Children’s camp. As planned, we picked up the US team at the airport at 2am on June 27th. By the time we got everyone through immigration, bags collected and loaded, and waters filled, it was 4:30am. There were 11 of us and all the bags in 2 vehicles. It was still dark, so it was still relatively cool. Relatively speaking that is. We hit the road.
It was a little bit on the mean side for us to give our guests such a huge dose of culture right off the bat, but we felt like we had no other options, considering their arrival time. They are on a mission trip! We had to get to Maradi to prepare for camp. But nothing like jumping in with both feet. We began our drive into the interior of the nation and had our first flat tire about 2 hours later. Maybe less. That’s pretty much par for the course. The sun was just starting to come up. The rule is if you are only traveling with 1 spare tire, you promptly get the flat one fixed so you have another spare. In this case, however, the tire didn’t go flat. It shredded. With still 8 hours to go, we prayed that there would be no more flats on that vehicle. Only so many people can help change a tire, so the rest of us made a spectacle of ourselves by simply standing on the side of the road. (It doesn’t require much effort here to be a spectacle.)
Off again. It’s been too long so I can’t really remember anymore details except quite a few more bush stops than we usually require (mostly because some of us, who shall remain nameless couldn’t seem to get ‘things’ to work properly in the bush), and at one point, for some reason, standing of the side of the road again, only this time we were eating meat pies (homemade of course!), and making spectacles of ourselves.
Ten hours after departure and no more flat tires later, we arrived at our destination. I guess I should clarify. It was more like 40+ hours after our guests departure from their starting point. But who’s counting. They’re on a mission trip! I know, I have no mercy…
Since we no longer have a home in Maradi, we had to stay in the SIM guest house. (Let me toss in here that we are seriously believing God for the funds to build our own guest house!) SIM was great though, and we got settled in and ate. We allowed the team only a couple hours of rest, since we wanted them to sleep that night. We are brutal! Did I mention, they are on a mission trip! They began unpacking camp supplies and organizing things. We talked about the schedule for the week, and we ate again. Thus ended day one. Trae stayed with the guys, and Tanika with the ladies in their rooms.
Saturday we let the team sleep in (we’re not always brutal) and used the rest of the day to prepare for camp.
Sunday we all went to the Maradi church and the team ministered in the service, complete with drama. Then we met with all of our team captains and passed out schedules. We all worked together to transform the church compound into ‘kids camp’. It looked great. Only14 hours before kids start arriving. Our team is doing exceptionally well, especially considering what we’ve just put them through, and the fact that they are working in temps that would be classified as heat wave status where they come from.
Monday morning dawns and we head to the church. Fortunately the guest house is within walking distance. Transport vehicles start arriving from the North, South, East and West. Loaded with kids. I don’t think I’m a good enough writer to put into words what these vehicles looked like, so I will eventually post some pictures on Flickr. Suffice it to say that they would in no possible way pass any type of inspection, ‘load limit’ is a foreign concept, and literally every driver got out of his vehicle after dropping the kids off (who by the way were literally hanging off of every side of said vehicle) and opened his hood to do some minor (?) repairs. But those kids were excited and were heard before the were seen, as they were singing in unison at the top of their lungs when they turned into the church compound.
Registration went, well, smooth. Relatively speaking… Smooth enough to teach us what we will do differently next year. When it was all said and done, and after the stragglers showed up the next day, there were 253 children from 19 churches (this camp was geared to bless our church kids, so was not an evangelistic outreach), ages 5 – 15, assigned to 16 different teams. Each team had a captain and an co-captain. Captains were made up of pastors and members from the various churches. The theme for the week was”Camp Empower – Raising up a generation of tomorrow’s leaders”. Team names were leaders in the Bible. Trae was captain of ‘Team David’, made up of 16 boys, 11- 15 years old. Tanika’s team was ‘Abigail, and she had 18 5 – 10 year olds. Tobi was on ‘Team Peter’ and we were able to pull some strings to make sure his Maradi friends made it on his team as well. Side note: Tobi’s Hausa came back so quickly in this environment (living day and night with only Hausa speakers) that at one point when I asked him a question (in English), he started to answer me in Hausa. He grinned sheepishly and finished in English.
Our guest ministers helped with registration and also kept the registered kids busy until we were done. I loved our first meeting that night. I have been somewhat frustrated about our children’s ministry here, feeling that we’re not doing enough in that area. Children’s ministry. It’s absolutely necessary that we have a strong children’s work going on – the kids are the future of the nation. Reach them while they’re young and you’ve changed a generation. And eventually, a nation. So that first night, when I saw the packed church and I heard 253 kids all praising God together at the top of their lungs, I was encouraged. These kids were being reached. It’s not enough, but it was something. And it encouraged me. It truly was a sight to behold.
To be continued…