Camping as in being part of the Church Family Camp. In Khandala (7 out of the past 8 years at least!).
Well, this year it was 2 camps. A youth camp and the church camp. Same place. 2 days of 55 young folks. Then the flood gates opened and the numbers swelled to 325. Biggest camp ever.
2 weeks later, on a quiet Sunday afternoon, it's good to relect back on the camps.
As a family we have not only been attending the camps, but have at various levels been running them as well. Last year I was one of the main speakers. This year was no different. "The Camp" looms in the horizon post July... and various levels of organising meetings take place over the weeks running up to it. This year a number were around our dining room table.
Reflection No. 1: It's amazing that the camps even happened. Given so much that goes into putting them together. Given so few who seemed to be willing to work. Given our own overwhelming tiredness before we even got to the camp.
But, once again we look back in wonder. At how the few were able to do so much. At how in our weakness we saw things come together. At how the faithful inputs of simple people are enough - with God's grace present in abundance of course.
Reflection No. 2: We crossed a bridge this year - there were clearly many more 'non-English speakers' than those who primarily speak in the Queen's tongue. In past years some talked about 'the Hindi crowd' - well that crowd was clearly the majority this time. And it is a good thing. It means that we have people who are experiencing a walk with Christ in a fresh new way. And people who are still very much in a seekers mode. Some of the stories of folks who we met at the camp are amazing. What God can do. How much He is able to change lives - and how much more we all have to follow Him.
There were some rough edges too. A mobile went missing at the youth camp. And some hot words followed as someone tried to look into other people's bags to see if it was there. But then that is exactly what our camps are for. We want people who are hungry for change. And we know that in the mix will be a number of folks who are just there for a good time. Or don't even know why they are there. But am I ever grateful to be able to spend time with young people - and older ones too - some of whom this was the first real time out of the bleakness of their day to day lives.
Reflection No. 3: Our young 'uns are spreading their wings. Sheba and I made a pretty much last minute decision to both help out with the youth camp. Enoch was below the 13 year cut-off and so happily spent 2 days with his friend Nathan before coming up to the main family camp with Agnes and the bulk of our folks. Asha was off with her friends for most of the time. We saw her occassionaly at meal times. We got word from others that the younger Eichers participated well in the discussion times. On Saturday evening - after 5 full days in give-it-all Sheba and I decided to head home a day early for a day of rest as Sheba was going to Tamil Nadu early next week. Normally we would have rounded off Asha and Enoch and headed out. This time? They wanted to stay. And stay they did. We had a beautiful quiet Sunday with each other and the Lord - and were joined by Asha and Enoch when the campers arrived back that evening.
Reflection No. 4: The camp theme - Shake and Shine - has struck home at many levels. As followers of our Lord Jesus we all are commanded to be salt and light. This is not an option, an extra curricular activity, a momentary whimsy. It is part and parcel of being a disciple. No taste? Booted out. No light? Not like our Lord. How much my everyday needs to be more and more of Jesus. How much every minute counts. One of our staff attended the camp with her parents. Her father drives an autorickshaw. Since the camp he has been talking with his clients. Living light.
Reflection No. 5: It's all about Him. At the end of the day - it's not me or my agenda that counts, but our experience of the living Lord Jesus. Being at camp is an intense time of multiple responsibilities, multiple needs, multiple pressures and joys and demands all at the same time. Sheba has folks descending on her will all kinds of ailments - the majority of which would have been dealt with at home but since there was a doctor around... But the real reason we were at the camp was not to see ourselves served but to serve. And to be a part of the Lord's big plan of reconciling all things to Himself. An amazing thought. Without Jesus all of the camp made no sense. With Him, all the pieces start to fall into place. Our jagged edges are still there. Our faults are still pretty plain to see - but the work of healing and change and challenge are also going on. And as we do so together, we fulfill our Lord's loving command to not give up meeting together. So may my thoughts be focussed ever more sharply, and ever more lovingly our our dear Lord.
Take me in, to the holy of holies
Take me in by the blood, of the Lamb
Take me in to the holy of holies
Take the coal, touch my lips, here I am...
pictures courtesy Renee Varghese