It’s been a whirlwind the past few days and we are just getting around to blogging about Campamento “Arca de Noe” being held in Trujillo, Peru this week. Last Friday (December 30th), a group of 15 students and leaders from Twin Lakes along with 13 team members from Point Pleasant out of Savannah, Georgia traveled to Lima, Peru to serve with Peru Mission in their yearly children’s camp. Much prayer and preparation has gone into just stepping on the plane. Thank each of you who are family members taking care of children or holding down the fort at home while we are away; who have supported a team member financially for this opportunity to share the gospel abroad; or who have committed to pray for this ministry. You are such an important part of this process and we pray once we return that we can communicate/report back the way that God is at work here in Peru.
We were blessed to have our Peru Mission contacts - Hermes and Alleen Tomas - actually fly with us out of Atlanta this year. It was a tight connection for them as their flight to Atlanta was delayed twice. We spent most of our time in prayer as we waited for them. God was gracious to get them to our gate as the last group was boarding the plane. However, together, we had to experience a rough start to the trip as we flew out of Atlanta for Lima. Close to 2 hours out (just clearing the tip of Florida), we were informed that we would be returning back to Atlanta due to some malfunctions with the bathrooms on board our airplane. We left Atlanta for the second time around 11:00pm and arrived around 6:00am. So, what should have been 12 hours of travel turned quickly into 18. Needless to say, it was a long day/night.
We arrived at our hotel in Lima around 7:00am and crashed for a couple of hours before getting ready for our day in Lima. It was a full and fun day as we started out by packing the bus and heading to Larco Mar in Miraflores which overlooks the Pacific Ocean. It is such a beautiful place. This shopping area is built into a cliff. Mangos, the restaurant we ate at, has a patio and is the perfect place to enjoy your first meal in Peru! We sampled some Peruvian cuisine - ceviche, calamari, yuca, canchita, causa limena, and of course…Inka Cola! We hurried over to an Indian Market to pick up some gifts and souvenirs for our supporters with the little time we had left before boarding our bus to head back to the airport. A quick check-in and scurry to our gate had us on our final plane ride to Trujillo - our destination for the week.
Though we had reached our destination, the day was not over yet. In fact, it was just now time to hit the ground running for the rest of the day. We loaded our luggage on taxis, boarded a bus and headed to our hotel in Trujillo. After checking in, we boarded the bus again to head to orientation at Cristo Rey (Christ the King) church. We were greeted by our Peruvian teammates with a human tunnel - our camp tradition, and the way we welcome campers each day at camp. It was wonderful to reconnect with friends and meet new faces as we finally began our week together. One of our Peruvian leaders led us in prayer, the music team taught some camp songs, we covered many details for camp, split up into our group/activity assignments and made plans for the week. One of the most important details was spending time together in prayer. This was a neat time - coming before the Lord together in two languages, - but, also a reminder of the common bond all of God’s children share through the saving blood of Christ…no matter the color of our skin or language that we speak.
Together, we rode the bus over to a local Chinese restaurant - Siu Yon (DELICIOUS - seriously…Peruvian Chinese food is the bomb!). We sat together and began to work through the issues that come with trying to bridge the language barrier. These people are so gracious with us. It never ceases to amaze me. They are so willing to teach and learn. Such a fun night!
By this point, we were all just ready to crawl in bed. And, that’s exactly what many of us did! However, this was also New Year’s Eve. So, several of the team stayed up on the 4th floor balcony to watch the fireworks around the city. The layout of Trujillo is that the main road, Espana, encircles the central city. On New Year’s Eve, fireworks are set off all around the perimeter of the city and from our hotel you can see numerous shows at the same time. It’s a sight to see…even if you have been awake for almost 48 hours!
After a full night of rest, we ate breakfast in the hotel and split up to visit two of Peru Mission’s church plants - Cristo Rey and Cristo Restaurador. Pastors Jaime Avellaneda and Ricardo Hernandez preached on this, the first Sunday of the new year. It is always great to worship together with our Peruvian brothers and sisters. Such an amazing experience thinking of what it will one day be like as we worship together at the foot of the throne!
Allen and Hermes de Tomas hosted the team and all of the missionaries for lunch on Sunday. Their homes are open and used all throughout the year for events like this. The hospitality shown to us is always warm and their food is fantastic! You can purchase the Peru Mission cookbook at www.perumission.org/cookbook.
