Teach Us to Pray conducted our first ever camp for youth in Western Fiji the end of August. My life was greatly impacted by the church camps I attended as a boy. I went into ministry as a result of those experiences. Young people today face so many challenges that it was a true blessing to be able to affirm them in their faith and their calling to walk in purity and uprightness before God and with each other.
The youth we served were all hand-picked because of their leadership qualities in their respective villages. We gave them a better understanding of who God is for them and who they are in Him. We provided a place for them to have a great time together eating, playing, laughing, and worshipping as they learned together. Our friendship camp was transformative for those who attended.
Here is what some of the campers had to say about their experience: “The best camp with the right people with a good purpose to serve the Good, Mighty and Loving God!! God is truly awesome! He loves you and me!” “Dear Jesus, I’m now a champion because now I know my identity and I’m so sure that I’ll have a great future. The campers just reminded me of who I’m supposed to be. It’s true that I miss them more than anything in this planet earth. Meeting all the youth was a huge happiness for me. Dr. Ken, thank you for the message and for sponsoring me to come. God does provide. The camp came alive. I’ll never forget the friendship we made together. This friendship camp was something else. Every time I think of the friends I now miss, I have to wipe away my tears.” “One thing I really appreciated about this camp was that everyone was allowed to laugh and just be free to be themselves and have a great time together. I am so thankful.”
We plan to do at least one camp a year, bringing together more leaders from various isolated villages and allowing them to meet with Jesus and each other to be encouraged.
We did a variety of interesting things together each day. First thing in the morning everyone gathered outside the dorms for exercise to music. This was a great wakeup. Then came showers and breakfast. After we ate we had about an hour-and-a-half of worship and teaching. Then we had free time for sports—volleyball, swimming, practicing for the worship dance competition the last evening of camp, and generally getting to know each other. Many of these youth rarely get out of their isolated villages and so don’t have much opportunity to meet in a large gathering with other believers. After lunch we had more worship and teaching and trips to local points of interest. One afternoon the campers learned how one of the nearby villages extracted salt from the ocean and packaged it for sale. We also took them to a beautiful local resort beach where they could play in the sand and have a great time swimming. For the few city kids, this was a real treat. But a lot of time was spent getting to know each other, building friendships that will last for a lifetime. We deliberately structured a lot of free time for personal interaction between the campers and between campers and staff.
I want to thank all of you on the prayer team who prayed for this most recent trip to Fiji. Both the medical/evangelistic outreach and the First Fiji Friendship and Leadership Camp were very successful. I know this is the result of your prayers and support. God maintained my health and stamina throughout a sometimes grueling schedule. He also allowed a beautiful afternoon of reflection at a wonderful beach between the two events. Very refreshing.
The debrief with the camp leadership team was very fruitful as we assessed what went right and what can be improved next year. Everyone was encouraged by the feedback we have already received from the youth who attended. Here is a testimony from just one of those:
I’m now a champion because now I know my identity and I’m so sure that I’ll have a great future. The campers just reminded me of who I’m supposed to be. It’s true that I miss them more than anything in this planet earth. Meeting all the members was like a huge happiness for me. I am so thankful a hundred times that Cuvu Navilomani Atama invited me and we represented the Nadroga, Navosa area of Fiji. Dr. Ken, thank you for the message and for sponsoring me with a scholarship so I could come. To all the people from Suva, I love you guys and thank you for the ride. God does provide because I was so worried about our transportation. My friends from Nadi town through to the Rakiraki area, but especially my pastor and his wife, yes thanks very much to this family because they really helped the camp come alive. I love all this people because I’ll never forget the friendship we made together. This friendship camp was so something else because every time I have to wipe my tears. Though it was a bit sad because all the others live so very far away, but I do wanna meet them again and that’s my prayer. Oh, sorry I missed out something…To all the members of the Atama family, thank you very much. It is my prayer to God that he will continue to provide for them and bless them.
This is just one of the comments from those whose lives have been enriched from this time together learning about Jesus and Father God and experiencing Their love in and through each other.
I now have about 45 new Facebook friends, with more being added each day. The leaders in Fiji have a planned follow-up schedule to maintain contact with all who attended to continue t mentor them and to establish long-term relationships with and between them.
I arrived home last night about midnight. Didn’t have any sleep for about a 20-hour period because I had to be at Nadi airport at 2:30 a.m. for the 10 1/2 hour flight leaving at 5:50 a.m. We left about 45 minutes late. Anyway, made for a loooooong day. Did manage to get some sleep last night, though none on the plane, and am now unpacking and getting back into the traces here.
Once more, my most profound thanks for all you did to make this mission such a success. To God be the glory, great things He has done!
It is Saturday evening and the first annual Fiji Friendship Camp is in the books. I don’t think many of the campers or the staff got much sleep last night. I finally settled down around 2 a.m. but or co-director’s wife was awake all night. What wonderful servants she and her husband were. Without them, we could not have held the camp. We should all sleep well this evening.
We were up around 6:15 a.m. to spruce up the school grounds, leaving them in better shape than we found them. The youth did a spectacular job. Then bucket showers before breakfast, where farewell tears were already beginning to trickle down some cheeks—and not only of the young ladies. Lots of us taking photos of groups of new friends.
