This winter we took four boys to camp (for ages 12-17) July 29-Aug 1st. Grace Brethren churches from the Buenos Aires area organize this yearly winter camp and we were invited to participate. We had invited six youth from the bario to go, only four were able to go. This being our first camp experience in Argentina we had no idea what to expect. We did know that most of the kids there would be believers or at least have experience with “church”, while our kids were completely and utterly “un-churched”. But as for the program and how things would work, we had no idea. The camp we stayed at was beautiful, the grounds were huge and the facilities were very nice. The theme for the weekend was on how we, as believers in Christ, are a team, one body.
Everyone was great and welcomed all of us from La Plata. It took about a day and a half for everyone to get used to each other and the different groups started to mix more. The first day we arrived about 11:30, we went out exploring the grounds, played some soccer, climbed trees, and molested a bees nest. After lunch we went out and played some more soccer with the rest of the group, that was a perfect setting for our groups to start mixing. That night we had a bonfire and after dinner it started to rain so we were stuck inside. The night was filled with card games, table games, and later after midnight some organized group games. It continued to rain for the next 24 hours almost flooding the whole place! The little streams all around were overflowing their banks and forming little lakes in the fields, it was quite the sight to see. So, we were stuck inside ALL DAY AND NIGHT Friday. Whoa, talk about intense with no where to go. We basically played table games all day (I can’t even begin to count the number of times I played UNO!). Our kids still loved it, everyone enjoyed themselves and had a blast together. Oh, and after inventing a soccer game in our sleeping room we broke a window…oops! That came out of my pocket! Day three the rain had stopped and we were able to go back outside. There was a tennis court nearby that wasn’t flooded so we were able to go there and play some soccer and other group games through-out the day. That night, Saturday night, we went out for a night walk and the leaders had planned to scare the kids when we got back. Zach, our intern, dressed up in black trash bags and put on a mask from a horror film. When we returned the kids were told that the circuit had blown (all the lights were out) and that we all needed to stay in the meeting room so no one would get hurt. After a few minutes Zach was seen walking by one of the big windows. Kids screamed, but only a few saw him, the others were skeptical until he walked by the other big window when everyone saw him and freaked out, moments later he walked in….it was hilarious! Sunday, the fourth day, everyone woke up late, had breakfast (coffee or tea or milk and toast), started cleaning up and packed, had our final session, ate lunch and said our goodbyes.
It was a wonderful time getting to know the kids better and introducing them to other believers. On the first day we divided the kids into small groups, and every day after lunch we’d get together in these groups for a devotional. Also, everyday, about an hour and half before dinner we’d all gather to sing songs and then someone would share from the scripture. During one of the devotionals, one of the leaders asked Junior if he would read the scripture verse we were to talk about. He said, SURE! The leader then told him it was in Ephesians. Junior then responded “Whats that!”. That was one of the dynamics of our group that I don’t think the others were ready for, being entirely un-churched and unaware of the basics, down to how to read the Bible, what are chapters and verses and such. There was a general understanding of Bible themes and ideas that were talked about that were over the heads of our kids. Even so, what spoke the most to these kids were the amazing attitudes and loving embrace that came from everyone.
Prior to going we were a little concerned about the mixing of social classes at the retreat, our kids coming from the villa, the lowest socio-economic group, and most of the other kids, coming from the middle and upper classes. Racism and prejudices are a fact of life here in Argentina. The lowest classes are immigrants from neighboring countries or are people with indigenous backgrounds from the interior of the country, all seeking a better life in Argentina in the city. Generally speaking the lower classes have darker skin (from indigenous decent) and the higher classes (from European decent) have lighter skin. Although you hope that racism and prejudice do not exist in God’s church, we know that it does in small ways and at times in large ways, most of the time people are unaware of it’s presence. Having worked amongst the urban poor in the States I have seen this first hand while interacting with suburban churches. I didn’t see any of it or hear any of it at Camp. Love and acceptance were what were spoken the loudest.
Here are some pictures from Camp: