"The Spirit of the sovereign Lord is on ME because the Lord has anointed ME to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent ME to bind up the broenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion - to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor." Isaiah 61:1-3
We went from our "mountaintop experience" at the tip of Victoria Falls back to the room, finished packing, and then watched as our airport transfer staff comically tried to pack our luggage and the luggage from the other two families into 2 compact-sized cars. After about 15 minutes, it became very apparent they needed some help from a woman, so one of the other ladies started telling them "what to put where", and eventually, after suitcases were put in the front seat with the driver and bodies were crushed together in the back seat tighter than most American's comfort level, we were on our way...finally going to CAMP LIFE. We met yet another person at the airport who was also on his way to CAMP LIFE, and after a few minutes of talking, I realized I had actually done his airfare back in November and had chatted with him several times on the phone. I love it how God does those kind of ordained meetings!
By the grace of God, our PRO FLIGHT was uneventful, but again, I definitely prayed quite a bit for God's mercy in that happening! Any time I get in one of those small planes, it's a bit unnerving. Amber and I spent the entire hour-long flight looking at all the pictures we had taken...she had taken 711 pictures in the 4 days since we boarded the plane in Dallas! We laughed a lot, and I'm so thankful we were able to experience this together!
With a successful smooth landing, we were met at the airport by Susan Kendall, and she told us there were some other flights delayed so we'd be waiting around a bit for the others to arrive. Then we went straight to our orientation meeting at what is known as "The Legacy Center" on the Family Legacy Missions International property. I remmeber being in a meeting a few years ago when all I saw was artist renditions of this "Legacy Center." To now be in that building and see how God has blessed the ministry brought such joy to my heart!
What also brought joy to my heart was hearing that CAMP was being held on these grounds, and anytime I had the need to use the restroom, I could just slip inside the Legacy Center and go about my business! (I told you, I didn't really know everything I was getting into, I just knew God said to "GO" so I was obedient!)
If you've been anywhere near me for the last few months, you would have heard me share about how Amber and I will be mentoring and responsible for 10 girls each during this week. We were participating in "Week 5" of CAMP LIFE, and during week 5, we had 112 participants from the USA. That equated to 1,120 kids who were able to attend CAMP LIFE! During our orientation, we had testimony time where some who had never come to CAMP LIFE before could share their journey of how God had brought them there.
One couple shared how they had originally booked their 10-year anniversary celebration to Hawaii when God stopped them in their tracks and told them to cancel those plans and instead, sign up for CAMP LIFE. I believe it was that same couple who was short in their fundraising but felt so called to come that the wife sold her wedding ring to cover the rest of the costs involved.
Another one shared how her 18 year old son had passed away late last year, and when he did, she asked God to somehow use that for His glory. I don't remember all the details, but the mom, the dad, and their daughter Jordan were all there at CAMP LIFE, excited to see how God was going to use the pain they experienced to bring honor to Him.
Nearly half of the room was there because of the influence of two or three families. They believe so strongly in this ministry and these orphans that they keep coming back every year and bringing more and more with them. For me, it was awesome to put faces to so many of the names that I've done airline tickets for during the last ten years. I sat in silence as I listened to story after story of God's provision in bringing all these people to CAMP LIFE.
As testimony time came to a close, Greer Kendall (the ministry founder) gave us a challenge for the start of the week. He asked us to do 4 things. He asked us to PRAY, RECEIVE, WATCH, and DON'T GET IN THE WAY OF A MIRACLE.
He asked us to PRAY every day this simple prayer: "Dear God, give me Your heart for these kids in Jesus' name, amen!"
He asked us to RECEIVE the word of the Lord. He used these verses in Isaiah 61:1-3, and he asked that we copy it down. Then he asked that we write it again, but inserting OUR NAME. Then he asked that we pray it back to the Lord. Although I was very familiar with these verses, they sure bring on a new meaning after CAMP LIFE for me.
Then Greer asked us to WATCH. He said that we are here by God's divine design, and we should tell the Lord that we are here and ready to be used by Him.
Then finally, he said, "DON'T GET IN THE WAY OF A MIRACLE." I sat there thinking about that. It really was a miracle that Amber and I were in that room. OK, God, I said, so far, so good. Show me why you brought us to Zambia, and help me to have YOUR heart for these children. Help me to receive whatever you tell me this week, be on the lookout for what You want me to see, and most importantly, God, don't let me get in the way of a miracle.
