Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Youth Ministry Swazi Style

Tommy and I recently returned from a youth retreat (where do they get off calling an event like this a retreat, anyway?) with 14 New Life Homes teens. We enjoyed spending time with the kids in a more social setting, and in an environment where we could watch them interact with other teens. Many of the other kids attending the retreat are “city” kids that go to some of the most prestigious schools in the country. We were so proud of how our kids immediately got involved, participated in spiritual discussions, led prayers, exceled on the soccer field, and even indulged in unrecognizable dishes during an eating contest unlike any we have ever seen! 

The theme of the camp was “unstoppable” based on the Philippians 4:13 verse, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Tommy and I both served as team leaders, which meant shepherding a group of approximately 15 young people in everything from an intense water balloon fight to small group discussions. We also taught two devotional sessions. In one session, highlighting the providence of God, we shared our dating experiences that led up to finding “the one.” The kids REALLY seemed to get a kick out of this. Isn’t it funny how kids think it is totally weird/funny/gross when older folks talk about loving each other? Kids in Africa are no exception to this rule. The second devotion focused on God’s strength in the face of temptation, and how “when you are tempted He will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it” (I Corinthians 10:13). We enjoyed sharing some of our life experiences with teens going through the complicated years of adolescence. 

Highlights from the weekend include: 

· A swimming competition where one of our boys forgot he couldn’t swim until he reached the deep end (as further evidence of their impressive confidence despite being orphans!). 
· A talent show that included some of our “farm” boys showing off their dancing skills. 
· Observing how respectful, kind, and helpful the New Life Homes teens are. 
· A “Swazi-style” Fear Factor activity which caused about half the participating kids to vomit. This would not fly in the US! 
· Watching approximately 40 students recommit themselves to living for Jesus. 

Thank you for praying for our time at camp. We still have some follow-up conversations to pursue, and we are still considering strategies for a more structured teen ministry.


  1. more info on the eating contest and Fear Factor please; we just did a 6th grade Fear Factor, with food items prepared by the 8th grade boys. We had a garbage can for vomit but I don't think it was used for that.

  2. Hi Steve,
    The most puke-worthy event was called "french toast." The kids had to crack an egg in their mouth, spit out the shell, beat the egg in their mouth, spit it in a cup, dip bread in it, and eat the bread. Do not try this at home! Another good one was a relay where the kids had to carry raw chicken organs in their mouth. One of the girls won this one. Good to hear from you!