Just a bit of summary of this years trip...
We were ecstatic to be able to have 10 (7 Zim newbies) on our team this year! Although we had a plan in mind of what we wanted to accomplish, we knew that God would have His own plans and we were just going to be along for the ride.
Although we don't always have a 'theme' per se, this year we definitely did and it proved to be the theme of BLESSING. Not only did we raise the funds we all needed to be able to just go to Zim, we were able to raise money above and beyond and were able to take more supplies for the camp than ever before AND were given an amazing donation of tools for not only the camp, but also to leave with some of the locals at the Reformatory we were working at! God was truly amazing in the resources He provided this year and all we were able to do.
After a long 45 hour trip (with a fun 10-hour layover in London!) we arrived at Lasting Impressions camp the evening before 47 Reformatory kids (9 girls, 38 boys + teachers) were to arrive the next morning, so our team had to get in the Zimbabwe way of thinking quickly. Because the Reformatory didn't have transportation for the kids, we had to make several trips the next morning to get all of them to camp, but you should have seen their faces every time a new truck load of kids showed up...they were so incredibly excited! Our team had the help of the LI instructors to translate (although English is the official language, because many of these kids have not had regular schooling, many don't speak English well, some none at all) and help the kids get settled in. That day we had fun splitting the kids into teams and getting started on initiatives and games to see what skills would be be most helpful to learn during their time at camp. We teach things like communication, leadership, problems solving, etc. in our Leadership Camps, but we like to let the groups show us what they really need. It was a great first day. Sadly, it seemed though, it would be our ONLY day...
That afternoon, the newly appointed head of the school (who we'd filled out paperwork and approved this camp with) decided she needed all the kids back to the Reformatory immediately because she had forgotten to clear it with the Education Board and they were coming the next day to see the school. We were heartbroken. After months of a Knoxville church raising money, all the paperwork and preperation at camp, God was only giving us ONE day to work with these kids and get them out of the everyday life of the Reformatory?! Then God broke all our vehicles...no way to get the kids back there till one worked, so they would at least have to stay the night! We prayed for a change of heart and waited to break the news to the kids. That night we had an amazing night of testimony by Emily, worship and prayer times in addition to a meal like these kids had never seen before.
The next morning we got word that they were still requiring the kids come back and since a couple vehicles had been repaired, we had nothing to keep us from it, so we told them after lunch we woud bring them. We had just enough time that morning though to get the kids through at least one activity they could not do anywhere else...The Pamper Pole...aptly named because you may need a diaper by the time you make it to the top. Basically it's just a 30' high pole that you climb up and once you get to the top, you jump for a trapeze (all while strapped in a harness of course). We made sure every kid got to at least participate in that one thing, then it was lunch and the bad news. Nothing is harder than seeing middle school and high school boys with tears in their eyes as they get on the back of the truck going back to a place of such sadness when they were promised a few days of relief.
What's our motto in Zim? MAKE A PLAN. So that's what we did. For the next 3 days we took camp to the Reformatory! And you know what? God blessed it. The kids thought we were abandoning them and were surprised when we showed up. We brought all the good meals, played all the same games & initiatives, sang all the same songs and did all the same testimonies we had planned. It may not have been the beautiful camp we'd left, but I hope we made their dismal Reformatory seem a little bit better.
We had also planned on painting the dining hall to brighten it up and re-roof the boys buildings (the roof had been ripped off in a storm I think), which we were now able to get help from the kids with and take this time to teach new skills for their future! God always knows what He's doing... The WW2 concentration camp turned Reformatory was getting a much needed makeover and we were so happy and surprised at how many students and teachers were joining in to help! As you can see in some of the pictures we finished painting and roofing (even though things don't go quite as fast as here) and were able to leave the kids with a bit of something new.
The rest of our time in country was spent getting to know the camp instructors, the Croudace family, sharing a testimony at church, running the church youth group and then finally having a bit of fun seeing some African wildlife at Mwanga Lodge.
This was just a glimpse of our time in Zim, but I would encourage people to ask our team members about THEIR experiences and what God taught them, because in all my years of coming to Zim, one thing I learn is that God teaches us all something different and amazing if you just listen and let Him speak.
Thank you to Calvary Chapel Chattanooga Missions Department and all our our financial and prayer supporters. We quite literally couldn't have made this trip happen without you and I know the kids, teachers and LI staff thank you as well for the encouragement you sent with our team. We've been told many time over the years how much it means to them to know that a group of people 8,000 miles away cares about them and is praying for them...and that's why we go back year after year.
If you'd like to know more about Lasting Impressions Wilderness Camp, visit their website at
www.lasting-impressions.org. And to get a glimpse of the heart of the camp, watch the Leadership Camp and Environmental camp videos on the Programs page!
Enjoy the pictures and videos! They're not really in order...sorry...