I have just returned from Daytona Beach, Florida. I went there for a week with my family to volunteer at a camp for students called Big Stuf. (That’s one ‘f’- I don’t usually like intentional misspellings, but I’ll make this one exception simply because the organization is so fabulous.)
I am in serious need of a camp debrief. We had a great time, and frankly I am a little bummed about having to go back to life as I know it. Not that my life as I know it is bad, it’s not, but if you have ever gone off to a retreat or camp and have been sucked into its vortex of peace and joy, you know what I mean. (Extra points earned for using the word “vortex” in a sentence.)
It was a whole week of worship, great speakers, students, fun filled volunteering and working with other people who also gave up a week of their summer to help pull this camp off. I have come back with much to share, and in doing so I expect that I will eventually be able to stop my 24/7 singing or humming of the wonderful songs we sang at Big Stuf.
I hope that what I have to share will be meaningful for you. I know you weren’t there with us, at least most of you were not, but the stories I have come home with will bless you- I think- and hopefully challenge you as they did me.
Most of the students, and all of the staff and volunteers stayed at the Hilton Hotel in Daytona. As the staff and volunteers gathered on Saturday night to eat our first meal together, it was our opportunity to meet everyone. The theme for the week was about opportunities to “Konnekt”. (There it is again… but again I’ll give the misspelling a pass.) Konnekting with other believers, with God, and with people across the globe.
One of the first people Matthew and I “konnekted” with was Micah. He works for a ministry called 410 Bridge that partners with Big Stuf to do, well, big stuff. They work in Kenya and Haiti to make real differences in the lives of those there.
I asked Micah to tell me about his job. Shortly, I learned that Micah is quite passionate about what he does. I like people who are passionate about what they do. Especially when what they do really matters. Micah began to tell me how most “mission” work happens. He told me about how one shoemaker in a community in Kenya was put out of business by a mission group that brought over hundreds of pairs of shoes for the people in that community. The missionaries’ shoes were free. The shoemaker couldn’t compete with that. So he lost his only means to earn a living.
Lots of mission trips are manned by well meaning people who take trips to faraway lands in order to build something, fix something, or provide something for the people they are serving. They often do not require that the people they are helping participate in the project. Had the mission group that provided the shoes worked with the shoemaker, maybe he would still have a job.
410 Bridge sees mission work a bit differently. The work in targeted areas of Kenya and Haiti with community leaders to help the people meet the great needs they have. Some need clean drinking water. Some need schoolbooks for their children. Some need buildings to house schools or medical clinics.
I also learned of a medical clinic in Kenya that was visited by some medical missionaries. During their stay they used up all the supplies the clinic had. The clinic had no way to restock what the missionaries used up. The clinic was not able to help its people for quite a while.
Eventually someone wanting to pray over our dinner interrupted Micah. I think if that interruption had not come, he could have gone on talking about his job for hours. Over the next few days, I met more people who work for 410 Bridge, and they were all just as passionate about what they do as Micah.
Thanks to 410 Bridge, during Big Stuf camp the students each received letters that had been written to them by a child in Kenya. The students could then write back to their child on a white board, have their picture taken with it, and then the photo was sent over the Internet back to their Kenyan child. Each day of camp, the students received another letter, and each day, they could write back to their child as many times as they wanted. It was about making connections, um… konnektions. Kids that are worlds apart were brought close last week. It was way cool.
They were also given the opportunity, if they wanted to, to buy a couple of bracelets for ten bucks. The students kept one of the bracelets, wrote their Kenyan friend’s name on it, and sent the other bracelet back to Kenya for their friend to have with the student’s name written on it. The money raised will go to further the mission work of 410 Bridge helping in the communities where their Kenyan friends live. I don’t know the final count but on the third night of camp those kids had given over ten thousand dollars of their own money. Amazing. They really are doing Big Stuff, er Stuf.
If you’d like to learn more about the work of 410 Bridge you can check them out at www.410bridge.org. The people you will see in the photos are the very people I got to serve alongside of this last week. These are some really cool people. Really cool.