What can I give of myself to others? How do I serve God and participate in society in the identity that I have? Those were some of the challenges the 16 participants and 30 team members and assistants posed to each other at the 12th annual Challenge camp that took place from 23 to 30 July in Spāre, Latvia.
The camp was held together by known and loved activities like morning worship and excercises, workshops and lectures, sports games, a concert and a bonfire. The lectures explored relevant and intriguing topics. Are people with disabilities welcomed in both individual churches and the Church as the worldwide Body of Christ? How can I follow Christ in my everyday life as a wheelchair user? How to make room in my life for life-giving conversations with God? And how to serve God faithfully with the personality type He has given me, be it extrovert or introvert? Regular small group meetings made space for discussing eternal questions and sharing our stories with each other. During free time, participants had the chance to visit a physiotherapist, go on a couching session or consultation over the opportunities in the Latvian social welfare system.
The participants encouraged each other by sharing about their hobbies and achievements. During the sports games, participants that are among Latvia’s best wheelchair athletes instructed us in shot put, discus and javelin throw techniques. Some hidden talents came to daylight while preparing sketches based on Bible stories.
Encouragement and teamwork became crucial also in the extreme night, when we literally met the dark and unknown. At 11PM one night, we set out to find different coloured pearls on the ground. In addition, we were to protect ourselves from a “wolf”. The biggest goal became staying as close and unified as possible, as every team had only one flashlight. For one team, this became exceptionally important when one of the members fell out of her wheelchair. But thanks to good and caring teamwork, this episode became a parable of how the Church of God is there to help each other out. Everyone made it safely to the group picture taken around 3AM, with the east sky slowly lighting up behind us.
A message that kept ringing through lectures and testimonies was that everyone needs others, and everyone has something to give to others. For this week, borders between people with different abilities disappeared and everyone was seen first and foremost as a personality. For the camp to be successful and enjoyable, everyone’s input was equally important. Several first time participants said that the camp surpassed their expectations, and those who have participated before testified that what they experience at the camp makes them want to come back again and again. One participant told that at this camp, God’s love, joy and peace filled his heart in a way he’d never experienced before, and decided to give his life wholly to Christ. We rejoice together with him, as well as with all the others who had some new seeds planted in their hearts. May these good seeds grow into fruitful trees in our lives, and may the influence of this week keep spreading like circles on water from every participant’s, team member’s and assistant’s lives. Thank you for your generous support in both prayers and finances for making this life-changing week possible!