Several months ago I asked my staff members to dream a God-sized dream. I asked them what they would like to do this year and said I wanted to get behind them to make their dream a reality. Peter Ladenheim came to me a few days later and said his dream was to run our own summer youth camp. Today was history in the making! Camp Dynamis Year 1, Day 1! I am so proud of him and excited for what God is going to do this week!
This morning we were led in devotions by Lucas, Natalia and Rachel, then we headed to the final day of the Wellspring camp. It was a great day, and it was neat to see how different things felt today compared to the first day. Lydia said it well this evening, “I really love and am going to miss my kids.” There has been a relational connection between our team and the kids as well as the staff of Wellspring, and coming to the last day was actually a bit sad. Throughout the day I was in the office with Sam, Tom, and a few of the Wellspring staff and we were inflating and making balloon animals. It was fun teaching Sam and Tom how to make these simple little things that are such an amazing way to make kids happy. The parents arrived at 1:30pm for the finale of camp and were able to see some of what their kids experienced this week. After farewells and cleaning up we returned to the hotel for an hour then we headed out again. We were able to go eat earlier today, and we went out for an Egyptian favorite meal, koshary. We then drove back to Garbage City and visited an orphanage. We were only able to be there for an hour, but we made balloon animals, did face painting, and enjoyed playing with the kids. We sought to bring a little joy to the children but our team was really heavy-hit emotionally. God really gave us a glimpse of His heart, and there was a lot of tears and deep thinking and conversations happening during our ride back to the hotel.
On Wednesday we had a very long and full day. Same morning routine and day at camp. We had a lot of fun with the kids. One quite powerful thing did happen today. One of the camp counselors had an allergic reaction to something and Santhosh was able to help get her stabilized and took her to the hospital. It was a pretty serious situation, and his expertise was invaluable! After the camp we returned to the hotel for just one hour, then we loaded up and headed to the bazaar for some souvenir shopping. It was quite an experience and gave us a chance to see life downtown. Our bodies are still adjusting and we were all quite tired. They eat dinner between 8-11pm here, so the adjustment in daily rhythm has been interesting as well. We went out for a great dinner together about 10pm. Another change for me is not having coffee all throughout the day, and I was personally was so exhausted that I was falling asleep at the table. We got back to our hotel at 1am. Talk about a long day. I have been so impressed with our team. We are working hard, it is hot out, and we are maintaining a pretty rigorous schedule as our awesome hosts really want us to experience Egyptian culture, but everyone is remaining very positive. I am so proud of everyone and the unity they are exemplifying. Those who were experiencing some stomach issues yesterday were mostly doing better, but a few others were hit today. From experience this is just a normal occurrence when traveling internationally as the bacterias are different than our bodies are used to, and from what the folks at camp say this happens to all of the Americans who come. We have been very blessed to have Dr. Santhosh on our team, and we are embracing the joy of the Lord as our strength and the truth that His grace is sufficient for us. I would love for us to all be able to enjoy our time without “the revenge of the Pharos,” so please pray that we could all experience a healing touch and be rid of these stomach aches.
This morning several of us on the team woke up with stomachs not too happy about the incredibly delicious food we had last night for dinner. Dr. Santhosh’s breakfast office was busy. Jen, Tabitha, Santhosh, and Ryan shared devotionals with us. We had another good day at camp today, and I was so proud of the team for the way they embraced God’s grace and gave the children their best even though they were not feeling too well. We took it easy with what we ate throughout the day, and thankfully by afternoon most of us we were past the worst of it. Adriana and I were able to slip away for a quick lunch with some family friends who are doing His work here in Egypt. We all returned to the hotel for two hours to rest and clean up, then we drove to Manshiyat Naser (Garbage City) which is the a section of the city that is almost all Christians who handle all of the garbage and recycling of the city. We visited the famous Cave Church – the largest church in the Arab world. It seats 20,000 people! We had a tour guide named Maged who really loves J and passionately told us the history of the church. After our tour we went for dinner and returned to our hotel at 12:30am.
This morning we had breakfast at the hotel at 7am. We then had Hannah, Joy, and Rebekah lead our team in devotions before loading the bus and heading to camp day 2. As expected today was a bit smoother now that we are more acclimated to the flow of camp. We returned to the hotel at 5pm and were able to enjoy some swimming, hanging out, and naps before being picked up at 7:30pm for dinner. I personally have only managed a little over 2 hours of sleep each of first two nights, so an hour and a half nap was much-needed. For dinner we headed to a local mall which, as all places here at night, was buzzing with people for dinner. It was at the mall that we experienced the first division in our team. Given the option between Lebanese food or sushi, we sat at two different restaurants side-by-side. Who do you think won? I’ll give you a hint: The sushi people were running over to the Lebanese food table and taking food to eat at their table. lol! We got back to our hotel at 10pm and had our team meeting outside. We had some excellent sharing time during our debriefing. We headed to our rooms at 11:15pom and are turning in now. We are having a wonderful experience and are learning a ton! Thanks for your prayers.
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We had a wonderful getaway with our young adults this weekend. It was a great time of relationship-building, encountering God through worship, learning and being challenged by excellent preaching, sharing and praying with each other, and enjoying God’s beautiful creation. Our theme was Unique and we spent time learning about how God has created each of us so uniquely, and what it means to follow Jesus and live for God’s purposes in our identity as His children. One of the highlights for me was leading a young lady into a relationship with Christ. On a personal note, it was a joy for me to have my own college student, Claudia, there for the first time. It was fun for me to share this experience with her in a different role than as her youth pastor. The other thing I personally loved was having some of my good friends with us to minister. Laurie Bolton was our main speaker, and her husband Jimmy also shared alongside her on Sunday morning. And Jeff Parshall and his band, New Hope New York led is in worship. May fruit remain.
I am passionate about small groups. They are the backbone of the youth ministry that I lead. I am not personally leading one of our student small groups at the moment, but I do visit our groups each week and take time to observe and connect with our students and adult leaders. Here’s a principle that I shared with our leaders recently. I call it the “Look Who’s Talking” Principle.
I am a teacher by gifting. I love standing in front of a group of people and communicating. But when I am leading a small group, I have to remind myself that my role is different. The primary role of a small group leader is not talker, but facilitator. The reason I love small groups is that they give us a chance to help students learn in a more effective way than simply sitting in a chair and listening to an adult talk to them. Ouch! As a teacher, that hurts just a little bit. The truth is, students learn best, not by listening to us talk to them, but through experiences, and in the small group setting, through the experience of sharing what they are processing as it pertains to the topic.
A small group leader is not primarily a sage imparting wisdom, but a miner extracting wisdom from students through asking good, open-ended questions, listens carefully, and gets students involved in the conversation. Yes, adult leaders can share insights and experiences occasionally, but that should be an exception, not the rule. When leaders do all of the talking, students are relegated to the role of passive listeners rather than active participants. As leaders we must ensure that students are engaging in the conversation through sharing their thoughts with the group and listening to their peers. If you think in terms of the old Pareto (80/20) principle, as leaders you should be doing 20% of the talking, and students should be doing 80%.
If you are a small group leader, or if you have a few leaders in your group, take some time after small group to reflect and ask if students were engaging, or if you were doing too much talking. As a principle, remember the title of the 1989 movie, “Look Who’s Talking.” If there were a video recording, or even just an audio recording of your small group meeting, whose voices would you hear? Your goal should be to ensure you hear a whole lot of students’ voices (dare I say, all of your students?) and very little of yours. It’s tough, but it’s the best thing you can do for the spiritual growth of your students.