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PUPPET MINISTRY: Churches sponsor camp for students in Florence

July 12, 2018

FLORENCE, S.C. – “Quiet on the set” says professional puppeteer Nick Frasher before about a dozen arms holding puppets pop up behind a black curtain, ready to lip sync and sway to music.

This week, students from four area churches are attending a creative ministries camp hosted at First Baptist Church in downtown Florence. The camp introduces students to four styles of puppetry.

“The goal is to create a team that in the future could share the gospel using puppets to groups, churches, Boys and Girls Clubs and community events,” said Patricia Whaley, director of children’s ministry at First Baptist.

Puppets range in size from lightweight hand puppets to puppets that fit over students’ feet and arms. Camper Addison Pusser said the puppets are a lot heavier than she expected. Some campers might be spotted lifting cans of soup, a recommended tactic from Frasher to build arm strength.

Frasher and his wife, Barbara, have 27 years of experience in creative arts ministry. They have traveled with the Southern Baptist Convention, training others in community outreach. While they are now retired in Summerville, they decided to take their puppets off the shelves and come to Florence to train the next generation of puppeteers.

Camper Mendel Johnston said the instruction is one of her favorite parts about camp.

“It’s really fun, because he (Nick) gets to teach you, and he’s an expert at it,” Mendel said.

Whaley said that collaborating with churches helps provide opportunities to students that one church might not have the resources to organize by itself. Also, it builds community, Whaley said.

“We learn from one another, and we can encourage one another when we work together,” Whaley said.

Sally Ham, the director of children and youth at Elim Baptist Church, said her church wants to expand its puppet ministry. She said the students who are attending the camp are interested in getting a team together. Also, it allows students who might be shy to comfortably use their gifts because they can perform behind a curtain, Ham said.

“They can be creative without being front and center,” Ham said.

The group will conclude camp with a performance at noon Thursday.

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