We went on to the hotel that evening, reunited with our luggage (now pretty much destroyed and unusable, but that's another story), and tried to sleep on the rock-hard bed, fondly given the name of Boulder. I went to bed praying Isaiah 61:1-3 would be true for my life.
Sunday came, and that meant I was one step closer to meeting "my" girls, but I had to be patient, that wouldn't come until Monday! They held church for us at the Legacy Center on Sunday morning, and worship was led by the children who live at The Tree of Life Village. These are the orphaned children who were in such extreme situations of abuse and/or neglect that they now are in the full-time care of the ministry. All the children were dispersed throughout the room, and the Americans entered the building and dispersed as well. I sat next to a little boy named Lubinda on my left and a little boy named Cassidy on my right. I don't know their back-stories, but what I do know is that you could see the joy of the Lord in their smiles. I loved listening to these sweet African children sing in broken English as well as their native tongue of Nyanja.
After church and lunch, the "marketplace" came to us. There on the grounds, many of the top vendors in the area came to sell their wares to all the Americans, and sell they did! I pride myself on bargains and being a bargain shopper, but I had to use some restraint, knowing that this is their livelihood. Still, I had a long list of people who Amber and I needed to buy gifts for, and a small amount of cash, but by the grace of God, we were able to get just about everything we needed with what we had.
Afternoon was upon us, and that meant that I was about to be keenly reminded of how uncoordinated I am. As a large group, we learned three of the songs (and motions/dance movements) that we would be singing with the kids during the week. The songs were awesome. The motions were rigorous and extremely visual. And me, well I was just plain clumsy. Regardless of that fact, I did my best, even though the muzungu (white person) in me was very apparent.
Then it was time to meet the first of our two Zambian partners. Each of us would be paired up with two people, affectionately known as our "evangelist" and our "apostle." Our "evangelist" would be designated as our main translator/partner for the week, and when the "evangelist" and I would be working one-on-one with a child, our "apostle" would then lead the rest of the group. With great anticipation, I was assigned my evangelist - Magdalene Mwale.
I've worked with a lot of translators over the years, and Magdalene was just as good as the best of them. She knew when to translate, and she knew when the kids could understand the English that I was using. Magdalene also had extra insight, because she is a field worker for the ministry, providing regular assessments of children from the compounds. I was definitely blessed to be partnered with her for my CAMP LIFE experience, and we spent about 20 minutes getting to know each other and praying together.
Magdalene asked, and it seemed to be a recurring question from others, "Why did I come to Zambia?" or "What made me decide to come?" And for some of the people who knew I do the airfare for the ministry, I was asked, "What took you so long to come?" For me, it wasn't a matter of "what" made me come...it was "Who" made me come. I was so keenly aware of the journey that God had brought both Amber and I on, and although at the time, I didn't know His purpose in sending us to Zambia, I knew He purposed for us to come. I didn't need to know the "why"; I only was convinced that I was there for a reason, a reason probably to be revealed at a later time.
Looking back now, I do think I understand a little more fully what that reason was, but I'll save that detail for another time, another blog. Suffice it to say that this journey started a long time before. Back at the hotel after a full day, as Boulder and I laid down to sleep, I reviewed and tried to personalize the words from Isaiah, just like Greer had asked us to do.
The Spirit of the sovereign Lord is on ME because the Lord has anointed ME to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent ME to bind up the broenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion - to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor."
Why was I on this journey? Certainly not because I feel called to minister to children. In fact, as much as I like working with kids and have a lot of experience doing so, I would much rather minister to adults. Could it be that I was there simply so Amber would be able to experiece CAMP LIFE? That certainly could be part of it. But one thing I did know as I laid my head down was that I was sent to tell about the Good News of Jesus to the poor and help girls whose hearts were wounded begin to heal. I prayed again for my 10 girls. I didn't even know their names or faces, but I'd been praying for them for a long time. And I knew if I could just find some way for Boulder and I to agree on a comfort level, the time to meet these 10 precious girls would be here soon. And the journey would continue.
--- Beth Banfill