Then, though it was a lot like herding cats, we got everyone into their official camp tee-shirts and assembled for the official camp photo. More spontaneous photo ops for friendship groupings, then into the meeting room to sing while I put the finishing touches on a PowerPoint presentation I assembled of the activities of the week. That was a phenomenal hit. I believe I got every person into at least two or three shots.
I also asked the group to sing me an unaccompanied hymn or song. Their voices are truly lovely, much more so in my opinion than when they sing with drums, keyboard, bass guitar, etc. I gave out a few more Bibles, then spoke very briefly about the woman with the issue of blood. You can never take Jesus by surprise and you can always come to Him even with the most hidden thing affecting you and He will personally respond with love and healing, never allowing you to go away in hidden shame.
Then the selected camp spokesperson officially thanked me on behalf of all the campers for the week of teaching. I was really touched and moved by the comments as well as by the many individuals who came up to me personally afterwards to say goodbye.
Cuvu, her one of her daughters and I drove back to Nadi where I am back at the Grand Melanesian Hotel. Monday the camp leaders will debrief the week and make plans for future Friendship Camps.
All of you who prayed were a vital part of affecting the lives of these young people who will be leading the church in the not too distant future. The youth were moved to know that so many of you cared about them even without knowing them personally.
Friday, the last full day of the first Fiji Friendship Camp, was the best day yet. In the morning session I spoke on the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer. This teaching basically allowed me to tie together all of the various strains of thought I had been presenting on Jesus, the character and nature of God and who we are in Christ. I have had both leaders and students come up and express real appreciation for the new understandings they have gained over the week. Jesus was very present throughout the entire week.
During the afternoon there was a rousing session of volley ball. Then the youth practiced their dances for the highlight of the social activities, the evening dance competition. That program did not end until midnight. We had a bonfire, but it was so late by the time we had awarded the prizes (much coveted chocolates) that we did not gather in any formal way at the fire, but allowed students to go to the fire and meditate or sing as they might want before turning in.
They turned in around 2 a.m. However, I don’t think many of them actually slept.
Now it is morning cleanup and baths, a closing gathering and good-byes by around noon.
Thank you for being so much an integral part of this week through all of your many prayers and petitions to Our Father, which art in heaven.”
On day 4 we had yet another outstanding day of camp. I taught the final two sessions in the morning on the character and nature of God—you only see and know God by seeing and knowing Jesus. Filter everything through Him. In Him you can see the very face of God. Lights went on. Some very good questions. They were intrigued as they thought about what it meant for Jesus to be fully and completely a person just like them who did all He did in the power of the Holy Spirit as He watched what His Father was doing, did only that, and constantly prayed and was in dialogue with God so that He only said what the Father was saying. Lots of questions about that. The implications of that for their personal lives and ministries sank in.
Then some free time to practice their dances for Friday night competition. Then to Natadola beach for a lovely swim in the ocean. Water a bit chilly, but all too wonderful. They buried themselves in sand, rolled in sand, frolicked in the water and had a fantastic time. his was my first time into the ocean on this trip and I loved it. This is a friendship and discipleship camp. These young men and women are forming friendship bonds that will last throughout their entire lives.
It has been another fantastic day of camp. One of our intercessors wrote me an email that I got early this morning indicating the Holy Spirit had really showed up during her morning prayer time and indicated God would act in a mighty way among the youth today. He certainly did. The two morning teaching sessions were powerful and very well received. We covered some very difficult material regarding the nature and character of God, but everyone was tracking.
Then the youth had a great time in their activities, practicing their group dances, swimming, generally getting to know each other and interacting with the leadership team at some deep levels.
The speaker tonight is the pastor of Cuvu Atama’s church. Cuvu is our camp director. The pastor mostly gave his personal testimony, which was amazing and then challenged the young people to respond to God’s call and purposes in their lives. There was a very moving and powerful response.
I will teach twice more tomorrow, finishing up on the character and nature of God and moving into the purpose of prayer.
Thanks for praying for this camp. I let the kids know this morning that you were praying and they were delighted beyond words that so many folks would be holding them up before Father God.
Day two of our friendship youth camp has just ended, although there is still an incredible amount of chatter and singing going on at 11 p.m. Last night the students were up until about midnight. They are having such a great time together. The worship was incredible. Remarkable singing, deep expression of passion for Jesus. Tears of joy.
I spoke on who these young people are in Christ—why they exist. It was remarkable to watch them tracking as I presented the simple message of the love Jesus has for each of them. How God selects the small things and the seemingly unimportant things and glorifies them to His purpose. There are no insignificant people among His kids. All have a redemptive purpose in His extravagant, excessive love.
Afterwards I heard some moving stories concerning some of those to whom I spoke—like the young man who does not even know who his father is because his mother didn’t even really know. The shame that comes from that in a status conscious society and the significance that he has a real, true Father who loves him for who he is. No one is a mistake. Some of the youth are beginning to respond and tell me about themselves, etc. This is most encouraging in terms of our purpose to establish relationships and friendships among leaders from each village.
The directors of the camp have decided to provide more opportunity for me to speak to the campers and present the message of the nature and character of God that I have been introducing. They are hungry to hear of their Father’s great love.
Pray for my ability to continue to connect with them and to adequately portray Jesus as well as teach about Him and implant new understanding in their hearts and minds.