Imagine feeling sand between your toes for the first time in your life.
Imagine seeing the vast, vast ocean for the first time in your life.
This is the amazing experience of many of the children at the Alongsiders Cambodia 2013 camp.
About 250 are gathered, both vulnerable children and the young Christians who have committed to walk alongside them. As usual we reached our maximum capacity and have turned people away. They have come from all over Cambodia.
We are gathered to celebrate what God is doing through the Alongsiders discipleship movement, to learn, be inspired, worship, laugh and have LOTS of fun.
The theme is JOY and it is written all over their faces.
It means so much to the young Cambodian Christians who gather here to see that there are hundreds of others who have made the same commitment across the country. Many of them come from small rural town and villages in provincial Cambodia. It is a time to pour teaching and training into them. To inspire them to continue the long commitment to one child. And it is a time to encourage them with stories of hope and wonder, and the spirit of God.
And it means so much to the children who come with their mentors, the Alongsiders. Many of these children have never been outside their village or province. They rarely, if ever, would have the opportunity to visit the coast and swim in the ocean. They come excited and awed. They feel special.
They feel loved.
Here are some of the highlights of camp this year:
- A 30 minute power cut pitched the room into darkness on the final night. Cell phones provided the only light to the stage and we were treated to a spontaneous (and hilarious) stand up comedy routine until the lights came back on.
- Raucous dancing broke out several times during worship. Kids on the stage, arms in the air, leaping and praising God. Traditional Khmer dancing mixed with who knows what. Truly beautiful worship.
- Scrumptious sea food was served three meals a day. Fish of many kinds, squid, prawns, octopus...YUM! It was a blessing to feast like this for so many children who have known what it is to have nothing to eat.
- This camp was 100% organized and run by young Cambodian leaders. These are the young people who will impact their nation for good. We must invest in them as they invest in the next generation.
- Speaking of next generation... It was awesome to gather a very special group of people and celebrate them - those who had once been mentored as kids and have now grown up and become Alongsiders mentoring someone else.