By Nancy Sands
In the 30+ countries where Grain of Wheat ministers to children and youth, putting together a meaningful camp is often complicated and filled with overwhelming obstacles. Yet, no matter how great the difficulties, God’s blessings are even greater.
Preparing to hold a camp begins with obtaining permission from the local government. In many countries, the government has placed a ban on all relations with religious organizations.”We understand very well how risky our decision is to hold a Christian camp. But God has given us confidence that these camps are His will and His intention. Because of the government ban, it is very difficult to get a city permit. But last year, God provided through a secular organization that was not afraid and agreed to help us. They risked losing everything, including their license by giving us their consent to hold this camp.” Recalls the camp director. Once the city permit is obtained, a campsite needs to be chosen.
Looking for a Camp Site
“Over the last nine years, we rented a school building in the village. We have had some challenges with paper formalities in the past, but they were solved and everything went well. This year, we were refused every time we applied for a campsite. No one spoke to us directly or would explain the reason for the refusal.
“As we began looking for a new place to rent a campsite, we realized we were going to have to start from the beginning. The village people didn’t know us or trust that we could help them. To complicate matters even more, almost the entire village, including the teenagers, was addicted to alcohol. In spite of this, we knew God had chosen this village for the camp.”
The Challenge of Living Together
When camp begins, the obstacles are mostly spiritual.
Some children are homesick without their parents. For others, the Christian atmosphere is unfamiliar. A few children are belligerent and want to go home. Several parents don’t want their children to study God’s Word, making it difficult for us to know how to organize and share the Bible lessons. One camp leader expressed, “Thankfully, God grants us wisdom, strength and patience each day. He also helps us discover how to reach each child personally. As we speak with gentleness and humility to the children, their attitude towards the Bible lessons and prayer changes.”
“Every morning we set aside special time for the children who would like us to personally pray with them.” A camp leader explains, “It surprises us that every child at camp usually wants us to pray for their needs and problems. Many have alcoholic and abusive parents, others want to pray about school or their health.”
In the Doghouse
But one prayer request we weren’t prepared for was from the boy whose Mom made him live in a doghouse in their yard. His mother is an alcoholic who leads an immoral lifestyle and wouldn’t let him live in the house. Her parental rights have been taken away from her and the boy is now living as an orphan in a boarding school. He was so overwhelmed, he simply couldn’t put his need into words!”
“I will never forget a group of teenage girls who came from a small village where the only jobs available are on farms with little pay. As a result, prostitution is considered normal work; even prostitution involving children is common. Without discothèques, these girls were bored at camp.” The camp director recalls, “Sadly, despite all of our efforts to involve them in the program, they left the camp.”
The Toughest Kid at Camp Repents
Then there was Vlad. “From the first day of camp he was very mischievous. But when he shaved off the eyebrows and drew a moustache on his friend’s face while he was sleeping, we considered sending him home. His camp leader remembers, “He begged us to let him stay, promising he wouldn’t do anything like that again. Near the end of camp, when the opportunity was given to receive Jesus, Vlad asked the Lord for forgiveness of his sins; surprising even his friends. Later that evening he wanted to talk to the camp director about his decision. When he was asked if he was sincere about giving his life to God, he earnestly confirmed that he wanted to follow Christ and trust his life to Him.” Today Vlad is deeply committed to the Lord and highly involved in the camp ministry as a leader.
What Camp Crews Say
And what about the camp crew? The camp leaders all agree that through the tremendous difficulties they face, the team is united and grows stronger as they learn to trust God in extreme circumstances. A Camp Counselor recalls, “Oh there is much to remember about this camp. For example, Bible reading and prayer time at our team meeting. Then a cold shower and running to the dining room to drink my first cup of coffee. I thank God for these happy moments in my life which I now miss so much.”
“It is difficult to stand all day long cooking when it is hot. But when I hear the children pray with tears in their eyes and ask God to forgive their sins, my heart fills with joy and new strength comes to me. Then I am ready to serve the Lord and these children again,” explains Elnikova, a camp cook.
Right now, all around the world, Grain of Wheat leaders are preparing for the upcoming 2012 summer camps. Many are facing hindrances of all kinds, and they would cherish your prayers. Will you take a moment right now and whisper a prayer for these courageous men and women?