Here are the top seven moments and photos from my recent trip to the Camps Farthest Out International (CFOI) Camp in Peru. For more about CFOI, please visit their website. Our founder, Del Anderson, was a past President of CFOI and many of our grantees have come through this connection.
1. Meeting of Cultures
This 5-day camp held in Lima, Peru was an international meeting of over 200 CFOI campers! There were representatives from 20 different countries! As someone who is very interested in culture, I loved meeting people from all over the world; people from places I had visited before (Kenya, Malawi, Australia) and people from places I hope to visit some time in the future (Fiji, Kashmir, Papua New Guinea). We all came with our cultural expectations and cultural norms and together we had to navigate and celebrate our differences (personal space issues, how coffee is prepared) and marvel in our similarities (love of music, shared faith).
2. Opening our Eyes
About 1/3 of the campers were from all parts of Peru – many of them from the rural farming communities in the highlands and jungle areas of Peru. Some of my most memorable exchanges were sharing with them about life in the United States and then hearing about their potato farms. (Did you know that Peru has thousands of varieties of potatoes?!?) As in Africa, the folks from rural Panao use cell phones as their primary means of communication! They don’t have email addresses or even mailing addresses because they are so far out, but they do have cell phones. What an amazing world!
3. World Music
From the moment I signed up for the international camp I’d been looking forward to the music – and I was not disappointed! Pictured here is a woman from Peru who sang a beautiful ballad, accompanied by her accordion and the Afro-Peruvian drum.
We also sang meditative songs from Taize France, silly songs from the Philipines, loud Nigerian songs in their local language, praise songs in Spanish, and soaring hymns led by Nelly from Taiwan.
After we sang together we also prayed together. My prayer group was a wonderfully multilingual group! I felt blessed to be able to use my Spanish skills to interpret for the 4 Peruvians in the group; and I was so grateful for Christina from Germany who shared her German-English skills to interpret for the other German member.
We prayed in many different ways, each praying in our own language. And sometimes we just took time to talk and share with each other about where we came from and what brought us there.
Even members in Prayer Groups that did not have a Spanish-English interpreter, and who had to communicate with few words and many gestures, shared that with such a busy camp schedule this time in a small group was precious time for connecting on a deeper level.
5. Re-Connecting with Friends
This camp was full of friends – new and old! I met Grace Paljor from Kashmir for the first time. We’ve written emails and been Facebook friends for over a year and in Peru we got to greet each other with a hug. I also got to sing and share with our Small Business Fund Coordinator from Nigeria, Ofonime Nkoko. I met new friends from Australia and Peru who are also working on projects of community development.
And many times people I didn’t know came up to tell me how Del had influenced their lives and sent them letters and copies of Seed Thoughts. One of those people was Adelina Meza from Peru who met Del at the CFOI International camp in the 1990s and whose story I’ll write up and share soon.
6. Games & Laughter
One of the best way to connect with people is to play games, especially games that don’t require an interpreter! There was so much laughter as people from all over took one of the foosball handles and learned the game together. Even when people pushed the ball toward the wrong goal there was encouragement and friendly cheers. Plus, it was during the Olympic games and we had a good time all singing the Olympic theme song together.
“And I prophesy that not until Catholics, Christian Scientists, Methodists and Unitarians, Fundamentalists and Modernists, can forget the differences underlying the science of their creeds and unite in common cause of living their religion […] – may we hope to see the […] victory achieved that will bring peace on earth and good will to men.” — Glenn Clark, The Soul’s Sincere Desire, pg. 48
The experience of a CFOI camp is the practice of living our faith of serving others, forgiving others, and getting to know and love more of God’s creation. I pray that all us will return home acting like and believing that we are on our way to bringing peace on earth.