I just returned from my summer in Africa this past Sunday and over the next few posts I will be sharing about my trip to Zambia beginning with the time I spent in boot camp, training for the field.
On the evening of June 23rd a white school bus pulled into the Teen Missions International headquarters in Merritt Island, Florida loaded with excited young people and their bulging cardboard boxes. We were separated according to team and our leaders came to introduce themselves and give us our next instructions. The first thing we did was take our boxes to our team's designated tent site where we took some time to find our toothbrushes and then went to sleep. The next day we went through registration where we were issued water bottles, duffel bags, rain ponchos, and other things that would prove themselves useful. We were given about half an hour to transfer our luggage from our boxes to our duffels. We were also on KP which meant were were responsible for serving the other teams during mealtimes and taking care of the dishes afterwards. The next day (Friday) was the first day of a three-day missions conference where the main speaker was Marilyn Laszlo. She had spent 24 years in the jungles of Papua New Guinea translating the New Testament into the language of a native tribe. For the first four days I had no time to bathe or even to change my clothes because we were so busy, but when the missions conference was over we began to settle into a routine.
For two weeks our schedule was the same Monday through Saturday. Rise and shine was at 5:30am, by 5:40 we were on our way to the restroom. We were required to be in and out in three minutes or less, which included a trip outside to fill a bucket with water for "bucket flushing." By 5:55 all 500+ young people and their leaders were lined up according to team in a clearing where we had "rapture practice." Role was taken and we headed of to run the OC (obstacle course).
Obstacles on the OC
"The Red Sea"
Wherever we went we walked in a single file line with no gaps in preparation for the time we would spend walking through crowded airports on our way to and from Africa. In order to make sure that no one was ever missing we were assigned numbers (mine was 2), and when instructed to "count-off" we rattled off our numbers in order as quickly as possible. Our team ran the OC at 6:25 and we finished around 6:50.
After running the OC we were usually wet, sweaty, and covered in dirt. We washed our hands and headed to breakfast. By 7:30 we had washed our dishes and sat down for a half hour of personal devotions. A Teen Missions staff member roamed around to ensure that no one was sleeping during "devos." At 8:00 we all headed to "Big Top," the largest tent and our central meeting place for Bible hour and then an hour long class on evangelism or servanthood. From 10:00 to noon our team had drill practice where we learned how to perform, and then teach, drill. Because none of my team members had ever done drill before is was exciting, and yet slightly intimidating to be learning something that we would be teaching to children in Africa just two weeks later. Nevertheless, we all learned quickly and we had a lot of fun.
After lunch we had a music or puppet class that alternated each day. Then we had an hour of free time which we used to memorize our Bible verse for the day and write letters home. Our next hour was set aside for bathing or doing laundry, both of which were done using a 5-gallon bucket of water. Some days we were simply exhausted so we would go back to our tents during this time to take a short nap. During boot camp I bathed twice a week, and did laundry just as often... that may sound really gross, but no one really cared as were all just as dirty and busy as everyone else. Our final class before supper was phonics, and then after supper we met in the Big Top with all the other teams for rally. Rallies consisted of praise and worship, a speaker, and just a fun time to get into God's Word. At night we had about a half hour to prepare for lights out at 9:30, and before we knew it we were doing it all over again.
Early into the summer I realized the awesome power of prayer and the role it would play in our entire trip. The first few nights at boot camp I hardly slept at all and I was beginning to fear that I never would. Then at rally the third night of boot camp a leader from another team prayed for me, I trusted the Lord to answer our prayers, and that night I slept soundly straight through. Throughout the trip I would remember what the Lord had done for me that night and I would turn to prayer when even the slightest thing went wrong. Each time the Lord answered in a tremendous way. Boot camp was meant to train us for the field, and it did just that. When we reached our mission field we were prepared for everything except the amazing way in which God would work in our lives and in the life of our team.