The day started off with the team loading up in vans and heading towards a resort down river from the ocean. Peacocks and horses roamed freely around this luxurious oasis. It seemed like we had stepped out of the country and into a paradise with the contrasting quality of the surrounding villages and the luxury of the hotel. We took several hours swimming in the hotel pool and resting. At 12:00, we boarded a hollowed-out canoe for a boat ride. The shores of the river were dotted with houses, piles of clam shells from past dinners, and people trying to stay cool in the heat. We passed mansions with wakeboarding boats and jet skis right next door to mud shacks with straw roofs. The different levels of wealth were astounding. After half an hour, we reached the ocean shore. The beach was covered with trash, but we still enjoyed the beautiful view of the ocean and shells scattered across the shore. After some quick pictures, we returned to the hotel.
After a quick lunch and a change of clothes, we headed to the church where our opening ceremony of camp would begin. We arrived around 3:30, and children were already gathered in the courtyard of the church. Our SEED team members wracked our brains for every camp song, activity, and game we could think of to play with the kids. For hours we sweated, laughed, danced, ran, and sang with the children. Drew and Joey took on the task of explaining the games to the children. Some of the games we played were: Limbo, team relays, Simon says, sock it to the devil, blind folded circle tag, baby shark, and many more. As the day went on, we drew the attention of neighbors and individuals passing by. Many new kids came to watch, and with the encouragement of our team many took part in the activities. Nicole made a special friend with a small child who looked to her for encouragement the rest of the night.
Eventually as dusk approached, we split the kids into groups and headed inside. Through method of “mingle mingle” we sorted the kids into what would be their teams for the rest of camp. Leaders (us) helped come up with team names (many of which were professional soccer teams) and scramble to memorize names. About ten kids were in each group. Next came dinner. A container of food was passed to each child. These children to not get much to eat, and what they do are always leftovers after the elders have eaten the best food. When they opened the containers and saw the meal, the joy and excitement that lit of their faces is hard to explain. Talking in the hall seemed to cease as the kids became absorbed in eating. Joey, who had been playing with kids all day and had dirty hands got up from the bench among his team to try and find some sanitizer. As he walked pass Ezekiel, Confidence, and Samuel, they called out “sir”. Stopping, Joey looked over to see each one of them holding out their spoons and boxes of food. “You need to eat sir, take ours” they said. They thought I had gotten up because I hadn’t received a box of food and was looking for one. By now, the food was no longer being passed out, and there was no way for the kids to know they would get another box. They were offering him the only thing they had, their only meal for the night, and the thing that had just minutes before made them all light up with joy. It was hard for Joey to hold back tears from this gesture.
The kids would eat everything from their meal. Even the bones and gristle from the chicken. After dinner we handed out shirts for the camp to the children. They were so excited they were hopping around. They were strangely finicky about their shirts though, some wanted them to big, some on the smaller side, and some just right. Shyly, a kid asked Joey if they got to keep the shirts when the camp was finished. Upon hearing yes, the child and his friends erupted in excited chatter.
The SEED team went up to teach the verse Proverbs 3:27 to all the children. Ben and Josiah later said it made them emotional hearing all the children excited to learn the verse. After, Josiah asked for volunteers to pray, and a brave little girl quickly hopped to the front and led the whole camp in prayer. As she prayed, the small voices of about 100 children could be heard whispering their own private prayers to the Lord. Finishing the prayer, two girls led us in the start of worship. Slowly but surely, coaches and children stepped up to the drums and eventually a full-blown worship occurred. Clapping and dancing in a large group, nobody was left sitting in the pews. The children were quick to mimics us leaders in our moves and Megan ended up having flow blown Congo line wrapped around the building. As the songs wrapped up, tired, sweaty, and open-hearted children filed in the pews for the last time of the night.
God revealed himself today through the eagerness and enthusiasm of the children. Once we were divided into teams and learned the kids’ names, we were able to connect with them incredibly quickly. Their smiles and laughter were contagious as we talked and danced with them. In the coming days we will be working with the same ten kids on our teams to build deeper relationships with them. Please pray for the potential impact these relationships will have on us and the children.
Hope, Joy, Tailwinds.
Joey, Megan, Adair