We took the afternoon to rest up from such a crazy travel schedule to Peru, took care of a few errands before dinner and grabbed some pizza at a local shopping area since most everything was still closed on New Year’s Day. Early to bed - camp starts tomorrow!
I can’t speak too specifically about Monday, because, well…dehydration. It’s real, it happens quickly, and it keeps you out of camp which isn’t much fun. From all reports I have received though, the first day of camp ran as smoothly as we could have planned. We have 113 campers and close to 70 staff members this year. Camp is now largely led by Peruvians. They have been preparing for camp over the past several months by having meetings each Saturday. They have discussed the particulars of dealing with children, prepared skits, and covered many other details so that we could come in and simply assist them. It is so encouraging to see their ownership of this program and the way that they have made it their own and understand the opportunities that exist for ministry within the camp setting.
After gathering supplies and traveling to camp with our group, each day of camp is begun with team devotions. Frankie Daniell and Joseph Brown from Point Pleasant and I have led the morning devotion times up to this point and it has been a good time to focus on God’s word for us as we serve. After applying our first layer of sunscreen and bug spray, we welcome the campers and staff members as each of their buses arrive. Playground, conversation, dancing, photos, and of course the tunnel are all a part of getting camp rolling. Hermes Tomas welcomes the group, we sing a few songs together, we pray and we’re off to activities. Each day the campers rotate through 5 activities - Evangelism & Crafts, Pool, Sports, Octoball, and Super Fun Games. The kids love time with the staff and I love hearing their laughter and seeing their smiles all day long. Watermelon is our mid-morning snack and it couldn’t come at a better time! The mornings are pretty warm and the sun is intense. By noon it’s time for a meal of meat - chicken or goat, - rice, and salad or potatoes is the typical camp meal…except we can’t eat the salad. Trust me on this one!
The afternoons consist of two final activities and assembly. This assembly is where the Bible stories that the kids have been hearing during their evangelism activity come to life. The Peruvians have done a great job this year putting together the store of Esther and Mordecai. The message has been clear, but with just the right touch of humor for the kids. I love the costumes!
Following the assembly, it’s time to load up the buses and head out. We wave our goodbyes, pack up camp supplies and head back to the hotel to shower up before dinner. Yesterday (Wednesday), we were able to head to Delicias Beach for a few minutes and stick our toes in the cold Pacific Ocean. For some, this was a first!
The last two nights have been hosted by Stuart and Meg Mills, as well as Dale and Susan Ellison and their families. We love both of these families and are thankful for their service to the Lord, as well as their warm hospitality to us while we are here. Wow-wee - we have been fed well!
The team also likes to take in the Plaza de Armas, just a couple of blocks from our hotel. This area is still decorated for Christmas, has many street performers, food carts and plenty to take in. Monday night was the first night to go and the Americans apparently made quite a commotion. When a group of 12 white and one black skinned Americans take in the sites together, it’s hard to go unnoticed. Several Peruvians wanted pictures with the group and for some to hold their babies. Still not exactly sure why, but it sure makes you feel like a celebrity!
That pretty much brings you up to speed with where we are. Please continue to pray for our time here, as well as for the details of our travels home. We appreciate each one of you and are excited about how God will use the seeds that are planted this week to sprout and grow in the hearts and lives of these children and their families. Praise be to God!
Through the years it has been a great blessing to work with many talented individuals who seek to honor and glorify God by using their gifts to serve others. Through my time at Twin Lakes there have been many who have given of themselves and have contributed to making this ministry what it is today. Each set of fingerprints on the program has left a mark that continues to affect the experiences, outreach and reputation of Twin Lakes as a whole.
Over the past six months we have been undergoing a transition within the program staff at Twin Lakes. In February we learned that we would be sending out not one, but two of our own to serve the Lord in other work that He had prepared for each of them. It was at this point that we began praying about and bringing in the new faces that will continue the tradition of leadership and ministry.
GRANT LYONS joined our full time staff in March of 2014 after several summers of service on our summer staff, as a weekend host, and as a part of our maintenance crew. He served as head of guest services where he managed details for each of our on-site groups, led our team of hosts, as well as served as an Assistant Camp Director during the summers. Grant and his wife, Mary Claire, moved at the end of June to Pearl, Mississippi and he has taken a teaching position at Brandon Middle School where he teaches History. If you know anything about Grant, you know that he is an energetic, lively kind of guy who is VERY entertaining. We know that God will continue to use him in this setting to grab the attention of the students in his classroom. These boys and girls will quickly come to love Mr. Lyons, as well as gain an appreciation and love for all things historical.
