Halfway Around the World – Kids are still the Same
By Emily Lambert, Outdoor Education Coordinator
Warm Beach Camp’s ministry extended far beyond its home in Stanwood, Washington, this past August to a small country in eastern Africa. In partnership with Sister Connection, an organization that helps widows and orphans in war-torn Burundi, a team of staff from WBC traveled to help in the second annual youth camp for the children of widows in Burundi, held at the end of August.
The camp took place at a local mission station in Gitega, Burundi. I and my husband, Matt Lambert, along with Kayla Costa from Warm Beach Camp and Eric and Heidi Barnes from the Warm Beach Free Methodist Church, went to help make the camp a success. About 450 Burundian youth attended the three-day camp where transformation was an underlying theme.
The culture is different but the activities, lessons, and worship are the same. Games of tag and team races were surrounded by swarms of campers roaring with excitement. The soccer field was continually occupied with the boys trying to prove who had the best skills.
Inside the crowded meeting room, craft projects were all the rage! We worked diligently to teach the youth how to make bracelets out of plastic lanyard chord. The language barrier made it difficult but after a while the youth picked it up and worked busily creating their “masterpieces.”
One Burundian leader explained, “The activities are healthy for the youth because it lets them free their minds and become youth for a brief moment in time.” Beyond activities, the youth where so eager to learn about God that we had to bump activities and crafts so there would be enough time to dive into God’s Word.
The widows of Sister Connection selected which of their children would attend the camp. Most of them chose youth who had not committed their lives to Christ. Although many of the youth had come without a relationship with Christ, they were thirsty to learn. Their personal transformation was evident from the start.
This desire to learn was what fueled a transformation in so many lives. By the second day, 188 youth had committed their lives to Christ, and the rest of the time was dedicated to teaching them how to reach out to their communities.
For our team, part of the joy of serving in Burundi was the opportunity to work with ten Burundian leaders and pastors who share the same desire to see youth find Jesus. After the camp ended, the Burundian leaders and the Warm Beach team met for a time of encouragement and growth. Matt taught the group initiative games that helped the team of leaders understand how to rely on one another and work together.
The full effects of the camp in Burundi may never be known, but, as the youth went home, their mothers reported seeing changes in the attitudes of their children and shared about even more commitments to Christ that occurred after leaving camp.
Half a world away, kids are the same as here. They love going to camp and they respond to the message of God’s love for them. For us, the excitement of seeing so many commitments made to Christ was extraordinary, and witnessing the transforming power of Jesus through the ministry of Christian camping in Burundi was an incredible blessing.