Sunday, April 27, 2014

Day 4: Sacred Spaces

Friday morning dawned very early here at Camalote Camp. The Belizean disciples and many of our team members had stayed up faaaar too late, so everyone was moving fairly slowly as we got ready for our morning at Xunantunich. We left camp to visit the ancient Mayan ruins after breakfast, and spent the morning touring the site in groups.


After climbing all the way to the top of the ruins, each counselor from our team led their groups of disciples in a Bible study there at Xunantunich (pronounced "shah-NUN-too-nich"). The groups really began to meld during their discussions on Friday, which was ideal for the discussion we had once we returned to camp that afternoon. (More on that in a minute.)



One the way back to camp, the team and the disciples stopped for lunch at one of our favorite places: Hode's in San Ignacio.  There were many laughs and many terrific conversations as we relaxed and enjoyed the meal together. (And nearly every one of the disciples fell asleep in the vans on the way back to camp after lunch.)

Once we got back to camp, we all reconvened for a discussion of community and why it is important for believers to meet together. We looked at a number of scriptural references about the importance of community and accountability before breaking the disciples into smaller groups. It is our hope that those smaller groups will become tightly-knit community groups, as we are leaving curriculum for them to study together and the disciples have signed covenants committing to their groups. Many of the disciples said they were excited to start meeting in community with their groups. That is significant progress, as the idea of authentic spiritual relationships is a new and intimidating idea to many of them.

We ended the day with one of the most powerful worship experiences we've ever had in this country. Travis led us in a ceremony of foot-washing and in communion, and we were all moved to the core as we experienced such a beautiful expression of Christ's love in action. Many of us were speechless afterward, unable to adequately express what we had felt as the Belizean disciples washed their counselors' and each others' feet. There is no preparing for something that beautiful, and words cannot express the thickness of God's Spirit in the tabernacle.



This trip has been an immense blessing. There are so many stories to tell that cannot be told here. We are so grateful for this opportunity and for the prayerful support of our family at home.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Day 3: Getting Down To Business

Friday was the day we had all been looking forward to and planning for: day one of our discipleship retreat with the youth of our sister church. We were excited to see the disciples arrive at camp with their overnight bags, ready to start the weekend together. 

Debbie started our morning with an introductory overview of the Bible, walking the disciples through some of the basic elements they need to know as they get started with their discipleship walk. The disciples were challenged to continually grow and sharpen their spiritual swords for battle by spending time in God's Word. The first session of the day continued with the SOAP method of Bible study, led by Jessica, and the "doodling in the Spirit" method of prayer, led by Diane. The SOAP method (which stands for Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer) is an effective way we are teaching the disciples to spend time reading their Bibles, and they have already had several chances to practice what we hope will continue after they return home. Several times today they took part in individual study times, reading assigned chapters and figuring out how to apply them to their lives. It has been exciting to see the disciples eagerly flipping through their Bibles, and to hear the insight they have on even the most challenging passages. 



This afternoon we had a lesson on the spiritual gifts, led by Travis, and were able to walk the disciples through a spiritual gift inventory. Each disciple completed a test of their own, and at the end were able to give a name to the specific gifts God has given them. 



A highlight of the day was definitely a special dinner the team out together (under Claire's creative guidance). As a part of the spiritual gift lesson, the disciples were asked to walk around the campus here and find one thing God had created that seemed particularly beautiful to them. As they came to dinner a couple of hours later, they found the dining room transformed into a wonderland. The tables were beautifully decorated with the things they had found on campus, vividly illustrating the idea that something beautiful happens when we all bring what we have to the table. 



After some games (and a lot of laughter), the team enjoyed a time of reflection and prayer with the disciples before returning to our rooms for the night. As I write this, it's after midnight and the camp is still buzzing with laughter. It's probably safe to say we aren't going to get much sleep tonight, but it's all in the name of relationships. That's more than worth it.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Day 2: Getting To Know You

Thursday morning got off to a great start, as our team made last minute preparations for our youth camp disciples to arrive. You may know that among our sister church, Evangelical Quest Church, there are a number of young people who show great initiative in their faith walk, and our team is taking the time this week to invest in that small group of teenagers. We are holding a very deliberate, intentional Discipleship Retreat for approximately 23 teenagers who have shown a love for Christ and an interest in growing in their relationships with Him. The youth will be staying at Camalote Camp with us for two nights as we teach them new methods of studying their Bibles and living in fellowship with each other. 

Today we got to meet the disciples, and had the awesome experience of being able to give them each an engraved Bible of their very own. In a culture where few things are genuinely "theirs" and Bibles are hard to come by, this was a blessing for both the teenagers and our team. We got to see the look in their eyes as they realized that yes, they would get to keep the Bibles; it was amazing to be able to provide that gift.

After some icebreakers to get to know each other, we enjoyed lunch together and then began our first lessons of the week. Heather led a discussion of the theme of our camp: koinonia, which means "the perfect or ideal relationship" in Greek. The disciples were eager to take part in the lesson using their new Bibles and journals.



We also had a powerful time of presentation of the Gospel and salvation message, led by Debbie. She laid out the plan of salvation for the disciples, and at the end we were blessed to be able to pray with one young girl as she accepted Jesus for the first time, and a number of others reaffirmed their commitments to Christ.



We finished out the time with the disciples by taking them home and visiting briefly with their families. On a personal note, this is one of the most powerful opportunities these trips offer. Walking through the viillages with Belizeans...seeing it through ther eyes and walking rocky paths they walk every day....we get a better feel for the culture and for the individuals we have come to love so much. I wouldn't trade those experiences for anything. They are always meaningful moments to carry home with us.


I can't forget to mention an experience some on our team were able to have: we visited the new well that you, Quest Church, helped to make possible. About a year ago our friends in the nearby village of Maya Mopan faced a critical water shortage as their well - which serviced countless families - ran dry. Through generous contributions, though, they were able to receive a brand new well driilled much deeper into the bedrock that promises to provide water to the village for quite some time. As we talked with different villagers, it was clear how much of a difference the well had made in their everyday lives, and their gratitude overflowed. THANK YOU, Quest Church, for making that happen.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Day 1: On The Ground

Greetings from breezy Belize! The team arrived in Belize this afternoon and found the temperatures pleasantly (and surprisingly!) mild.....though we have been assured that things will heat back up in due time. Not even that can dampen our enthusiasm, though, as we get ready for what God has in store for us over the next few days.


We stopped for lunch (and more than a few laughs) after leaving the airport, and then went straight to the site of the brand new building for the Evangelical Quest Church. Our team was so anxious to see the building we had heard so much about. We were not disappointed.


As He always is, the Lord proved Himself faithful in His provision of the perfect facility at the perfect time for our sister church. As we walked through the worship area and what will soon be newly-refurbished Sunday school classrooms, three words echoed over and over: "God is good....God is good......" The building is beautiful, and we can only anticipate the amazing things God will do in that space.

A quick stop by the "old EQC campus" was a must, too, so new team members could see it for the first time.

The day wrapped up in relaxing Belizean style: hammocks, coconuts, and friends. Many of us made new friends, but many of our team members caught up with old friends, too. Both experiences are important parts of what we do in Belize. New friendships are special, but the opportunity to get reacquainted with people after several months - or years - is a treasure. We're excited to know that there is more to come this week.