any first- through sixth-grade boys and their dads or leaders,” he said. “If it’s a kids’ minister who wants to bring all the boys in his or her church, that’s great too.”
The event is growing each year, and Hyche said they’re seeing an increase in the numbers of fathers and sons coming together.
“It’s encouraging to see how many pairs we had,” he said.
The two-day camp involves worship and camp activities like an obstacle course, a bonfire, a high-ropes course and Bazooka Ball. It also includes Global Challenge, which is a chance for the boys to rotate through 12 stations on the rec field and learn about different countries and missionaries and play games related to each country.
“It’s amazing to see what they absorb in such a fast amount of time,” Hyche said. “We have a heartbeat of missions in the event. We want them to get solid discipleship and also to infuse the importance of missions education.”
He said he also loves challenging the boys to realize that God can call them to be missionaries.
“When I was growing up in a little church in Walker County, I didn’t think someone like me could be a missionary,” Hyche said. “But we’re able to tell them about men from Alabama who are serving on the field now and show them how God is using Alabama people. Some of these boys might be next.”
He said another goal is for dads to hear the gospel and commit their lives to Jesus too. He said a lifelong friend of his came to faith in Christ when he took his son to RA camp, and he prays the same story might be repeated at each Adventure Weekend.
“The gospel was clearly presented and celebrated through the whole weekend,” Hyche said.
The next Adventure Weekend will be March 22–23, 2024.