And then began the Adolescent summer camp which took place at the IED camp grounds in Bani. In so many ways I am at a loss for words, which usually happens for me when I have no idea how to share with you all that happened at this camp.
Maybe I’ll start with a little background:
you already know that Jose Rafael Peguero, (the sociologist I work with at the central IED office) and I prepared the curriculum for the camp. Through a series of meetings and conversations, we knew we wanted to work with the very painful topic of violence in the Dominican society. Jose Rafael has a passion for applying our faith and Biblical truths to the reality we live in.
This was going to be a very exciting challenge.
AnnElise Bergstrom from First UMC in Sartell, Minnesota arrived with the South Dakota medical team in the midst of this preparation and lent her expertise with much love and enthusiasm.
Thank you again AnnElise.
We really had to trust that God would touch the hearts of these adolescent kids through these materials. We had two full days and two half days to work together.
Five team leaders were willing to direct the camp.
One of the pastors kept telling me to prepare for 75 kids and others predicted more. I was never sure until we arrived and registered 116 young people.
I very soon realized the educational part would be balanced with recreation and, of course, the most delicious food that adolescent kids eagerly anticipated. The last night they all dressed in their most formal clothes and ate hotdogs with cabbage and fried plantains.
I shared with you in a previous blog some of the metaphors/similes we have used to try and open the hearts and minds of these young folks.
The main one being that we are like clay pots and God is working in our lives.
Each young person was given a clay pot, and they poured their hearts into decorating this pot, which represented each one of them.
Then came the painful part, each child’s pot is broken with a rock, to represent violence and the brokenness of the world.
But then they each glued their pot back together knowing Jesus can heal us and longs to do so making us whole beings once again.
A writer/ administrator is never sure when something is working because she becomes so involved in it, but by the end of the camp, there were some signs.
A mother, through her tears, came to share her story with me and the struggle her daughter is in and then shared her experience during the camp and her hope for their future.
One of the young 12 year old boys asked me where he could find the materials and activities we were using so that he could lead his church in a similar experience.
One of the group leaders stopped me after the camp had finished and said very somberly, “Transformation has happened in this place.”
As we ended the camp with a communion service, we asked the young folks to set their broken,
but now glued pots,
some barely with enough pieces to hold them together,
yet now with a tiny candle burning in each one, on the altar before they received communion.
Some of the leaders in the church then laid hands on each one and blessed them saying,
“Go forth to love and serve others.
You are called to be a peacemaker.”
As the service ended I went out first to try and organize them to take a group picture, which was impossible, so I settled on the red group’s picture.
Their group name was: The Chosen. Their symbol was an ‘illuminated person’ and the Bible verse they chose to guide them was Philippians 4: 13, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Their excellent group leader was Lili. After the first small group meeting we had, I found her in the chapel standing with her face in the corner of two walls. She was sobbing. When I hugged her, she said, “I can’t bear that these kids are so young and have experienced such difficult things in their lives.”
Each student had carefully written their group name on one sleeve of his/her shirt, their symbol on the other sleeve and their Bible verse on the neck of their shirt. On the back each one wrote, “Our creation is broken,” with a drawing he/she chose to depict this and on the front each one wrote,
“I am Choosing a New Way of Life”,
together with a drawing of his/her choice.
Mia, from La Vega, came up to me to show me her drawing, which was a broken pot that had been glued back together and had a beautiful red flower growing out of it.
As I walked back into the now empty chapel to pick up the remainder of the supplies,
I realized that the alter was also empty.
There was not one broken pot left behind.