I returned just three hours ago from The Highlands camp in Morogoro, where we took sixty-seven HOPAC high school students for the 2017 HOPAC Young Life Camp this weekend. Myself, three other full-time Young Life leaders, a program team from the Czech Republic and Poland, a speaker from Rwanda, nearly ten volunteer leaders, and a support team comprised of middle school students and a few adults, and you, our supporters financially and in prayer around the world, made this camp happen. In reality, this camp was an answer to prayer: since August, the HOPAC Young Life team was praying for camp. With only three leaders, running club every week for 50-60 kids was challenging enough–there was no way we could run a camp on our own. But we prayed, and God brought speakers, a program team, and leaders–plus funding for several of the camp busses and student scholarships! And of course, students! 67 students (including several Muslim and Hindi students!) signed up for camp–two even showed up unannounced to school on Friday morning with their bags, sign-up forms (due two weeks previous), and camp money!
One of the best parts of Young Life Camp is its structure, where everything is designed for a purpose: to present kids with the Gospel in relational way. Leaders are just as involved and engaged with the games and activities as the students, breaking down the barriers and giving opportunity for leaders to speak into kids’ lives. Clubs use humor, games, music, and talks to give students the chance to think about their own personal relationship with Christ. And, like the talks done at Young Life club throughout the year, camp talks introduce kids to the person of Christ, the reality of sin and human nature, the death of Christ on the cross, and the opportunity for a relationship with God because of the hope of the resurrection. This camp was no different.
We left Dar es Salaam directly after school on Friday afternoon and reached The Highlands camp a little after dark after a bus ride that doubled as a six-hour dance party. Arriving at The Highlands meant that the night was just beginning, and kids stepped off the busses onto a giant Twister board, where they were pelted with water balloons while all sixty-seven of them and the leaders scrambled to maintain their balance while fighting for placement on the colored spots. From Twister, the evening moved quickly to hilarious program skits, dinner, songs, more games, the first club, and then cabin time. Cabin time gives leaders and students the chance to reflect and digest the club talk together, so the first night, following Micki’s talk on the person of Christ, I took the opportunity to discover what each of “my” girls believed about Christ and how they felt He was (or was not) a part of their lives.
Saturday was just as packed, including two clubs and their respective cabin times, over two hours of spontaneous water polo in the pool during free time, square dancing, shaving cream wars, a rodeo, and various other games and activities. After the cross talk on Saturday evening, students took twenty minutes to sit alone and think or pray in reflection. Then, during cabin time later that evening, students had the chance to share what Jesus’ death on the cross meant for them. (It was during this time that one of my girls, a Hindi, asked a number of questions about Jesus, the Bible, sin, the resurrection, and grace. Though she did not make a profession of faith this weekend, I was encouraged by her curiosity and believe that the Spirit is moving in her heart!) Throughout the day on Saturday, I was also able to talk with several girls one-on-one, giving them the chance to personally give voice to their questions or testimonies about Christ’s work in their lives.
By Sunday morning, most of the students (and all of the leaders and program and support staff!) were exhausted, so we finished with a few more “chill” games, and a final club talk where Micki explained how Christ’s death on the cross gives the opportunity for new life, but that it is a choice. Following her talk, students had the chance to stand and proclaim their new faith or re-dedication to Christ, and what a powerful, beautiful moment that was! It is an incredible thing to see students you have prayed over for months and even years stand and proclaim Christ! Camp finished with a birthday-party themed brunch, complete with party games and (pan)cakes!
Thank YOU for making this possible. Thank you for praying. Thank you for donating towards the transportation and camper scholarship fund. Thank you for enabling me to be here as a Young Life leader. And keep praying — these next few weeks are crucial as leaders continue to engage with students and kids have time to keep reflecting on the decisions they made (or put off making) at camp this weekend.
All photos credit to Marc Driesenga.