Two days ago, I arrived to Camp Bahamas to join our Kivu Gap Year students on their final few days of their first trip international. Our students were hosted by amazing staff at the camp who have a powerful vision for impacting the youth on The Islands of the Bahamas.
Before you jump to conclusions about a mission trip in what sounds like a resort location, I want to tell you there are local Bohemian youth who are in need just as in the US. In 2003, Richard established the first and only camp on the island to minister to these youth. He was given a pristine beach to beach front property, but it was all undeveloped. He has since used local labor and foreign mission groups to clear land and clear space to invite Bohemian youth to a transformational experience. He has the only gym on the island and it is packed almost every day with Bohemian youth who are bused in from all corners of the island to play ball together and building relationships with the local Camp Bahamas staff. Our students had the chance to see a glimpse of this ministry as they did some grueling labor on the property to prepare them for their big winter retreat after Christmas.
On the last night, I gave our students a thorough briefing on the next 4 months ahead. After 3 months living in inner city Denver or Philadelphia, and 10 days with Camp Bahamas, I told them we're about to raise the stakes. I told them the next 4 months are going to be huge. I needed them to come fully prepared for the geo-political landscapes that are about to enter. I told them we're about to enter some significant stories that are a part of the perpetual pain, injustice, and brokenness in this world. I told them "I need you to arrive to Washington DC in January prepared to engage." Here's why:
1. When our students arrive to DC, they will have scheduled meetings on the Hill with their representatives. They will be telling them each why they are doing a gap year, how they as a Millenial generation want to see change, and how they want their government to function when it comes to issues of hunger around the world.
2. Our students will be going to Rwanda to learn from the local people how they have recovered from a devastating genocide in 1994 to become a leading developing country in sub-Saharan Africa.
3. Our students will enter the story of the most complex and heart wrenching conflict in the world in the Middle East. They will engage with Israelis and Palestinians face to face as they also walk as pilgrims along the footsteps of Jesus. They are going to be asking hard questions and listening to difficult responses. They are going to have to learn to love the other just as Jesus has told us.
4. They will be heading to the Philippines to see a highly sophisticated NGO address desperate levels of poverty with dedicated staff and a powerfully effective vision and mission.
5. They will be hiking to the rooftop of Africa as they see the beauty of God's creation on Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest freestanding mountain in the world.
Our students are on a global journey to engage in real time with names, people, and places. They are experiencing education by getting their hands and feet dirty.
They have to come prepared. Because the world needs a new kind of young leader. One who sees his/her own brokenness, who accepts it, and then moves into other broken parts of the world to be present, to love, to listen, and to learn. They need to hear stories and build relationships before they go to college and go on to build their own business, law practice, non-profit, or start their own family.
We are raising the stakes for young North Americans who want to truly see change in our world and do it with the lens of loving God and loving others.
The students who arrive to DC in January will be learning all this to shape the future of our country and our world. That is what the Kivu Gap Year program is becoming for young high school graduates. A place to move into uncomfortable space for the purpose of seeking genuine change in our own hearts and also in those to whom we come in contact.
Although our students have been with us already for four months, their journey has just begun...