As a small house church network we're trying to be more intentional about serving. Of all the things that make Jesus's followers recognizable, service should be at the top of the list. Several months ago we started going to a girls' home and a boys' home each week to help the kids with homework and start building relationships with them. I go to the boys' home in Characato each week and have slowly gotten to know the 17 boys who live there, from 8 to 17 years old. Because of that ongoing relationship, I was invited to go with them to camp at the beach for a week. It was an awesome, exhausting experience.
About 85 kids from 3 children's homes went: A Christian home called Amor de Dios (the home we work with), Casa Verde (a home without a specific religious affiliation but with whom Justin and Sarah had worked for quite awhile), and Don Bosco (a Catholic boys' home). Kids from 3 years-old up to 17 went, along with 8 adults. We drove down to the beach in two buses and stayed at a rustic Catholic retreat center right on the beach. The compound is a concrete structure surrounded by sand. It had a kitchen and dining area with benches and tables made out of concrete, bunk rooms for the guys and for the girls with about 30 sets of concrete bunk beds each, with a big set of bathrooms and showers for each.
Each morning, we woke the kids up at 6am to go to the beach and do some Shin Son Hapkido (like Taekwondo...but different). That's a martial art that the director of Casa Verde, a German, teaches his kids and shared with the whole camp. After about an hour of training and exercise, we'd come back inside and before breakfast have a short time of reflection on the week's theme. Everyone ate breakfast and then the 6 teams of kids would each take on a different chore (dishes, dining room, bathrooms, etc) to clean the whole house. At 10 we'd put on sunscreen and head to the beach for a soccer game, volleyball game, or some other sort of group activity before having free time to play on the beach and in the Pacific Ocean. After 2-3 hours we headed back in and ate lunch at 1pm. Lunch was always a hot soup as a starter course and then a main course with rice and some sort of meat and vegetable side. After lunch there was a short rest time while the dishes and dining room crews did their cleanup, and back to the beach for another activity and more play time.
Around 5:30 everyone would head in for shower time. 8 kids would get in the 8 showers, and we turned the water on and counted to 5. In 5 seconds of cold water, everyone had to wash the sand off and get their hair and bodies wet. Then they had about 30 seconds to soap up, before another 10 seconds of water to rinse off. It was like clockwork, and hilarious. I subjected myself to the same 15 second shower and got pretty good at it, though I forgot the sand behind my ears once. After cleaning up we had a time of worship and then I got to speak each evening. I spoke for about 15 minutes each night asking the questions "Who is God? What is God like? And what does that mean for us?" There was such a diversity of faith backgrounds and Bible knowledge (mostly lack thereof) that I took the opportunity to walk through the story of God, creation and mission in Genesis and Exodus before jumping to Jesus, God's reign, and New Creation. After I spoke, Jose, the director of Amor de Dios, would speak for another 30-60 minutes before supper. Supper was supposed to be at 7 but if we sang a lot or Jose spoke for a while we wouldn't eat until 8 or 8:30. Needless to say, the kiddos were pretty tired by that point :)
After supper there would sometimes be another activity, or mercifully just free time, before sending the kids to bed around 10. At 10:15, the adults would plan for the next day's activities before turning in around 11:30, before starting the cycle all over again the next day.
It was a great, exhausting, and hilarious week. Being part of something so special for the kids, so Peruvian in the way it was run, was good for me. I think it was really good for the kids too. A couple Peruvianisms that you might enjoy:
- The man in charge of the schedule didn't have a watch
- There was no toilet paper in the bathrooms. This is common all over Peru, everyone is expected to have their own toilet paper with them at all times
- Peruvian kids learn to sleep in all sorts of places, so there were some pretty creative ways they fell asleep from beach exhaustion
Please join me in praying for these kids, their future, and the ways in which they're experiencing God. May God use those who care for them to bless, raise up, and put on a path of growing into God's image bearers for the good of creation. And may God use our humble house church network to bless and mentor in life-shaping ways.