When we say the word “camp”, you probably think of kids hiking and swimming, setting up tents, camp fires, and telling ghost stories. When the church in Paraiba says “camp”, it is completely different. First of all, it is for the whole church, not just boy scouts. Whole families go, including little bitty babies and elderly grandmothers. And we don’t sleep in tents. The campsite has dormitories with bunk beds; it also has a cafeteria, a meeting hall, pool and a court for sports, and all of this is located outside of town in the midst of nature with a stream running through it.
The purpose of a church camp is to get away from the world, from daily life, to fellowship with our Creator and with one another. And this was our purpose when we reserved the site one year ago for the Independence Day (September 7th) holiday weekend. We started on Thursday night and went till Sunday. Over 130 people participated.
Getting all those people together for all those days is no easy task. When it finally began I was stressed out, and the phrase that kept coming into my head over and over was “Never again! Never again!” But then came the last two days, and they were so good, so good, and such a spiritual leap of growth, that I started trying to figure out when we could have another camp. Something happens to Christians when they start spending a lot of uninterrupted time together, something that can’t happen during the two or three hours a week at church meetings. They have conflicts, they work them out, they put love and service into practice, they bond and the relationship that Christ created in Him gets stronger as the Spirit has opportunity to blossom in community.
The camp’s theme was “In the Beginning,” bringing us to reflect on what God intended when He created this world, what He intended when He sent Christ to bring about a new beginning, and how was the beginning of our walk with Jesus like, how have we grown or what have we lost since then.
Talking about beginnings, three people were baptized, Bianca, Jocildo, and Roseli. You can read about their individual stories here on the blog.
The program had moments of meditation, one-on-one prayer time with God in His nature. Someone came up to me and said, “That was awesome! I haven’t done that in twenty years.” And how true it is that daily pressures and things we think we have to do squeeze this quiet time out of our lives. I wonder how far Jesus would have gotten if he didn’t take those alone periods on the mountain.
Another growth moment were the Involvement Groups. All the campers were divided up into small groups, meeting twice a day to discuss the lesson, how to make it part of our lives, to pray and encourage one another. In my group, one man who had fallen away from Christ cried, “The best time of my life was when I became a Christian. Today I don’t have a life. I don’t think that Christ can forgive me again.” Others confessed sin, cried, we prayed – this is what Jesus wants: for us to be in one another’s lives. We came to know one another better: a brother has been prescribed heavy psychiatric medicine, a sister had an ugly fight with her teenage daughter, the shy quiet son of a sister is thinking about being baptized, another sister is on the brink of a nervous breakdown, still dealing with her son’s murder from one year ago, another sister is heading into eye surgery and is worried sick that something will go wrong and she will become blind. On Saturday we gathered all these loved ones in a group hug (100+ people), placing our hands on them, and praying to our Father for each one. This camp taught us to better carry one another’s burdens.
In addition to the comforting, we had a lot of fun. We did have one bonfire, no wieners, no marshmallows, just singing praises to God around it until someone accidently knocked it over. There was a declaration of love contest; Jeremy won it by telling his love for Monica mixed with a recounting of his recent mugging (read about him being robbed on the blog). We had a talent show with so many funny skits that my jawbones were aching at the end from laughing so much.
God, His family, all together for three days straight. We didn’t get much sleep, but it felt like being as close to heaven as you can get while still on earth. Thank you, Father, for this camp.