MATTHEW ELLIOTT has been a part of our program on and off for about fifteen years. He served on our summer staff as a counselor and leadership staff and as a host throughout college and seminary. He also spent some time at Camp of the Rising Son in French Camp, MS. Matthew also holds a Masters of Divinity and a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy. When God brought him to Twin Lakes in February of 2014, all of his experience allowed him to jump right in as he began planning for camp – just four short months away. Since then, he has continued to be a valuable part of the team as he researched, wrote, and directed much of the Bible program for our summer programs. His added ability to craft and write scriptural theme songs added yet another valuable element to what we do. Matthew has accepted the call to Cornerstone PCA in Huntsville, Alabama where he began serving in August as the children’s ministry coordinator. He will also be pursuing his Doctorate while there. We pray for his continued ministry to the Lord and to the church body at Cornerstone.
GRAYSON ERWIN is no stranger to Twin Lakes. From Harrisville, Mississippi, he has been serving on our summer staff and maintenance crew consistently since 2011. Having recently graduated from Mississippi State University, God had him already working as a permanent part of our maintenance crew. When we realized that we had a program position available, we asked Grayson to consider taking on his responsibilities. In March of 2016 Grayson began training and has already done a great job overseeing all of the needs of our guests throughout the spring, special season and now moving into fall. He has also been a huge asset contributing to the summer camp program that he knows so well. We look forward to seeing his continued growth and opportunities for service throughout the years to come.
WILLIAM CRUTCHER is from Birmingham, Alabama, a graduate of Mississippi College, and served his first summer at Twin Lakes Camp in 2016. He is currently finishing up his Masters of Business Administration degree at MC while transitioning to full-time work with Twin Lakes. William’s abilities were quickly realized this summer in the areas of theatrics as he played the role of King Ahasuerus for our skits portraying the Old Testament story of Esther. We were also highly impressed with his leadership skills and understanding of the overall concept of camp ministry. Near the end of July we began talking with him about the possibility of moving into Matthew’s role at the end of the summer. We were happy to extend the position to William and are excited about how God will use his gifts to continue to benefit this ministry and the honor of the name of Christ.
I am reminded of the passage from Psalm 121:1, “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” We greatly appreciate your continued prayer support of the ministry of Twin Lakes. Nothing that is done is worthwhile unless the Lord is behind it. We are prayerful and encouraged about what is to come!
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
We are God’s workmanship, fashioned and shaped by the Master’s hand. Not merely created, but we have been worked on, or recreated, in Christ Jesus. What quality of work might you suspect from the Maker’s efforts? Dorothy Sayers once noted, “No crooked table legs or ill-fitting drawers ever, I dare say, came out of the carpenter’s shop at Nazareth. Nor, if they did, could anyone believe that they were by the same hand that made Heaven and Earth.” Paul writes that you are the object of God’s skillful labor. And God is not in the business of making junk.
But for what reason are you God’s workmanship? As we transition into a new year, it is natural to reflect back over the last year and to look forward into the next. What have I accomplished? What do I hope to be and to do? Paul writes that you are God’s handiwork for the purpose of good works that you might walk in them. Works of comfort and compassion. Giving and sacrificing. Even the unfashionable good works of self-denial and humility. What good works did God prepare for you this past year? What do you suspect are the good works God has prepared for you this next year?
On January 1st, a team of 15 people from Twin Lakes will travel south to the country of Peru. The goal of our trip is reach children for Christ through the ministry of camp and to assist the Peruvian churches in their outreach to the communities. We go with a willingness to learn from others, to place service above self, and to make much of Christ. The five day camp will be in the city of Trujillo over the course of the first week of 2016. We look forward to seeing old friends and forming new relationships as we work and serve alongside of our Peruvian brothers and sisters. We are excited to walk in the good works God has prepared for us.
As we travel and work, please pray for us. Could it be that your prayers are some of the good works which God has prepared for you this next year? Please pray for safety as we travel to and from Peru and that all of our luggage would arrive as well. Pray that we are able to relate well through the cultural and linguistic differences. And please be in prayer that we might walk faithfully in these good works sowing and reaping for the glory of God.
