Any time you put learning about God and young people together, it is bound to be a great time. The Gauteng CYC Youth Week was a powerful week. 36 of the most amazing youth (ranging in age from 8 to 19) came for a week of singing, laughter, edification, learning, praise, and transformation. The vast majority of these kids come from the local township, Tembisa. Most of them come from situations that would make American poverty look like living in Beverly Hills.
The gears of youth week have been moving for months now. <I never realized how much work went into a youth week.> More than half of the cost of the camp is subsidized, knowing that the kids can’t afford much. Leona has been telling her Sunday school class since August to start saving so they could come to the week. (It takes 4 months for these kids to save up $30.) Every year, youth week is the capstone of the school year for the kids, the kickoff to their summer of freedom. Easy to say, Youth Camp is an eagerly anticipated time of year.
The camp was more rustic than what I was accustomed to. The mosquitoes were lethel. The classes were given under a thatch roof. After it would rain, smells of sewage wafted by. (The hardest part was the lack of coffee.) But, I could tell that all efforts paid off in the end by the volumes of laughter, the superabundance of singing, and the myriad of midnight shenanigans. There was also heaps of time spent in God’s work. The kids learned about everything from Elijah the first prophet, to the fruits of the spirit, to studying the various names Hebrew and Greek names of God. In my class we asked ourselves some basic, but fundamental, questions about our faith; namely, Who is God? Who are we? Who was Jesus? Comparing us with Jesus, what would God want to do with us? And, ultimately, How do we come closer to the Father?
By the end, Gauteng Youth Camp just seemed like an all around “Grade A” young people’s camp. We sang our goodbye songs, passed out Youth Week t-shirts, and went our separate ways. In all of the hustle and shuffle, I failed to realize how much the camp meant to these kids. I sat in the back of a 13-passenger van taking back a group of local Kempton Park kids. Sifting through the pile of kids, I could see one of the older boys in the back wiping tears from his eyes, trying not to let the others see. To my bewilderment, panning face-to-face of each camper, many of them had tears running down their faces, an unspoken understanding that the whole experience was the most beautiful long pause to their everyday struggles. This was unbelievable. At the end of the day, I walked away absolutely moved. These kids walked away savoring just a small taste of the Kingdom.