This last week we enjoyed hosting 32 young people here at camp for our annual New Hope Uganda Investment Year (IY) ROPES camp. For those of you who have not heard us talk about this before, ROPES stands for Rights Of Passages ExperienceS. It was begun by a group in Kenya and we have adapted it for us here in Uganda. The camp is designed to highlight the journey from childhood to adulthood and help kids as they transition into a new phase of life. It is one of our favorite camps to be part of because we have seen the tremendous impact it has on young people in challenging them to step into manhood and womanhood. Having graduated from secondary school at the end of last year, the IY students at NHU have spent the previous ten months of the year doing different internships and trainings to help them prepare for the next step in their lives. Their ROPES camp then is the culmination and the drawing together of all that they have learned throughout the year.
Life is a journey, and often a hard one at that. This is one of the main points of ROPES camps as we encourage young people to push through the hard times of life and let God use these times to refine us and draw us closer to Himself. As if to emphasize this point, the challenges for these IY students began at the very beginning of the camp. We have had a lot of rain recently, which means that the roads leading to Musana are a muddy, slippery mess. The bus that was bringing them here decided the last long muddy hill (about fifteen minutes from Musana) was too much for his bus, so he just dropped them off at the corner and headed back to town! Several of our staff braved the muddy roads, piled them inside and on top of their vehicles, and brought them the rest of the way. That was the beginning of their ROPES camp journey!
The next morning the rains again made for some challenges as they were scheduled to hike throughout the day. After much prayer and doing some activities, the rain stopped and they headed out on their 10 km hike through the bush, villages, waterfall, and other places around us before ending up (after dark) camping out on a hill on our property overlooking the lake. Many of the girls especially thought that they would never be able to make it the whole way, but they encouraged one another, persevered, and conquered that step of their journey!
Wednesday found them at the challenge course doing activities to help them think through the practical aspects of living as a godly man or woman. They then spent the rest of the day in fasting and solitude, pondering their past and the road ahead, their relationship with God and how to make their faith their own. Thursday was their day to make a symbol or "memorial stone" to help them remember this week, the commitments they made, and their step from childhood to manhood or womanhood. For the girls, this symbol was a candleholder made of clay. For the guys, this symbol was a knife forged from rebar, which they then used to slaughter a goat for their celebration meal!
It was such a blessing to be part of this camp with these students. Several of the guys had been out here at Musana earlier this year doing internships with Nathan, and several of the girls had been part of our family during our time at Kasana in 2010. We enjoyed seeing their maturity as they faced challenges with good attitudes and encouragement to one another. So many of them have come from very hard life situations, but God has done a mighty work in their hearts and it is beautiful to see their love and passion for serving Him. And so, on Friday we sent them out from this place as young men and women, ready to step into whatever God has for them next.
If you want to read more about this ROPES camp, check out this blog (Adventures in the Kingdom) by one of our fellow staff members who was a cabin counselor for the week.