Living water for thirsty souls

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Sometimes you find an altar in the middle of a picturesque sunset, sometimes it's in the middle of an onion field. Sometimes gospel is the sound of a baby’s first cry or the truth behind the words of an unfailing love story. Sometimes a testimony is a weed growing through the dark crack of a busy street. Sometimes you find a chapel in the middle of your living room when you’re overwhelmed and just need a prayer. And sometimes churches are found within people, who cleanse your thirsty soul with love, light and living water. This is the story of a young man born with a cathedral sized heart that’s filled with heaven sized intentions and called to be a messenger of God. Meet 23-year-old Cameron Kennison, a Swainsboro native and most recently, the founder and Pastor of Living Water Baptist Church in Cobbtown. A church, planted with a mustard seed type of faith and deep roots that were watered with a higher love. “It all started when I was younger. My whole life I’ve been around the ministry. My dad has been a preacher for 21 years now, so I've quite literally grown up in the church.” If you’ve ever attended a Sunday service at Southside Baptist Church then you’ve probably met Cameron’s incredible family and his dad, Chad Kennison, who has served as Pastor there for six years now. “I’ve spent late nights sleeping on the pews as a kid while my mom and dad worked.” His mom, Nicole, told me of the times that he would crawl to the altar as a baby, seeing God’s divine order within her son from the very beginning. “We were standing around fellowship one night, and he crawled up there like always but this time, Mrs. Etheridge looked over at me and said, ‘That baby is going to be a preacher one day!’' she recalled. Cameron lived up to that prediction. However, he says that his path to trusting his purpose wasn’t very easy to accept. “To be honest, I never really desired to be in the ministry. It was never something that I was passionate about pursuing. I even struggled on and off with my salvation and relationship with Him. But the Lord used several things in my life to draw me in and show me that it was meant for me.” Things that were life changing for not only himself but many others. “First of all, with His grace and mercy that I experienced in my life from Him and just how He loves me; what He did for me on the cross. That of course pricked my heart and made me want to do more for Him. Then, one Sunday night, the Lord asked me to take part in a mission to Japan, by putting understanding in my heart for people who are in other countries that have never heard of Jesus and his Salvation. The Lord used that to show me the need to share His name and glory. From that point on I just surrendered to him and said, ``Lord, if you want me to be a preacher then that’s who I’ll be for you.” and in 2012 I surrendered my heart to the ministry to really do whatever the Lord wanted me to do.” A testimony that he says could not have been accomplished without the guidance of his Pastor and pillar of strength, his dad. “In the Bible it says, “Many are called but few are chosen.” I was about 14 or 15 at the time and I re-member every time that I began to pray, I couldn’t help but feel that the Lord was stirring in my heart to do something more. So, I went to my #1 mentor, my pastor, and that’s my dad. I said “Dad, how do you know if The Lord is calling you to preach?” and he said this, “If you can do anything else, go do it! I don’t mean just making ends meet or that kind of thing, I mean if you can truly do anything else and not preach and not do ministry, then do it.” That was my assurance.” Unable to ignore the obligations that was set forth for his life, he chased them and has made it a mission to help others find their way home too. “Since that time, I have served in the youth ministry and the music ministry. I've preached in jails, rescue missions, on street corners, nursing homes, Albania,

overseas, anywhere that I could preach." Just as the Lord led this young pastor to witness to the lost and weary hearted, God also led people to seek His word from Cameron, allowing him to help save many precious souls. "There’s a couple of encounters that I keep close in my heart because the Lord allowed me to be there as a witness to help lead them to Him,” Cameron be-gan. “The first person that comes to mind is Cody Parks. At the time, I was in children's minis-try. Cody came to church a few times with Billy Chapman. He played baseball with Billy’s sons, and they were good friends. One Sunday morning, I gave just a simple Bible lesson on the love of Jesus. After service, Cody came to me because he wanted to know more about Jesus. We talked for a little while and through the good Lord’s message I was able to lead him to the Lord that very day. Not long after, the Lord called Cody home and allowed me to preach at his funeral. I’m honored that Jesus and his family let me do that for him. Another, more re-cent encounter, happened in my office. A dear friend of mine and buddy from work was struggling with his