Preparing for Worldwide Christian Service
By Jessica Beach, Volunteer Coordinator
A collective roar of laughter went up from the staff dining room as Priyanke, an intern at Warm Beach Camp, told the story in staff break of how Rob Down, the Camp’s Construction Manager, had to rescue him and his boots from certain calamity.
Earlier in the day, the two had been down in the horse pasture digging fence post holes in a torrential downpour which turned the fields into a virtual bog. Priyanke, having positioned himself for some serious digging, began to sink and, despite his efforts, could not dislodge himself. At this point, Rob picked up the man and his boots from the ever-deepening hole and set him on firm ground.
It was stories like these that made all of the Warm Beach Camp staff know that even though Priyanke had, just months ago, come from halfway around the world to join us in ministry, he was now one of us.
Priyanke Madawela, or Pri, as we came to know him, was born and raised in Kandy, Sri Lanka, off the eastern coast of India. When he was 16 years old, he was led to the Lord through family members who were led to the Lord by US missionaries with TEAM missions.
His years between graduating high school and Warm Beach Camp took him to India for nine months to work with the poor, and to his church as a youth and administrative worker. Pri also worked with World Vision for seven years, a term which included assisting with cleaning up after the devastation of the 2004 tsunami that hit his island. Through these years, he carried in his heart the call he had heard at the age of sixteen to “work with people.”
In 2006, when Pri heard the call from God to quit his job with World Vision and pursue a ministry in Christian camping, he had a hard time convincing himself and his family members that it would be a good idea. Christian camping is virtually unheard of in Sri Lanka, since it is a Buddhist country, but Pri’s vision was clear: to start a small camp that would be a quiet and a safe environment where kids could come and experience God.
After quitting his job, he made the decision to take a year to seek God’s direction. A major part of that direction was to find a location for a camp. In 2007, Pri sought to buy land on which to build the camp, but the search became frustrating as lead after lead fell through. It seemed he never had enough money, or the land was not ideal.
One day, Pri was driving through a remote area when he stopped at a shop to get a cool drink. The shopkeeper asked him what he was doing that day. Pri explained that he was looking for land. Moments later the shopkeeper’s son was guiding Pri to a beautifully secluded 6.5 acre plot bordering a lake on a forest reserve that claimed thousands of acres of virgin forest. This plot was owned by an elderly man who had, years ago, chosen to keep his land while the land around him was turned into a reserve. Only God could have known that when Pri came that day, this man had just recently decided to sell his plot. Days later, the man agreed to sell the land to Pri for the small sum of $2,500, his life savings. The future camp will be aptly named Camp Miracle Valley.
He then felt led to come to the US through Global Outreach as an intern to several camps. Two months after purchasing of the land, Pri left Sri Lanka and toured a series of camps, ending up at Warm Beach Camp in the summer of 2008.
During Pri’s time here, he worked in a wide range of areas: Recreational Staff, Summer Staff Counselor, Food Services and Accommodations Staff, Professional Fence Hole Digger, and was part of The Lights of Christmas.
Not only did Pri do a lot of work here at Warm Beach, but he also spread his vision for his camp into the hearts of everyone he met. Pri left at the end of January to return home with a better understanding of what is involved in running a Christian camping ministry. He also left with an entire storage container of camping supplies and the love of everyone he met.
Pri’s first major project will be to build a road into his camp and then to erect an electric fence to keep the wild elephants out of the area. At least he is now very familiar with digging fence post holes!
Part of Warm Beach Camp’s mission statement includes, “To see people prepare for worldwide Christian service.” Today, there is a budding Christian ministry halfway around the world that WBC got to have a part in.
If you would like to learn more about Camp Miracle Valley, you can visit the camp’s website at http://miraclevalleytrust.org