May I run the race before me,
Strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus
As I onward go.
May His beauty rest upon me,
As I seek the lost to win,
And may they forget the channel,
Seeing only Him.
- Kate Wilkinson
The building process is one of many steps. Some stages, like laying a foundation, are slow and arduous. Dirt must be moved or brought in, a foundation plot must be laid out, then dug and poured, and the concrete needs time to cure. Other stages can seem to go quickly, like framing up the exterior and interior walls and roof line. All are part of ultimately having a product that functions correctly and is useful for its purpose.
Eight years ago plans were being made to build a summer camp program in Trujillo, Peru. Missionaries from Peru Mission contacted Twin Lakes to partner with them in providing a program that would allow children to hear the gospel through the experience of camp. Their hope was that by helping children to latch on to the gospel of Jesus Christ at an early age, there would be an opportunity to change a culture by bringing them up in the truth of God’s Word, both at camp and at church.
Those early years took time and effort to establish a solid foundation for this program. It was evident that God had called us to this ministry and we knew its potential value. Our prayer was that He would allow this same tool to change lives and build His kingdom within a different culture. “Unless the Lord build the house, those who build it labor in vain.” (Psalm 127:1) In order to build this program, the foundational goals would require gaining the trust of the Peruvian staff members who would join us in operating each day’s activities, as well as parents and children. It was also our goal to communicate that the program was more than just playing with kids and ensuring their safety…it was about communicating God’s love in all of life.
The response was encouraging. Within the first year, God blessed what happened during the exciting days of camp to unite Peruvians in a way that the missionaries had not yet seen. Staff members commented on how the program provided a way to reach children for Christ, and were eager to continue being a part of future camps. Lessons from camp were taken home to family members who had been resistant to Christianity and church teaching. Yet they saw through their children that the Bible is credible and wanted to know more. The building process had already begun and God was using Twin Lakes Camp in Peru in ways that we would never have imagined!
The latest camp in Trujillo showed continued development. Missionaries are working to bring Peruvians into the planning and training aspects of camp. Staff members who want to help with camp are evaluated, interviewed and trained. Involvement with church pastors is an important part of the process. Four trainings are held prior to camp in order to share the vision of camp and expectations for those volunteering their time to help. Former campers are now a part of the counseling staff. Our American team is now simply a supplement to what is already taking place in Peru. FPC Jackson (Twin Lakes) and IPC Savannah (Point Pleasant) join together in bringing summer staff members from each camp in order to aid and assist in running camp, as well as financially supporting the program. The collective efforts of Americans and Peruvians are an integral part of what makes this program special. Together, God uses everyone’s gifts in unique ways to serve others and bring glory to Himself.
Twin Lakes Camp in Peru ran from December 29, 2014 through January 2, 2015. Fifty-eight staff (22 Americans and 36 Peruvians and missionaries) served together to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ to 140 campers. This year’s camp was probably one of the smoothest to date! It is evident that all of the efforts put into previous years have aided in allowing camp to come to a point where the program itself runs seamlessly. Through our four days of camp, we were encouraged in the way that this trip benefits the overall mission that exists 12 months of the year in Trujillo. It is great to know that what God allows us to do at camp in the development of relationships with Peruvian staff and campers, helping to share God’s word throughout the day, smiling, laughing and playing with children, assists Peru Mission not only for a short few days of fun, but is a part of the overall outreach to impact the communities they minister to. What a privilege to be used in such a way for the building of Christ’s church here on earth and in preparation for eternity!
“…you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:5
Buenos dias from Trujillo, Peru! We have had two successful and full days of camp at Rey Sol in Trujillo. All has run smoothly with plenty of help from our Peruvian staff members. With bright sunshine in the mornings and the Pacific breeze that settles in every afternoon, we have enjoyed splashing in the pool, playing games on the field, and learning about "la Casa de Dios" (the House of God) in our crafts and bible lessons.
Each morning begins with the excitement of the campers' arrival. After the children stream through a tunnel of Peruvian and American staff, every one assembles for singing under the shade of the pavilion. The remainder of the morning is spent in three different activities. At each activity, the staff and translators present an object lesson connecting the activity with the Bible. We enjoy having the opportunity to spend time and cultivate relationships with the children each day.
