Yay, on to my fifth retreat for the summer! (Or is it the sixth?) This retreat was a bit impromptu -- Pastor Ho from Coquitlam ECBC spots me by chance at Surrey ECBC, pulls me aside and quickly asks if I could be their youth speaker at "our camp". Well, from hard experience I know that many small churches tend to confuse being a guest youth speaker with being the resident youth retreat coordinator -- and if a church asks you to come "take care of the kids", oh boy, watch out! I once made the mistake of accepting an invitation like that -- I got to the camp, and was essentially told, "Here's twenty kids between the ages of 12 and 24, see you in three days!". Hah! We had a lot of fun anyway.
Now, ECBC is no small church, with a total Sunday attendance of over a thousand just at the main Burnaby campus. But there was no reply about what kind of camp this was going to be -- was it for the Surrey congregation? Coquitlam? Combined? English? Bilingual? Just youth? I just knew it was going to be at Cedar Springs (beautiful, but small, so surely the whole church wouldn't be there). And I guessed that it was mostly the Mandarin congregation from Burnaby. So I brought my guitar and came prepared for an exciting surprise!
Turns out it was the annual family camp of Burnaby campus -- which I would have imagined would be big. But because many fellowships have their own camps (I just spoke at their big youth camp last month, 120 teens), not everyone comes to this one. They also had this interesting requirement that the parents come with the teens -- so no kids were there by themselves. This implicitly meant that most of the kids there came from Christian households -- and that dramatically changed the atmosphere in a positive way.
We had a group of about twenty teens, wonderful sweet kids, many recent immigrants, such that a number were actually more comfortable in Mandarin than in English. So we sang a couple Streams of Praise songs in addition to the usual, and I got to practise my Mandarin a lot! Yes, many things were improvised on the spot -- the first night, we had no laptop or projector (nor, indeed, song leader), so the kids wrote up lyrics on a whiteboard from memory! It was great, because we could write up a Chinese song on the whiteboard, too!
Despite the hectic scrambling, I had a warm, innocent -- and yes, peaceful -- time with these precious kids, and with good friends amongst the Timothy fellowship young adults. A big thanks to Esther and Sarah for helping me out with the kids -- they also were asked last-minute, only a week before the camp!