I faced a week of youth camp at the ocean shore with both dread and anticipation. Armed with bed linens, jugs of water, toilet paper, a coffee pot and china mugs, Ian and I rode the bus to Kawai, a retreat center owned by the Peruvian branch of Scripture Union. We were joining 73 teens, their leaders and supporting clergy for a 5-day campomento on the Pacific shore. The teens and their young leaders camped in tents on the grounds while Ian and I, claiming old age, stayed in a nearby bungalow.
The clean but spartan bungalow proved adequate with a kitchen, electricity, bunk beds, cold water, a bathroom and a lovely front porch area where we sat each morning sipping mugs of hot coffee. Usually the first one up, I put on some music, lit a scented candle, and brewed the coffee. I looked forward each morning to sitting outside on the porch reading, praying and watching the hummingbirds feed on the red hibiscus. Young people jogged by on the dirt road, allowing me my privacy. Ian joined me after a while and we planned the day ahead. One day friends came by, desperate for a good cup of coffee after their short night in a tent, lined up and squared off with their two children. I admired them–greatly! Along with daily strolls on the nearby beach, I doubly appreciated this time of quiet as a gift of beauty and tranquility– a retreat from city life.
After the quiet mornings, I was ready to teach each afternoon when I led a series of workshops based on Sybil MacBeth’s book Praying in Color. The spiritual and artistic aspects fit well with the camp focus: Connect to the Vine, based on John 15 where Jesus talks about our being the branches connected to his vine.
The leaders filled the day with sports activities to help teach sportsmanship, art activities to create a new way to get in touch with God, and talks given by clergy and youth leaders on topics such as Quiet Times, Commitment to Jesus, and Contemplative Bible Reading, Lectio Divina–ways to connect to Jesus.
My workshop ran for four days, with four groups of 25-20 for each 30 minute period. We sat on pews in the chapel, a large airy building with high ceilings and windows open to the sea air. After my explanation of the day’s activity, the kids sprawled out on the pews or chancel floor and drew with markers and colored pencils. Strains of Bach and Mozart played in the background, setting the contemplative mood. The space was cool and tranquil, and they settled easily into their praying in color, boys and girls equally engaged. My friend Sarah helped me during each session by translating and helping with questions and management.
It did not take the teens long to become comfortable praying in color and sharing their discoveries. After the first session when I asked them to write a private letter to God describing their struggles with prayer, many shared their visual prayers of intercession and illustrations of scripture phrases.
In the evenings, we had supper in the big tent near the kitchen. The food was prepared by a clergy couple, parents of the young, gifted youth leader, Lizbeth Varillas. At both lunch and dinner, we had soup for a first course, followed by a main course of rice, potatoes, other vegetables and more chicken. Every part of the chicken was used including feet, gizzards, and livers. Dessert was always fresh fruit, either mangoes, grapes or bananas. I became accustomed to eating everything with a large soup spoon. The plastic bowls worked well for both soup and main course. Everything was then hand washed by the team assigned for the day’s kitchen duties. The kids were kind to Ian and me during meals and made conversation easy by asking us lots of practical questions such what to look for in a future spouse!
I was impressed with many aspects of the week, especially the leadership of the youth workers, Paul and Sarah Tester and Lizbeth Varillas. They are clearly working on training up leaders and instilling in the youth respect for one another, love of the Lord Jesus and a sense of delight in the Christian life. I only wish that I could have talked more deeply with the youth, but my Spanish is still too elementary. Even so, I found their company friendly and energizing. They give me hope for the future of the church and the country of Peru.
Ian and I chose to return a day early from the camp since our work was complete. We caught a large Soyuz bus from the nearby resort town of Asia and headed back into Lima. Once home, we appreciated our hot shower and a clean, comfortable bed. The four days had been good; we had been stretched, and we were thankful for what we had experienced and to what we could return.
God had been faithful and had kept us safe and secure while delighting us in surprising ways with chicken feet, hummingbirds and ocean waves.
So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me till I proclaim thy might to all the generations to come. Thy power and thy righteousness, O God, reach the high heavens. Psalm 71:18-19
These are Ian’s wonderful photos taken during our week at camp.