As you may or may not know, this summer I covered for the Director while he was on vacation. There were some challenging moments and some fun moments (this blog is about one of the fun ones), and I survived them all, mostly thanks to your prayers, I'm sure. I know I grew through the experience, but I'm glad the Director is back now!! Just a few days before he returned, I attended the closing session of a youth camp as his representative.
This particular youth camp is put on my three different church denominations who work together. It's a great chance for the churches to pool resources and to share the planning for a rather large annual summer event which can be draining when you do it year after year. This also gives a greater number of possible speakers to address the youth on all sorts of topics. Since there are no campgrounds here, there are no extra activities like swimming, boating, or team-building obstacle courses, the camp is really a week of intense Bible teaching. And, finally, it gives the youth a chance to meet other Christian young people from around the city. This is a huge encouragement to them as many may be the only Christians in their school or neighborhood.
I should explain that "youth" in Niger, by definition, is young adult, not-yet-married, so ages 15-30. Most who attend are probably in the 18-23 age bracket. Also, even though the camp is planned by three denominations, there were youth there who represented probably up to 10 different church groups.
When I got there, I had to sit up front with the other "important" people, aka non-campers. And as soon as I sat down I was told I had the opening prayer. Yikes! At least I didn't even have time to get too nervous about it ... and praying in public is easier than speaking in public since you don't have to make eye contact!
They had a lot of "fanfare", which was a marching band. I assume this band comes from one of the sponsoring churches, but I don't really know. But how cool is it that one of the trumpet players is a woman? I have almost never seen female musicians, other than pianists, here in Niger (I've seen two different girls play the jembe [a type of drum] and there are a few instruments known as women's instruments). I know she is in all likelihood not Nigerien, but I hope the girls looked at her and thought, "I CAN do things that are not traditionally female to do or that might be unique and radical."
The main leader seemed really good at engaging the youth. The pastor sitting next to me told me that the leader had been up late every night just making sure everything was taken care of and that all details were in place for the next day. He did a short session reviewing the week. He would name a speaker and then ask the youth to say in one or two words what that speaker's message had been about. So he'd say, "Pastor T____" and they'd chant, "Have faith! have faith! have faith!" They came to one Pastor's name (I've heard him speak and he's one of my favorite speakers because he dishes up steak and solid food, not milk). He called out his name and there was silence. Finally somebody in the back yelled, "Beaucoup! A lot!" In other words, there was so much from his message that they couldn't condense it down to one word.
I loved the energy among the youth from enthusiastic singing and dancing to chanting the message themes to teasing each other and laughing together. You could tell they'd had a great week together.
At the end of the closing ceremony, the church who had been in charge of this year's camp brought in the camp flag and passed it off to the church who will be in charge of planning next year's camp.
They will have a committee made up of members of all the churches, but the main responsibility falls to that church. They will find a location, choose a theme, make sure there is food and lodging for everybody, etc. Next year the church we attend will be in charge of planning the camp. I think it's a great idea for them to take turns like that as it allows the churches to take the main responsibility for planning only one year out of three. It's really great to see these churches working together and I was glad I got to attend in the Director's place.