Last weekend (5 - 7 July) we had an excellent regional camp for International students from the Manawatu and Wellington regions at Foxton Beach. Thank you for being part of the success of this camp through your prayers. Three phrases come to mind to describe the camp: low budget, family feel, and fruitful. Our theme was “Religion or Relationship? What does it mean to follow Jesus? There can be a tendency in our world to equate big budget with big success, yet I don’t see Jesus operating that way. Jesus was low budget, and he emphasised us being family together and fruitfulness as signs of the Kingdom. There were times at the camp when I was thinking, “this is old school, this is new school, this is Jesus school.” So what did that look like for us?
We deliberately kept the costs low to make it easier for students to attend and we also had some generous people who sponsored students. $80 for a weekend camp is super cheap; we had ISMNZ staff serve in the kitchen as cooks and some of the students also helped out to give a family feel in the kitchen. Accommodation was basic so we took extra sleeping bags and blankets and made sure students kept their dorm doors closed to keep the heat in all weekend - these steps worked a treat to keep everyone warm and snug. No formal sung worship. For some International seekers sung worship is not that accessible so, as a planning team, we chose not to do “what we have always done"; we took along one guitar and a student enjoyed playing and singing at night by the fire with others. No powerpoint and ditch the lecture. We put the emphasis on small group interaction and facilitated workshops; we had heaps of whiteboards where small groups collaborated to build a picture together of what they were learning about.
One Vietnamese student from Palmy who is a seeker remarked, “everything was fabulous, this felt like being away with family for the weekend.” One student from Wellington (also a seeker) is going to spend time with ISMNZ families in Palmerston North over the semester break. This week I have noticed a deeper connection with students who were at the camp because of the sense of family we shared over the weekend.
So what has been the fruit of the camp in the last week? The seekers that attended have been raving about it and this has flowed on to requests to start or continue Bible studies and be in people’s homes for meals and watch faith-based movies. A group of post-grad students want to meet with Christian academics to explore how you follow Jesus in the world of academia. Each person came away with a better understanding of what it means to follow Jesus at their stage in the journey. Dianne and I look forward to seeing further fruit from this as the second semester begins on Monday.
Thank you again for your partnership in this ministry through your prayers.
(City Leader, Palmerston North)