Kids Camp continued

Every day seemed to get better.  The days began before dawn for the kids – mostly because they woke up then.  No surprise considering their sleeping arrangements.  The 253 kids ‘camped out’ in the bible school dorm – 2 floors.  They brought mats from home to sleep on.  I brought some of the team members to see the kids in their sleeping quarters the first night.  Quite a site it was.  Actually, it was a bit scary at first.  Since it was the first night, and the captains were busy chatting among themselves after the evening meeting – much to my dismay I might add.  ‘Their’ kids were basically running in circles in the large open room.  What was funny, however, was the sleeping little girl.  She was curled up in a ball on the cement floor, her flip-flops posing as her pillow.  Kids were shouting and running circles around her and she was sound asleep.  Reminded me of the village lives these kids lead.  Since most of them live in 1 or maybe 2 room mud and thatch houses with their entire family, they would naturally learn to sleep through about anything.  Before we left for the night, we rectified the situation by getting the captains to where they needed to be.

After ‘baths’ and breakfast, was the morning meeting complete with drama and puppets.  The singing was great.  Each team had a ‘chant’ they would say as they marched into the church, team by team.  Trae was the puppet team and might I add, did an incredible job.  He’s got a great puppet voice and amazing way of connecting with all 253 kids from behind a puppet curtain.  And he did it all with his arm in a sling.  He had a couple guys helping him out when they would sing.  His involvement reminded me again how much we will miss him when he goes to university next year.  I don’t really want to talk about that just now…

After the morning meeting, the teams would meet with their captains to review lessons and practice the memory verses.  Tanika tried so hard with her 18 little girls, to get them to say their memory verses in unison.  It was very cute to watch.  Even though she was frustrated that they couldn’t seem to do it, they will certainly remember the time she spent with them!  We had a running contest between teams for the week where the kids earned points for team behavior, memory verses, cleanup, games, etc.  After team time, we had game time.  This took great organization but was a blast.  We had 4 game stations going on at the same time, and these were rotated.  Our ministry team brought great supplies, including wooden eggs/spoons, potato sacks, a huge parachute and lots of other stuff.  They also did an impromptu session of the limbo, which ended up being a favorite.  That, tug-o-war, and tag were by far the favorites.  The simplest things…

After games was lunch – and I must give kudos to our cooks, who came in from the villages to volunteer- every meal was on time.  You may not know it, but that’s a huge deal!  Lunch was served by lining the kids up single file.  They would come through the line and be handed their food in a plastic bowl.  They would find a place to eat and proceed to do so using their right hand – we had a silverware free zone, which really cut down on clean-up.  Tobi actually prefers eating this type of food minus silverware.  After lunch was ‘rest’ time.  Yeah, right.  After their forced rest, we provided an afternoon snack.  I should add here that Team Capital Life brought the entire budget (which is a small fortune) for the camp and in addition brought all the game supplies and prizes. They also wanted to do something special for all the kids so we had a flip-flop day.  A flip-flop guy came to the church and we sized every kid with their own brand new pair.  We learned then that though these kids are little, their feet, well… are not.   Oh, the team also brought t-shirts for every kid and captain, all of us really,  that said ‘Camp Empower – raising up a generation of tomorrow’s leaders.’  Vie Abondante & Captial Life church June 2008 was also printed, with a screen print of Africa.  We got a great group picture and the kids LOVED their shirts!  The snacks we either a mango or a Solani.  Solani is drinkable yogurt in plastic bags.  You just bite of the corner of the bag and drink.  These special treats for the kids were just that- very special for them.

After snack time we did our craft – which was putting together and decorating a small square wooden stool/bench.  There was one for each child and they will be very useful in their homes.  It was here we learned that fabric markers work great on wood – even rough wood.  Following snack time was another round of games before dinner.  After dinner clean-up we had our evening meeting where we talked about the day and our team ministered to the kids.  More singing, puppets and fun.

Each day followed the same schedule, and by the time Friday arrived, though everyone was feeling exhausted…from the youngest child to the oldest adult, we were all sad that it was coming to a close.  I was trying to get our team back to the guest house for lunch after our final meeting, but none of them wanted to leave the kids.  They all wanted to stay and see the kids off – in those same vehicles that they came on!  Each child was going home with a prize, a new pair of flip-flops and a bench (these had to be piled on top of the trucks).  They were also going home with great memories and the assurance that God loves them and has a great plan for their lives.

These kids are the future of this nation – the seed.   The future is bright.

Kids Camp Niger

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…