Around noon, everyone is hungry and ready for lunch! Our meals typically consist of chicken, rice, and a salad. The Peruvians also enjoy some "papas fritas" (french fries with mayonnaise) and Inka Cola! While we are chowing down on our delicious meal, the bugs/gnats continue their feast on American legs and ankles. Battling through sunburn and exhaustion, the children and staff congregate for a post-lunch fiesta! Though it is quite hot, we are excited for our afternoon continuing our activities.
The end of our activities also brings the refreshment of "sandia" (watermelon). The campers and camp staff love the taste of this watery treat! Moving back to the pavilion, we begin to sing more songs which help us share the Christian faith. Just as we learned about the Temple this past summer at camp, Twin Lakes Peru is teaching all of our children about "la Casa de Dios." Through skits and songs, each camper learns about the holy God which is unapproachable by sinful people. Yet, we learn that Jesus Christ is the great high priest who went into the Most Holy Place offering himself as a final sacrifice tearing the veil that separates God and man. Our day ends saying goodbye to our campers and Peruvian friends.
Among the many songs that we have learned this week, the Peruvians have taught us La Casa de Dios, which means the House of God.
Mejor es un dia en la casa de Dios
que mil años lejos él
Prefiero un rincón en la casa de Dios
que todo el palacio de un rey.
Ven conmigo a la casa de Dios
celebraremos juntos su amor
haremos fiesta en honor de aquel que nos amo
estando aqui en la casa de Dios
alegraremos su corazon
le brindarenos ofrendas de obediencia y amor
¡En la casa de Dios!
Arde mi alma, arde de amor
por aquel que me dio la vida
por eso le anhela mi corazon
anhela de su compañia
Better is one day in the house of God
than a thousand years away from the
I prefer a corner in the house of God
that all the palace of a king.
Come with me to the house of God
we will celebrate together his love
there will be a festival in honor of him who loved us
while you are here in the house of God
will rejoice his heart
Bringing offerings of obedience and love
in the house of God!
My soul Burns, it burns with love for
the one who gave me life
why he yearns for my heart
yearns for your company
We made it! Prayers for a smooth travel schedule and details to work themselves out were answered as we moved as a group of 14 from Jackson to Atlanta. We met our final Twin Lakes team member, Emily Sutton, at our gate in Atlanta and were excited to finally have her with us. Flights were smooth and morals up for the duration of our travels to Lima and throughout the wee hours of the morning, immigration and check-in process for our domestic flight on Sunday morning. We checked in to our hotel around 2:00am on Sunday morning and caught a few winks until it was again time to head back to the airport around 7:00am. Our arrival in Trujillo allowed us to reunite with all of our belongings and supplies, as well as meet up with Alleen McLain Tomas, our missionary contact and all-around amazing friend! We made quick drive by our hotel to drop off bags and then were off to Cristo Rey for church. Singing and worshiping our Savior in a culture and language not your own remains one of the highlights of this trip. What a joy to share with our hermanos and hermanas in Christ! Pastor Jaime Avellanda spoke on the truth of Christ being our only source of salvation – a clear presentation of the Gospel as the last Sunday morning message of 2014.
The Dale Ellison family hosted both US teams and the Peru Mission families for a delicious lunch at their home in Huanchaco (minutes from the Pacific Ocean). We are thankful to each of the missionaries for the opportunity to come and serve in such a worthwhile way. By 4:00pm we were prepped and ready to have camp counselor orientation. Games, singing and camp details kept us alert and encouraged as we eagerly await beginning camp in the morning. Close to 60 total individuals are volunteering this year to help run camp for 160 children. What a blessing to see the enthusiasm to serve through the ministry of Christian camping here in Peru. Some of our Peruvian staff were campers during the beginning years of this camp in Trujillo and now serve because of the impact that camp had on their lives.
We worshiped together again on Sunday evening at Cristo Rey where Albert den Oudsten led us in a study from Luke 2. We again enjoyed the opportunity to join in the study of God's word with our dear friends in Peru. The whole camp staff (all 60 of us) headed to a family style dinner of Peruvian Chinese food like no other...Delicious! What a great time of fellowship and camaraderie!
