Are you looking forward to Easter? The celebration of the risen Christ is a just a few days away and I’m already looking forward to the day. You may be thinking, that’s a good thing, you are a missionary for heavens sake. Maybe you’d say, all missionary and pastor types should be looking forward to Easter all year round, that’s just part of the deal, right? I know it seems as though it would be so basic, a real “no brainer”, it sounds “Christian” – be excited about Easter. Well, I am, but not only for the reasons you think.
Diogenes (our pastor), Matt (our discipleship director), along with our friend Johan, myself, and 10 young men from San Pablo, are heading to the “campo” (country) for a camping retreat. We are leaving on the Friday before Easter, returning Sunday morning for Easter service. And when I say returning Sunday morning for Easter service, I mean returning Sunday morning for Easter service. Meaning Easter Sunday, I’ll finally be able to take a shower Sunday afternoon after several days of no shower. All I know, is this should make for an aromatic and interesting Easter Sunday service. There may even be an entire section on Easter Sunday designated especially for those who have, let’s say, had less than stellar personal hygiene over the last few days.
When we went to visit the “campo” a couple weeks ago, I was told we would swim in the river. I said “I don’t see the river”, I was then told it’s a 2 hour hike down the mountain and a 2 hour hike back up the mountain. I guess I should bring my walking shoes. (When I went to camp as a kid, we walked 2 minutes to the swimming pool.) We discussed plans for the trip, food preparation, supplies to bring, transportation, etc. Our plans have been made, details set and devotionals ready. We are preparing so that God will do what only He can do.
The “campo” is perfect to get away from it all! A place to spend some intentional time focusing on spiritual things and forging stronger bonds and relationships. There will be lots of laughter, sweating and uncomfortable sleeping arrangements (which will be easier on the younger), but also an investment in lives that will have an immeasurable impact. We are praying this will be a time of reflection, sharing and decision making that will have a life-long lasting impact on all of us.
I can remember back, way way back, to my time at summer camps with my church as a teenager. These times were some of the most impactful in my life, I couldn’t see it at the time and most likely those that were leaders couldn’t see it either, but I’m sure they were praying to God for the time. But now, looking back over some (ummm) years, I can see how God used that time at camp to mold and shape me. At the time it was all about spending time with friends, getting away from my parents, sports competitions, swimming and the occasional girl from another church group (thankfully we won’t be dealing with the last one). Our prayer is that these young men have a great time together, but more importantly that God will impact their lives in a significant way.
You are a vital part of this trip, this experience for these young men. It’s not often these guys get a chance to get away from their “barrio”, their community. Your prayers and financial support help to make this, and so many other things possible. Without your faithfulness and commitment to sharing Christ in the Dominican Republic these young men may not have this opportunity for an experience like this. Even in the United States, where we often look for the return on our investments in the here and now, we may not find the true measure of the investment for many many years. We invest in 401K’s hoping the return will come through and be there down the road when we need it, but there are no guarantees. Who could have known that some scrawny, not particularly special or gifted kid, at some summer youth camp would be helping to lead a retreat in another country 34 years later? Only God knows the results of the investments we make and the eternal impact made.