EPM had the privilege of participating financially in a children’s camp in Lusaka, Zambia in 1999, a joint project of Action International Ministries (a ministry to children in crisis which EPM highly endorses), Alliance for Children Everywhere, and Jesus Army Camp. The camp was held on the edge of a slum area of Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia. Following are selected portions of the camp report from one of the workers:
I took a small team to the markets today to buy the food and other supplies. We had to hire two pickup trucks to get everything back to the campgrounds, and when we arrived very late this afternoon, there were kids already there waiting for camp.
My biggest delight came when one little boy, covered in the soya flour from the bags he had been carrying, came up to me after we had emptied everything out. He said, “Who is all of this food for?” I replied, “For you at the camp.” He said again, “I didn’t know we were going to eat, so can I come early to be first in line?”
Camp starts officially at 7:30 in the morning. I can hardly wait to see the looks on those other 250 children’s faces when they also learn about the food. Only one problem. There can only be one, first in line!!!
Food is such a big issue here. During the months of Oct-Dec. these kids may eat once EVERY OTHER DAY before the harvest comes in.
Two hundred and thirty-four children started Action’s Camp Mtendare (Mtendare means peace in Ninja) today! The little boy we talked about yesterday was ONE of the first into the campgrounds this morning. But, there surely was no line!!! Instead, there was a large crowd of little people waiting for the big black gates to swing open letting them into the Jesus Army plot. They started coming before 7:00 a.m. The counselors, all 29 of them, and the four cooks, were ready on the inside of the gates to greet them, and hug them. They ALL got a hug.
Then, each counselor standing ready with a fistful of brightly colored ribbons, banded each camper on their wrist to separate the groups, and to help them identify their own campers. All banded, the first activity was EAT!! And did they ever eat. We had a breakfast porridge called HEPS. The mix has soya flour, corn meal, a bit of sugar and a blend of multi-vitamins for this type of malnourished child. Every drop, in every cup was licked out clean as a whistle.
After breakfast, these kids who are usually pretty laid back for lack of energy, were jumping, skipping rope, and singing with so much light and energy, I got tired just watching them. The food, even that one meal, had already made a big difference. Throughout the day, the campgrounds had groups of kids everywhere. Some making bright-colored cloth dolls, some others cloth bags. Some were learning to skip rope for the first time, others playing London Bridge with their counselors. A group of older boys were banging wire for making cars.
Lunch was one of the most amazing sights. We served mince (hamburger) mixed in with cabbage and served with nshima. The children were amazed that they were going to be eating mince. I doubt that even 1/2 the children have ever even tasted it. Again, after lunch, the plates were licked very clean.
The word about the camp spread quickly throughout the compounds (slum area), so we expect a healthy crowd on Saturday. The end of the day was sweet as the children sang songs and had an end-of-the-day devotion. With a toothbrush in one hand (we gave each child one to take home) and an orange in the other, they went back to the compound, tired and blessed.
The climax came on Saturday, when the day started before sunrise with a few children gathered at the gate. By the time the program began there were over 800 children and many adult family members. Over 100 children trusted Christ as their Savior.
The most special part of the day came when one little girl, maybe about 9 years old, stood in front of the entire assembly and shared her experience of giving her heart and life to Jesus. She was showered with applause, and you could tell that she was indeed blessed.
Singing, sharing, hugging and laughter filled the camp, and finally when all was said and done, the food distributed and juices drunk, no one wanted to leave!!!
The children then made a long, long, long, line around the camp; over and through the buildings, and with hands held marched for what seemed like forever around the camp. And still they stayed on. After more songs and a few games, finally, with wire cars, dolls and shoulder bags in hand they SLOWLY left the camp grounds with full bellies, great memories, and for more than 200 children—those saved during the week and those who came into the Kingdom on that last day—Jesus as their newly-found guide and friend.