Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Summer Camp—Dorcas House Style

I honestly love being able to keep up with seeing what's going on at home through Facebook. While the site sometimes has its downsides, for me living overseas it makes it feel like I don't live quite so far away. Something I've been noticing a lot lately on my news feed are the pictures of people's kids or teens having fun at summer camps and youth retreats. I chuckle because while I feel very disconnected from that world and barely even register that it's actually summertime in America, I also just got to spend a week at “summer camp” myself here in Burkina. And not only that, but I got to do it alongside some wonderful ladies from my home church in Ohio!
The sign welcoming our group to the first day of camp at Dorcas House

My two worlds have collided in Burkina Faso twice before, where groups from my hometown of Lima, Ohio, were able to spend time in my current home of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. First my family came to visit this last December, and then a team of men from my home church, Shawnee Alliance, came in January to drill wells. Both of those experiences were very special for me, and this past week, I got to add a third experience to that list, as Shawnee Alliance sent a team of ladies to Ouagadougou to put on a special camp at a young women's center here called Dorcas House.
The team from Shawnee Alliance along with several of us from Envision and two from Nyack

Dorcas House is a life-changing two-year program for girls that was started in 2008 by a partnership between former Burkina missionary Amy Nehlsen and some ladies of the local church. Most of girls in the Dorcas House program are in their late teens or early twenties and are at risk because of poverty, lack of formal education, or other hard circumstances in their lives. The thirty girls live at the center, and this program then trains them in sewing, agriculture, literacy, and biblical understanding. Each time I visit the girls at Dorcas House, I'm blown away by their knowledge of the Bible, their sweet servant hearts, and their enthusiasm for both work and play.
One of the Dorcas House teachers displaying the freshly-ground peanut butter made right there at the center
(notice also the grinder at work in the background)

It was a beautiful week, and I enjoyed each day of getting to hang out, build friendships, and grow in Jesus with both the American and the BurkinabĂ© girls. Despite the language barrier that the team had to overcome, meaningful relationships were formed. That sisterly bonding that happens between women is something to treasure when there's no one-upping each other or seeking special recognition but instead it is about bettering one another and genuinely enjoying each other's company. My heart is so full right now from the privilege that I had during those ten days to have spent so much time serving and laughing and sharing and worshipping alongside these forty-or-so ladies.
The girls listening as Amy taught from Scripture
One of the many times of everyone worshipping God together through dancing,
which is very much a part of Burkinabé culture

Just to give you a little better idea of what our time at camp looked like, I want to mention what the daily schedule included. For each of the five days of the camp that the Shawnee team had organized, we would have breakfast at 7, a personal devotion/team meeting time at 8, morning session with the Dorcas House girls at 9 (which included singing, dancing, and a Bible lesson taught by a team member), small group time around 11 (which was for memorizing the daily Bible verse going with the lesson, eating snacks, and doing team-building activities), crafts around 12, lunch at 1, rest time after that, a health lesson at 3, game time about 4 (everything from water balloons to frisbee to volleyball), dinner around 7, and snacks and testimonies around the campfire to end each night.
A few of the Dorcas House girls enjoying frisbee for their first time
The girls displaying the bags they made during craft time on the first day of camp

Each day was a very full day with so many fun things for the Dorcas House girls, much like the experience that many American kids are currently getting when they go off to Christian summer camps or youth retreats, but our time with them was ultimately all about Jesus and it seemed like the lessons they were taught were truths they'll hang onto. In fact, the most exciting thing of the week was that seven girls prayed to give their lives to Christ for the first time, and twelve girls are planning to be baptized this month!
Jess and me with the pink group—our small group for the week

I was so blessed to get to be a small part of leading this Dorcas House camp. God worked in big ways, and I pray that this experience will continue to be a spark for growth in the lives of everyone involved, including the other American leaders and me. What a privilege it was to get to “go to camp” this summer and to have made these wonderful memories as Ben and I now are (with very mixed emotions) getting ready to leave Burkina Faso in just sixteen days.