“May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me.” John 17:21a
To be “one” takes time and intentionality. To work in unity with others is God´s idea, because He lives in community. He created us to trust and work with others. God designed relationships that provide fullness, unity, and diversity, but our enemy destroyed this design separating men from God, from himself, from neighbors and creation. Through cross-cultural camp ministry, we recuperate God’s design for local campers, local camp staff and visiting helpers.
Like camp, life is all about relationship. My father used to say, “If you want to know someone fully you have to eat 100 pounds of salt together.” I responded, “It could take me a whole life,” and he replied, “That´s exactly what I mean.” God created us to enjoy relationships that last our whole life. It takes time but also intentionality.
Cross-cultural camp ministry creates relationships between host and guest teams that develops a vivid experience of community and family. Guest team members that visited a country 10 years ago can continue in communication with their new friends and even visit them after the program. That is what Pastor Pedro Magallón from Panama has experienced with a team leader from a camp in the US after four years of partnering with their church. Two years after the cross-cultural camp program finished Pastor Pedro told me: “We are now good friends. We keep in touch by Facebook and by e-mail at least once a month. We share prayer request and ministry experiences.”
One of the benefits of cross-cultural camp ministry is that we create bridges to show love, share faith, and give hope to campers. Many campers have experienced an encounter with Jesus through our cross-cultural leadership team who showed them love, faith and hope. They also witness the unity of the body of Christ in the midst of cultural diversity by being served in one language - Jesus. And this gives glory to God.
Another benefit of cross-cultural camp ministry is building up the body of Christ together and equipping the church by developing leaders. Jim Plueddemann said, “Mission is the cross-cultural task of making disciples of Jesus. Taking the risk to cross-cultural leadership development is at the heart of world missions.” The global church has the challenge to work in unity and in harmony. And to make it happen, a cross-cultural understanding and appreciation of the difference in leaders is essential.
Through cross-cultural camping ministry we expose our camp leaders (hosts and guests) to convey respect and understanding for people of other cultural contexts. This leadership development is characterized by getting people to work together, maximizing the leadership of others, and leading in crisis together. Provide the blessing to work under leadership of another culture and learn to be a follower in Christian camping.
The third benefit is participation in the development of a biblical practice of hospitality. As we read from Duane Elmer, hospitality is extending love to those we don´t know and who may be of a different ethnic or cultural history. This requires the exercises of servant leadership, which starts with openness. Elmer said, “A true servant leadership is characterized by hospitality, one who welcomes and embraces those who are unlike us, just as Jesus embraced us across our radical differences.”
The challenge of cross-cultural camping ministry (based on Duane Elmer) includes:
- Serving: You can´t serve someone you don´t understand.
- Understanding: You can´t understand another person until you have learned from them and, eventually, with them.
- Learning: You can´t learn from another person until you have built trust with them.
- Trust: You can´t build trust with another person until they feel like they have been accepted by you – until they feel that you value them as human beings
- Communicating: You can´t communicate values and esteem to others unless they feel welcomed into your presence and find themselves feeling save – openness.
- Openness: Being open with people of another culture requires that you willingly step out of your comfort zone to initiate and sustain relationships in a context of cultural differences.
Cross-cultural camping ministry provides an opportunity to build bridges with campers, build up the body of Christ by developing their leaders, and exercise servant leadership through biblical hospitality. We have a challenge to eat 100 pounds of salt in cross-cultural camping ministry and enjoy the blessing of being one in Jesus, so the world may believe God sent Him.
Robert Brunneau has been the executive director of CCI-Latin America since 2001 and prior to that, was a board member beginning in 1995. He is part of an executive team of six full time staff who are spread out in five countries (Argentina, Panama, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Honduras). This team is responsible to assist in the leadership development of eight national teams through camping resources, international events, training curriculum and conferences for camping professionals.