FUNDEFAM camp transforms lives and renews young people’s spirits!

“This is the first time I’ve ever read the Bible on my own!”, said Karina, one of the teenage girls who decided at the very last minute

Studying Jesus's encounter with the Samaritan woman

to attend the Family Development Foundation’s (FUNDEFAM) youth camp. “And, what do you think?” I asked her.  “It’s quite different than I thought it would be – more interesting and easier to understand” she replied.  Karina was part of my small group Bible study, where after each teenager spent 20 minutes reading about Jesus’s encounters with different people in the Bible and answering questions on their own, we gathered in small groups to share what we had learned.

Twenty teenagers from FUNDEFAM in Monterrey, Mexico, together with eight teenagers from Jireh Baptist Church, with whom FUNDEFAM has had a long partnership, attended the three day youth camp in March 2012. There were also 10 adults who served the youth in the camp.  I was invited to be the conference speaker, and I led four dynamic talks on Jesus: our Savior, Healer, Shepherd, and Provider.

Together we all boarded the bus on Friday afternoon to take us to the campgrounds located in a beautiful woody place just one hour outside of the city.  The teens from FUNDEFAM live in the nearby violence ridden communities and many rarely get the chance to travel outside of the city.  Throughout the weekend, I heard many participants share how peaceful it was at camp, how much they enjoyed being out in nature away from the city, surrounded by trees and by people with whom they felt free to be who they are.

Paola was one of the teenage participants from Jireh, whose father told me on the day we left that she wasn’t very excited about participating in the camp.  When her parents came to observe the last few hours of the camp, they shared how they couldn’t believe the change in their daughter.

Paola was a timid girl who didn’t really know anyone in the group, but she was quickly accepted by the other girls.  A critical moment for her was during one of the team building activities.  Hanging from a rope with a pulley attached to her while her team held onto one end of the rope to keep her from touching the ground, she had to pull herself to the tree where the other end of the rope was attached, grab hold of an egg and pull herself back to her team without breaking the egg. She quickly made it to the tree and decided to put the egg in her mouth to make it easier for her return, when suddenly the egg cracked open all over her shirt, her hair and her mouth!  Everyone assumed she was done, that she would not want to try again, but no, she was determined and her whole team got behind her cheering her on!  Even though it was a difficult task that required a lot of physical and emotional energy, on her second try she accomplished the goal.  Everyone went crazy, hugging her and congratulating her!  From then on, I saw a change in her – more self-confidence, a real connection to the rest of the group, joyful participation in worship and group discussions.

Here are a few other testimonies from the camp…

Alone time in God's Word
Alone time in God's Word

For several participants this was their first camp, but not for everyone.  Hector, who has participated in several different youth camps, said this was the best camp he’s attended because he grew closer to God.  He also shared how in another team building activity called “crossing the river” they all worked together and made sure everyone was included and was able to cross the river.

Several participants shared how much they enjoyed the worship.  For most teens from FUNDEFAM who do not attend church, worshipping God like this was a new experience for them, but the worship team from Jireh Baptist Church did such a great job by bringing instruments like tambourines and maracas to encourage their participation.  We danced and sang songs with great meaning.  Some of their favorite songs were “No tengas miedo”  (Don’t be afraid), “Yo tengo tanto para agradecer” (I have so much to be thankful for), and “Eres Santo” (You are Holy by Micheal W. Smith) which brought goosebumps to several teens.

Daniel, a student at the Technical University in Monterrey and a volunteer leader shared, “We had the freedom to just be ourselves without trying to impress others.  We got to get out of the city, listen to God and look for him more intensely”.

Free fall

The games were typical of most camp experiences – crazy and lots of fun!  But they also encouraged team work, dialogue, creative conflict resolution and facing fears.  For example, one of the activities was climbing up to a platform on a tree and falling backwards into the interlocked arms of your teammates.  Pablo, a teenager from FUNDEFAM, said about this, “I really liked the free fall.  It felt really cool to fall and let your teammates catch you.  It required a lot of trust that they wouldn’t drop you!”

Adriana, a volunteer cook for the camp and the administrative assistant at FUNDEFAM, noticed how God blessed us with all types of weather during the camp – sun and clouds, hot and cold, rain, hail, thunder and lighting!  It really was a beautiful place and time together.

There were also opportunities for the participants to grow together in leadership and service.  Many of the youth were involved in the planning of the camp, as well as leading worship and some of the activities.  All of the youth helped wash the dishes and clean the bathrooms and the cabins each day.

The worship music, new friendships, games, team building and ropes course activities, dancing, singing and sharing testimonies around the campfire, great food, Bible studies, dynamic conference sessions, leadership development and service, serenades, down times for intimate conversations, and in it all God’s presence and love experienced in community, in nature and times alone with God… this is how God uses camp to transform lives and renew spirits!

Please continue to pray for God’s work in the lives of these teens and also for God to provide leaders for the FUNDEFAM youth club.  Lisandro Restrepo, a Covenant missionary and the current leader, is leaving Monterrey with his family in June and there is still a need for committed leaders to continue the work God is doing through this ministry.

FUNDEFAM youth camp March 2012
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