An American team meeting on our combi ride back to the hotel and some last minute prep in the common area of our floors has us all ready to pass out, but SUPER excited about the week ahead together! Though the title of this post doesn't necessarily reflect the physical aspects of sleep on our adventure thus far, our spirits can rest in the fact that God has promised us that He will supply our every need. The lyrics to another hymn of the faith have resonated throughout the last 48 hours and hold especially true as we look forward to heading to bed on our first night in Trujillo.
Jesus I Am Resting, Resting
Jesus I am resting, resting
In the Joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.
Thou hast bid me gaze upon Thee,
And Thy beauty fills my soul,
For by Thy transforming power
Thou hast made me whole.
Jesus, I am resting, resting
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.
O how great Thy loving kindness.
Vaster, broader than the sea!
O how marvellous Thy goodness,
Lavished all on me!
Yes, I rest in Thee, Beloved,
Know Thy certainty of promise,
And have made it mine.
Jesus, I am resting, resting
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.
Simply trusting Thee, Lord Jesus,
I behold Thee as Thou art,
And Thy love, so pure, so changeless,
Satisfies my heart;
Satisfies its deepest longings,
Meets supplies its every need,
Compasseth me round with blessings;
Thine is love indeed!
Jesus, I am resting, resting
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.
Ever lift Thy face upon me,
As I work and wait for Thee;
Resting 'neath Thy smile, Lord Jesus,
Earth's dark shadows flee.
Brightness of my Father's glory,
Sunshine of my Father's face,
Keep me ever trusting, resting;
Fill me with Thy grace.
Jesus, I am resting, resting
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.
Each winter, Twin Lakes takes a team of our summer staff to Peru to continue the ministry of summer camp. Though it may be overcast, rainy, & cold in Mississippi, 15 Twin Lakes staff will travel to the dry, summer heat of Trujillo Peru to share the Gospel of Jesus through the fun of camping ministry. Leaving on December 27th, our team will serve alongside our friends from IPC Savannah, Georgia and numerous Peruvian volunteers. Twin Lakes Peru will span the week of December 29th through the new year.
Please be in prayer for the team as they travel to South America. Pray for safety in travels as well as the operational logistics of running camp. Please also pray that the Gospel would be effective in the hearts of the children as well as the ministry being a blessing for the local churches and communities.
As a familiar hymn for Christian missionaries throughout the years, We Rest on Thee depicts the reliance of believers on the power of God. We rest on Thee, and in Thy name we go ...
We go not forth alone against the foe;
Strong in Thy strength, safe in Thy keeping tender,
We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.
In Thy dear Name, all other names above;
Jesus our Righteousness, our sure Foundation,
Our Prince of glory and our King of love.
And needing more each day Thy grace to know:
Yet from our hearts a song of triumph pealing,
“We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.”
Thine is the battle, Thine shall be the praise;
When passing through the gates of pearly splendor,
Victors, we rest with Thee, through endless days.
-Edith Cherry, 1895
The Psalmist gives praise to God for His changelessness. Yet he blesses Him still for the ebb and flow, the creational rhythm, the alternating cadence of his created order. Night turns into day. Fall displaces summer. “He made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting” (Psalm 104:19).
The signs of change are in the air. The days are growing shorter. Children are back at school. Each weekend, the stadiums are brimming with excited fans. Even the trees seem to anticipate losing their summer garments. At camp, the horses have left. The kayaks are put away. A calm has replaced the hustle and bustle of summer camp. And the sun stained grass groans as fall and winter approach. Summer camp is over.
We give the Lord praise for His faithfulness to us throughout summer 2014. We give Him praise for our campers. Roughly 2000 children across the southeast came to experience our summer camp program! They came to ride horses, to climb our rock wall, to swim in the lake, to be in a place that was safe to be child. We give Him praise for our summer staff. Nearly 90 individuals, who came from across the eastern United States, gave of their time and energy to invest in little children. We give Him praise for his creation. As we look across the campus of Twin Lakes, we see a place where all our guests can fast from the demands of technology and find rest as they experience the beauty of God’s handiwork.
Certainly our camp program would not be successful without the support we received from our camp families. We are very thankful to all our parents entrusting us with the care of their children throughout the summer. The design of our camp program rests upon the principles of safety, fun, and Gospel. We firmly believe that a safe environment, coupled with a place where a child can enjoy their childhood, is a powerful tool for the advance of Christ’s kingdom in children’s lives. Thank you for allowing us to care for your children in 2014.
