It is exciting when something you dreamed finally exists; tangible, visible, real. I felt that way during our recent adventure outreach camp put on at the Bolivia Life Center in coordination with the team from National Community Church. Ever since this adventure therapy program got started here in Bolivia, the boys have been asking me to be able to bring their friends along on our excursions. This is the first time we have reached out to them, and not only that, but hosting an entire camp targeting our community. This was a huge undertaking, and God brought the right people to make it happen. It was the result of months of talks, permits, and planning, and I am kind of amazed at how well we pulled it off!
Being Bolivia, it was not without its share of hiccups. The first came on the way to pick up the team at the airport, when I received a frantic call from my coworker relaying the news that our paintball guns were being held up in customs. And then the news that three of our team members got left behind in La Paz. I smiled to myself. “This is exactly what I expected from you,” I thought to the Enemy. “You’ve become very predictable.” His tactic had the opposite effect than was most likely intended. It honestly gave me more courage and enthusiasm; if the enemy is this freaked out about our camp, then it’s going to have an impact!
Probably my favorite moment of the entire week came on the eve of camp, as I shared these convictions with the team and we got on our knees and prayed for the campers, for each activity, for safety, for fun! And then most of us pulled an all-nighter as we made the final preparations. Once again I saw the powers of delegation to responsible and creative people at work, as each sub-group worked out the final details of their station.
The next three days went by in a flurry of activity: murals were painted and wristbands made, boys and girls acted out scenes from the Bible in full costume, flags were captured, testimonies shared in interactive ways, boys did push-ups and ran challenge courses, and little boys and girls scaled walls with their own bare hands. It was nothing short of inspiring to see groups changing stations in a coordinated fashion, really getting into Bible study of all things, and new kids from the community coming in through the gate.
Some of the most entertaining moments came in the absence of paintball guns. We are probably the only camp on Earth to have attempted paintball with slingshots. Had the slingshots been better quality, the plan may actually have worked better than guns themselves! On day 3, an urban warfare scenario was set up in the old shed using water balloons as weapons, thereby neutralizing the issue of close-quarters combat. And while I didn’t witness it, the mental picture of 20 little boys rushing the court in an ambush on the unsuspecting futsal station puts a smile on my face for days.
The climbing tower, built by an NCC team two years ago, was a major attraction for the camp. Our little guys had their first run on it, defying heights probably 10 times their size to scamper up the wooden walls, cracks between boards being every bit as effective as silicon hand holds for little feet. Coming back down proved more difficult than going up, and Melissa and our belay team worked together to escort the frightened ones down again. One little girl from the village totally aced the tower in one clean shot, little pink sweatpants extending nimbly from hold to hold. Older boys from the village got the challenge they expected as they rappelled down the back side of the tower, taking the step of faith backward off the ledge.
It’s hard to say how many people from the community we reached this week. Or how many of our neighbor’s chickens we killed during our firework show on the Fourth. But we have certainly made a name for ourselves in the town, and I am confident that next year will be a much bigger production. What we do know is the impact this week has had on our own team, on the boys, and on the other campers. People are making life changes: beginning children’s ministry, quitting jobs and relocating, and relinquishing ministries to refocus on others. Boys held tightly at goodbye this week, unwilling to let godparents out of sight again. College girls whipped out their smartphones in a flurry of posting and bragging after each novel activity. Boys from town let out a holler upon completing the climbing wall. People came alive. And that was our goal this week; to expose people to the excitement and joy of life lived to the fullest, in an environment described as “the ecosystem of God’s love.”