Did you know that there are 19.5 million refugees in the world and that 51% of them are children? 200,000 of these refugees live in North Texas alone.
Nyanaath* is one of these refugees. Nyanaath’s family fled from a bloody civil war in the African country of Sudan. During her first winter in Texas she came to school crying with no coat and no socks. Her family was unprepared and unassisted.
It is these children, the Nyanaath’s of our community, which Hidden Acres desires to reach.
In 2007 Hidden Acres began partnering with Refugee Resources Inc. to open the door to a new kind of camp ministry—a camp that reaches the refugee population in Dallas. But these mission camps serve a dual purpose. Beyond serving refugees the camps are also meant to awaken the hearts of Christian teenagers and college students in North Texas by calling them to serve the mission field at their doorstep.
And that is where we come in. As a youth pastor at Rockwall Presbyterian Church my prayer for our students is that they would mature and grow in Christ-likeness. One of the main markers I look for is an ability to focus less on themselves and instead serve others—in particular, the vulnerable and the defenseless.
Scripture makes it clear that this is our responsibility as God’s people:
“For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God who is unbiased and takes no bribe, who justly treats the orphan and widow, and who loves resident foreigners, giving them food and clothing. So you must love the resident foreigner because you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.”
(Deuteronomy 10:17–19, NET)
So for the past three summers our youth have raised money to go on local mission trips and work with refugee children in our area. This summer we partnered with Hidden Acres for one week in July to help host and serve. What an amazing experience. We will never do it any other way!
Twenty-seven of our students were privileged to connect with over eighty children. We sang with them, did crafts, competed in games, performed archery, canoed, swam, and had daily small group times where we looked at God’s word and prayed together.
It was a game-changing week for RPC Youth. We formed relationships, we made memories, and our faith was enriched.
One student, Garrett, shared how hard it was to hear from a small child that there were times he had gone ten days without eating, and yet he was amazed by this child’s joy. Robert was impressed by one of the older boys. He naturally served and cared for all the other children around him. Chloe shared how she was able to talk about Christ’s love and to pray with a girl in her group during the week. One of our seniors, Noah, ended up explaining the trinity for the first time to one of the teenage campers.
Each one of our students was challenged and encouraged as they formed friendships with the kids, loving on them and serving them. We went on the trip in order to be a blessing, and we ended up being the ones blessed.
And do you know the most miraculous thing of all —twenty-seven teenagers for an entire week, and not one single complaint. My prayers were answered!
We cannot wait to go back!
Rockwall Presbyterian Church
*Name has been changed.