This July we held the annual retreat for youth in the congregations of Recife and neighboring cities. We had 65 teens, and 35 helping brothers and sisters, spend four days learning more about what it means to follow and serve a living God.
The theme was based on a well known apologetics book and movie “God’s Not Dead”. It discusses the several evidences that moves us away from “blind faith”, and we added a twist: “Are You?”. Most of our campers are friends or visitors of church members and haven’t yet made a decision to commit their lives to Christ. So we had a great opportunity to evangelize taking this discussion to a personal level.
During the camp we had many fun activities such as outdoor games, soccer, wilderness trekking, themed dinners and a talent show. But speaking to the teenagers after camp, it was interesting to hear what their highlights were. Many mentioned the devotionals, quiet-times alone with God every morning or the testimony of an ex-atheist. Others mentioned the Bible study discussion in small groups that were arranged after each speaker. It was encouraging to hear this, especially coming from “unchurched” youth.
One of the most special moments for me, was when Lucas, age 16, came to talk to us. He had been studying the Bible for a few weeks at his local congregation and had decided to be baptized. After reading a few verses and praying, we all headed down to the nearest body of water to witness this special moment. I’ll never forget what he said moments before: “It would be nice if every day were like this one”. My reply: “This is small taste of heaven.”
The last day of camp arrived and many were in tears. Cell phone numbers and social networks were exchanged. We invited everyone to participate in a get together that following Sunday at the downtown congregation. There we spent the afternoon playing games and reviewing photos following the worship service. We had over 30 campers attend this event with 28 first time visitors at our worship service! What a blessing it was to see so many young people worshiping our living and loving God!
Organizing this camp takes a lot of work and sleepless nights! But looking back I can clearly see that it was worth it. Not only did I get to see the teens maturing spiritually, becoming more involved in their church family, creating new friendship and overcoming social obstacles, but I was also challenged and blessed myself. I was encouraged to study more about the reason behind my faith, so that I can be better prepared when I encounter questions in this increasingly skeptical world.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.