Free To Just Be Kids

by Katie Nelson

In Rwanda, Bible Camp is an opportunity for the children to set down the burdens they usually carry so they can pick up plates of food, jump ropes, and of course, Bibles.

When my family visited Lahash’s partner ministry in Rwanda, we had a chance to attend their very first Bible Camp. The children and program staff in Rwanda were all very excited for it! After learning more about the kids’ everyday lives, we could understand why.

A lot of the kids don’t eat three meals a day. They may feel isolated and lonely, even at school. Many wake up in the morning and have a very long walk to get to school, perhaps even miles. By the time they get home and do their chores and try to do their homework, it is time for bed. They might not even have time for play. They do meet with their Sponsorship Program friends and the staff once a week for “program day,” which is great and the kids really enjoy it, and yet it’s a full and busy day not geared toward one-on-one connections.

Bible Camp is unique because there are several days in a row of time just to be together. It is a chance for them to set down the burdens they carry in everyday life. They don’t have to wonder when they will have a meal. They don’t have chores or other obligations. They are free to just be kids.

There are games like netball, soccer, and jump rope, and there is purposeful time set aside in the schedule for them to enjoy extended periods of play. Having three hearty meals a day creates an atmosphere of celebration! The only other times the kids would eat meals like that might be once or twice a year for major holidays. Bible Camp means feasting every day with people you care about. They love it!

The kids and staff get to worship and pray together in the morning and again in the evening. There is also the component of Bible teaching, which most of the kids have very little of in their daily lives.

The younger kids’ teacher used dramatic presentations of Bible stories followed by an interactive time of questions that helped them think through the story they had heard. She used a lot of music and singing, and the younger kids were captivated by everything she said and did!

The older kids’ teacher had a very different style. They were reading directly from the Bible, taking notes, and having discussions. It seemed to me that they were really digging in, being thoughtful and engaged.
Their camp theme was “God Has A Purpose For Your Life” and it was taken from the brief story of Jabez in I Chronicles 4:9-10. Jabez’s name means “I gave birth to him in pain.” They talked about the significance of names in that culture, and how Jabez “defied his hopeless name and dysfunctional beginning to become a man who believed fervently in the power of God.” The kids connected to that message as many of them feel they have been written off because of the poverty they come from. They feel judged by others who assume they have no future. But Jabez prayed in a way that showed his belief that God would help him, and even that God wanted to help him. These were powerful lessons for the kids.

Bible Camps are an important part of the Lahash holistic care model. Because all their physical needs are so well met at camp, they are free to receive care in other areas of their lives. There are opportunities for significant spiritual growth, and many children make the decision to follow Jesus because there is space created for them to learn deeply about what that means. Emotional care happens as the kids form stronger relationships with each other and with program staff, which deepens their sense of connection and community.

Some of my favorite moments at Bible Camp were seeing the kids poring over their Bibles line by line, taking time to read the Word of God on their own. Many of the older kids also took leadership roles in helping with the younger kids or leading worship or prayers which was really cool to see. It was awesome to witness firsthand how they embraced every aspect of camp.

I’m so grateful for the donors who see the importance of setting aside this time for the kids to go deeper into the Word of God and deeper in relationship with each other. Kids experience God in new and meaningful ways that impact them far beyond their time at camp. A heartfelt thank you goes out to everyone who donated to help make Bible Camps possible for the Lahash kids this past year!

Interested in helping send a child to Bible Camp?
Visit our Christmas Giving Page!