Sunday was a day of fun, fellowship, and friends. We had an awesome church service with guest speaker Pastor Adrian Smith from Stockholm, Sweden, and we had a great time afterwards. One of the Portuguese students who I met at ISM, Joao, actually came to the church service and spent time with our group after, and he loved it.
But Monday was what we were really all waiting for, Awakening Camp 2012.
I'm sure there are several people who could join me in saying that Monday I could hardly contain my excitement for camp. I've seen some of the work that's gone into the camp, and I couldn't wait to see all the good things that would come out of it. I knew it would be good just from the level of excitement in the air. There were kids everywhere who had been sponsored for the camp, and I found it moving how grateful they were. I took this from a post in Shasta and Tony Miller's facebook group. It's one of a few similar messages she let me read. I want to share it with you just to show a piece of what went on:
That was the story of several students, and I'm sure they and the Millers were very thankful for the several sponsors that made camp possible for them. My first "awakening" was related to this. Every year, most of the people from Colorado can afford every youth camp, youth convention, youth retreat, etc. and we think nothing of it. We always have a few sponsored, but it seems to be no big deal. Contrarily, thankfulness simply eminates from these students who couldn't afford it, but still were given the opportunity to be a part of what God would do.
Camp would begin on Monday. That morning, Amber and I hurriedly packed smaller bags (as ours were both too big to need to take to camp), and before we knew it, we were out the door with Tyler, Taylor, and Adomas, a friend of theirs. We all walked to the bus station, caught a bus, on which we ran into Raimonda, Rasika, and her girls, and went to the train station. We bought tickets to Trakai and waited with the group of about 25 headed to camp. Once in Trakai, Shasta drove their minivan back and forth from the train station to the campgrounds, taking loads of people at a time. Others arrived gradually, from Estonia, Latvia, and Norway.
When Monday evening came around, I was more than ready for church. I don't know that I'm good at singing in Lithuanian, but I can manage. Evelina and I, who had been practicing together, were joined by Benidicte and Miriam, sisters from Norway. Worship service took a little getting used to for some of the youth, especially those who hadn't been exposed to much or any Pentecostal church before. Jonathan Briggs, from Norway, preached that night, and it was the beginning of some awesome messages. Afterward, we all played volleyball, since it was still light out. Tuesday and Wednesday were just as good.
Youth camps in Colorado are great, don't get me wrong, but this was something else. Youth camp in Colorado is expected I guess, we're all used to it, maybe too used to it. And although every year it seems to get better, and we have great moves of God, it seems that at least some of the people start off with an indifferent attitude at first. Of course, there's also that "last night" mindset, where some people just go through the motions for the first few nights and then try to break through on the last night. It wasn't like that here. These kids don't get a huge youth event every few months like we do back home. We go from youth camp, to Shift, to Holiday Youth Convention to youth retreats and hyphen events etc. and we have youth services regularly enough. Here, this is the big thing. Camp is something everyone comes to already excited beyond belief. Every service, people worship and take it all in, even if they're a little hesitant about our worship style. People show up to morning prayer, looking forward to talking to God before breakfast. They're excited to clap and sing, they're excited to hear what the preachers have to tell them. Of course, the sports and games and fun bring tons of excitement too, but my point is, the entire mindset of everyone there made me think, maybe we don't appreciate what we have enough. That was another "awakening" moment.
I was given the opportunity to have personal conversations with many of the students at the camp...
The first was on Monday night, when a girl walked into the room I was sharing with six others and asked somewhat timidly, "Um, excuse me, but does anyone know how to do hair nice?"
We were all rushing to get ready as it was, but after a moment of silence I was first to volunteer with a, "Yes, I can do it," and she proceeded to ask me if I'd do her hair.
Her hair was beautiful, long, blonde, and thick. And before even an introduction she asked me, "So, you don't cut your hair, right?"
