by Paul Olver
The youth from the Carmen de Areco FMC in Argentina worked all year to raise funds for a youth camp. They made and sold empanadas in the town square. They served meals at Annual Conference and the tips went towards the youth camp. So many signed up to serve that they had to set up a rotation to accommodate everyone. They had so much fun serving they were disappointed they couldn’t do it at more meals.
Going to youth camp took a lot more than raising funds. The camp was going to be at a sister church in Montevideo, Uruguay – another country. Every teen had to have a parental release form signed in front of a judge in order to cross the international border. Most of the teens come from broken homes; many had not spoken to one (or even both parents) in several years. Both parents had to appear before the judge at the same time. How could they arrange that when parents had been separated and estranged for years!
The teens went on a prayer campaign. The pastors and youth workers reached out to the parents. And God answered their prayers. A judge agreed to do all these hearings for free – the normal charge would have been prohibitively expensive. Parents who had not spoken to each other in years came together. In the end every parent signed.
It was a ten-hour bus trip to Montevideo and when they got there they discovered the church was not clean. There was a lot of clutter; many rooms had obviously not been used for some time. But they didn’t complain. They simply organized themselves to clean the whole property from top to bottom, inside and out. They took out trash; swept and scrubbed. No one told them to do so; they just did it. It was an unplanned service project that took several days of their camp.
And they had a wonderful time in Montevideo. God met them there. Many teens opened their hearts to Jesus or recommitted themselves to follow and serve Him.
On the way home – many hours by bus – they started to talk. First, if they could have this good of a time in a city a long ways away, maybe they could do it in the big city of Buenos Aires, much closer to their home. Maybe God had something for them there.
The other thing: this was such a great experience – what about the younger kids in their church that didn’t have this opportunity? There was a teacher’s strike in their province, so school would be delayed opening. What if they were to do a day camp for the younger kids when they got home? And why not do it at some of the nearby FMC’s to help them too?
So, they organized themselves into teams and spent the travel time on the bus brainstorming and planning. By the time they arrived home they had it all figured out. They successfully ran week-long day camps at three nearby churches before the strike was over and the school year started. Afterwards, one of the teen leaders – 15 years old at the time – wrote a Facebook post to the parents: “Thank you to all the parents who allowed their treasures to come to the camp and for trusting us!”
The Jumeles (Juventud Metodistas Libres or Free Methodist Youth) at Carmen de Areco FMC are developing a culture of service. Older teens teach and minister to junior teens who in turn are passing it on to younger children. There is obvious fun and joy in service. The youth – and children — are full participants in what God is doing in their church. And they are eager to be part of it.