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  • Writer's pictureTodd

Let the Kids Speak

After a couple weeks of living here we decided it would be a good idea to bring all of the kids we just recently met to a camp somewhere in the mountains of Costa Rica (google map location here)

It was Saturday night at camp La Montaña. Our group of 45 students and leaders walked across the camp property to the bonfire, which was the final activity of the day (side note: it's highly recommend to stay on the trails and not venture off into the woods when walking at night due to the high concentration of venomous snakes in the country haha). I was done for the day. All my energy was gone. I had my mind on my pillow and I was satisfied with being done. Everything about the day exceeded expectations. Our program and game teams rocked it, the leaders had spent quality time with kids, nobody was injured doing ridiculous activities, the food and community around the table during meal time was special, everybody heard about the love of Jesus, and worship was powerful for the kids - like not just standing there awkwardly singing but actually engaging the living God through singing, prayer and reading scripture. So in my mind, it was time to hang my hat for the evening.

The camp staff sat us all in front of the fire and began to speak. The staff spoke fully in Spanish throughout the weekend, which was helpful for most of our bi-linguel group. It was fun to watch how our camp experience would hop back and forth between English and Spanish throughout the day. Now, as a gringo, one might think a bonfire as a time to find sticks, place that fluffy marshmallow into the fire, get the chocolate ready on the graham cracker, and indulge in a messy gooeyness of sweet heaven, all while sitting around the warmth of the flames. So, I was a little confused when the camp director began to share a long story (without marshmallows) in which I catch parts of the words but obviously not all of it (again, all Spanish). I knew he was sharing something about Jesus and his love, I heard him talking about suffering and someone going through cancer, so I figured he was sharing a testimony of some sort. Then he stops and walks to the side. All you can hear is the crackling of the fire. A few seconds later everyone began to turn their heads towards me. I clearly missed what was happening. One of our Spanish-speaking leaders(Donny) comes to me and says,

Donny: Hey bro, did you hear what he said?

Me: Um....yes? shared his story, right?

Donny: Yeah and he said its time for people to go up and share their stories

Me: Oh......of course.

Many thoughts and questions come to my head: What should I say? What if no one wants to share? Where are the s'mores though?

I walked forward to stand between the fire and the crowd. I briefly recapped the day with all of the students, sharing how God has been clearly present in the day. He's been in the laughter, the adventure, the food, the language translating, the worship, the joy, in meeting new people, doing challenging things, hearing about how we're created by Him, and way more. Then, in the middle of my fatique, the Lord reminded me to be bold and to trust him when giving students opportunities to speak up and share.

So I got out of the way.

I asked if anyone could come up and share about their experience of the weekend and then the unexpected happened: a lot of kids came up to share how much they appreciated the camp and how God was moving. For the next hour we had kids and leaders couragously sharing all kinds of stories of redemption and freedom and gratitude. Students were vulnerable about things that were hard in their life. A few examples of stories kids shared were: the anxiety they experience daily, grieving a lost family member, being thankful for a community to walk with, family issues, transitioning to college, and more. Students and leaders even prayed for someone asking for healing.

The next time I want to "settle for s'mores" I'll remind myself, even when we want to shut off, God is still on the move. He's been teaching to me to trust that God moves powerfully in young people. We need to give them the mic. We need to get out of the way sometimes.

It might have been a little risky to plan a retreat in a new country with a bunch of kids you don't really know yet, but it was more than worth it. We can clearly see that this experience took our youth group to a new level of following Christ together. Kids are back in town excited about what's next. They're excited about actually doing the things they are learning about. They don't just want to talk about Jesus. They want to know him in a deeper way. They want to be a part of God's kingdom movement that is happening right now in Jaco. They also want renewal to come to broken parts of this town and people.

So that's how you can pray. Pray that we humbly listen to God's guidance as we step into a new season after this retreat. Pray that kids continue to have people to walk with. Pray for renewal of families. Pray for our schools. Pray against the dark and destructive parts of this town. Pray that kids continue to see a vision of Kingdom coming. Pray that God gives us all courage to take one step at a time, one day at a time, as we follow Jesus together.

We included an update video we filmed in our backyard. We're thankful for everyone who has been financially giving to and praying for this mission. Please continue to pray about becoming a monthly supporter. The info for giving is up at the "Support Us" tab.

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