Wow! A lot has happened over the past few days. On Thursday night we had a "despedida" with all of the camp staff (American and Peruvian) where we viewed a slide show, exchanged gifts and words of what this experience has meant to everyone. Over the past 10 years it has been such a blessing to continue to build relationships with these people. We now have former campers who are counselors at camp. A few of the comments this time together were as follows:
Our normal lives don't put us in contact with one another very much. Camp has been valuable as Peruvians are able to fortify friendships by spending intentional time together throughout the week that is not a normal occurrence. - Peruvian pastor
Noah's Ark Camp has been used to advance the gospel in Peru by shedding light on all of our communities. - Peruvian pastor
I have been blessed to continue to build relationships with the friends I have made through my many years of camp. I have enjoyed the opportunity to see how hard my Peruvian friends plan and prepare for camp throughout the year. Noah's Ark Camp is the highlight of the year and a blessing, not just for campers, but for counselors too! - Peru Mission Team Member
I am thankful for how welcoming everyone has been. I didn't know what to expect when coming to another country where I cannot communicate very well. God knew that this was something I needed in my life after recently losing my father. It has been great being surrounded by such warm people and serving the Lord together. - American counselor
In my life I see violence everyday. Crime and drugs are in front of me everywhere. There are several children that we are working with at our church that are here at camp this week. I am proof (as a former camper) that God has great plans for every one of these children. - Peruvian counselor
It was incredible to hear from several how this program has deeply impacted their lives and how much it is appreciated. The ministry of Christian camping is a powerful tool that God is using to build His kingdom!
We finished up camp yesterday with some fun changes for Campamento Arca de Noe's 10th anniversary. Campers were treated to a fair in the back part of camp with snocones, cotton candy, popcorn, face painting and balloon animals. We also celebrated with a true Peruvian birthday party, complete with birthday cakes. The assortment of cakes depicted each activity - sports, super fun games, octoball, bible story, pool, crafts and one with the camp logo for 2018. There is no telling how many hours were put into the decorations on these cakes. They were truly a work of art. Each camper has also been given a gift each day of the week, leading up to the ultimate gift on Friday. Each camper was given a "Jesus Storybook Bible" by Sally Lloyd-Jones in Spanish. If you haven't seen this book before, please order a copy. It is so well done, with great illustrations, but more importantly the correlation of Old and New Testament stories and how they point to our relationship with Jesus. These books were such thoughtful gift for each camper!
One of the hardest parts of the trip is quickly saying goodbye at the end of camp. Our flight schedule requires us to immediately leave camp on the bus to head back to the hotel, pack up, and fly out. Giving hugs, taking photos, exchanging words, etc. often is very emotional for everyone. Camp weaves a tightly knit community and it is hard to leave the friendships that have been made over the past several days. What is always helpful is knowing that we will see our brothers and sisters in Christ again one day.
After returning to the hotel, we showered and packed up our belongings to head home. While in route to the airport, we were informed that our domestic flight from Trujillo to Lima was delayed. We checked in and headed to grab a bite to eat while we waited to see how long the delay would last. There were mechanical issues with the plane that kept it grounded in its prior destination. Long story short, the flight was cancelled. With this being the next to last flight out of Trujillo and the later flight not having sufficient room for our large group or even enough connection time, we were definitely going to miss our flight from Lima to Atlanta. The team leaders began working on reworking our international flights with major setbacks. The Trujillo airport was full of travelers who were looking for answers and accommodations...so much so that the police were called in to help control the chaos! After nearly 3 hours on the phone with our travel agent and multiple exchanges through the night, our flight was rescheduled, but not until 2am Tuesday morning. The team was disappointed as this changed quite a bit of plans and expectations for everyone. However, I have to say that everyone has had a great attitude throughout the entire experience. We know that God is in control and has our best interest in mind and is providing and protecting us in ways we may not even know.
Today has provided rest for many who have been struggling with the beginnings of some health issues, as well as an opportunity to communicate back with their families. It has been a sweet time of reflection, rest and fellowship. We were able to have a casual lunch with some of our missionary friends, visit Chan Chan (a historic archaeological site) and eat some delicious Peruvian Chinese food. Seriously, it's soooooo good!
Last night was difficult. Many emotions came flooding in and it was easy to become self-centered and impatient. However, with time it has been easier to be still and know that He is God and that He is still at work. Our desire is to continue to be used as a light wherever He places us. Even now, many of our team are playing a late night game of soccer with many of our Peruvian friends from this week, furthering those connections. Our purpose in life is to glorify God. We are to consistently be a witness to others, not just for a few days on a missions trip, but every aspect of our lives.
