Ever since the beginning of humanity, unity has been one of the most important aspects of life. With unity, wars ease; with unity, cities and civilisations flourish; with unity, friendships and bonds are built; with unity, there is love. If you had asked me two years ago if I felt a sense of unity, I would have just scoffed and bluntly answer no. But after my recent experience with the Youth For Christ (YFC) camp, I truly felt as if though I were united with those around me. I no longer saw them as just friends and acquaintances; I saw them in a new light as my brothers and sisters, my family, working together in this odyssey of life to build ourselves and to reach God.
Of course, in the hours preceding the official beginning of camp, I asked myself a series of questions for I did not know what to expect in the event that took the span of two days. I asked myself questions like:
I started to feel a bit of doubt when I was not able to find the answers to these questions, so I just sort of left it out. Whatever happens, happens. All I really needed was the guidance of God.
From the beginning of the camp, I had already felt welcomed by the presence of faces I hadn’t seen for a long time, apart from seeing their faces with a few clicks and swipes on an iPhone. I saw some new faces; new participants that I haven’t talked to before.
The first evening of the YFC camp was quite light. There were a few games that were held, where we each had our chance to acquaint ourselves with one another, with the learning of some songs directly after. After completion of these activities, we had our first talk, ‘God’s Love and His Plan for Us’. During the talk, however, my mind kept switching from topic of the talk to thinking of how I would perform in my role as facilitator. Alas, the talk ended, and a bundle of participants came to Clark (facilitator working alongside with me) and I. My role as a facilitator was to hold group discussions and to assist or help any of the participants that had any problems in the group. To be honest, I didn’t really have experience at that time so I just went with the guide. The group discussion went smoothly: we all introduced ourselves and the discussion went either clockwise or anticlockwise so each person could have their say. During the group discussion that night, and the group discussions that occurred during the entirety of the event, I tried my best to be more charismatic and confident, even if on the inside, I felt the opposite. Overall, I think the first evening was a good introduction to the new participants, and a nice welcome to everyone attending and working in the camp.
The second day of the YFC camp was the opposite of the first day: Day Two was large, activity-filled, emotional and very spiritual. Directly after breakfast, the participants did an ‘Amazing Race’ where they completed a variety of tasks – from bottle flipping to eating spicy ramen. In the hours that followed, we had two talks, ‘Who is Jesus?’ and ‘Repentance, Faith, Healing and Forgiveness’. We also had overall planning for the Variety Night – the event in the evening where groups competed with their own rendition of RnB related songs. Before the Variety Night however, what occurred enticed us on a spiritual and emotional level. We were offered the opportunity to partake in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and while waiting for our turn for confessions, had some time for one on one discussions, where I had the opportunity to talk to two participants about their issues. I felt as if though I were loosening, my empathy finally beginning to surface. When I went back to the hall, I looked around. I asked myself, “You know that all the people you have met and will meet in life, have a life as complex and taxing as yours. You know that – but do you understand it? Do you understand that they face hardships, or worse, do you turn away from them? Do you understand their need for empathy?”
The final talk of the evening was ‘Receiving God’s Gift: The Power of the Holy Spirit’. In the dark and blissful sky of night, facilitators prayed with their participants, asking God to cast off impurities in them and bind them with His Holy Spirit.
The emotional enticement and rise of action all led to the climax of the Praise Fest. As we praised God with all our heart, tears streamed and emotions were let go. At that moment, we forgot, yet remembered all that made us into what we were. Some cried for joy of God being with them. Some cried in repentance. Some cried for both. It was amongst the most beautiful things I have witnessed so far in this voyage of life. The spiritual and emotional boulder was heavy to take, but it was astounding.
We were all bleary and exhausted by the end of the Praise Fest. To end the evening, each group performed for the Variety Night. It cheered us up and lifted our moods. Afterwards, some went to sleep, some stayed up to play UNO and others joked, bantered and told stories.
The next morning, our “handsome” YFC leader Lorenz gave the talk of ‘Growing in the Spirit’. Meanwhile, a board in the back of the hall was made and envelopes with all of our names were put on that board. At the end of the talk, they explained that these were “Warm Fuzzies” and you had to write a compliment to a person in the camp and put it into their envelope. This simple gesture of writing a compliment would help and encourage us in the days to come. As all the envelopes got filled with yellow and white notes, participants were reunited with their parents. By the end of the period of writing, participants were handed certificates and the community cheered like a large audience in a concert.
To finally close the YFC camp, we had a small mass in the hall with Father Terry Raj. I thought that the setting was somehow strangely silent so I looked around and the tiredness of everyone was apparent: some were yawning; others already sleeping. We prayed the closing prayer at the end of Mass and as I bid goodbye to my new family, I thought, “I don’t feel like I merely exist anymore. I feel alive.”
Written by -Elijah Gadong First time Facilitator