Have you ever felt like God designed you for a specific time and place? Somewhere He put you on purpose? On Sunday evening, just over four weeks ago, I looked out over a field of grass, dirt, and little cabins built of concrete blocks. There is an entrance to this landscape just to the left of my view and through it are driving four large buses, aboard it are 86 Ecuadorean children and numerous young helpers. They are coming because God has a plan that is bigger than we can fathom. Just two short weeks earlier this moment seemed impossible, like it might never happen. You see, every year we host a group of kids in a small beach town on the coast of Ecuador. But this year, because parents were worried about the earthquakes and families didn’t have the money, camp was in jeopardy of happening. When Pastor Benjamin informed us that camp would not happen this year, we decided that something had to be done. We prayed, called friends back home, and used social media to spread the word. As a result we raised $10K plus to send 90 kids to camp who would otherwise never have come.
As these kids poke their heads out of the bus windows their eyes are met, many of them for the first time, with the landscape that has for me become so familiar over the last few years. They know nothing of what God has in store for this next week, a fact I will soon realize we share in common. You see, most of these children would never be here but for the donations of so many who sponsored this opportunity for Ecuadorean children to play at the beach, watch skits put on by American young people, play soccer at camp, and most importantly hear the gospel of Jesus Christ preached to them over and over again.
Their faces are a mix of curiosity, pure anticipation, and all out excitement to be here. The hugs are plentiful and the feel of love and welcome of our team from the U.S. is unmistakably genuine. These kids need this love and attention.
The hellos are plentiful but soon over and the week gets started. Time fails me to give you detailed description of the days ahead. They are filled with early morning time alone with God interrupted by children laughing and wanting attention, eating food with 140 people loudly cheering in a mess hall style building, cheers for camp team colors – Verde! Roho! Tomate! Morado! Azul! – and let’s not forget the kitchen team, Amarillo!
Rotations everyday give the children time to be split up in individual small groups and hear about God’s message of salvation and who He is by experiencing crafts, games, and stories. Beach time, “vamos a laplaya” is a common cry each afternoon. Taking 86 kids to the beach is no small feat but the experience is worth the “trouble”. Returning to camp with 100 plus sweaty, sandy, and all out messy people is a daily routine that never gets old.
Then we begin down time and some futball [soccer] with the kids, which rounds out our free time. Every evening, we line up the teams after dinner to the dreaded sound of the whistle. This is an ever threatening call to the kids as they come screaming from every corner of camp so they can win points by being, the first, second, or third team to make it. “Wave your flag” plays over the PA as the children run single file into the chapel where we sing and actually wave each team flag to this popular tune. Verses, songs, and a crazy skit with a serious message, round out the evening.
Saying goodnight, hugs, selfies, water games, stopped up toilets, battidos [milk shakes], quiet times in the hammocks (never), slamming cabin doors, yells of “GOAL!”, soccer tournament, serious questions about salvation, more hugs, tense moments playing games, “Una Fila chicos!” [One line kids], more clogged toilets, creepy poodle dogs that bite, mosquitoes, demon ants that bite, ecua volley, beach time, water fights at the beach, waves and holding little handicapped boys afloat – experiencing the ocean for the first time – are just a few memories that flood my mind. But you see, the children are gone and I’m looking at an empty field covered in these memories. The buses are rounding the corner leaving these scenes and this week behind but carrying with them memories that will last, for me a lifetime.
As I look back on three weeks of working with kids, I can say it was not always easy, in fact at times it seemed downright impossible to go on. The truth is life is not easy for the believer. It was never promised to us, and we should never anticipate or expect it to be. We should revel in the difficulties, because whether we know it or not at the time, those are the experiences that will shape our relationships with others and Christ. They define who we are.
The people we worked with, the places we went, and the memories that I will forever hold in my heart serve to remind me of my humanity and need for Christ. We are each of us given times and opportunities designed to be light for Christ and to create a stronger relationship with Him. Will we fail? Absolutely, but only when we fail and see our inability will we turn to Christ and see our total need of Him.
Have you ever felt like God designed you for a time and place? Somewhere He put you on purpose? On Sunday evening just over three weeks ago I looked out over a field of grass, dirt and little cabins built of concrete blocks dreaming about the week that had just passed so quickly, too quickly. Yet, knowing God had me right where He wanted me to be. All the difficulty in the world cannot separate you from the love and success of living a life devoted to Christ when you are looking to Him. Success is not defined by the world but by Someone else. We do not know how or when God will use our inabilities. So, we must keep seeking Him and trusting Him wherever you are, and when you reflect on life you can rest in the knowledge that it’s not you that carries the weight of the results. Some things – many things – change, but there is a consistency, an unchanging truth we can and must rest in as time goes by. God has put you just where He wants you, here on earth for a very short time. So, don’t waste time fretting about the results or about what is next. Trust in an all-powerful, all-knowing God whose sovereignty should remove all doubt from the believer.
Photo Credit: Meagan Wanschura
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