We arrived in Johannesburg late Friday afternoon, December 23rd, after a short 15+ hour flight. Jason Webster, a deacon in the local congregation picked us up from the airport along with Nick and Megan Lamoureux. He and his wife Monique live in Pretoria with their four children. We had a lovely candle lit meal with them outside under a tree in their yard as the clouds rolled in and we could see lightning off in the distance. Jason drove us to the Avalon Guest House where we would be staying for a few nights before camp on Sunday.
For services, we rode with Monique and two of their children to Kempton Park. We met with the congregation in a small hall. Tea and coffee were served both before and after services. Jason led songs. The sermonette was given by a young man named Simba. He spoke about focusing on the bigger picture and not worrying about all the trials we have to go through to get where we are going. Vivien, an elder from Cape Town, gave the sermon on resisting the firey darts that Satan throws our way. It was wonderful to worship and fellowship together there with our brethren.
In life we are promised trials. God sees what we do in those situations and helps us to grow accordingly if we are willing to participate in that growth. Sometimes these are small things like a lack of sleep the night before summer camp in a new place with new people. Other times it's a broken down vehicle full of little kids when the car was just fixed a few days before. Or maybe trying to pick someone up at the wrong airport or having to drive back and forth to go get the family stranded on the roadside. Perhaps it's a downpour of rain that soaks the soccer field, drenches the volleyball court, and turns the swimming pool bright green when the skies were supposed to be clear. Don't worry. We survived all those things and still had a great time building an obstacle course of our own design that helped us all bond a little bit more.
The staff at Camp Nelu - Biscuit, Coal, Smiley, and the ladies in the kitchen - are really quite experienced and very knowledgeable about working with children in a camp environment. You can tell they've been doing this for a while. Jason and Monique Webster were great hosts, making sure that we were settled in and that everyone had rides to and from camp. Jason organized everything as detailed as he could. When it rained, he was always flexible and so were we. Several times we ended up moving afternoon activities to the morning in hopes that the rain would stop in time for us to go outside. Sometimes we extended certain activities and took a little more time between so we could wait out the muddy ground. We adults were used to changing schedules and having to move things around. The children didn't seem to mind very much at all. No matter their ages and attention spans, they were right there together, having fun and learning as much as possible along the way.
For the children, this was their summer vacation. They could have been anywhere else - lounging on beaches, at home playing video games, catching up with friends from school, visiting grandparents - but they were at camp learning more about God's word, and demonstrating the love that they have for each other and for their parents. It was nice to see parents and grandparents interacting with their children in this camp environment. There is definitely a high level of respect that each one of these children has for the adults in their lives who care for them and are raising them.
It would be great to detail every activity, every delicious meal, every cup of coffee on the porch, every word of every compass check and turn of a Bible page, each note of a hymn sung on the Sabbath, and every conversation about food, fellowship, hopes, fears, and everything else in between. Not even pictures do justice to experiences in a new place for the first time with people you've only just met. It will be nice to return to South Africa after we have left and see our brethren here again, to see how the children have grown, and to hear how the congregations are doing.