These words have been on my heart today as we seek to remain focused. Thank you for your continued prayers.
Be Thou My Vision - Dallan Forgaill
Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art;
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
- Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.
- Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tow’r:
Raise Thou me heav’nward, O Pow’r of my pow’r.
- Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.
- High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heav’n’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.
We've been running camp for a few days now and it has been pretty busy. We wake up each morning, get ourselves ready for the day, run downstairs in our hotel and have a quick bite to eat - typically eggs, bread, fruit, fruit juice and/or coffee. The 32 members of our team pile onto the bus with all of our supplies and travel across the busy morning streets with it's honking horns and weaving traffic, to Rey Sol campground just outside the city in Moche. This area has been developed to allow tourists to visit the Huacas (Temple of the Sun and Moon). As a result, there are many primitive museums and cafes, residences, farms and event venues, like the one we are using. It's a great place to hold camp. The grounds are beautiful with green grass (highly unusual in a desert), trees, bushes, and flowers. There is a children's playground, pool, pavilions, a stage, outdoor kitchen and eating area in the front of the facility. In the back, there are large game fields, along with swing sets and restrooms. Towering behind camp there are two mountains that provide the perfect backdrop for all of the fun games, songs and activities that take place each day.
Speaking of activities, each day the campers have a rotation of 5 different activities - Pool, Arts & Crafts/Bible Story Time, Sports, Octoball, and Super Fun Games. Each activity provides an opportunity to read scripture and offer an object lesson to the group. Our prayer is that through relationship development with each camper the things that are taught this week will make a lasting impression on their hearts and lives.
The meals have been fantastic! Peruvian food typically consists of some sort of chicken and rice. So far at camp we have had chicken pasta with vegetables, roasted chicken with french fries and a beautiful salad (that we couldn't eat..."just say no" to the water), and a Peruvian chicken dish today that had potatoes covered in a cream sauce with shredded chicken in it and rice as a side. All have been excellent!
The camp day is bookended with assemblies. Morning assembly follows our traditional welcome tunnel for each church group. This assembly involves energetic songs and entertaining announcements about the day, and afternoon assembly with more songs, Bible skits, and gifts for each camper and counselor - celebrating camp's 10 year anniversary!
After finishing the day and telling the campers goodbye, we quickly clean up camp, pack up supplies and hop back on our bus to head to the hotel for a luke warm shower (that is always appreciated after a dusty day of camp), and a little R&R for about an hour or so. Then it's off to a missionary home. Dale & Susan Ellison, Stuart & Meg Mills and Hermes and Alleen Tomas have graciously opened heir homes to us this week. Having some unstructured time around the table speaking only English is welcomed at the end of each day.
Our final bus ride takes us back to the hotel for the night. Typical nightly activities at the hotel are hanging out on the balcony playing cards and talking, tackling a team project for camp, or "harassing the dogs" that live behind the hotel. That is, unless it's New Year's Eve - which means there's very little sleep to be had anyway due to fireworks all around the city, car horns everywhere and neighborhood karaoke parties that last for the following 24 hours! But, that's a story for another day.
I hope this helps you to feel a little more informed about what we've been up to so far. There's not much time to sit and think. But, when I've had time to do so this week it's been evident that God has provided this opportunity to each of us for specific purposes in each of our lives and is constantly at work for His glory and our good. I'm reminded of a verse from one of my favorite hymns, "Day by Day."
"Day By Day" - Karolina W. Sandell-Berg
Every day the Lord Himself is near me with a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares he fain would bear, and cheer me, He whose name is Counselor and Pow'r.
The protection of His child and treasure is a charge that on Himself He laid,
"As thy days, your strength shall be in measure," this the pledge to me He made.
We are held in the hands of our Lord and Savior. He is near us with tender mercies for our lives each and every day - they are new every morning. Jesus is with us and knows our every need and cares for us better than we can care for ourselves. He counsels us and protects us, because we are His. But, each day is its own, with new lessons to learn, new trials to face, and new joys to celebrate in. Each day is an opportunity to look to the one who provides everything we need and sustains us as we go. We lean on Him and His strength in order to do anything worthy. It is He who is working and not us!
This week has been a joy. We are seeing the fruits of many labors over the last 11 years. Thank you for your interest in knowing how God is at work in Peru through Christian camping. We are all excited to continue to tell about the opportunities that God has given us while we have been here, as well as the ways that He is at work in our own lives.