The internet access was, as expected – unavailable, unless we had access through a cell phone – which we didn’t. So, we have a rather long post today. But if it is any consolation, it will probably be our last post until we return.
Barb, Lilly and I took the trolley to church to meet up with groups from different parts of the city to pack up the cars and vans taking us to our camping location – a former retreat center. The facility is in the process of being restored and the setting is indescribably beautiful. Mountains surround this enormous lake, creating beautiful vistas in every direction – certainly a fitting location, both to camp and to share the gospel. It took almost 6 hours to make the journey, but that included a stop for lunch at one of the many cafeteria style diners along the way.
There were 23 participants and 10 leaders, breaking into four small groups, both for meeting sessions and for activities. After setting up the tents overlooking the beach area, the activities began without a pause – which was the consistent pace throughout the entire event. The daily schedule was: leaders meeting at 6:00 (each day it was a little later start time), wakeup call and exercise program at 7:00 with time to clean up and get ready, breakfast at 8:00, morning small group session, group game, craft time, a short free time, lunch, another group game/activity (which usually included some free time and additional crafts) , afternoon small group session, dinner, a third full group activity and free time until the campfire at 9:00 where we had a full group message, then snack in small group to follow up on the message. Yes, these days were packed pretty full! But, there were generous snack times mixed throughout the day – which makes everything more wonderful.
The sequence of the sessions were very well thought out and progressed from our being made unique by God for a purpose – highlighting the importance of seeking God to discover our uniqueness and cautioning the participants to resist peer-pressure or in trying to be like someone else. There was discussion about the talents, abilities and giftedness that each of us has been given by God, how these talents are for a purpose as well and that we bring joy to God and ourselves as we discover and develop these gifts as given and purposed by God. Then we talked about the things that hinder us from enjoying the things God has designed in us and for us – abuses of substances, improper sexual activities, and difficulties in relationships – basically the problem of sin separating us from each other and from God. The discussions then went to how we are loved by God, but the separation of sin in us prevents us from fully experiencing His love and His gifts. We were then able to introduce the redeeming work of Jesus – the ultimate gift of God to bring us into relationship with Himself and through Jesus we have forgiveness and are free from the bondage of sin. Now we can enjoy God’s love and can live toward others in the same way He relates to us.
The final evening was a concise explanation of the gospel and a couple testimonies from the leaders. Two participants came forward to acknowledge their faith in Jesus and the leaders reported that there were many serious conversations in the small groups that evening. We praise God for the lives that have been changed, and for those being influenced by the truth of the gospel. Some of the leaders were volunteers that are not part of YFC, so they will not be involved in following up on the camping event, but for the YFC staff, there is a significant opportunity to continue building the relationships that began this week. Please continue to pray for the discipleship of the two who decided to follow Jesus, and for the ongoing work of the Spirit in the lives of those who have yet to decide.
Today is the last day here. It is difficult to think about leaving when there is so much more that can be done. It is a great handicap for us in not knowing the language, but we cannot keep from a strong passion for the people we have met these past two weeks. We are very grateful to the leaders here who have been so gracious and patient with us in our limitations. Their kindness and generosity is a testament of the grace of God in their lives. We are extremely grateful for Lilly who has been such a tremendous help in bridging the gap both in language and culture – an invaluable resource to prevent us from cultural improprieties, and more importantly in the encouragement of love and friendship, interpreting not just our words but the message of our hearts. We praise God for her gracious endurance and gifts of love to us.
Today, we will be busy debriefing and setting about preparing for an early morning departure tomorrow. We are grateful for all the prayer support from you all – it was very evident that the Lord was hearing and answering your prayers. We hope to be back in Michigan early Sunday morning (so we may not make it to service). We are looking forward to sharing more stories and introducing you to more people from this beautiful, wonderful, yet challenging pat of the world.
Kim & Barb