This is true. We Pentecostal girls are known for our uncut hair, among other things. I've heard a lot of things in response to this, but it's not a cultish thing and it's not legalistic either; it's in the Bible, it's not forced, it's a personal faith thing. Yes, there are standards we choose to live by, like uncut hair, no makeup, no jewelry, no pants, etc., but especially in foreign missions works, they aren't emphasized a lot, at least not at first. Shasta explained to some of us Pentecostal girls who have been in this for all our lives and have all the standards down that they deal with it on a personal and individual basis and they let people come to them about it, not the other way around.
So when Daniella asked me about my hair, I kind of proceeded with caution. "Right, I don't cut it," I said.
"Will you tell me why?" she asked.
"Well," I began, "the Bible says that your hair is a gift from God. And it's for a covering and it's your glory." That made her smile, and I continued, "so I wouldn't want to cut it, because God has given it to me, and why would I want to get rid of any of it?"
"That makes sense," she said. "I've been thinking that maybe I shouldn't cut mine again."
"That's for you to decide, but I think that's a good idea," I told her.
I did Daniella's hair the next night too, and the last night, she watched me do some other girls' hair and tried to do Amber's to practice.
Doing hair became a regular thing for me. By my last day there, I had over ten girls' hair to do. I put my own pins, flowers, headbands, and clips in their hair, as many of them didn't have any of that sort of thing. Even with the big box of pins I had, I still had to have Tony get some for me when he went into town. Daniella was so cute, after she learned the word "pins" she had to tell all the girls what they were called. I learned that they call hairbands and pins and things like that "guma" or "gum," so learning the English word "pins" was cool for her. The girls said I had golden hands. Although it was tiring doing hair for hours, I didn't really mind. Every one of them thanked me several times, hugged me, and were happy about their hair. It was something special for them, and that's all that mattered to me. Of course I told them that they shouldn't let their hair stop them from worshipping, to jump and clap and everything just like they normally would.
Because of all the hair-doing, I had a few more conversations about hair cutting and coloring, which I answered with care and sesitivity. I was glad the girls were asking though.
Other questions came as a result of Bible quizzing. Since nationals is right around the corner, I had my Bible quizzing cards with me pretty much 24/7, learning another one whenever I had a few minutes, looking over them at meals, and getting people to let me quote to them whenever I could. Many people asked what the cards were and if they could see them. They all loved the concept of Bible quizzing and wanted to know how they could do it. (When I go back to Lithuania, we just might have to start it up there...)
So another opportunity for sme question answering came when I walked by Christa, from Norway, and Ruta, from Klaipedia. Christa has been in church a little longer, I think, and she was trying to answer Ruta's many questions. She called me over because she thought I would know how to answer better since I know a lot of Bible verses. The first thing was showing Ruta a verse about why we only wear skirts. Christa could almost quote Deuteronomy 22:5, but didn't know where it was to show Ruta. That is indeed a Bible quizzing verse this year, so I went right to it. After that, Ruta followed with questions about jewelry. Then we moved inside so I could start doing hair, hers being first. There she asked about tons of other things, and Amber, who came to keep me company while doing hair, was glad to help me answer. I loved her spirit about the whole thing. She was just curious, hungry to know more, looking for answers, and looking in the right place, the Bible.
My last night there, Wednesday, Eimantas and Ugne joined us at Bajambalessodyba (where the camp was). Tyler Miller had met Eimantas a couple weeks ago and invited him to church. He came and brought his girlfriend, Ugne, with him. They loved it. After their first service, he said, "I have no words. Only wow!"
So it was great to see them at camp. Since we had coffee and apple pie squares after church, I went and sat by Ugne. She had just witnessed her first baptisms, and she had questions about it. I did my best at explaining without overwhelming, and we had a great conversation. She really likes Tony and Shasta's church, and she says Eimantas does too. She told me about their church, which is Catholic, and she said that it's like it's dead and Vilnius Slovinimo Namai is alive. She said it's different because they can feel happiness and joy at Tony and Shasta's church, and they're so nice and sweet. I loved getting to talk to her more.
My camp experience culminated with a bonfire. We had fun singing and playing games there. I let a few tears out and only consoled myself in the fact that I will most definitely be coming back.
Over the course of the three days I was at camp, several young people received the Holy Ghost, and six people were baptized.
The entire thing was just so touching. I'm thankful I got the chance to be a part of this.