We are also very thankful for God’s provision for us. In 2014, Twin Lakes saw a number of changes that helped improve our camp program. With the addition of staff in our lakeside cabins, we were better equipped to serve the needs of our campers. The renovation of our camp office allowed us greater flexibility in the management and administration of the camp program. And what camper didn’t play in our new Octoball court at the tree house? Having a multitude of campers lined up to play or watch a round of Octoball was enough proof of the game’s success!
Even among all the fun we had in 2014, our main focus was to teach about God by learning about his house. “For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place” (Hebrews 9:1-2). Such was the sight for each camper this summer. Following our Friday night adventure where we learned about the glory of Jesus Christ through his miraculous signs and teachings, the entire camp moved into the Temple court beholding the house of God, the Temple.
But what is so special about a house? During Twin Lakes Camp Summer 2014, each camper learned about the Temple construction and its various furnishings. They learned that each aspect of the Temple served as a sign or shadow of the greater realities found in Jesus Christ. Each witnessed the power of Christ’s atoning death as darkness passed over the pavilion, an earthquake rumbled through the crowd, and the great veil that separated between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place was torn from top to bottom. We imparted to each camper that to draw near to God, one must look to the One who tore down the dividing wall between us and God!
“But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” Summer 2014 saw numerous campers come to know Christ. We thank the Lord for allowing us to be a part of this harvest.
Our closing ceremony this summer featured a song patterned from Psalm 84. In this Psalm, the writer looks upon the Temple of God and longs and faints to be in the joy of God’s immediate presence. He desires to be with his God in His house. We praise the Lord that we can look forward to one day being in the very presence of God without shame or guilt.
“How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God … For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.” (Psalm 84:1-2,10)
Yesterday was our third day of camp. It was extra special for the campers since they today had the opportunity to ride horses! The day flew by, and we had a smooth transition between activities and the kids seemed to enjoy all day!
We had dinner at the Smith’s (Allen and Sandi), where we had almost an hour of debriefing. We talked about the highs and lows of the week, what has been encouraging to see this week, the importance of camp, and much more. The team leaders ended our debriefing with some last words of encouragement in reflection of these past few days, and in preparation for our last day.
One of our Peruvian brothers shared a story of how when they were riding back to the churches with the kids, two campers (who are both mine) had told him how they wanted to go to church the next Sunday. It made my heart leap of joy to hear that.
Today was our final day of camp. We had shorter activities so that we could finish earlier because we had to make it to our plane leaving at 730 from Trujillo to Lima. We had a spectacular horse show right after lunch for about twenty minutes that all the kids got really excited about. We had a good bit of time to say our goodbyes, shed some tears, and wish our brothers and sisters a great year (and that we will hopefully see them again next year!)
One of my campers gave me a letter that he had written and drawn pictures on, which is definitely something that will remember to remember him, the kids, and this whole week as a whole.
Please pray for safe travels for both the ones of us going to Jackson, and to our brothers and sisters going to Savannah, Georgia.
Pray for the Peruvian counselors that we have worked with all week: that they may use their time at camp to further invest into their churches and neighborhoods.
Also, please pray for the campers that we have poured into this week. Pray for the ones in whom God has convicted of their need of Him, and also the ones whom God has not yet worked in. Remember, God promises in Isaiah 55:10-11 that as God’s Word goes out, it will not come back empty, but it will accomplish God’s purpose. Therefore, we can be certain that God will use this time at camp today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, or even in ten years. And all the honor and glory goes to Him!
When I was 6 years old, our family moved to a new house. I remember the excitement of visiting the home-site as it neared completion. But it was landscaping day that made waiting nearly impossible.
(Photo by Jennifer Grace)
The landscape architect planted a magnolia tree in front of the house, and a fig tree beside it.
I immediately pictured the majestic magnolias at my maternal grandmother's house, and the abnormally large fig tree at my paternal grandmother's house. I could not WAIT to climb these two new trees in my very own yard. Childhood hopes and dreams had blossomed, and the new heavens and new earth had arrived for my 6 year old self.
There were two small problems: my underdeveloped sense of time and ignorance of basic botany. My expectation was for both of these trees to rapidly grow and bloom. "Surely it wouldn't take THAT long."
It did take that long. When I left for college, both trees remained pathetically small. My hopes for these family trees were crushed under the weight of comparison to other trees. They never measured up.
