Two weeks ago we had our annual youth retreat. We took 40 teenagers and 13 adult leaders camping at Bombo Lumene, our favorite nature reserve, about 3 hours outside of Kinshasa. What an adventure and a true feat of logistics!
We did all the usual stuff that you do at youth camp. In our free time, we hiked and played in the river. We also had camp fires, skits, games, bible study, quiet time, and worship. One of my favorite things was the kids' skits. They were hilarious, as well as informative. All of them focused on our theme for the retreat, “Clay in the Potter's Hand”, but each skit was done in a different genre (tragedy, romance, cowboy, drama, musical). We have some incredibly talented and creative kids.
The best part of the retreat, though, was the teaching time. We had an awesome guest speaker for the camp. He is a chaplain for one of the big international schools in Kenya and has tons of experience in youth ministry. His topics were perfect for addressing the issues that our kids struggle with. Whenever he spoke, he really connected with the kids. God was truly working in their hearts. It's a wonderful thing to see the kids reaching out to one another and praying together as well as with the adult leaders.
The real adventure began on the last day. Just after breakfast, the sky opened up and dumped several inches of rain on us. We had planned to go down to the river following our morning program and then head back to Kinshasa right after lunch. Funny how things can change. Instead, what we did was run and 'strike our tents' (a new phrase for me) and get everyone's belongings out of the rain. We then held our morning program huddled under a make shift canopy connected to the veranda of the cook house/cabin. Kevin, our speaker, was unfazed by the down pour and so were the kids so we carried on. Everybody was soaked by the end so we moved everyone into the little cabin for the rest of the morning where the kids huddled together and shared their testimonies. Nothing we could have planned would have accomplished what happened that morning.
Knowing that the roads were going to be a challenge on the return trip, we shared a quick bowl of taco soup, packed up our vehicles and headed out. Sure enough, not an hour from camp, our convoy came to a place where they were working on road. The detour that we needed to take had become a muddy lake and there were at least 10 vehicles stuck in the mud. There was no getting by. We were already exhausted from camp. Many of us got out to look over the situation. While we stood talking, one of our missionaries, who's car was equipped with a winch, pulled out of line and drove right into the middle of that quagmire of mud and cars. One by one, he began pulling the cars out of the mud. A crowd gathered and began to cheer each time a car was unstuck. One driver, who's car was in danger of tipping over, almost began to cry when they pulled him up on to the road. He said, “Thank you, thank you, thank you! Look how you missionaries love us! I would never have gotten out of there, except you came along and helped!” Michael and I can take no credit for unsticking this man, but were glad to witness our friend Todd spreading God's love by having a willing heart and using his winch.
After Todd had freed at least half of the stuck cars, the road crew sent a huge tractor to pull out the rest. It was a couple of hours of slow progress in the mud, but we finally got through. We were pretty much home free all the way to Kinshasa. We arrived several hours late and covered with mud – but we were safe and sound. Here's the real miracle, through it all, I never heard a single complaint from the kids. I had to laugh when, as I was standing almost knee deep in soupy mud, one of the kids said, “if this isn't a perfect illustration of 'clay in the potter's hands' I don't know what is.” Well said.
You never know what kind of sticky situation you might find yourself in, but you can be sure that God can always use it for His good.