Sunday 28th July. 1730 hours. 27 families. 50+children under 10. 1 Dining Hall. 1 Factory. 6 Days. Family Camp.
The Family Camp at YWAM Harpenden over the last week was great! Lots of hard work, but lots of smiles, action songs, creativity, cuddles, silliness and some really profound lessons. Having worked for a church, and YWAM and volunteered with lots of different organisations, I have learnt that each place has its own language.
When I hear 'Family' used in the church, I often think of the meaning as 'something for everyone, provision for each member of the family' - i.e. maybe a bit together, but mostly in respective age groups. Perhaps it's a language thing, but often in YWAM, 'family' means 'all-age' or 'intergenerational'. Something I have become used to - although I still didn't know what to expect at our family camp. However, I was challenged and delighted to see a culture being set at this camp of families doing things together - the fun, the serious and the spiritual. It was great to see the 'all-age' bits really being 'all-age' and not just children-focused.
To cut a long story (or week) very short, daily we had 'Tribal Gatherings' (or all-age worship/creative sessions) morning and evening. The morning one was followed by the daily 1.5hrs in age groups, followed by lunch. After lunch each day there were creative options: bubbles (epic bubbles at that, sculpture, high-rope tree climbing, water-fun, wide games, drama workshops, learning the Bible off by heart and so on. Most of those were to give the opportunities for whole families to have fun together. Then there was the evening Tribal Gathering, followed by tea, and then something for the older children and adults once the kids were in bed.
Despite running the 4-7's program, which was so much fun and filled with some delightful manners and wide-eyed wonders, the thing that struck me were the Tribal Gatherings. Although chaotic and noisy, they were filled with heart-felt worship, dramas to challenge and to relate to, symbolic activities of handing on batons and 'bag time' to talk about the day. One on-going activity was that each family had a large planter, and each day added something to their garden. The gardens represented their family and the family's spiritual life, and it was great to see them pulling up weeds and stones and talking about the hard things or things that need to be removed from family life; the hedge of protection around the garden and the role of parents, the planting of seeds - again the role of parents in choosing what to invest in their children and the watering - seeking God for nourishment.
All the families I spoke to felt God had spoken to them about some aspect of their family life - particularly from a spiritual perspective, and were hoping to put some of the ideas and values in place. I too went away excited at the prospect of being more inclusive and feeding the age-relevant stuff into the bigger picture - a value I've owned for a long time, but haven't seen put into practice so explicitly before.
I have just returned from a delightful, if a little busy two weeks leading 'Just Go' our summer missions program. Five days of camping in Sussex, followed by 10 action-packed days in Romania followed by another day and half in Sussex to de-brief and celebrate, a whirl-wind of adventure, an outpouring of God's love and MASSIVE amounts of His grace as I led the entire project as well as the Romania team! (We also had teams in Serbia and Poland!)
The training was a real high-light for many of the 25 youth who joined the project, with Burn 24-7 style worship, creative workshops, a half night of prayer and some Biblical teaching on mission - as well as some 'getting to know you time' for each of the teams given that they'd only just met!
Tues 9th July we all flew to our various destinations - for us, Constanta on the coast of the Black Sea in Romania. We spent a few days there with the YWAM team, helping to lead some Kids Clubs, joining in the life of the base with intercession and worship times, as well as seeing some of their other projects such as the Boy's Home, International Cafe and the newly developing Aquaponics system they are experimenting with! (See www.foodmachine.org)
After a blessed time in Constanta we moved to Medgidia, in many ways a nondescript Romanian town, but one that God certainly has his hand on! We worked with Stepping Stone Missions, and incredible work based out of an old communist style building converted into a community centre. They run a feeding program for Turkish gypsy children including literacy, washing and clean clothes; A pharmacy, a library and are partnered with a local church. The pentecostal church has a vision to plant 44 churches in the surrounding villages by 2022, and so far have 11! We were able to run Holiday Bible Clubs in each one, as well as three church services, 1 youth group, a football tournament and a ministry night. All interspersed with planning, preparation and impromptu worship in the corridors! All in four and a half days!
The young people on my team were fantastic! They were willing to step out and try new things like giving testimonies and praying for healing. They were also hard-working, sacrificing sleep to work very hard, and do things they wouldn't normally like doing, such as cleaning toilets and picking head-lice off children's heads with their fingers!!! All 14 on the team got on like a dream, supported each other through the tough bits (it was quite hard for some of them to see the children in extreme poverty), laughed a lot in the fun bits, and now are continuing to be inspired with fund-raising enterprises springing up, and pursuits into more and longer mission trips.
The whole time I was well aware of God's grace over my life - over the logistics, over my sleep and energy, and over the different projects we were involved in. From the healing on the plane on the way out, to the youth group evening when the local youth didn't want to move from where we were preaching because they wanted to hear more - God was in it all, the smiles, the prayers, the healings and of course it the young people themselves as their faith reached new depths. What an honour and privilege to be a part of something so
My musings. Opinions my own, and potentially not that thought through!