Our focus for the first day was to help the students connect with each other, and have a good time speaking in English, and playing games. Felicia was able to lesson plan a ton of wonderful English "detective" themed games, but needed to care for Kai a lot, so Hawi, Preston, and I ended up improvising on her plans. One activity she planned with called "I have _______, who has _____" in which each student got a hand drawn card with two detective themed words on it, such as, "I have ____(evidence), who has _____(victim)". This was a great way for the student to practice asking questions to each other in English and start thinking critically.
For lunch we taught the students how to make their own Paninis, and then we started rehearsing of drama and praise team. Felicia and Hawi are leading the drama team which will be presenting a skit at church about the parable of the prodigal son on Sunday for their parents (who aren't Christian). I'm leading the praise team where we are singing four worship songs in English, and the kids are learning some awesome dance moves (being led by Preston).
After practice, things got a little ... interesting. We tried to do a secret message activity, in which they would write a message in invisible ink. For the invisible ink we used lemon juice, milk, and baking soda. The kids would write a scripture (written backwards) on white paper, and then reveal the message using the heat from a tea light. It was a great idea, until we actually started the activity. The kids couldn't see what they were writing so they wrote over the same letters, and we neglected to think about the equation:
Paper + Multiple Candles + Children Holding Paper = *Nervous Laughter*
In short, only parts of secret messages were revealed before, papers lit on fire. In momentary panic leaders would wave the paper quickly to "put out the fire", the extra oxygen would cause the secret message to burst into flames before it was extinguished in a bucket of water. This happened about five times before we stopped the activity. Luckily no one was hurt, and we only left two minor burn marks on the carpet. A lasting reminder that fire is for outside, lol.
It was really a bummer because we felt like the meaning of the activity was lost, like we failed. To our surprise at the end of the day, three kids said the secret message was their favorite activity. Extreme fatigue was a major contributor to the poor activity, but it was like God's grace smoothed out our imperfections. Everyday the four of us have brought our best effort to this ministry, and God continues to work big miracles despite our shortcomings.
The second day of camp had a lot of momentum from the first day. The kids were connecting with us, and really engaged. We started the day with the secret message activity, but we used white crayons and colored markers. It worked beautifully and the kids were able to reveal the secrete message:
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you/ For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." Matthew 7:7-8. We explained how during this camp we are going to seek Jesus, and we will find him. That nothing will be hidden from us, if we seek an answer from God.
Then we read Luke 15:1-7
"Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." Then Jesus told them this parable: "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn't he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. "
We then gave each child a puzzle piece and let them draw a sheep that had wandered far from its home. We encouraged them to think just how far a sheep could wander. We got pictures of sheep hanging out with dinosaurs, sleeping on the beach, and even being pulled by a rocket in space. Once everyone was done they began to put the puzzle together which was again in the shape of a cross but the middle piece in the center (heart shaped) was missing. We then added the hidden piece which was Jesus as the Sheppard of all the lost sheep.
Then we taught the kids how to make mac and cheese and chicken tenders, and had more rehearsals for drama team and praise team. Its amazing seeing these kids remember their lines, dance moves, and lyrics so fast. Then we transitioned into bible time.
During this time we discussed who Jesus was: fully god, healer, savior, and Shepard for the lost sheep. We discussed how our sin can separate us from God's presence, so he sent Jesus as a Shepard to bring us back home to him through the cross. The kids were really engaged in the message as well as the parents/leaders, and it was so exciting seeing the games connect so smoothly with the scriptures and message. Jesus was definitely revealing himself through his word and circumstances.
We finished the day with a massive scavenger hunt at a 3 story grocery store/department store. The kids really had an awesome day and we've laid an excellent foundation for the last two days of ministry in Shingu.
As a bonus, we had an unexpected visitor at Shingu church today. Our friend from college Koki's father came by the church. For those of you who don't know, Felicia and I met Koki in college. He came to one of my office hours for Differential Equations that I held in my dorm. I learned he was from Japan, and that he really didn't have any friends, so I invited him to play Mario Cart with us. We hung out a lot, we helped him with English and he helped me with Japanese.
During college his mother was dying of cancer, and we often brought him to church with us to bring him comfort during his season of loss. His father had actually encouraged him to learn about Christianity during his study abroad because there aren't many Christians in Japan. We did life with Koki, and took him home with us for Christmas and Thanksgiving.
When we started our missions work in Japan three years ago, we met Koki in Kyoto, last year we met him in Osaka, and we will see him again this trip in Osaka. Its such a blessed friendship, and it was so exciting to see his father arrive at Shingu Church during full speed ministry to meet us. He brought us like 120 oranges as a gift, and he also connected with pastor Kinoshita. Koki is originally from Shingu, so its exciting to think that his father may visit this church in the future.
Today I really felt like God was moving through our ministry in Shingu in so many interesting and blessed ways. We've been through an earthquake, a typhoon, Tomoko and Kai got sick, sleep deprivation, unbearable heat and humidity, and fire, and God has made our path straight. He has opened countless doors - ministry opportunities, and opened hearts to his word. He as inspired pastors and churches to minister to their community in new unique ways. He has shown love and compassion to the people of Japan through our ministry, and has answered countless prayers.
"What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, then who can be against us?" Romans 8:31