relationship with the Lord and questioning if God was real. I was able to do some Bible study with him and one evening while we were there in my office, talking about salvation and being saved and how to know we were saved, I was able to lead him to the Lord. I’ve preached at jails and rescue missions and places like that but some of the most important and special moments were when I was able to help friends and family. The Lord put me in this path and allowed me to lead them to our Savior.” When asked if he feels that it’s hard to get acceptance from members of the congregation due to his young age, Cameron admitted that it isn’t always easy but it’s always purposeful. “That’s when I’m reminded that it’s not necessarily about age but it's a matter of what you have to say. If you have something worth listen-ing to, people are going to listen, and the word of God is always worth listening too. Pastor Mike Norman in Lake City Florida, has always said “If you’ll just get up and start talking sweet things about Jesus, people will come and listen to you.” I’m a firm believer in that. If preachers, no matter their age, just get up and start talking sweet things about Jesus, people will listen. I’ve gone to jails before and have preached to inmates who were 20 and 30 years older than me. Every one of them is filled with experiences from a hard life’s past, and here I am coming into their territory with my nice little shirt and tie on all the while knowing that they know I’ve not lived the same life as them. At first, they don’t want to listen to anything that I have to say, but then when I start talking about Jesus, The Bible, and start giving the word of God, they listen. I do find a challenge in it, very often, but that’s when I’m reminded that there’s nothing within myself that I can do to change the game, all that I can do is offer the word of God and the truth that's in it. It’s nothing within myself, just of what the words of God can offer and what the Holy Spirit will do.” He also explains the many challenges he faced that helped strengthen his faith in his calling. “I can’t do anything but preach. Of course, there are things that I do to pay the bills and keep food on the table but as far as not preaching, I can’t do anything but that! There’s been times that I’ve said, Lord I’ll go to church, and I’ll be faithful in Church, I’ll do right, I’ll be a good husband, I’ll be a Christian man, I’ll stand for you but ministry, I won’t do it. I’ll go do something else. And I try to do something else, then I’m reminded of my father’s words, If

you can do anything else, then go do it and I just can’t do anything else. I can’t get away from it. He keeps giving me opportunities and every time he gives me the opportunity, I take the opportunity.” A recent opportunity that was presented to Cameron, was the chance to plant a church. Knowing from the very beginning that God needed him for greater things. “I said from the start, we were at a crossroads. Between my wife and I, we had been praying and we knew that God was wanting us to do something for Him.” Cameron and his wife Kristina both have been attending services at Southside Baptist Church here in Swainsboro for about 10 years, growing up there together. They both felt like God wanted them to do something more. “At the time, the Lord was opening a door for us to go to Albania, and Albania has been a big part in my life and my wife's life. So, for a moment we were thinking that God was waiting for us to go to Albania as missionaries, so that was one thing that we were praying about but I also had a burden in my heart to plant a church somewhere. So, my wife and I were praying and talking about it, and we decided that if it wasn’t one, it was the other,” he further stated. The Kennisons went on a fruitful mission trip to Albania, but at the end of the trip they still felt that they weren’t where God needed them to be. They began the search for a foundation in Metter due to an undeniable feeling of permanence there, that flooded both Cameron and Kristina. “I always said, if I plant a church, I’m going to do it in Metter. It’s something that's always just kind of been there in the back of my mind and I just felt that it’s where God wanted a church and where the Lord wanted us to be.” However, Cameron hit many barriers in his journey that left him to question the process. The couple began looking for a building in Metter but to no avail. Being eager to try something, Cameron started hosting a bible study in the back room of Scoops in Metter. “So, I set up a little place for people to come and listen, but God opened a different door that led us to get in contact with some good people over in Cobbtown, which as you know, is about 10 minutes outside of Metter. After talking to them I was informed that there was a church building that hadn’t been in use for over a year and a half or so and had dwindled down to one couple. They said 'We’ve been praying that God would send somebody to use the building. We want you to use this building because we want to see The Lord do something in this building again," Cameron explained with joy. “In the beginning, we wanted to do something for Metter, but God picked us up and pointed us in the direction that He wanted. Which is Cobbtown. You know, it’s not where we thought we’d be but it’s where He wanted us to be.” As if it were written in the books, this new path seemed to be a kismet light that was nothing less than predetermined for them. “Now, the ice cream shop that we were planning to meet in, is closing. I love Scoops and it breaks my heart that they’re closing but at the same time, it was like He was saying, ‘See! Do you see? If you try to do this on your own, trusting in your own plan and your own way, it’s going to shut down every time!’ He literally led us and pointed us in the direction that he wanted us to go,” Cameron and his wife now live day by day just to try to do what brings honor and glory to God by trusting him to take the wheel. “I got to have faith that if God really wants me to do this that he’s going to meet all the needs and he’s going to take care of it all and he’s done that so far. I’ve not had to pay out of pocket for anything yet, and I’m willing to. I am. I’m willing to. From the beginning I’ve said God, this is going to be your church, I want you to do with it what you want, and he has. We’ve got a building; we have invitation cards coming and a sign that’s going to be put up. There’s a generous pastor who’s donating one hundred nice, padded chairs. Like you’d see in the sanctuaries. We have a sound system guy booked. Truthfully, everything that we need to start a church, we have it. I’ve had people ask me, “Well what do you need?” and it’s hard to think of anything because God has taken care of it already. I know it’s cliche, but faith has helped us accomplish it all.” Cameron smiled thinking about the path that led them to where they are now. Once God reconstructed their plan and placed them in the destination where they were meant to be every-thing seemed to start falling in place, including the name. “We were originally going to be Community Baptist Church in Metter but when He led us to Cobbtown I got to looking around and thought, I don’t know that Community Baptist will be as fitting. Not that Cobbtown isn’t a great little community but because the church is centered right in the middle of multiple on-ion fields.” he laughed. That’s when Cameron was reminded of a passage from the Bible that holds great meaning to him from his time in Albania. "When God was leading the children of Israel in the wilderness, they became aggravated with him because they didn't have what they wanted, and they said we would rather go back to Egypt, which is where they were slaves, and be with our cruel taskmasters and eat onions. God told Moses to strike the rock and living water came out of the rock so God gave me the thought, ``You're in a place where there’s onions all around you, have a place where they can find living water." Like a glimmer of destiny and a hum from above, that’s the moment God laid Living Water Baptist Church in his heart. “Here’s the neat thing, I didn’t realize it but when we were in Albania, one of their major water brands is called Living Water and their motto is “For a thirsty soul”. After we decided that we were going to name the church Living Water, I realized that it had been a huge part of our journey from the very beginning. When discussing the challenges of moving from his family church to his own, Cameron says, "I love my home church. I love my family church. I love them! They have supported me when I didn’t need to be supported. They loved me when I didn’t deserve to be loved. They were always there to put their arm around me, to pray with me, to shake my hand, to tell me they love me, to call me, and so that’s the biggest thing. Me and my dad, my pastor, we’re going to work together so that they can be at as many of my services as they can and so that I can be at as many services for them as I can. I’ve even set the times up to where on Sunday morning or Sunday afternoon service, I’ll be able to be at Southside and then they can come over to Cobbtown at Living Water on Wednesday night. We’re not leaving or parting ways. We hope to eventually have Sunday morning services but until then, we’re going to work together. I love my family and I would be lost without their support. I was raised in Swainsboro, at Southside, that’s my home so this is not goodbye, it’s just I’ll see you later. Because God needs me elsewhere. The goal is to go to another location where there is not a good bible believing church that cares and loves for the community and start a church and win new people so that they can have eternal life and hear the sweet name of Jesus. That's the goal.” If you would like to support Cameron and his family at Living Water Baptist Church, you can follow and reach out to them on Facebook to find the latest service information. "Our first official service will be March 6th." Cameron continues, "We’re gonna have a 6’o’clock evening service and we’re also going to be doing Wednesday night evening services as well at 7. Y'all be sure to come see us!"

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