The Mission summer camp.
There are times when God lays a burden on our hearts, a desire or understanding that we are to move in a certain direction, but we don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle and we don’t know how it’s going to play out.
The summer camp we held last week was one such example.
It all started last year, when our daughters had the opportunity to attend a summer camp for missionary kids. When we arrived to pick them up, we thought about how amazing it would be to host such a camp for the children from the orphanage Fundaninos, who had never been to one.
We contacted the camp to see if they had any openings. It turned out that it is a popular place with only two openings in the entire year. After explaining about our ministry and the desire we had to hold a camp for the children from the orphanage, they agreed to give us one weekend, as long as we put down a substantial deposit.
We are a small ministry with limited resources so putting down a deposit before we had the camp planned, volunteers committed to coming, or resources to do the camp, was a big step of faith. Nevertheless, one thing we have learned in 13 years of ministry is that when God is leading in a direction, it pays to follow. So we placed the deposit.
Our original focus for the camp was for it to be on exploring the Bible with Jesus as our guide. However after praying about it further, we felt that we needed to pivot the camp in the direction of being missional. Yes, we do need to let Christ lead and guide us, yes, we do need to know the Bible, but why? Because Christ has a plan for us, and that plan is the mission of sharing the Gospel.
We needed a lot of volunteers to pull off a successful mission camp. Thankfully Danny & Kathryn Perez, missionaries with Cadence International, a ministry that does discipleship on military bases, agreed to work with us. They spent time training a group of 10 volunteers for our summer camp. The Village Church in Dallas also sent a team and we were joined by Daniel, a former resident of Fundaninos who had been adopted by a family in the U.S., but wanted to come back and serve.
Sharie worked with volunteers from our local church, Casa de Libertad, to prayerfully plan the classes, prepare the activities, food and organize the menus while Tim worked on the schedule, logistics, and supplies.
We were joined by Lucy, a Guatemalan widow whom God raised up to work with us on various projects, to partner with us on planning and running the camp and we worked hard together for months to get ready.
There were several moments when the reality of what we were doing almost got the best of us. But we doubled down in prayer and fasting and told the Lord that this was His camp and He would have to work out the details.
Monday the 25th arrived, both mission teams were here, the children arrived and the work and planning we had put in came together.
Volunteers did an amazing job teaching the classes. The team members led small group discussions. The kids memorized verses, did crafts, played games, and best of all truly understood the focus of what we were trying to impart.
Not only did the children grow in Christ, but the team members were impacted and impressed with the importance of seeing missions not as a trip, but as a lifestyle.
Everything we had hoped and prayed for the camp to be, came to pass and more. The classes taught by the teachers were amazing. Their excitement and passion for Christ came through in their teaching. The games and activities each had a lesson that went with the topic of the day and the small group sessions led by the mission team members had a depth and purpose to them that God used to reach each and every child.
During our evening debriefs with the team members, it was amazing to see the beauty of what was transpiring. Some teams had good days and some teams had tougher days, yet I believe all of them were able to reach and connect with the children in the way God intended. Whether it was planting a seed, watering it, or reaping a harvest, God had brought the right people to speak into the lives of the children at this time.
On the last night we held a worship service and had a speaker from church come and share their testimony. They had had an abusive childhood with lots of pain and suffering in their life and they had struggled with understanding how and why this could happen and where God was during their difficulties?
The answer was that God was there, He looked through eternity, and through the cross He saw each and every one of us. He saw the pain, the hurt and the suffering we endured and in response, He gave the most that He possibly could; He sent His son to die for us on the cross so that we might be saved redeemed and restored to Him.
The beauty of the worship, the truth of the message and power of the Holy Spirit touched everyone and brought me to tears.
Among the many beautiful things that happened during the camp, two of them stick out to me. One was that during their time cooking and preparing food, the volunteers in the kitchen led the two cooks to the Lord. The other was when one of the team members asked the children how they planned to live out the mission and one of the teenagers replied “I want to plant churches”.
The mission camp ended up being 10 times better than I could have ever hoped for. Not because of our expert planning, wisdom or skills, but because we were simply following where God was leading.