Christmas comes early at Austin church

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Children at First Baptist Church in Austin are getting an early Christmas this year.

Christmas in Summer is the theme for the church's Bible camp, run by Matt Staley and his wife Marcy, traveling missionaries who have come here for the last seven summers.

With no Santa or reindeer, tinsel or stockings, Staley said Jesus is the only focus for the event.

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"There are so many other things that get in the way of the true meaning of Christmas," he said.

The true meaning, Staley said, is "that Christ came so we could have eternal life in heaven."

"When the true Christmas rolls around, they'll understand it better, because it won't be clouded with other things," he said.

The Staleys have been traveling with their two sons for the last 10 years, and Bible camps are not their sole activity.

As a part of the Continental Baptist Mission, the family has gone all over the country with their mobile home, running summer camps, filling in while churches are between pastors and doing a number of other service activities related to evangelization.

Recently they spent a month in Duluth, visiting the homes of people who had been contacted by phone and indicated their interest about discussing their faith.

They usually spend their winters in Florida, helping out one or two churches until the cold weather clears up north. They have spent time in areas from the east coast to as far west as Montana. The live on the road 365 days a year.

"It's not easy living in a little 8-by-35 box, but we're doing what the Lord wants us to do, and he gives us the ability," Staley said.

Missionaries in America do not get the attention that the world-wide missionaries do, but Staley said it is rewarding nonetheless, and their work meets a great need.

He said 60 percent of the people living in North America are Christians. Of the non-Christians, 80 percent have never even been asked to go to church.

"They call us a Christian nation, but there's a lot of people that don't even know what Christian is," he said.

He said a quote from Acts 1:8 is an inspiration for his family's work.

"And you shall be witness unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."

"I look at it kind of like my Jerusalem was back in Indiana," Staley said." But the Lord has asked me to move out of my comfort area,"

Matt Merritt can be reached at 434-2214 or by email at