|Don't try this at home (or you'll get sued).|
There's no dressing it up: this year, it's fair to say we didn't so much enjoy camp as endure it. I think it was last year that we asked our supporters to be especially prayerful for us as we were about to run our first camp avec enfant. As it happened, Sam barely raised a peep the whole weekend. It was probably owing to 2016's overall feeling of smugness, then, that I barely gave such concerns a moment's though.
Hah. What do you get when you cross an all-action youth camp with a sleep-dependent toddler navigating the 'terrible twos'? A lesson learned, that's what!
So it's fair to say that, all said and done, our own experience of our first four-day camp (and fifth overall) was somewhat removed. However, by the time we'd gotten our energy-levels back to something resembling normal (about 4pm on Thursday afternoon, by my estimation), we could step back from things and see God's hand in it. The young people were challenged. The church was built up. And no end of hijinks was engaged in, the likes of which would keep health and safety experts up at night. In other words, much to give thanks for.
Not that, on the face of it, there was all that much to be optimistic about upon arrival on the Thursday afternoon. Nothing quite says 'the joys of Bolivian camping' quite like:
- Waterlogged floors.
- A dormitory room with the roof off.
- An auditorium filled with bunk-beds.
I imagine points two and three were in some way connected!
All hands to the pump, then, and within a couple of hours we were able to mop up the floors and completely reconfigure the vast dining hall so that one half of it could be set aside for music and teaching. Still, it was very much a case of, "OK, Lord, you've made this camp possible. We trust you to help us work within these limits, and bring glory to your name." Still, it's fair to say that by the time I finally sat down at the keyboard, about an hour later than scheduled and without any rehearsal time with the other musicians, my head was anywhere but in the moment.
|Craig with 'small' group.|
For all Sam's difficulties this time around, we at least stuck with last year's approach of commuting to and from the camp site each day, just over an hour's drive. We arrived on Friday morning to overcast skies and reports of excitable teenagers managing as little as 30 minutes' sleep. Things were going to be just fine.
Things warmed up as the day progressed and we were able to have our first proper teaching session in the morning. This year, the focus was, er, 'Focused' (Enfocado, in Spanish), using the first few chapters of Daniel. Our teachers were Romon (of newly-arrived couple Romon & Melinda -- see previous posts) and Ruddy, whose father is my fellow elder and Fundación Totaí president, Miguel Ángel. The sessions were highly practical, particularly in a Christian context. I was particularly encouraged by Romon's teaching on Daniel 3 and his observation that stories such as those of the young Jews and the fiery furnace are so often used to glibly declare that God will always deliver us from our problems. Perhaps this seems obvious, but in our context here in Bolivia, it's not unusual for pastors to get away with this kind of lazy application; many simply haven't been given the critical thinking skills to question such a statement. I think the youth were encouraged to see that God can deliver us, but that if he does not, it's not a sign of his rejection of us (as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego also affirmed).
As the day wore on, I snapped away (the 'official photographer' position is a useful one in muck-avoidance!) while Amanda just about held things together while keeping an eye out for Sam. But by about 5pm, the latter had long given up on even trying to behave himself, the fatigue proving too much to bear. We left early that evening, with Amanda resolving to stay in Trinidad the next day with Sam, even though she'd be without the car.
Not that she would have had much freedom anyway. For this was the scene to which we awoke on Saturday morning.
That picture is taken from our garage door. We live about a mile north of the ring-road which surrounds the central area of the city. From our house to the ring-road, I would have been better served by a dinghy.
My passenger (Elías, who like us had opted to return in the evenings) and I feared the worst, even if the main road to the campsite was more elevated and, therefore, not flooded. Based on the conditions that awaited us on Thursday afternoon (with leaky roofs being a particular problem), we were beginning to wonder if there would even be a camp site by the time we got there.
Yet the closer we got, the lesser the intensity of the rain, until we eventually arrived to find the camp site undergoing nothing more than a mild sprinkling. Amazing.
So things were able to proceed more or less as planned on Saturday, and Amanda and Sam had sufficiently recovered their energies during their house arrest to be able to come back on Sunday for an exciting final day. As has become the tradition, we had a brief communion service and, beforehand, without any planning, I challenged the young people to confess Jesus' Lordship over their lives (we know that three of them made a commitment that morning).
|An impromptu post-games shower under an overflowing water-tower.|
This really happened.
This done, we then headed over to a large pond on the grounds to witness six young people and two adults declare their faith publicly by being baptised. Long-time readers may remember the tragedy of a teenage boy's suicide early in 2016. Four of those baptised are his family members, including his two parents, who had never before darkened the door of the church. Tears were shed.
|Father of five, Alberto, with Elías (foreground) |
and Miguel Ángel (background).
All that remained was for the rest of the 115-strong party to become fully immersed themselves, having a quick end-of-camp splash before lunch, group pictures and our departure. Just after we'd put Sam down, at around 8 o'clock, Amanda told me she was having a short nap. I wasn't to see her again till the next morning. Likewise, I have have become gladly reacquainted with siestas these past days.
If I may paraphrase the great king Nebuchadnezzar himself, it has been my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for us.
- Pray for all in attendance at camp -- leaders and youth -- that they would continue to draw encouragement from what they heard.
- Pray especially for the new converts, and for older Christians to come alongside them to disciple them.
- Pray for future camp planning. For the first time, the leaders had a debrief meeting last night, in the hope of keeping the areas for improvement fresh in the memory for next year's planning. Based on the weather, a date-change might be priority number one!
- Sam has been a little under the weather since we returned. He has managed fine at nursery and at home, but he's not eating very well and has had bad diarrhea.
- Give thanks for safety in the travels of ourselves and the campers, and during the various activities there.
- Give thanks for Romon and Ruddy and their thought-provoking messages.
- Give thanks for those who chose to be baptised, and for the awesome work of God in their lives.
¡Que Dios les bendiga!
Craig & Amanda