Adventure Graham

Snippets of Graham family adventures in faithfulness

Tag: Parua Bay

Youth Camp at Parua Bay

By Elizabeth

I just clicked submit on the final reports for our NZ District youth camp. Thanks to a grant for school holiday programs and camps for at risk 11-17-year-olds, one of the most liberal governments in the world funds our Nazarene district youth camp every summer. Our kids literally attend for FREE. It’s the kind of thing only God can orchestrate so perfectly!

Actually, the entire youth camp was filled with moments that only God could orchestrate so perfectly. Jaron and I have been a part of a lot of camps through the years. This one will certainly be remembered as one of the most spirit-filled, incredibly transformational, and fun camps we’ve experienced.

There were about 117 of us gathered at Parua Bay near Whangarei near the northern part of the North Island the week of January 8-11. While the vast majority of our students are Pacific Islanders, we also had Pakeha (white kiwi), Maori, Singaporean Chinese, Zambian, Sudanese, and Filipino participants.

One of our volunteers who recently moved to New Zealand from the US said, “I felt like I was in a foreign country (different from the foreign country that I already live in).” And there’s truth to that. I think the Pakeha and Singaporean kids from our church felt the same at times. There’s no doubt that Pacific Islanders grow quick and they grow big. They’re practically born singing and dancing and chanting in ways that our straight-laced Western cultures simply don’t. And it makes it all so fun.

Really significant God-orchestrated things happened. Jaron preached on the four types of soil from Matthew 13 the first evening. It provided some important vocabulary and set the tone for the week. Throughout the week, the narratives of Joseph, David, and Jonah challenged us and gave us hope for the ways God might want to use us.

Sparked by a request from one of our young adult worship leaders, we had a baptism service in the bay on Thursday afternoon. We’ve never had a baptism at camp before! Three young adult volunteers, two teenagers, and the 7-year-old son of two of the volunteers were baptized in the bay while everyone cheered them on. Check out the video! The body of Christ responded by saying, “We affirm God at work in you! We celebrate with you! We welcome you into the family of God!” It was a fantastic celebration where Heaven came very near.

 

Then, that evening, at the close of the service, 12 students and young adults answered the call to full-time pastoral ministry. Ranging in age from 8 to 26, we can’t wait to see what God has in store for these guys and gals. It’s particularly fun for us to help our young adults get started on ministerial preparation right away!

And, on a personal note, it was especially special for us to have my parents at camp. They were the Grammy (and Papu) nannies playing on the beach and watching the fish at the wharf while Jaron and I were helping to coordinate the details of camp. At the request of their opinionated and ideating 5-year-old grandson, they slept in a tent all week. They also cooked two of the camp meals, rescued the faulty sound system (what else would one expect from my dad?!), and helped tackle the mounds of post-camp laundry!

Of course, Q has many youth camp celebrations as well like sleeping in a tent. And the dessert. And running barefoot all week. And easy access to the beach. And kayaking. And everything.

Parting Shot

Before we headed home, we took my parents to one of our favorite beaches, Matapouri. We hiked over the big hill to the Mermaid Pools were the view is breathtaking.

 

Kiwi Camp (by Jaron)

Several Australians, a few Americans, and a bunch of Kiwis sat bleary eyed in in an early morning meeting. No this is not a joke…it was the last day of youth camp and the counselors’ meeting was justifiably quiet. Throughout the week, we had spent our days with somewhere around 100 youth between the ages of 11 and 17. We had worshiped together, gotten to know one another, stared at the picturesque scenery, jumped off of a wharf into the bay, kayaked in the ocean, and sent teens barreling down the hill on a 100 meter (about 100 yard) water slide, and stayed up way too late. In short, it had been awesome!

Even better: this camp, located along the beautiful beaches of Parua Bay near Whangarei, was completely free to our campers.

As the week went on our District Superintendent told me the story of how we gained access to this wonderful place, a story that begins with heart-breaking tragedy. Several years ago a young teenager from one of our churches decided to take her own life. As she lay in a coma in the hospital, the hearts of the New Zealand Nazarenes were broken. Dozens of visitors made their way to the hospital to pray and give support. Sadly, the girl never recovered.

Meanwhile, one of the local doctors overheard some of those who had come to visit talking about teenagers in the church of the Nazarene. That particular doctor happened to be affiliated with a local Christian campground that had recently closed down. In an attempt to save the campground, the owners had worked out a deal with the NZ government that would ensure funding for the camp. Basically, the camp would provide week-long holidays for at risk students in New Zealand and the government would foot the bill.

It happens that many of the youth in our Nazarene churches fall within the NZ government definition of “at risk,” so the doctor connected our district to the campground. The relationship is mutually beneficial. We provide a free camp for our teenagers. In turn, the campground is able to boost their summer numbers due to the size of our group which pretty much maxes out the capacity of the campground. It’s a win-win.

For the fourth year in a row Nazarene youth from across the District have gathered to play and to worship and to come to know Jesus. Our prayer is that from among these young people some will be pastors, some will be teachers, and all will be bearers of the gospel in a broken world. We hope and anticipate that the Holy Spirit will move among these youth and begin to change the very fabric or our society. We pray that when teens are hopeless they will be strengthened by Christ—that none of them will feel so lost and alone that suicide seems to be the only answer.

Let me be clear. God did not cause a young girl to commit suicide so that God could bring us a camp. That’s not how it works. I believe God’s heart breaks every time one of God’s children dies, for death is not what God intended.

I do believe however that even in the darkest of days God is still at work. Even when we find ourselves under the shadow of tragedy, Christ has still risen, and the Holy Spirit is still moving among us.

Whether we are bleary eyed at the end of a long week, or sitting in a hospital grieving and asking why death comes, may we remember who it is we serve.

“My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus name.” –Edward Mote

 

Parting Shot

The Auckland skyline (taken out of the car window while sitting in rush hour traffic on the way home from camp).

The Auckland skyline (taken out of the car window while sitting in rush hour traffic on the way home from camp).

 

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