Is this how the people of Israel felt about their own family tree? God's promises to Abraham and David held out hope to an entire family, people, and nation. Yet for years and years: nothing. Exile. Pain. Suffering. Personal and corporate failure.
Yet, the New Testament begins with Matthew's rallying cry to the people of Israel. The Messiah they had longed for, the fruit of their family tree, had arrived in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. He was the son of Abraham. He was the son of David. He was the shoot of Jesse (Isaiah 11). The tree finally bore fruit.
The promise had arrived, and Matthew chose to communicate it first through...
Admittedly, genealogies are not fun to read. And they are not often preached. But the genealogy of Jesus is the story of how the Holy Spirit transformed a family tree by sending a child. One branch changed the entire tree. And we rest our hopes on that same Branch.
In the first chapter of Matthew, we are shown Jesus' family tree. It is majestic and beautiful. But once we move closer, this tree's warts and thorns are impossible to ignore.
Abraham began as a pagan, and proved himself a coward when he lied about his wife. We are reminded of the awful Tamar situation. Rahab - a gentile woman without a godly reputation - is included. And then there is the family's namesake, David, who became a murderer and adulterer, yet he remained a man after God's own heart.
The thorns of this family tree remind us that God became flesh. Christ entered a real family. The story of redemption shows us that God chooses and uses broken, sinful people. In Jesus' genealogy, we see redemption at work in the lives of real people.
How many genealogy projects have stopped short as the family tree proved shameful? I once heard a pastor ask, "If you could hand pick your own family, would you choose a family like this?" God chose a family like this.
Our hope is not in sentimental platitudes that say, "God can use your imperfect family! He has a wonderful plan for your life! Just follow these 3 easy steps to healthier family relationships."
He does have a wonderful plan. But that plan is accomplished in the form of a Person. Our hope comes in the form of a child. Redemption is accomplished when the Holy Spirit engrafts Himself into this family tree and the Messiah is born.
"Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit" (1:18).
We must not forget this part of the genealogy. God's promise through Isaiah was for a Messiah (11:1) upon whom the Holy Spirit Himself rested with the result of fruit (11:2-6). By the Spirit, thorns become fruit and a barren land becomes a fruitful field (Isaiah 32:15).
Is there hope for your family? Are your kids too far gone? Is your relationship with your parents beyond repair? Is there no redeeming value in your family tree?
Christian, your only hope hangs on One Branch. The Gospel gives you hope that now, in Christ, you have been engrafted into a better family. The Covenant that was given to Abraham and his family is for you by faith, through grace. What does this mean for your family?
1) If you are in Christ, there is no question: the Spirit has changed your family tree
Horrible things happened within my family a few generations ago. By the grace of God we are what we are. Not having arrived at some blissful state of family harmony (far, far from it), but experiencing healing by the grace of God in the truth of the Gospel.
Our identities are not bound up in what has been done to or by our family. Those thorns were driven onto the Head of our family in the form of a crown. He bore our grief and endured our shame that we might stand in a fruitful field. (Isaiah 53:4-6, Hebrews 12:2, Isaiah 32:15).
The Spirit, by entering Jesus' family, changed the very ground in which we are planted, the fabric of reality. This is how He changes our family tree. The work of the Spirit is not done as He works in and through our families to bear the fruit of the Spirit in our hearts (Gal. 5:16-26). The reconciliation we have found with God the Father through Christ results in the possibility of reconciliation with each other (Eph. 2).
2) For those with family struggles, remember that you have an eternal family
This is true whether you are married, single, divorced, widowed, childless - regardless. For Christians, we know that often water IS thicker than blood: the covenant community (signified in baptism) runs deeper than the blood of family. The unity we have as the Church binds us tighter than family bonds (Matt. 10:35). This does NOT mean we abandon our biological families in favor of the church. In fact, it means we run TOWARDS family, secure in our standing as children of God.
I pray that our churches become places of refuge for those without biological families and those with broken families (a.k.a. all of us), as we all bow our knees before the Father, from whom every family on heaven and and on earth is named" (Eph. 3:14-15).
Today, I go back to my childhood home and see what I was too impatient to see back then. The trees are growing. They are even bearing fruit.
So it is with the people of God. God used a dysfunctional family to grow new life in his creation by sending His Spirit. That same Spirit bears fruit in the hearts and lives of believers as the Holy Spirit works to grow us into His own family tree.