All packed and ready to go, about 30 of us piled into the bus. Destination: Summer Camp (although it’s winter here…but just go with it). It’s another scorching day so lots of water and food is being packed on the bus too. The bus, deprived of much health and safety, is consequently typically Brazilian. No seatbelts and wonky window fittings are going to make this journey 10x more exciting perhaps less so for my mum reading this. Some of the girls have dressed up smartly wearing pretty skirts and make-up as an outing is always an exciting occasion for them.
After a short (less than 1hr) but bumpy ride, we arrived at the camp. The grounds are quite big – big enough to fit a lake with a crocodile! – with a pool, volleyball court and main meeting area. I think the rooms are the best bit. Made from old shipping containers, each ‘box’ sleeps 10 people on bunkbeds. Yes, 10!! Luckily, the English girls (Becky, Rose and I) had one to ourselves so I can only imagine what sleeping with 8 kids less than 10 years old is like! Each box has a spacious bathroom (spacious for us, at least) with two hot showers, a toilet, two sinks and an AC. So they’re very well equipped for a container that probably once transported oil or something illegal….Once we’d dumped our stuff and got way over excited at the hot shower, we joined everyone else in the main meeting area. We were separated into two teams. Me, on the red team ‘Muralho de Fogo’, got involved making our team’s flag. Over the weekend points can be won for games and other events (like room inspection, but more on that later).
After dinner we met for our evening meeting. Andy announced the title of the weekend: “Sem Graça, a vida não tem graça”. It loses its meaning once translated into English as it literally translates as: ‘Without grace, life doesn’t have grace’. ‘Não tem graça” is a Portuguese way of saying that something isn’t funny or isn’t something to joke about – so the best way to translate the entire phrase is: “Life without grace is a serious matter”. Followed by a block of kids worship songs in Portuguese complete with actions, Andy introduced us to the concept of grace. He said that it is a present we don’t deserve in order to break down the misconception that it’s through our own efforts/works that we are accepted by God. Secondly, he said that grace is something that transforms us. He illustrated this very cleverly with a live demonstration. He took a bottle of clean water (representing us at creation) and poured in the liquid from another bottle labelled ‘sin’ which turned the water dirty and discoloured. With a third bottle filled with clear water, to represent Jesus, the opaque water (us damaged by sin) suddenly turned clear again to show that we are purified from all our wrongdoings as a result of Jesus’ sacrifice. Here’s a YouTube video of it:
After lots of team games and the morning meeting where Evaldo spoke about Zacchaeus and how grace was shown to him, all 60-ish of us crowded round a projector screen to watch the Brazil v Belgium game. We knew it’d be a tough feat for the seleção given Belgium’s performance in the tournament. Our thoughts were confirmed as Belgium put away not 1, but 2 goals which Brazil could not beat. There weren’t any tears but just a room full of disappointed and frustrated supporters who had hoped this would be the year of the Hexa (6th win).
To get over the upset, a group of us proceeded to go and play a match of football out on the field. There was lots of banter particularly at the expense of anyone who fell over as they then got called Neymar. More excitement came that evening. For context, Andy tasked Rose and I with being ‘fluff fairies’. “What’s a fluff fairy?” I hear you ask. Well our job is to inspect the girls’ rooms and award points to the team with the neatest beds. To beckon the fairies, the children had to shout ‘fadrinhas’ until we appeared – usually dancing or flossing….that’s my favourite move. The children were all in hysterics as we paraded in dressed like this:
Rose, my fellow British volunteer, offered to do a talk this morning continuing the theme of grace. As she doesn’t speak much Portuguese yet, I volunteered to translate for her. I’d never done any sort of live translation before nor had Rose ever done a talk, so it was firsts all round. I read through what she’d prepared to try and spot any words I didn’t know. The verb ‘to stone’ and ‘crop and flock’ were some of the more difficult words I had to overcome… Rose did really well so I hope I did her talk justice as the 40-ish people present spoke little to no English. I found it quite tough especially being so ‘on the spot’ but we made them laugh a few times…for good reason.
Later that day came England’s turn to try and do better than the Brazilians did the day before. Only a handful of us watched it live on the screen, standing for the anthem and shouting as the ball got anywhere near the goal. Brill performance and thankfully a lot less messy than the Columbian match. Come on England!
After another football tournament (which our team won), a swim and a wide game, we gathered for the evening meeting. The topic was the story of the prodigal son. The guy who spoke did so extremely well as he related the story to our personal situations. The feelings of guilt, fear of judgement, shame etc. that we feel when we sin are the same that the son felt when he returned home from his selfish venture. But how did his father greet him? With
open arms. His father did not judge him but rather blessed him, hugged him full of compassion and celebrated his return home. And that’s what it’s like when we seek and return to God. After the talk, the lights were turned off and we sang a few songs. All around me I could hear people breaking down. There were tears, people crying out to God, offering to pray for each other – particularly for the Revive girls who this message really struck a chord with. The pain and hurt was tangible as people sought the open and gracious arms of the God who they’d often run away from or rejected. Tough stuff but God’s moving!
The final day dawns and people have been able to reflect on what they have heard these last few days. If you read my last post you might remember a girl I named Lily. I have news about her for you. Good news. At the end of the morning meeting, she asked to say a few words. Here’s a rough summary of what she said: “Lots of you know that I’ve been going through a rough patch lately and so I thought coming to camp wouldn’t change anything. I was expecting to come in and leave the same way; unchanged, still down in the dumps. But when I arrived I felt the desire to look up and say: ‘Hey, God, thank you for all this fun and good stuff around me. I’m sorry for everything.’ Then came Saturday evening. The talk about the prodigal son really spoke to me because I realised that I am a prodigal son. I’ve run and run away from God, rejecting him and living my own way, doing what I want to do on my terms. I cried my eyes out until Graça (the same person who led last weeks’ devotional) came over and prayed for me. I’ve come back to God. I’m running back. But this time it’s to stay. For this I want to say sorry to all those I’ve hurt on the way or who have had to bear the brunt of my rebellious behaviour. Thank you for always being there for me and never giving up on me. This camp has changed me in ways I never thought it would so thank you.” How awesome is that?? God is good!
Before we left I had one last thing I wanted to do. The family who own the camp site have 2 puppies who I’d been dying to go and cuddle. As to be expected, they were adorable and so fluffy. Enjoy these pics:
About 2pm we all packed up and got back on the bus to head home. What an amazing few days it has been. Shower and bed for me now, I think!