Our Texas team prayed and fasted one day per week for six weeks leading up to the trip. During this time, we also received training and preparation from our leaders and planned out events and activities as a team. One of the first obstacles was a lack of guys signing up to participate in the camp. This was concerning and we made a point to pray over this issue every time we met. We ended up with 7 boy campers and 30 girl campers. We later realized, and should have known all along, that God was in control and He had a purpose and plan for only bringing 7 boys to camp. This ended up being such a blessing because it allowed all the male leaders to truly pour into these 7 boys throughout the entire camp. We were able to invest and spend more time with each one than we ever would of been able to if we had 20. God rewarded these efforts as we joyfully got to witness hearts being softened and two of the boys (one who was an agnostic and the other a professed atheist) come to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior. I am reminded of the truth in Isaiah that Gods ways are so vastly different than my own.
Isaiah 55:8-9 "'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,'” declares the Lord. “'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'"
Trusting God seemed to be the overarching theme throughout camp for me. On the first or second day, I met two young boys that were unbelievers who I thought would be in my small group. My heart immediately went out to them and I decided I wanted to build a relationship with them. On the next day, I found out that the structure for organizing groups changed and I was now going to be in charge of the four oldest boys. This meant that I would not be leading the two I previously mentioned, they would be in Matt's (One of our other Texas leaders) group. Initially, I was confused by this and didn't understand why God would direct my heart towards them and then give them over to Matt. By the end of camp, these boys had accepted Christ into their hearts. And I realized once again that God was in control. God had a plan and he knew that Matt was the right man for the job. I was joyful to see the fruits of God's plan even though I merely got to witness it and not play an active role.
Leading up to the camp I was nervous about leading a group, sharing my testimony and delivering a message, mostly because of a lack of experience. I had my doubts. I wasn't sure if I was equipped or well prepared. Once again, God had other plans. He used camp to push me to follow through with all three of those tasks. Leading a small group of 16-17 year old boys was difficult regardless of the language barrier. Guys just don't want to share. I felt like our group was struggling through bible studies at camp, but we continued to bond over sports, games and activities. As those relationships grew, they slowly began opening up to me and we were able to have some real conversations. At the end of camp, I asked each of the 7 boys if they would like to stay in contact with me and that I would love to offer guidance, mentorship or just a friend from the states. God really blessed me as, to my surprise, they all agreed and I've been able to stay in contact with several of them.
Going into camp, I didn't have a lot of experience sharing my testimony. I never thought it was an interesting story and so I didn't have much practice telling it. The morning of 4th of July, we needed two leaders to share their testimony around the fire that night and, despite every fear in me screaming that this will not be fun, I really felt a conviction to volunteer. I listened to that conviction, raised my hand and then immediately regretted it. I spent the whole day frantically writing out my testimony and anxiously thinking about speaking in front of the entire camp, especially through a translator. I skipped out on a few activities so that I could write and practice my speech. My assumption was that speaking through a translator would interrupt my train of thought, distract me and ultimately make it a lot more difficult. Once I began, I quickly found the complete opposite to be true. The truth was that speaking through the translator allowed me the opportunity to pause and gather my next thoughts while avoiding any sort of awkwardness. It ended up being another blessing because God gave me a situation that was easier than normal to share my testimony as a way to practice. Now that I have done it, I feel more confident in doing it all over again.
After successfully sharing my testimony and being encouraged by other leaders about the impact of my story, I was more confident in my next task of sharing a message. With a few hours before guys night, I approached the other leader that night and we decided we needed to pair our "manly" activities with a message on biblical manhood. Our plan was to have several feats of strength, log-throwing competitions, and grill meat over the fire. While these are all good and fun things that men enjoy, I felt like it was a great opportunity to contrast the world view of manhood with the biblical standard found in Timothy chapter 3. I would again be speaking through a translator, so I knew that would help, but this time I needed to prepare the speech and not just tell my story. Even though I was nervous, I leaned into the task I felt convicted to do. I'm no John Piper but I obeyed what God was asking me to do and that gave me peace in the end.
To wrap up, the main things that God taught me throughout camp was to trust in Him. Instead of running from things that make me nervous or anxious, to actually lean into those feelings and be obedient. I'm beginning to realize that Satan tries to use my nervousness to attack me and keep me from ever even beginning a task. I will say that as I work through this issue and continue to fail, that I am forever grateful for the grace upon grace that God gives to me. Though I fail, He is victorious. Though I am unfaithful, He is always faithful.
On the last day when the kids' parents were picking them up, they all would leave with a hug and ask if we were coming back next year? I wasn't able to answer at the time because immediately my mind was thinking about the logistics and money but now I know I want to return. The question is, will it be next year?
I'll end this on a light note with a collection of fun pictures from camp :)